Air Plant Propagation: Pups!

Air Plant Propagation: Pups!

8 comments by Meriel Lesseig

Let's talk about making babies - air plant babies, that is! Tillandsia, commonly known as air plants, are very slow to grow from seed so propagation tends to be the preferred method of growing air plants for most Tillandsia nurseries. Here at Air Plant Design Studio, we rely on propagation to increase our air plant supply and produce some incredibly healthy Tillandsia specimens.

Check out the size of this Tillandsia streptophylla pup that we recently separated from a giant momma plant – so healthy and happy!

Tillandsia streptophylla pup

Once an air plant has gone through the bloom cycle, it will produce offsets, or “pups” with the proper conditions. Depending on the Tillandsia species, the offsets will grow in different ways, with some air plants producing pups around the base or root system, and others sprouting them from underneath one of but it actually is serving as protection for the young Tillandsia pup that has sprouted beneath it.

Tillandsia ionantha pup 

On average, air plants will create 1 to 3 pups after the blooming process. Some varieties can product many, many more.

Air plant pups on a Tillandsia ionantha 

Separating Pups from the mother plant:

You can gently remove offsets from the mother plant when they grow to be about 1/3 the size of the mother. The pup will then continue through its own lifecycle, with proper conditions and care, growing larger and eventually blooming itself and producing its own offsets. To remove a pup, gently pull on the base of the pup while supporting the mother plant. An offset that is ready to be removed should separate easily without damage to mother or baby, so if you have to use too much force, we recommend leaving it in tact.

Tillandsia offsets 

Forming an air plant clump:

If left un-separated from the mother air plant, the offsets will continue to form a “clump” which can grow to be quite impressive. The way that you store them will dictate the formation to an extent; by hanging clumping ionantha air plants, for example, the pups will be allowed to grow 360 degrees and should eventually form a spherical clump. With the right conditions, these air plant clumps can present multiple blooms as the individual pups continue their process through maturity, eventually blooming and continuing to produce their own pups.

Tillandsia ionantha fuego air plant clump 

Encouraging pup production:

Air plants product offsets, or pups, normally following the blooming process. All Tillandsia will go through this process at some point in their lifecycle, though some varieties like the xerographica air plant are much slower to bloom and produce pups. In order to thrive through the blooming process and produce offsets, Tillandsia require ample light (the level and intensity that your air plant prefers will vary based on type), water, and air flow. You can also use a fertilizer that is specially formulated for Tillandsia (such as this one) to speed up the blooming process and pup production – but keep in mind that fertilizer should be used in moderation and does not replace proper care or conditions.


Have your air plants produced pups?

Learn about what happens before an air plant produces pups in our articles about the air plant blooming process, and what happens after the bloom


  • Bridget Whitfield

    I have a couple of questions about my air plants, that I hope you can answer for me. My first and only one to bloom is a fushii, she had three beautiful purple & pink flowers on her. The flowers have been gone awhile, but I’ve never removed the stem because it doesn’t look bad at all. I’m not sure if she’s the type that will have offsets or not? It kind of looks like there may be a couple off to each side of her base? I have her setting up and I’m not sure there offsets. Do I need to hang her, or trim the spent bloom or stem off, so it’ll maybe give her more energy to produce offsets? Which gets to my next question about a Tillandsia Kolby that I have, Kolby has never bloomed, but has a offset at the base under a leaf, it’s about as big as the first joint on my little finger. Does Kolby need to be hanging too? And last but not least I just found a little tiny nub coming out from under a leaf on my Tillandsia Madeusa. I’d really appreciate any advice that you can give me, in whether or not I need to hang my tillandsias, that have offsets so ill be able to take the best care of them as possible. I’m new to this, but feel I’ve been very blessed. I’ve only had them for 5 months & I own about 17 & I cannot grow anything that lives in dirt. I seem to be having fair luck with these & I love & cherish them so much. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Will you please email me at your earliest possible convience, with some advice, then I can start taking care of these sweet plants as quick as possible, there trying so hard. Thank you for any help you can provide & may God bless you richly. Bridget Whitfield

  • William napurejr

    I use crushed egg shells soaked in a Big bowl of water for 24 hours then soak my air plants in the water 15 minutes,seems two make great fertilizer

  • Lona

    Two Ioanthas bloomed and produced pups. One did not bloom but still produced pups. Now have 5 pups. Great experience. Mothers still living and may produce again. Thanks for your very healthy plants and all your great work.

  • Carol

    I love all the plants you sent and all are doing well. One did have a pup but the pup fell off when very small about a month ago and isn’t doing well. Does anyone have any ideas about how to treat a teeny tiny baby pup that was “born” too early?

  • Mobster

    I have several Tillandsia’s that have bloomed and most of them have produced at least 2 but usually 3 pups. I have left the pups attached to the mother as I want to ensure that they continue to grow before separation. Beautiful plants from and very healthy! Thanks for all of the great tips on keeping my Tillandsias alive and well.

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