Plant Profile: how to care for…air plants

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I don’t have any air plants, but I do have google, so what does it really matter?

I do want some, it’s just I’m not quite sure where I’d put them. every flat surface of my house is filled with plants, and I’m worried I’d forget about them.

Ok, you don’t care about that.

Let’s crack on.

Quickfire air plant care

  • Light: bright, indirect
  • Humidity: not fussy, but they can rot if it’s very high
  • Temperature: anything above 7C/45F
  • Watering: soak approx. once a week, depending on climate and season
  • Fertilise: monthly, either diluted orchid fertiliser or aquarium pond/water
  • Potting medium: none
  • Propagation: they produce pups
  • Pests: mealybugs, aphids
  • Blooms? yes
  • Toxic? no, but they can be spiky
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Where do air plants come from?


Ah, lol lol lol.

Since there are over 600 species of air plant, they cover a pretty wide area. They’re native to the Central and South America, Mexico and the West Indies, and have crept into the southern states of the USA.

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Where should I put my air plant?

Don’t put it in soil. I know you think you’re helping, but you/re not. They’re epiphytes, and they only use their roots for climbing, not for getting nutrients.

I think the most important thing is to put your air plant somewhere where you won’t forget about it.

A lot of plant parents do the Moisture Metre March on a morning, where we go around poking our plants with a moisture metre, and ensuring everyone’s ok.

Obvs an air plant wouldn’t partake in this routine, so make sure it’s at eye level somewhere you regularly pass.

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Light conditions for air plants

Air plants like (wait for it) bright, indirect light. They grow beneath the rainforest canopy, so a few hours of sunlight will suffice.

There are species such as Tillandsia cyanea or Tillandsia lindenii that can handle lower light conditions.

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Temperature preferences for air plants

Air plants like warm weather, but they can handle slightly lower temperatures than a lot of other house plants. Don’t let them get any colder than 45 degrees F/7 degrees C.

Still not discovered how to do a degrees symbol in Gutenberg yet.

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Humidity preferences for air plants

From my research, it seems that as long as you keep on top of your watering, air plants aren’t that bothered about high humidity.

I actually think that if they’d rot if your humidity is too high. Perfect for those of you that can’t be bothered to get a humidifier. I might get one and see how it fares in my kitchen, which is usually at about 60% humidity with no humidifier.

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How to water your air plant

Your air plant will show you when it needs watering. Look for:

  • Curling or closed leaves
  • Duller colour

I always keep a tray of water on the kitchen counter to bottom water plants, so I would just soak them in that for about 20 minutes.

Obviously not everyone has the counter space, so you could just fill a bowl with water, let it acclimatise, and soak it in that.

My research would suggest that they’re not picky about the kind of water they’re soaked in BUT if you’ve spent a lot of money on your plant it may be worth using rainwater if you have access to it.

How often you need to water your plants depends on your climate. If you have hot, dry air, your plants will need watering more often than those of us with cooler, more humid, air.

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How to fertilise your air plant

Add fertiliser to the water and soak. I couldn’t find much information on this to be honest, other than some people use pond or aquarium water as an alternative to fertiliser.

Those that do use fertiliser recommend using a low dosage and use orchid fertiliser, or a similar fertiliser that’s low in copper, and add it when soaking the plant about once a month.

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Pests common to air plants

The usual – mealybugs, aphids, etc, BUT air plants are extremely resilient to pests, so you can just pick ’em off and your plant will be fine.

I guess you don’t need to worry about dusting air plants because all the crap’ll come off them when they’re being watered.

I’m beginning to see why air plants are so popular. No bugs, no soil, no dusting…

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Potting mix for air plants

They…don’t need any. They’ll just rot if you try to put them in soil

What type of pot would an air plant prefer?

None, please.

Seriously, I’m actually browsing Etsy as we speak, because I have just the spot for an air plant or two on the open shelving in my kitchen.

No repotting, ever. Wow.

Are air plants toxic?

Nope. Having said that, they can be spiky, so could potentially pose a choking hazard.

In general, keep your plants away from any pets or kids that are likely to fancy a nibble.

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How to propagate air plants

They have pups!

If your air plant has recently bloomed, then expect 2-8 pups to appear at the base. In the wild, there’s no one to separate the family, so they hang together in a big, beautiful lump until one of them dies.

You can, however, get some sterilised scissors and snip them apart. Each pup is fully independent, so you don’t need to worry about growing its roots long enough or anything.

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  • Silvery-leaved varieties tend to be more drought-tolerant than greener ones.
  • It can take anything from 6 months to several years for your air plant to bloom and reproduce, so this ain’t a get-rich-quick scheme.
  • They’re related to pineapples
  • Our thirst for them is destroying their natural habitat. Oh. Look for home-grown ones.

For more information on air plants, these people really seem to know what they’re on about.

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