Air Plants: A Simple Care Guide

Air plants collection

Hello and welcome!

This will be your complete guide on how to look after your air plants – be they loose, fixed to a surface or hanging (such as with our handmade Jellyfish air plants!)

Make sure to read our expansive terrarium plant care guide for a broader catalogue of information.

First, we will take a quick look at what air plants are – followed by a breakdown of their growth habits.

Then, we will dive right into care. We’ll also include a handy FAQ guide at the bottom of this page.

Quick Guide

  1. What is an Air Plant?
    1. Tillandsia Growth Habits
    2. Benefits of Keeping Tillandsia
  2. Air Plant Care Guide
  3. Air Plant FAQs
Jellyfish air plants

Some of our adorable baby jellyfish (jellybabies) housing miniature air plants.

1 | What is an Air Plant?

Air plants, scientifically known as Tillandsia, are a unique plant group known for their ability to grow without soil.

Unlike traditional terrestrial plants, air plants absorb water and nutrients through specialised scales on their leaves, allowing them to thrive in diverse environments.

With over 650 species and countless hybrids, air plants vary widely in size, shape, and colour, offering many options for plant enthusiasts.

Originating from regions ranging from forests to deserts in the Americas, air plants have adapted to survive in a range of climates, from humid rainforests to arid deserts.

1.1 | Tillandsia Growth Habits

Air plants exhibit diverse growth habits, ranging from compact rosettes to sprawling or cascading structures.

They vary widely in size and shape, with some species reaching just a few inches tall while others can grow several feet in length.

These plants often produce colourful flowers, enhancing their ornamental appeal.

Depending on the species, air plants can grow individually or in clusters, making them versatile for use in terrariums, hanging planters, or mounted arrangements.

Red air plant for sale

Air plants come in many colours - including gorgeous red hues.

1.2 | Benefits of Keeping Tillandsia Air Plants

Air plants provide many benefits to their keepers:

  • Their low-maintenance nature makes them ideal for busy individuals or those with limited gardening space.
  • Since air plants do not require soil, they can be displayed creatively, such as mounted on driftwood, nestled in decorative containers, or suspended in air.
  • Air plants are known for their air-purifying properties, absorbing pollutants such as carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the environment.
  • Their unique appearance and ability to thrive in a variety of conditions make them popular choices for terrariums.        

2 | Air Plant Care Guide

Air plants are, notoriously, simple to care for.

Most homes can provide the basic conditions required for healthy growth over a long time.

Below we’ve summarised the most important care tips you should be aware of, to best cater to the needs of your Tillandsia.

Single air plant for sale UK

Light

Air plants thrive in bright, indirect light.

Place them near a window where they can receive filtered sunlight or under artificial grow lights.

Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight, as this can cause their leaves to burn.

Temperature

Air plants prefer temperatures between 50°F to 90°F (10°C to 32°C).

They can tolerate occasional fluctuations outside this range but should be protected from prolonged exposure to extreme heat or cold.

Humidity

Air plants require high humidity to thrive.

Maintain humidity levels between 50% to 70% by misting them regularly with water or placing them in humid environments such as bathrooms or kitchens.

Airplants being dried after watering

A collection of our air plants drying off after having been soaked. 

Watering

Water air plants by soaking them in room temperature water for 20 to 30 minutes once a week.

Shake off excess water and allow them to dry upside down before returning them to their display.

Adjust the watering frequency based on environmental conditions and the moisture level of the air plants.

If your air plants are fixed to a surface or hanging and cannot easily be soaked – mist occasionally while taking care not to waterlog. 

Jellyfish air plants hanging

Hanging your air plants is a great way to dry them, and display them. 

Substrates and Surfaces

Air plants do not require soil and can be displayed in various substrates such as decorative rocks, sand, or moss.

Ensure the substrate allows for good air circulation and drainage to prevent rotting.

Nutrition

Air plants absorb nutrients through their leaves, so they do not require traditional fertilisers.

However, you can feed them occasional nutrient boosts by misting them with a diluted liquid fertiliser (1/4 strength) once a month during the growing season.

Propagation

Air plants can be propagated by dividing offsets or pups that form at the base of mature plants.

Gently separate the pups from the parent plant and replant them in a suitable substrate. Keep the pups in a humid environment until they establish roots.

