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    How to Care For Air Plants: A Complete Guide

    Air plants (Tillandsia spp.) are adorable, no-fussy, and attention-grabbers like pets and more than any plants in your houseplant collection. It is because they are the most unusual-looking plants, requiring little care and no soil as their growth medium. They are native to Central and South America and West Indies and add a pleasing appeal to bridal bouquets, wall art, and home decor with their strap-like leaves.
    blog post authorShrish Tariq
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    air plant on a tree.

    Save For Later
    Air plants (Tillandsia spp.) are adorable, no-fussy, and attention-grabbers like pets and more than any plants in your houseplant collection. It is because they are the most unusual-looking plants, requiring little care and no soil as their growth medium. They are native to Central and South America and West Indies and add a pleasing appeal to bridal bouquets, wall art, and home decor with their strap-like leaves.
    Air plants belong to the Bromeliaceae family (also the family of bromeliads that can be terrestrial and epiphytic and exhibit attractive forms, leaf colors, and long-season blooms). 
    Let’s learn all about air plants (Tillandsia spp.) and how to grow and care for them as indoor houseplants and outdoors.

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    What are Air Plants?

    Tillandsia Lindenii Air plant with purple flower.
    Image Source:Photo by Caner CIFTCI on Getty ImagesTillandsia Lindenii Air plant with purple flower.
    Air plants or Tillandsia spp. are fascinating houseplants with stiff leaves that grow in a rosette pattern with new leaves developing from the center of the plant. Their rigid and strappy leaves look like tentacles of exotic sea creatures such as sea cucumbers, thus giving these plants a unique appearance. In addition, they have a distinctive growth habit (chiefly epiphytic) with a reputation for being low-maintenance plants.
    Therefore, these epiphytes are gaining more popularity as indoor plants among novice gardeners and experts. They grow by attaching themselves to the trunks and branches of other plants (without harming them, unlike mistletoe, a plant parasite). Or these epiphytes sit on other structures like rocky substrates for support. 
    Air plants hold on to the hosts or surfaces with their roots solely used for attachment rather than nutrient absorption. As their common name suggests, they get all their nutrients and moisture from the atmosphere instead of the soil. For this purpose, air plants have developed specialized structures on leaf surfaces known as trichomes. These tiny hairs trap moisture and dust particles, providing the epiphytes water and nutrients. 
    In their habitats, Central America (Guatemala) and South America (Argentina), air plants produce tiny colorful blooms (less than two inches) in mid-summer and late winter. After flowering, the mature plant will die, but the new plants will develop from offsets or pups that grow at the mother plant's base. While as an indoor houseplant, they rarely bloom.
    Air plants are grouped into two types based on their wild environment: xeric and mesic air plants. Based on their natural habitat, the care requirements of these air plant types also vary whether you display them indoors or outdoors.
    Xeric air plants are from desert climates and have more trichomes on their leaves, thus appearing more silver-gray and scaly. They grow best in more sun locations and are pretty forgiving to lower humidity and less watering (drought-tolerant). 
    While mesic air plants are native to the rainforests of South America and need higher humidity, frequent watering, and filtered sunlight. Their leaves are deeper green with fewer trichomes and more curved than the xeric plant foliage, which is broader to allow more surface for nutrient and water absorption. 
    Both these air plant types are ideal for growing and maintaining indoors for displays in glass terrariums and wall art, but xeric plants are more popular among gardeners. Because they are more resilient and highly adaptable to poor growing conditions with infrequent watering.
    How big do air plants get?
    Air plants (member of the bromeliad or pineapple family) are small foliage plant that grows in a rosette pattern with mature growth of 2 to 12 inches, depending on their species.
    How fast do air plants grow?
    Air plants (xeric and mesic) are very slow growers and take years (4 to 8) to reach a mature height and bloom. They bloom only once after getting mature growth. After flowering, the mother air plants produce two to three pups at the base while slowly fading. Once these pups are almost ⅓ the size of the mother plant, separate them and place them in a decorative jar or terrarium, allowing them to grow and form a cluster of leaves.

