If you received a cool, jungle-like air plant as a gift or fell in love with one at the farmer’s market and brought it home, you’re probably wondering, “How the heck do I keep this thing alive?” Not a silly question at all, given that these plants just sit on a piece of wood, a rock, or in a bowl with no soil in sight. Here’s what you need to know to keep your air plants happy and healthy.
Where Do They Come From
Air plants or Tillandsia are epiphytes – which means they grow above the ground, often on another plant in a non-parasitic way. They are native to warm, humid climates of North and South America and get their nutrients from the atmosphere rather than soil. While air plants do have roots, these are only for clinging to the plants or objects they grow on.
No Soil Required
Do not, we repeat NOT, put your air plant in or on soil. This will likely kill it, as the plant will not get enough air circulation and probably rot due to prolonged contact with damp soil.
Do I Water My Air Plant?
In short, yes. Every species of air plant has specific water needs, so do some research for your specific variety. But a common method is to remove the air plant from its container, submerge it in room temperature tap water or rainwater for around 15 minutes, then give it a very gentle shake and allow it to drip dry to prevent rotting and avoid stagnant water collecting on its leaves or crevices. Do this once a week (or every 10 days in very humid climates, and every five days in extremely dry climates).
Signs of Over- or Underwatering
If the tips of your air plant’s leaves begin to curl and turn brown, it’s letting you know you need to water it more often. If the tips turn brown and start to look soggy, you are overwatering. If it turns black, your air plant may be beyond saving. Be careful not to use soft water, which can have high levels of salt and cause your plant to die. Rainwater or regular tap water are best.
How Much Sunlight Does My Air Plant Need?
Due to their tropical pedigree, air plants prefer warmer climates and bright, indirect or filtered sunlight. A room with southern or northern exposure is ideal, and try to avoid a spot where the plant will be hit with cold drafts or gusts of frosty air conditioning.
In the right conditions, your air plant will thrive and beautify your home for many years. They are notoriously slow growing, so choose one that’s in a shape and size you like, since it will look more or less the same for several years. For more handy home and lifestyle tips, check out the Olympus Las Colinas blog.