Whether in hanging glass globes or loosely placed in a floral arrangement, nestled in a branch or strung up with wire – air plants are the latest and greatest way to bring nature indoors. Air plants, or Tillandsia, belong to the Bromeliad family. They are naturally found in Central and South America, as well as Mexico and some southern US states. Growing on rocks, trees, cacti, and other elements, air plants are unique in that the only function of the roots is to attach the plant to what it is growing on. As their name would suggest, they do not require soil or potting mix to grow. This opens up all sorts of options for bringing air plants into your home as they may be placed almost anywhere and are entirely mess-free.
1. LIGHT REQUIREMENTS:
For healthy plants, keep your air plants in bright, indirect light. Most varieties will not tolerate full sun well in warm months and climates, nor will they flourish in overly dry conditions, like directly under a heat vent. Since they originate from tropical and subtropical climates, it is also important not to let your air plants freeze.
There are a few different ways to water your air plant. Which method you use will primarily depend on the environment in your home. Kitchens and bathrooms are popular spots for air plants, since they can soak up the humidity from running water. Air plants can be watered by misting, running water, or submersion. They take in water through scales (trichomes) on their leaves, since they usually grow in rainy areas. Thin leaved air plants will usually require more moisture than thick or fleshy leaved air plants.
Misting: Morning is best. Remove from container and spray heavily 2-3 times a week. Air plants will need frequent misting in hot, dry environments and less frequent misting in cool, humid ones.
Running water: Morning is best. If it seems that misting is not enough for your air plants, run them under water until they are completely wet on all parts of the plant. Remember not to leave any sitting water between the leaves before you put the plant back, as this could cause rot (a good shake will remove excess water). This can be done as frequently as misting, and follows the same rules for increasing or decreasing frequency.
Submersion: if your air plant seems like it is constantly dry and in need of watering, soaking the plant (completely submerged) overnight is advisable. This is also the best method to use for air plants that have become too dry and are starting to brown or curl. The submersion method should be AVOIDED if the plant is currently in bloom, as it will rot the flowers. For best results, use aquarium or pond water. If using tap water, let the water sit during the day prior to soaking overnight to allow chemicals to dissipate. Note: If a plant appears to be dying but there is still some green left to the leaves, use a more drastic version of this method and soak the plant for 24 hours.
3. CARE FOR OFFSHOOTS
Air plants will naturally form a colony over time. You may notice a smaller, or ‘baby’ plant growing out of the main one. These are called pups, and the main plant is often referred to as the ‘mother’. The healthiest thing to do is leave these pups attached to the mother so the plant can form a healthy colony. However, if space becomes an issue, the pups can be removed once they have reached the same size as the mother plant. It is safe to remove dried, broken, or bent leaves from the plant.