How to Care for Air Plants

How to Care for Air Plants

Air Plant Care Basics

Caring for an air plant is easy, but they do need a bit more than air to survive! Most air plant species like bright, indirect light (avoid direct sunlight, which can damage delicate leaves).

The most common cause of death for air plants are watering issues. They are sensitive to the amount of water you give them, and the watering method used. Once you learn how to water an air plant correctly you'll be all set!

Hand holding three small air plants.

How to Water an Air Plant

Air plants absorb water and nutrients through their leaves instead of their roots like other houseplants. Most air plants need watered once every 1-3 weeks - more frequently when it's warm and receives lots of light, and less frequently when it's cooler and/or the plant receives less light. This can vary by species, too, so it is important to learn what type of air plant you own.

One common mistake - that can kill an air plant fast - is watering or misting it from the top, allowing water to collect and sit at the base. This will eventually rot the base and kill the plant.

The best way to water an air plant is to give it a bath! Place your plant  in a container of room temperature water. Submerge the plant and make sure the leaves are covered. Let it soak for 20 minutes to an hour (set a reminder or alarm so you don't forget!).

Four air plants soaking upside down in a bowl of water.

Dry Your Air Plant Upside Down

When you take your air plant out of its bath, gently shake excess water from the leaves. Then, you must let it dry upside down.

***This important step prevents water from sitting in the base of the plant, which will cause rot and slowly kill your plant.***

Simply place the air plant upside down, resting on its leaves, on top of a paper towel or dishcloth to absorb the water. Allow the plant to dry completely (this may take a few hours) before placing it back in its holder.

Four air plants drying upside down on a paper towel.

Feeding Your Air Plant

Air plants need to be fertilized just like other houseplants. Most are slow growers, but the right care and fertilizer can promote healthy growth and encourage blooms.

However, it's very important to choose the right "food" for an air plant's unique needs. Most houseplant fertilizers contain "urea" to supply the the plant with the nitrogen it needs for healthy growth. Urea is broken down in soil, but air plants can't grow in soil.

Spraying these common fertilizers on an air plant can burn the leaves and kill the plant. So, it's important to use a fertilizer that does not contain urea.

Air plant fertilizers may be harder to find in local stores, but fortunately there are great options available online! Here is a list of a few of the top-selling air plant fertilizers on Amazon:

  1. Cute Farms Tillandsia Air Plant Fertilizer
  2. Aquatic Arts Tillandsia Air Plant Food
  3. The Drunken Gnome Tillandsia Air Plant Food and Fertilizer