Air plants are pretty yard decorations that can give your trees a little personality but taking care of them takes a little work. Some sources say that they are easy to maintain, but others say they need more attention—so what’s the truth? Are air plants easy to take care of?
Air plants are easy to maintain and keep alive with little maintenance. However, getting them to grow larger and flower takes more effort, though it does not take much gardening skill. For an air plant to thrive and not just survive, it will need plenty of water and proper fertilizer.
While it is true that these plants are easy to care for at a basic level, there are some essential tricks that you’ll need for tending to your air plant. Let’s dig into what we’ll have to do to keep your air plant alive and well.
How to Care for Your Air Plants
Taking care of air plants isn’t a major hassle, but it’s not as simple as just leaving them alone. There are three key areas to air plant care:
- Water is essential to an air plant, but they take it differently from most other plants. You’ll need to soak the air plant in water frequently or, at the very least, mist it with water.
- It’s essential to keep your air plants out of direct sunlight. Save a few species. Most air plants need indirect light to thrive.
- Air plants also need good air circulation. Poor airflow around the air plant can lead to fungus or other infections and illnesses.
A little bonus tip: if you choose to fertilize your air plants, you’ll have to use a special kind of fertilizer to get all of the nutrients it needs to survive. The fertilizer needed is water-soluble and will give the air plants nitrogen in the form they can absorb. This choice is optional, and fertilizer or dirt isn’t required.
Air plants prefer temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees and do very well in fluctuating temperatures. If your plant is indoors, giving it a ten-degree temperature drop will mimic tropical environments’ cool nights.
Watering Your Air Plants
Watering an air plant isn’t the same as watering most other plants, but it’s not as labor-intensive — just time and perhaps money intense!
For starters, the minerals found in tap water can keep your air plant from absorbing nutrients. Some locations have tap water that is low in mineral content and will work just fine, but if you live in an area with mineral-heavy tap water, you may need to use captured rainwater or bottled purified water. Tap or countertop filters may not remove the minerals, either.
Here’s how to properly water an air plant:
- Fill a tub with tap water (or rainwater if you have mineral heavy water)
- Completely submerge it for 20 minutes to an hour
- After the time is up, shake as much water off of the plant as you can
- Set it out to dry in a warm, well-ventilated spot. If it takes longer than a couple of hours to fully dry, the air plant could begin rotting; make sure it has enough circulation to dry before that.
You will want to go through this watering routine once every week, no less than every ten days. If your air plant looks a bit dry in between watering, you can lightly mist it with water (but not so much it drips off the “leaves”).
Feeding Your Air Plant
Air plants don’t require dirt or fertilizer; however, it does help the plant reach and maintain maximum health.
The process isn’t complicated: mix the proper fertilizer with the water soak once a month. Make sure to use air-plant-specific fertilize, bromeliad fertilizer, or water-soluble house plant fertilizer.
Lighting Your Air Plants
Air plants prefer bright, indirect light, so placing them in a window that faces north or south would be preferable as east and west-facing windows will receive more direct light. These plants don’t do well under direct sunlight.
There are exceptions to this rule, so really, it’s less of a rule and more of a guideline. Most silver-leafed air plants will do reasonably well under direct sunlight. One species, the Xerographica, thrives under the direct sun because they are stout plants equipped for drier regions.
For the most part, however, air plant habitats are in tropical forested areas and jungles, so they do best in cool to warm climates with plenty of indirect sunlight.
Pruning Air Plants
It’s ok to prune your air plant. Over time, the plant’s leaves will turn brown and fall off. There is nothing wrong with removing any dead brown leaves.
The roots of the air plant serve to anchor it to its host, usually a tree but serve no other purpose, so you can trim them without causing damage to the plant. Alternatively, you can use them to attach the plant to whatever you’d like using an adhesive.
How to Plant Air Plants
Air plants are unique because they don’t need soil to root and grow. They are epiphytes, a fancy way of saying that they grow on other plants.
Air plants require fresh air, hence the name air plant. Without good air circulation, moisture can build up on the plant, causing it to rot, catch fungal infections, and die. Therefore, it’s a good idea to stay away from aquariums and other containers. They won’t allow your air plant proper air circulation and ultimately lead to the air plant’s untimely demise.
It’s best to stick with outside or on approaches if you live in more tropical climates, their natural habitat. If you do have them inside, choose a well-ventilated room with plenty of indirect light.
The Propagation and Bloom of Air Plants
Air plants will bloom only once in their entire life. The blooms can be quite beautiful; unfortunately, the bloom signifies that the plant will die. “Baby” air plants manifest as sprouts at the base of the plant called pups. An air plant can produce one to three pups after its bloom.
These pups are baby air plants and can be removed from the mother plant when they are between one-third and one-half of its size.
When removing the pups from the parent plant, keep in mind that they should be easy to remove. So, if you find that there is too much resistance: wait. Please don’t force it, or you’ll risk damaging both the parent plant and the pup.
To remove a pup from the parent air plant:
- Support the mother plant with one hand.
- With your free hand, gently grip the pup at its base.
- Gently pull away. If the pup doesn’t come off easily, then it’s not time to remove it yet.
If the pup is ready to strike out on its own, then it’ll put up no resistance and will break away clean, leaving no damage to the mother plant.
How to Deal with Clumping Air Plant Pups
If you decide to leave the pups on the parent plant, they will eventually start clumping and creating an impressive string of continually blooming plants. Once they have clumped up, you can continue to maintain them as ordinary air plants.
Air Plant Care
With just a little effort, you can grow and maintain an air plant with no problem.
There’s just a fairly simple checklist for good air plant care:
- Proper air circulation
- Bright, indirect light
- A good soak once every one or two weeks
- Fertilize once a month (optional)
When an air plant blooms, then it is reaching the end of its life—but it’ll leave you with a beautiful bloom and up to 3 tiny baby plants to raise and cultivate. If the pups are left alone, they’ll create what is called a clump—a long cluster of ever-blooming air plants.
So, if you’ve been thinking about getting one of these unique, beautiful plants, go for it! They’ll make a great addition to your yard or garden and won’t take too much of your time and energy.