How Do You Take Care of Airplants?

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Written by Emily Vogler

August 4, 2023

Welcome to the enchanting world of airplants! These plants, commonly called Tillandsia, are a fascinating group of epiphytes that have evolved to thrive without soil, drawing sustenance from the air around them. At our garden center at the Nashville Farmers’ Market, we frequently get questions like, “how do I care for my airplant?” or “how do I keep my airplant alive?”. We’re here to help! In this article we’ll cover their unique characteristics and care requirements. Caring for a Tillandsia is relatively simple. Here are five essential steps to ensure the well-being of your Tillandsia:


1. Proper watering:

Air plants have a remarkable ability to absorb moisture directly through their specialized leaves, eliminating the need for traditional soil-based watering. Instead, these resilient plants utilize trichomes, small scale-like structures on their leaves, to extract moisture from the surrounding environment. To provide adequate hydration, it is recommended to give your Tillandsia a thorough soak in room temperature, distilled water. Submerge the plant in water for approximately 30 minutes, allowing it to absorb the moisture it needs to thrive. This weekly watering routine ensures that your air plant receives sufficient hydration while preventing overwatering, which can be detrimental to its health. After the soaking, it’s crucial to allow the plant to drip dry completely. Excess water trapped within the leaves can lead to rotting and other issues. Gently shake off any remaining water to facilitate proper drying. By adhering to this careful watering regimen, you’ll ensure the optimal health and vitality of your Tillandsia, allowing it to flourish in its unique, water-absorbing habitat.


2. Adequate lighting:

When it comes to light requirements, Tillandsias thrive in bright, indirect light, making them ideal candidates for placement near windows that provide ample filtered sunlight. By positioning your Tillandsias in a spot where they can bask in bright but diffused light, you are offering them the optimal light conditions to fuel their growth and vibrant appearance. While Tillandsias do require light for photosynthesis, it’s important to shield them from direct sunlight for extended periods. Intense, direct sunlight can lead to leaf burn, which shows itself as brown or yellow spots on the foliage. Consider using sheer curtains or blinds to filter the sunlight reaching the plants. It’s worth noting that the specific light requirements may vary slightly depending on the species of Tillandsia you have. Some varieties can tolerate more sunlight than others. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to research the specific needs of your particular Tillandsia to provide it with the most suitable light conditions.


3. Air circulation:

Proper airflow is essential for the health and longevity of air plants, as it helps prevent moisture buildup and the potential onset of rot. Tillandsias naturally absorb moisture from the air, and stagnant or humid conditions can create an environment that is conducive to fungal growth and other detrimental issues. To ensure adequate ventilation and airflow, it’s important to consider the placement of your Tillandsias. First and foremost, choose a location with adequate air circulation. Avoid placing your air plants in enclosed spaces or areas with limited airflow, such as closed terrariums. Instead, opt for open spaces where air can freely move around the plants. This could include placing them on open shelves, near open windows, or in rooms with good ventilation. Taking advantage of gentle breezes can also benefit your air plants. If the weather permits, opening windows or doors can introduce a natural airflow that helps to prevent stagnant conditions. Additionally, using a fan set to a low or gentle setting can simulate a breeze and improve air circulation around your Tillandsias.


4. Temperature and humidity:

Maintaining the right temperature and humidity levels is crucial for the well-being of Tillandsias. These resilient air plants prefer moderate temperatures that range between 50°F (10°C) and 90°F (32°C). While they can tolerate occasional drops in temperature, it is advisable to avoid exposing them to extreme fluctuations, as it can stress the plants and hinder their growth. To provide optimal conditions for your Tillandsias, it is important to keep track of the temperature in their surroundings. Avoid placing them in areas prone to drafts, such as near air conditioning units or heating vents, as sudden temperature changes can be detrimental. Instead, choose a location where the temperature remains relatively stable, such as a room with consistent heating and cooling.

Maintaining an appropriate humidity level is equally crucial for Tillandsias. Ideally, the humidity should be kept between 50% and 60% to mimic their natural habitat. If the air in your home is particularly dry, especially during winter or in arid climates, you can provide supplemental humidity by misting your Tillandsias occasionally. Use a spray bottle filled with room temperature, filtered water to mist the plants, ensuring that the water droplets lightly coat the leaves. Be cautious not to oversaturate them, as excessive moisture can lead to rot.

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5. Fertilization:

While Tillandsias are capable of surviving without regular fertilization, providing them with a balanced and diluted fertilizer can indeed enhance their growth and overall health. Although they extract nutrients from the air and surrounding environment, a supplemental fertilizer can provide them with a boost of essential elements for optimal development. To fertilize your Tillandsias, opt for a water-soluble fertilizer specifically formulated for orchids or bromeliads. These fertilizers are often suitable for air plants as well, as they contain the necessary nutrients in a balanced ratio. It’s important to dilute the fertilizer to half the recommended strength to prevent the risk of burning or damaging the delicate leaves of your Tillandsias. Following the instructions provided with the fertilizer, mix it with water in the appropriate ratio. During the growing season, which typically spans from spring to fall, apply the diluted fertilizer once or twice a month. Take care not to exceed the recommended frequency, as excessive fertilization can lead to salt buildup and damage the plants. Ensure that the foliage is thoroughly moistened with the diluted fertilizer solution, but avoid drenching the plant excessively.

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