Keeping Plants Alive: Air Plants

Your guide to keeping various types of plants alive for those without a green thumb.


Air Plants are incredibly diverse tropical plants that don't require too much care, making them ideal for busy people, people who live in small spaces, and beginners!


I love air plants because they are the cleanest of plants (hello, dirt-free life!) and with consistent albeit minimal effort, they can thrive pretty much anywhere.


Meet your new best friends, Tillandsias

Growing up in Nicaragua, I could find plants everywhere, including clinging on to power lines, absorbing humidity from the air. Their other-worldly shapes and vibrant flowers make them lovely additions to any space. Part of their allure is their ability to be presented in ways other plants cannot; think glass jars, driftwood, macrame, and metal frames. The sky is the limit, though stay away from copper as it harms air plants.


Contrary to popular belief, they do need plenty of water to thrive (in their natural habitat they absorb it from the humidity in the air), but that doesn't mean you need to water them as often as most house plants. Below are the basics of Tillandsia (air plant) care:


Light

Water: How to know when your air plant needs water

Temperature

 

Light

Bright, indirect sunlight or under fluorescent lighting.


If your air plant receives some hours of direct sunlight, be sure to mist it to prevent your plant from drying out and keeping it hydrated! You can also place a humidifier nearby in lieu of spraying. For lower maintenance, keep it away from direct sunlight. The more sun, the more water it will need.


Water

Air plants get their name from growing on trees and even power lines as they do not need soil to thrive. They do, however, need water!


Air plants do best with regular watering, but skipping a watering session won't kill it, so you can go on a week-long vacation and your plant will be okay! Ideally, they should be watered once a week at least, up to 2-3 times. The drier the climate, the more often they need to be watered.


To water your air plant, fill a clean container with filtered (not distilled! tap is not ideal, but it's okay if that's all you've got) water and gently submerge your plant for 20-30 minutes. Once a month try to soak your air plant for about 2 hours.

The key to proper air plant care is letting your plant dry properly. Gently shake off the excess water and let your plant air dry in a well-ventilated space. I use a drying rack and place my plants upside down to make sure the crevices dry properly. I leave my plants to dry overnight. At a minimum, set your plant to dry for about 4 hours.


Note: If your air plant is blooming, don't submerge it in water. Gently rinse it for several minutes to keep the flowers safe from damage.


How do you know if your air plant needs to be watered?

If your air plant has been watered properly, the leaves will feel stiffer and full of water. Thirsty air plants feel softer and lighter in color. If leaves curl or wrinkle, your plant is probably dehydrated.


Temperature

As these are tropical plants, their preferred temperature is between 50-90F (10-32C).


If you live in an area where there is no frost, your plants should be okay outside for as long as the temperature allows as long as you keep them well-watered and protected from extended direct sunlight.