Air Plant Care

Tillandsia Xerographica (Large)

Caring for Your Brand New Plants

Yay, they've arrived! After you've unpacked your plants and spent sufficient time marveling at their unique beauty (and possibly giving them names), give them a good soak in a water bath (submerged in the water) for about 20-30 minutes. Shake gently to remove any excess water, and set in a spot with bright light and good air circulation to dry off. Follow the directions below for ongoing care of your plants.

Light

Air plants should be kept where they'll receive bright, indirect sunlight or under fluorescent home/office lighting. Periods of direct sunlight are just fine, but more than a few hours of hot sun will deplete the plants of their moisture. If your plant will be in a spot with some pretty direct light, try misting them every couple of days to keep them hydrated.

Water

Air plants live on air, right? Uh, not right! While air plants don't grow in soil, they definitely NEED to be watered. While the plants can survive for long periods of drought, they will not grow or thrive and will eventually die off if water is too scarce. Follow the directions below for watering your plants on a regular basis and they will stay alive and well for quite some time. The good news is that since these plants are very forgiving, you shouldn't stress over their care schedule. There's certainly no need to get a babysitter when you go on vacation!

How do I water the plants?

As a main method of watering your plants, we recommend giving them a thorough rinsing under running water or letting them soak in a bath of water for 20-30 minutes. You can use a bowl, the sink or even the bathtub if you've got a family. After their shower or bath, gently shake the plants to remove any excess water from the base and the leaves, and set out to dry in an area with enough air circulation to dry them out in about 4 hours. If your plants need an in-between watering, misting them with a spray bottle is a great method. A plant in bloom should be rinsed rather than submerged in water, and take care when rinsing the delicate flowers.

How often do I water the plants?

Your plants should be watered once per week, and 2-3 times is recommended for optimal care. A longer, 2-hour soak is recommended every 2-3 weeks. If you are in a drier, hotter climate, more frequent watering or misting will be needed. You'll begin to notice that after watering, your plant's leaves will feel stiffer and full of water and they'll be softer and lighter in color when they're in need of water. Wrinkled or rolled leaves can be a sign of dehydration.

Temperature

Air plants will do best in generally warm conditions (a good range is 50-90 degrees).

Grooming

Everyone needs a little grooming once in a while! It is normal for some of the lower leaves of your tillandsias to dry out as the plant grows or acclimates to a new environment, and those leaves can be gently pulled right off of the plant. If the leaf tips have dried out, you can snip the dried tip off (try trimming at an angle to leave a natural-looking pointy tip), and the same can be done for the plant's roots. Don't worry about harming your plants during grooming--they'll regrow.

Fertilizer

Fertilizing your plants is not necessary, but will keep them in top shape and should promote blooming and reproduction. We recommend using a Bromeliad fertilizer (available at most garden shops) once per month during the period of March through October. Other water-soluble fertilizers can be used at 1/4 strength (Rapid Grow, Miracle-Grow, houseplant fertilizer, etc.) if Bromeliad fertilizer is not available.

Life Cycle

Blooming

Tillandsias are tropical plants that usually live for several years and will bloom and produce flowers only one time during their lifetime. The flowers are striking and brilliantly colored, and the bloom period will last several days to many months, depending on the species. Different species bloom at different times, also depending on their care and environment. A plant will most likely go into bloom sometime between mid-winter and mid-summer.

Pups

Around a plant's bloom time, they'll produce offshoots, or "pups." You'll notice the pups have a separate and distinct center of their own, distinguishing them from the other leaves. Once the pup reaches at least one-third the size of the parent plant, the pup can be removed by gently pulling it apart from the parent. Hold both the parent and the pup at their bases and gently twist in a downward motion. You can also cut the plants apart using a clean razor blade, slicing as far down the pup stem as possible. Each pup will follow the lifecycle by growing into a parent plant, blooming and producing pups of it's own.

Clumping

Tillandsias can grow into clumps if the pups are left to grow on the parent plant. Clumps can also be created by wiring multiple plants together, as they'll begin to grow into and around each other.

Mounting

Since air plants are very unique in that they do not require soil to grow and thrive, they can be mounted to almost any different surface for display. We recommend using the base of the plant as the mounting area. Adhesives like E-6000, Liquid Nails, Goop or a hot glue gun will work great, as well as fishing line or any non-copper wire. When choosing your mounting surface, remember that your plant will still need to be watered, so something waterproof or water-resistant will be the best choice for a long-term display method.

Air Plant Care FAQs

Can I keep my air plant in a container?

Of course! Almost any vessel will do just fine as a home for your air plant. They'll do best with some air circulation, so they really shouldn't live in an enclosed container for long durations. Otherwise, anything goes… and be creative!

Can my air plants live outdoors?

Sure! Can't you imagine admiring a beautiful hanging Stricta clump while sitting out on the porch enjoying an evening cocktail? The most important need for the plant will be bright, filtered light, so a patio or deck spot where they'll get indirect sunlight would be the best spot. They'll need to be watered more often than plants kept inside, especially in dry periods, so grab the garden hose or dunk them in the pond, whatever is easiest. Make sure the plants are drying out within about 4 hours after being watered, especially after any long, soaking rains.

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