Tips on How To Care For An Air Plant

Air plants, or Tillandsia, are unique members of the bromeliad family that have adapted to live in a variety of environments, from the dry climates of South America to the high humidity of rainforests.

Unlike most house plants, air plants do not require soil to grow, instead absorbing nutrients through their leaves. This makes air plant care slightly different from typical indoor plant care.

Here’s a detailed guide on how to care for your air plant.


Understanding Air Plants

Air Plants

Air plants are divided into two main categories: xeric air plants and mesic air plants. Xeric air plants come from dry climates and have thick, leathery leaves, while mesic air plants come from rainy areas and have smoother, softer leaves.

Indeed, the distinction between xeric and mesic air plants is crucial for their care. Xeric air plants, adapted to arid environments, are generally more tolerant of bright light, lower humidity, and less frequent watering.

They often have a silver or gray tint to their leaves due to a dense layer of trichomes, which are tiny structures that help the plant absorb water and protect it from harsh sunlight.

On the other hand, mesic air plants, native to rainforests and other humid environments, typically require more frequent watering and prefer indirect or filtered light.

Their leaves are usually greener and softer, reflecting their adaptation to a more shaded, moist environment.

Air Plants Care

Caring for air plant
Image Source: Treehugger

While the absence of soil might seem intimidating, fear not! Air plants, with their unique and intriguing growth habits, are surprisingly straightforward to care for once you understand their needs.

Yes, they don’t require potting, but like all houseplants, they still need their share of water, light, and the right temperature conditions.

Light Requirements

Air plants need bright, indirect light to thrive. Direct sunlight can cause the plant’s leaves to burn, especially during the hot sun of the afternoon. A bright room with lots of indirect light is ideal. If direct sun cannot be avoided, consider using a sheer curtain to filter the light.

Watering Your Air Plant

Watering is a crucial aspect of air plant care. While it might seem counterintuitive, air plants do need water despite their name. However, they do not absorb water through roots like most plants. Instead, they absorb water through tiny vessels located throughout their leaves called trichomes.

While they need water to survive, excess water can lead to rot.

As a general rule, air plants should be given a good soak in rainwater or tap water for about 20-30 minutes every week. After soaking, shake off any excess water and place the plant in a well-ventilated area with good air circulation to dry.

For xeric air plants that are adapted to dry climates, misting with a spray bottle can be a good alternative to soaking. On the other hand, mesic air plants, which are used to high humidity, might prefer the soaking method.

Temperature and Humidity

Air plants are tropical plants and prefer warm temperatures. They can tolerate a wide range of temperatures but try to keep them in an environment that is between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid placing them in areas with cold drafts, especially during winter.

Air plants also prefer high humidity. If you live in a dry climate, you may need to water your air plants more frequently.

Air Circulation

Good air circulation is key for healthy air plants. After watering, make sure to place your air plant in a well-ventilated area to dry off. Stagnant water can lead to mold and rot, which can be fatal to your plant.


Propagating air plants pups
Image Source: Air Plant Supply

When it comes to propagation, air plants reproduce by sending out offsets, or “pups”, from the mother plant. Unlike most plants, air plants do not require soil to grow.

Instead, they absorb nutrients from the air, water, and surrounding debris, making them an excellent choice for those seeking low-maintenance houseplants.

Here are the steps you need to know when propagating air plants.

Identify the Pups

As air plants mature, they develop offsets, otherwise known as pups. Examine the bottom of your plants to see if any new offsets are growing from the main plant. If you’re caring for a young plant, be prepared to wait several years before seeing any offsets or pups.

Separate the Pup

Wait for the offset to be a third of the size of the actual air plant. Pinch this growth with your fingers, then slowly twist it counterclockwise. Continue rotating the plant slowly until you’ve completely pulled it off the main air plant. Be careful not to remove the pup too quickly, or you could damage the plant.

Care for the Pup

Lay the separated pup on a flat surface and tend to it like any other air plant. Spritz the independent pup with tap water weekly so the plant can continue to grow.

Relocate the Pup

Once the plants have grown to your desired size, place them somewhere around your home as an accent. Use a fishing line, liquid nails, or hot glue to display the plant, or use another method of your choice.

Common Issues

Tillandsias, are generally easy to care for, but they can still encounter a few common issues. Knowing Tillandsia issues will help you to solve the problem and save you time from looking for what happened with your plant.


This is the most common problem with air plants. If overwatered, the base of the plant may become soft and mushy, and leaves may fall off from the center. Overwatering can lead to rot, which is often fatal for the plant.


Contrary to popular belief, air plants do need water. Underwatered plants may have curled leaves, or browning leaves, and may feel soft to the touch.

Inadequate Light

Air plants need adequate light to thrive. If they don’t receive enough light, their coloring may fade, and they may become soft or wilt.

Temperature Variation and Inadequate Air Circulation

Air plants prefer warm, humid conditions. They may struggle if exposed to cold drafts or temperatures, or if they’re kept in areas with poor air circulation.

Fertilization Issues

While air plants can survive without soil, they still need nutrients to grow. If they’re not getting the right nutrients, they may not thrive.

Pest Issues

Although rare, air plants can sometimes be affected by pests like mealybugs and scale. You need to be prepared if this problem appears in your plan.


Air plant care might seem complicated at first, but once you get the hang of it, these little plants can make a great addition to your home.

Remember, every air plant is unique, so it’s important to pay attention to its specific needs and adjust your care routine as necessary.

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