I often get asked how to care for air plants & keep them healthy. It’s really quite simple if you keep the following two things in mind: light (bright – but not directly in a window), water (once a week is ideal). That’s easy, right?
First of all what are air plants? Air plants are cool looking plants that don’t need soil in order to grow and thrive. They are a unique organism called an ephiphyte, which basically means that it lives quietly alongside other plants but doesn’t depend on them for sustenance. This is unlike most plants which need to absorb the nutrients in dirt and soil to grow.
Because they don’t need soil, air plants can be displayed in a variety of ways: they can be hung, perched on a shelf, put inside a glass vessel, all without the need to “plant” them. They are native to places like Florida where if you look up into the trees you can see them gently attached to the branches.
Light: Air plants need bright light but shouldn’t be placed directly in a window or the leaves might burn. If you notice brown tips on your air plant it means that it is drying out or that it is too bright. Luckily, you have an easy fix, just bring it a little ways away from the window and spritz your plant with an air plant spritzer, such as the ones in our shop here, to give it some moisture. I recommend spritzing your air plants once a week, but they can stand a little neglect, which is one of the things I love about them. They are a really low-maintenance plant with a lot of impact. Another thing to keep in mind in regards to light is to not keep your air plants in a basement or bathroom that is dark and doesn’t have good air circulation.
Water: Air plants don’t like to be too moist, and again, I err on the side of neglect with mine, often going a few weeks without watering them. Ideally, they should get a gentle soaking bath once a week. I like to immerse them in a pan of shallow water for about twenty minutes in lukewarm water. Just like us they can get shocked if the water is too hot or too cold. After soaking for the twenty minutes dump out the water (or reuse it to water other plants) and let your air plants dry out for a few hours.
Maintenance: All plants will develop some dried out leaves as they grow over time, these are normal and should be gently pulled off and discarded to allow room for new growth. Also like us, they are affected by extreme temperatures. Air plants need air to grow, so make sure they get good air circulation and aren’t kept in a closed container like other terrarium plants, instead put them in an open top container. If you are feeling ambitious and especially nurturing you can fertilize them once a month with bromeliad fertilizer. If you fertilize them, only do so once a month or the fertilizer can also burn the plant.
Blooming: A few of the hundred different varieties of tillandsia air plants bloom, so if you have a blooming air plant, enjoy it, as it is a one time thing in the life of the plant and can last anywhere from a week to a month, but most likely won’t happen again.
Overall, if you feel like you don’t have a green thumb and are looking for an easy introductory plant to test out your houseplant skills, I would highly recommend these cool plants that I have fallen in love with. We have a lot of air plant varieties in our shop space in downtown Raleigh and some online too. I hope these tips help you on your journey towards a greener thumb and a house filled with lush plants.