Air Plant Care
Tillandsia, more well known as air plants, have over 600 species in many varieties of colors. They have a limited root function which serves only to attach to trees in the wild so that they can reach more light. They do not need any soil. Air plants absorb water through trichomes or tiny hairs on their leaves, which absorb rainfall and other nutrients. They need both water and sunlight to survive, and if well taken care of they can bloom beautiful flowers, turn bright colors, and produce pups or smaller baby plants.
Taking care of air plants is easy once you know a few simple tips. Air plants like bright indirect sunlight, so place them indoors where they get light from a big window. Keeping plants in a room with only a small window is like keeping them in a cave where they would not survive. Bathrooms are only ok if they have a lot of light coming in. Most air plants don't like much direct sunlight which can burn their leaves although a little bit of early morning or early evening sun can be beneficial and will promote blooming and brighter colors. Many plants do well outdoors in mild climates, but still generally like to be in the shade and may need to be watered more often especially if it's hot out. The more long rains, or dry heat in your climate, the less they will do well outdoors. Varieties that look more silvery, and less green will tolerate more light.
Air plants like to get wet at least once a week. There are 3 ways to water: misting, dunking, and soaking. All three methods work to different degrees, so find the method that works best for you or combine them to your liking. I like to mist most of my air plants a few times a week, and soak them once a week for about an hour as well. Sometimes I dunk instead of mist when I've missed a few days. For specifics on which plants like more or less water please refer to individual plant descriptions. When it's hot out your plants will require more water, when it's cloudy a little less. Keep an eye on your plants to see what they need. Signs of under watering are brown or crispy leaf tips and wrinkling leaves, and edges of leaves curving up creating a channel-like appearance. You'll want to give your plant a long soak if you see these signs. It's difficult to over water your air plant, as long as it dries out in between waterings. No matter which method you choose, it's a good idea to let plants dry out upside down or at least thoroughly shake the excess water out so that water doesn't pool up inside and cause the root base to rot.
MISTING the plant with water from a spray bottle can be done 3-7 times per week depending on your plants water needs. Light misting is a good way to keep the plant hydrated in between more deep waterings. If you are relying on misting for all your plants water needs then be sure to drench the plant and hit all of it's surfaces. Xeric plants that are more silvery and fuzzy such as Xerographica can survive on misting every few days to a week. Mesic varieties which come from high rainfall places and need more water will need supplemental dunking or soaking. Most air plants sold on this site are Mesic. Misting is great because you don't have to remove plants from their displays. All Welder Girl air plant holders are powder coated and will not rust if the plant is sprayed while in the display. You should still shake the plant out so water doesn't accumulate in the plants base.
DUNKING is a more thorough way of watering where you immerse plants in water a few times for a few seconds. This way all of the leaves get hit and are more fully quenched. You can rinse plants under the kitchen sink, outside with a hose, or dunk them in a large bowl or bucket. This method works great when done 2-4 times a week for Mesic types, and once every 7-10 days for Xeric types.
SOAKING is the deepest and most thorough way to water. Fill up a bowl, sink, or bucket with enough water to fully submerge your entire plant, and let soak 1-2 hours. A long soak is like drinking a huge glass of water, and allows plants to withstand longer periods of drought. If your plants become noticeably dry from under watering, leave the plant to soak a little longer up to 5 hours. Most plants will do well to be soaked for an hour once a week.
The average home temperature is likely within a good range for air plants to grow and thrive. Take care that air plants aren't in freezing or super hot conditions. If plants are kept outside, make sure they are kept above 40 degrees F as they may not survive frost. And if it's over 100 degrees F out then make sure they are shaded from intense direct sun and that they get a lot more water than usual.
BLOOM CYCLE and PUPS:
All air plants bloom, and some have strikingly large and vibrant flowers. Your air plant will have more success in blooming if you give it large amounts of bright indirect sunlight, and regular waterings. It's hard to tell exactly when plants will bloom, so be patient and take care of them well and they will be encouraged to turn bright colors and flower when the next bloom season comes around. You can cut off the old blossoms when the colors fade.
Air plants usually live to produce several offspring, or pups. When the pups are big enough to survive on their own, the parent plant will often start fading away. Most plants can grow into spherical clusters of plants called clumps. You can leave your plants as clumps, or pull off the baby pups to become new plants. Wait to separate them until the pups are a third of the size of the parent to ensure that they have the best chance of survival. You can also remove the parent plant if it doesn't look right with the new pups after it starts to fade.
Air Plants can also be fertilized once or twice a month to encourage increased growth, blooms, and new plant buds. Mist plants with a liquid air plant fertilizer, or dilute a small amount of water soluble fertilizer in a gallon of water and soak for one hour.
REMOVING DEAD LEAVES:
It's pretty common for air plants to develop dead leaves on their under sides. Feel free to pull off any crispy or brown leaves, they should break off easily. If leaves turn yellow, you can cut them off with scissors close to the base. If ends of leaves turn brown, hold your shears at an angle and snip off the ends into a point. If you notice your plants not looking healthy, consider changing up your light or watering methods. They may have too little sun, too much direct sun which can burn leaves, or too little water.
In short, if you keep your air plants in bright indirect sunlight, and water them often, they will thrive, grow, flower, and produce new plants.