    Air Plant Care Guide

    Air plants
    Tillandsia spp.
    Bromeliaceae
    Can grow up to a few feet tall, large air plants are up to 12-24inches.
    Tropical epiphyte
    Slow growing (only adds less than one inch of growth within their first two years)
    Epiphytic (clinging to tree trunks and branches)
    South America, Mexico
    10 to 12
    Full sun, part sun
    50-90 degrees Fahrenheit
    Water once a week with a soak of 2 hours for young plants and 20 to 30 minutes for mature air plants
    Moderate to difficult
    Seeds, Offset cuttings
    Non-toxic to humans and pets
    Mealybugs, scales, fungus rot
    Common name
    Botanical name
    Family
    Mature plant
    Plant type
    Growth rate
    Growth habit
    Native region
    USDA hardiness zone
    Sun
    Temperature
    Water
    Difficulty
    Propagation
    Toxicity
    Troubleshooting
    Where to buy
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    How to Care For Tillandsia Air Plants

    Beautiful Tillandsia (Air Plant) Trees for home and garden decoration.
    Image Source:Photo by Thassin on Getty ImagesBeautiful Tillandsia (Air Plant) Trees for home and garden decoration.
    The Tillandsia air plants do not need potting soil as their growth medium or nutrient source but obtain their food from the atmosphere (that’s why the common name air plant). They can be grown anywhere in the home or outdoors that receives bright, curtain-filtered light with good air circulation and warm temperatures. 
    Place them on special hangers, set them in dishes for kitchen table tops, or grow the air plants in terrariums while ensuring the bright filtered light and ideal air circulation are just in the right amounts. 

    💧 Water

    Unlike other houseplants, the watering process of these odd-looking plants is very different. They can be watered through misting, rinsing, and soaking.
    The misting of air plants to the run-off point is good but needs application every other day and, sometimes, does not provide enough moisture to all leaves. 
    Note Icon
    Do not use tap water when soaking your air plants.
    When watering the air plants, be aware not to use softened and tap water because they are high in salts and minerals that can quickly burn their foliage and clog the trichomes. So it is best to use rainwater or bottled water.
    Another method is to dunk the air plants in water for 30 minutes to one hour once a week. Then gently shake out the plant to remove excess water. Now place them on a paper towel for 1 to 2 hours for complete drying; otherwise, this foliage moisture will lead to rotting.
    After watering, shift the air plants to their growing locations and maintain good air circulation for healthy growth and leaf drying for the next watering.
    How long does to soak air plants?
    Air plants (both xeric and mesic) benefit the most from the dunking method. It involves submerging plants in room temperature water for 30 minutes to one hour, then allowing the draining of excess water by placing them on a paper towel for about 30 minutes to 3 hours.
    How often do water air plants?
    The watering frequency for air plants varies based on the season. Water them once a week in warm and lower humidity conditions. Even in warmer regions, you can submerge your plant overnight in water with additions of orchid fertilizers for complete hydration and nutrition simultaneously. In winter or darker, cooler conditions, water only every two weeks 

    ☀️ Sunlight

    Air plants need bright light, but not direct sun for their healthy leaf clusters. So, the ideal spot for the indoor plant is an east, south, or west-facing window where it will receive filtered bright morning sun to produce the best foliage.
    If growing outdoors, place your air plants under the canopy of trees for sun protection, dappled shade is best. It will provide the ideal lighting for the best growth.
    How much sun do air plants need?
    Tillandsia species need four to six hours of bright indirect, filtered light daily along with good air circulation.

    🌡️ Temperature and Humidity

    Tillandsia species are the plants of tropical climates that thrive best in warmer temperatures with higher humidity and good air circulation. So, maintain the temperature range between 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit indoors for healthy growth.
    These epiphytic plants can tolerate temperatures up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but a highly humid environment and proper air circulation are necessary. In colder regions, if your air plants are outdoors for summer, bring them back indoors as the temperature drops below 58 degrees Fahrenheit.
    Note Icon
    Note:
    Unlike other houseplants, air plants require temperature fluctuations to grow and flower.

    🌻 Fertilizer

    As houseplants, air plants require medium fertilizer applications. Fertilize them from spring to autumn once a month with all-purpose houseplant food or fertilizer made for bromeliads such as orchids and Spanish moss.

    ☢️ Toxicity

    Fortunately, these unique-looking air plants are not toxic to humans and pets. Still, keeping them out of the reach of curious pets is wiser. 
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    How to Propagate Air Plants

    Blooming Tillandsia Airplants
    Image Source:Photo by kobkik on Getty ImagesBlooming Tillandsia Airplants
    Air plants grow from tiny airborne seeds in their natural environments. These viable seeds only produce when enough cross-pollination occurs. The indoor plants can be propagated through offsets that form at the mother plant's base and are also known as pups. 
    To reproduce the new plants, separate the offsets from the parent plant and place them on a tray or any other surface. Ensure the surfaces are dry and in bright light locations with good air circulation.

