Tillandsia Bulbosa Guatemala Air Plant

Top 10 Air Plant Care Tips

by Jamie Beck

Air plants, while considered the perfect plant for green thumbs and brown thumbs alike, they can actually be a little tricky when it comes to their care.

Today on the blog we are talking about some of our top air plant care tips that will ensure that your air plants are healthy and thriving. Read on!  

1. Keep them hydrated: Most air plants prefer to be watered at least once a week, and sometimes more if you live in a dry hot climate. Keep in mind that misting or spraying is not an adequate amount of moisture for most air plants, so we recommend soaking your air plants to ensure that they are getting an adequate amount of moisture. There are, as always, exceptions to this rule, such as the xeric ( drought tolerant) species of Tillandsia, such as the T. xerographica, or T. tectorum. T. Xerographica plants should be dunked, rather than soaked, and T. tectorum plants only need to be misted or sprayed every other week or so. Learn more in depth watering care on our Air Plant Care 101 page, or our How to Water an Air Plant page

Watering a Tillandsia Ionantha with a Bowl of Water

2. Display them in an area with adequate light: Indirect filtered light is best for most air plants. We recommend either south or north facing windows as these tend to get more indirect light. Some plants such as the T. xerographica, T. straminea, T. tectorum, and T. streptophylla among other “xeric” plants can withstand and sometimes prefer more bright direct light. Take care to monitor your plants to see if they are getting any sun damage or spots due to where they are displayed! Learn more about the light requirements of air plants in our blog post "How Much Light Do Air Plants Need?" 


Xeric Tillandsia air plants

3. Allow for adequate air flow: Wherever you display your air plants be sure to allow them to receive adequate air flow. Don’t display your air plants in a closed off terrarium or cabinet. A good thing to keep in mind is that you want there to be enough air flow so that after watering, your air plants can dry within 4 hours. We often allow our air plants to dry upside down to ensure that no water gets trapped in their leaves and then we put them back in their spots after they have fully dried. 


Tillandsia air plant terrarium table top

As you can see, this terrarium has an open top. Perfect for air plants, as it allows adequate air flow. 

4. Pruning is ok!: If you air plant has dry leaf tips, which often occurs in the more “wispy” varieties of air plants, you can gently snip off the browning tips with a pair of sharp scissors. Cut at an angle for a more natural look. If there are any browning/dead leaves towards the base of the plant, you can gently remove them. Be sure to check for pups before pulling off any dead or dying leaves though, as they often grown beneath these bottom leaves! Since air plants don’t use their roots for nutrient intake, you can snip them away. Just be careful not to cut into the base of your air plant! Learn more about proper pruning techniques in our blog post "Pruning Your Air Plants."

Tillandsia xerographica air plant roots

The roots of this T. xerographica can be trimmed off, or can be left to grow and used to anchor the plant to a piece of driftwood or a wreath. 

5. Water quality is important: While remembering to water you air plants at least once a week is important, water quality is of equal importance. Use quality water like filtered, spring, rain, or clean well water. Aquarium or pond water works well too and the plants will appreciate the added nutrients. Avoid water that is artificially softened, RO, or distilled water. If using tap water, allow the water to sit out at room temperature to ensure that the chlorine/chloramine dissipates before watering your plants. 


Tillandsia air plant water quality tips

6. Take care of blooming air plants: When an air plant is in bloom, it is at the peak of its life cycle. Continue to care for your blooming plant as you would any other plant, by giving it adequate water and light. Take care when watering a plant with a bloom or bloom spike, to not get the bloom/flower itself wet, as these can rot very easily. Now would also be a good time to introduce fertilizer into the watering schedule which will promote pup formation. 


Tillandsia stricta in bloom


7. Fertilizer: You can use a bromeliad fertilizer throughout your air plant’s life to promote growth, blooming, and pup formation. We like to use a fertilizer with a ratio of 17-8-22 ( nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) that has everything that air plants love and need to thrive. Fertilize once a month at the same time as one of your waterings. Do not over-fertilize air plants as this can cause nitrogen burns on the leaves and can kill them.


Tillandsia air plant fertilizer

8. Removing offsets/pups: After an air plant blooms you might notice a tiny plant growing from the plants base. This is a pup/offset and should be allowed to grow until it is about ⅓ the size of the mother plant. To remove, you can gently pull on the pup, or lightly twist if necessary. An offset that is ready to be removed will be easy to separate without damage to the mother or baby air plant, so if you have to use too much force, leave it intact and allow it to grow a while longer. 

Tillandsia ionantha clump

This T. ionantha clump was formed from allowing the pups to grow instead of removing them

Tillandsia ionantha rubra pup

This T. ionantha rubra has a tiny pup growing from its base

9. Adjust watering: During the different seasons, you might need to adjust your watering schedule, as well as where you air plants are displayed. In the summer months, you might notice that you air plants need more water due to the heat, brighter sun, higher humidity, or drier air depending on where you live. The same goes for the fall/winter months. If temperatures in your area drop below 50 degrees, you will want to make sure that none of your air plants are left outside, or near a cold window. You might need to water more frequently if you are using a heater in your house, as this dries out air plants. Most air plants can handle temperatures down to the low 40’s, but more delicate varieties like the fuchsii v gracilis, and funckiana might be damaged. 


Tillandsia fuchsii v gracilis air plant

The wispy leaves of the T. fuchsii v gracilis might be damaged if left outside in temperatures below 40 degrees.

10. Watering mounted air plants: If you have air plants that are mounted to driftwood, cork, or a wreath, it can be a challenge to water them. We usually like to water our mounted plants by holding the plants under gentle running water while making sure that the wood or whatever the plants are mounted to isn’t getting wet. In between watering, you can also mist your air plants if they look dry. Just be sure not to get the wood behind the plant wet as this can cause rot if left damp. 

Tillandsia air plant cork mounts


Follow these air plant care tips, and you should have healthy, happy, thriving air plants! Follow us on Instagram @airplantdesignstudio 

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