air plant tillandsia juncea

Is the Brown Part of My Air Plant Normal?

Once you receive your new set of Tillandsia air plants, you may notice that some of the species are completely green while others tend to be brown towards the bottom. While this may raise concern, rest assured that a darker base does not always indicate the plant is dead or unhealthy. Several types of air plants will naturally have this appearance and the brown bases are most likely a normal and healthy feature. If you are unsure about the condition of your air plant, there are ways to differentiate between what is normal and what may be a sign of an unhealthy plant. Read on to learn more!

Normal Base vs Rot – What's the Difference?

air plant tillandsia juncea
Upon first sight of your new plant, you may associate the darker coloring of the base with rot, which is a common ailment among air plants due to overwatering or lack of light and air circulation. While a plant that is rotting will typically have a dark brown or black base, the best way to tell if the plant is healthy is to gently tug or wiggle the center leaves from the top – we call this the "tug method". A healthy air plant will have leaves that remain firmly intact. If the plant is rotting then the center leaves will easily pull out and the plant will often fall apart. A soft and soggy base can also indicate rot. Some of the more round-bottomed plants such as Streptophylla, Capitata, and Seleriana may have softer bases than other species that are more bulbous, leafy, or cone-shaped, but the plants should never feel mushy. A common trait of air plants that should not be confused with rot is a brown organic matter often found between the bottom leaves. This is most common among Xerographica, Streptophylla, and Juncea (as seen in the image above) air plants that have spent quite some time on the farms. Again, nothing to worry about here, and any excess dirt can be gently removed from between the leaves.

Unique Textures and Blushing

air plant tillandsia Melanocrater

There is a vast variety of Tillandsia air plants, each with their unique characteristics! While most houseplants have a smooth leafy texture, air plants will differ with each species which is why it is necessary to be observant of your various air plants. The most uncommon textures are typically noticed with Juncea, Melanocrater (as seen in the image to the right), and Fasciculata. These plants have brittle leaves and dry bases that are comparable to those of pinecones. Another natural and healthy feature of these plants is their brown, cone-shaped bases. Bulbous air plants such as Bulbosa Guatemala and Butzii are unique as well with their hard, shell-like texture, again with brown bases. As long as these bases are firm and the leaves are intact, the air plants are healthy!

As air plants grow and mature, they go through their different color cycles and often blush with red, pink, or purple colors. Some species have much darker shades of purple when they blush and the colors can range from the bottom of the plants to the tips of the leaves. Seleriana and Caput Medusae will commonly have dark blushing colors towards their bases while Juncea and Filifolia plants will have darker shades on the ends of their whispy leaves. Remember that the different colors are a unique trait that naturally occurs in healthy air plants. Before assuming a plant is unhealthy at first glance upon arrival, give it some time to adjust to its new environment and care for it as usual. Maybe even reference our air plant product listing photos for comparison of what you can expect the plant to look like. You will find that the plants will thrive, even with brown bases!

air plant tillandsia brown base


If you are still concerened about the wellbeing of your air plants, read more on our Air Plant Care page or our blog, "What's Killing My Air Plants?". Or feel free to contact our amazing customer service team at

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.