    Types of Air Plants

    Some of the most unique and easy-care air plant types among 500 species available are given below:
    Tillandsia bulbosa is a flowering bromeliad that produces small, soft green leaves that sprout from a central bulb. It has fewer trichomes, meaning a mesic plant that needs higher humidity, frequent watering, and filtered sunlight.
    Tillandsia Caput-medusae is native to Mexico and Central America. Like Tillandsia bulbosa, this epiphyte lives in a symbiotic relationship with black ants in the wild. It provides shelter to ants in its bulbous bottom leaves, and in return, they fertilize the plant.
    It produces the most unusual-looking leaves that resemble venomous snakes, thus adding a statement to indoor spaces with its snake-like leaves and bulbous bottom. In addition, it is a xeric air plant that needs more sunlight, lower humidity, and infrequent watering.
    Tillandsia Xerographica is more beautiful and king-sized than other bromeliad air plants. It is also known as Xeros and is native to southern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
    It features the most distinctive leaves that appear silver and spiral around as they grow, thus giving the plant a striking look. This plant is extremely low-maintenance and needs bright indirect light. It serves the best foliage houseplant for home decor and floral arrangements.
    Tillandsia ionantha is the most decorative air plant with thin arching leaves that grow rosette, with new leaves growing from the center of the plant. It blooms in mid-summer and produces deep pink plume-like bracts and violet-blue flowers.
    Tillandsia butzii is tiny species that native to Costa Rica and Mexico. It creates the more thin and tentacle-like leaves that emerge from a purple bulbous base, thus making it the most attractive air plant. It grows best in the USDA hardiness zone 9 to 11 with a mature growth of 8 inches.
    Tillandsia Streptophylla is also called Shirley Temple for its curling leaves. With its unique and irregular curling of thick dark green leaves, it is a must-have xeric plant in offices and homes. It is an easy care plant that, being a xeric plant, needs more bright light and is drought-tolerant.
    Tillandsia Tectorum is native to Peru and Ecuador and grows on dry and rocky substrates (it is a lithophyte). Its long arching leaves are covered with trichomes that give it a silvery appearance. Like all air plants, it is a not-fussy plant that can withstand direct sun conditions while taking its food from the environment.
    Tillandsia ‘Aeranthos’ is native to southern Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. It forms greyish-green leaves in a rosette with dark blue flower spikes that appears from pink bracts in summer. With its flowers and narrowly triangular leaves, Tillandsia ‘Aeranthos’ is an exciting foliage plant in bridal bouquets.
    Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneodies), also known as black moss or vegetable horsehair, is native to the West Indies, Central, and South America. It appears as a beared-like mass due to its thread-like stems covered with tiny 1 to 3 inches long leaves. It makes an excellent houseplant and grows best in bright light and humid environments like a bathroom.

    How to Display Air Plants

    A full grown Tillandsia Airplant isolated on a white background.
    Image Source:Photo by RatreeFuang on Getty ImagesA full grown Tillandsia Airplant isolated on a white background.
    With their epiphytic growth habit, air plants make great use in interior decorations such as creative displays in glass terrariums and globes. They can be displayed by attaching to artistic plant stands because they grow mainly by holding on to dry surfaces. 
    You can place them in decorative dishes for display on kitchen tables. In outdoor settings, set the air plant in an open terrarium with crushed gravel and hang it under the tree canopy with part shade lighting conditions.
    How to decorate with air plants?
    Air plants do not need potting soil for their growth, and this growth habit of these plants offers many creative uses in outdoor and indoor settings. They appear most beautiful and stylish when displayed by attaching them with driftwood. One of the best ways to decorate with air plants is to grow them in open terrariums of different sizes and hang them near east-facing windows. This way, air plants will bring aesthetics and greenery to living spaces.
    How to hang air plants?
    You can hang the air plants upside down using stylish plant hangers such as jellyfish plant holders and fishing lines.

    📚 Air Plant Care Tips

    These are the top critical factors for good air plant care to keep them happy and thriving for years.
    1. Maintain a wise watering schedule based on the growing season and needs of the air plants. So, dip them in water once a week for one hour from spring to autumn and reduce it to every two weeks in winter.
    2. Fertilize your air plants with plant food specially made for bromeliads once a month. Make sure to dilute the recommended dosage to ¼ strength and mix it in water to provide hydration and nutrition simultaneously. 
    3. Keep the temperatures around 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit for best results.
    4. Maintain an ideal higher humidity level with good air circulation because it will help dry leaves after watering, thus preventing the leaf from rotting.
    5. Air plants are frost tenders and need protection from freezing temperatures. Therefore, bring the plants indoors for winter.

    Where to Buy Air Plants

    Air plants are irresistible with their fuzzy, long, and trailing leaves that add greenery to indoor spaces with little care. These unique tropical plants do not require a potting mix to thrive and flourish; they only need dry surfaces for anchorage. Their unusual growth habit (epiphytic) offers many creative uses for displays like mounting on driftwood and placing in glass globes and terrariums.
    Bring this beauty home by visiting Neverland and start decorating the indoor settings this fall because air plants can be planted any time of the season. To know more about the air plant varieties and cultivars with planting guide, check our blog

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