3 | Air Plant FAQs

Do you have a question but can’t find your answer here? Simply leave a comment below and we’ll add your question (and our answer!) to the list.

Can air plants survive without any water?

Air plants can survive for short periods without water, but they require regular hydration to thrive. Soaking them in water weekly or misting them frequently ensures they stay healthy.

Do air plants need fertilizer?

While air plants can survive without fertilizer, occasional feeding with a diluted liquid fertilizer during growing season can promote healthier growth and more vibrant foliage.

Can I plant air plants in soil?

Air plants do not require soil to grow and can be displayed in various substrates such as moss, sand, or decorative rocks. Planting them in soil can lead to root rot and should be avoided.

How do I revive a dry air plant?

To revive a dry air plant, soak it in room temperature water for 20 to 30 minutes. After soaking, shake off excess water and allow the plant to dry upside down before returning it to its display.

Can air plants survive in low light conditions?

While air plants prefer bright, indirect light, they can tolerate lower light conditions for short periods. However, prolonged exposure to low light may affect their growth and health.

Can air plants grow flowers?

Yes, many air plant species produce colourful flowers under the right conditions. Providing proper care, including adequate light and hydration, can encourage flowering.

How do I know if my air plant is dead?

A dead air plant will have dried, brown leaves and a shrivelled appearance. It will no longer respond to hydration attempts and may have a foul odour.

Can air plants be grown outdoors?

Air plants can be grown outdoors in mild climates, provided they are protected from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. They can be displayed in gardens, on trees, or in hanging baskets.

Do air plants attract pests?

While air plants are relatively resistant to pests, they can occasionally attract small insects like aphids or mealybugs. Regular inspection and proper care can help prevent pest infestations.

Can I use tap water to water my air plants?

Tap water contains minerals and chemicals that can harm air plants over time. It's best to use filtered or distilled water, or allow tap water to sit for 24 hours to allow chlorine to dissipate before using it.

How do I mount air plants on driftwood?

To mount air plants on driftwood, use a waterproof adhesive such as aquarium silicone. Press the base of the air plant firmly onto the adhesive and allow it to dry completely before hanging or displaying.

Can air plants be propagated from leaves?

Air plants cannot be propagated from individual leaves but can be divided into offsets or pups that grow at the base of mature plants. These pups can be separated and replanted to propagate new air plants.

What is the lifespan of an air plant?

With proper care, air plants can live for several years, with some species living up to 10 years or more. Regular hydration, adequate light, and proper airflow contribute to a longer lifespan.

Do air plants change colour?

Yes, air plants can change colour depending on environmental conditions and their hydration status. They may appear more vibrant and colourful when well-hydrated and may become dull or pale when stressed.

Can air plants be grown in closed terrariums?

While air plants can survive in closed terrariums, they may struggle to thrive due to limited airflow and increased humidity. It's essential to monitor the conditions carefully and provide proper ventilation if necessary. Ensure your air plants are not sat in soil.

Can air plants be grown underwater?

No, air plants cannot be grown underwater as they require access to air for proper respiration. Submerging them in water for extended periods can cause them to rot and eventually die.

Can air plants be grown with orchids?

Air plants can be grown alongside orchids as they have similar care requirements, including bright, indirect light and high humidity. They can add a unique touch to orchid displays and arrangements.

Do air plants produce seeds?

Yes, air plants can produce seeds, although they are relatively rare in indoor settings. Most air plants are propagated by dividing offsets or pups that grow at the base of mature plants.

Are air plants toxic to pets?

Air plants are non-toxic to pets and are safe to keep in homes with dogs, cats, and other animals. However, ingesting large quantities of air plants may cause gastrointestinal upset in pets.

We always recommend conducting thorough research when introducing new plants into an environment with pets.

Can air plants be displayed in glass containers?

While air plants can be displayed in glass containers, ensuring adequate airflow and ventilation is essential to prevent moisture build-up and rot. Open-bottomed containers or containers with ventilation holes are recommended for optimal air circulation.

4 | Conclusion

This has been your exclusive guide to caring for air plants.

The information provided is based on personal experience and is quite broad – so if you have any questions, please comment below and we’ll get back to you.

Otherwise, browse our full range of articles for more knowledge from the world of terrarium builders. 


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