How to grow air plants that don't need soil to survive

How to grow air plants that don't need soil to survive

Air plants seem otherworldly in the way they grow in, well, only in the air. Yes, no soil is needed at all to grow epiphytes. Additionally, its leaves look like alien tentacles or alien marine creature appendages. These adorable little plants are different in care than most other houseplants. Use this guide to grow air plants in your home and help them grow.

Air plant overview

Genus name Tillandsia
Common name airplane
Plant type Houseplant, perennial
a light Sun part, sun
to rise 2 to 84 inches
an offer From 1 to 48 inches
Flower color Blue, orange, pink, purple, red, white, yellow
Color of foliage Blue/green, purple/burgundy
Special features Good for containers, low maintenance
Problem solvers Drought tolerant
Crystal Slagle/BHG

About air plants

air plants (Tillandsia spp.) are epiphytes, meaning they grow on other plants in nature, usually on tree branches. There are hundreds of species and varieties of epiphytes. It usually has narrow, belt-shaped or spear-shaped leaves and grows in a rosette shape with new growth emerging from the center. Silver-leaved species tend to be the most drought tolerant, while greener species dry faster. You can also find colorful species, e.g tillandsia maxima, Which has coral leaves. Most species also produce attractive tubular or funnel-shaped flowers. As houseplants, most Tillandsia species grow 2 to 12 inches tall, but in their native tropical locations, they can reach 7 feet tall.

Jacob Fox

Air plant care

Don't let the lack of soil scare you. Air plants are easy to grow and care for once you know what they need. You may not have to worry about planting them in pots, but they still need a certain amount of water and light — as well as the right temperatures — just like any other houseplant. You'll know your air plant is getting what it needs when it blooms.

a light

As a general rule, keep air plants out of direct sunlight. Remember that in the wild, many species of air plants grow in the shaded, protected canopy of trees. They work best if you can place them in bright but indirect sunlight. Some types like T. cyanea or T. LindiniIt can handle dappled shade or less intense morning sunlight.


Epiphytes do not have roots like other plants; They only have a few short ones that are meant to help anchor them to whatever surface they are on. In their native habitats across the southern United States, Mexico, and Central and South America, air plants get what they need from high humidity and heavy rainfall. In your home, you need to water your air plants about once a week. Some varieties can go two weeks without being watered.

Air plants should not be allowed to remain in standing water except during their regular soaking; It encourages rot.

Crystal Slagle/BHG

Monitor air plants to determine when they need a drink or establish a weekly watering schedule. To water them:

  1. Place the air plants in a basin, bowl, or other container that holds enough water to submerge the plants.
  2. Soak the plants for about half an hour.
  3. Give it a gentle shake or two to remove excess water.
  4. Turn it upside down on a towel to drain. Do not skip this step. It prevents rot.

After the houseplants are dry, return them to their designated growing areas.

Mist the plants about every day between soakings to keep them looking fresh, especially in the winter when humidity in homes tends to be low.

Temperature and humidity

Air plants love warm weather, so this is the other end of the thermometer you should keep an eye on. Protect your plants from anything colder than 45 degrees Fahrenheit; They die at those temperatures. If you live in USDA zone 9 or a warmer area, you can grow an air plant outdoors year-round if you keep it dry during the winter.

Air plants thrive in high humidity. If your home is particularly dry in the winter, add a humidifier to the room that contains plants.


Fertilizers are not necessary for air plants to survive, but applying them occasionally can help your air plants thrive. Use a liquid fertilizer formulated for air plants and follow the instructions carefully. Formulas include weekly and monthly application strengths. It is important not to overdo it when applying fertilizer, because too much can burn the leaves and kill the plant.

Pests and problems

Air plants are resistant to pests but are sometimes susceptible to mealybugs or scale insects. If this happens, isolate the plant from other epiphytes and remove the insects manually with a damp cotton swab. If weather permits, move the plant outside where birds can deal with pests for you.

Never use neem oil on air plants. The oil creates a barrier on the leaves that prevents the plant from absorbing water.

Most air plant problems stem from improper care. If your air plant is mushy, has dark spots on the base, or is starting to fall apart, it may be suffering from rot from sitting in water for hours (instead of the recommended 30 minutes) during a weekly soaking. If the leaves and tips start to turn brown and crunchy, your plant may be dry. If the plant appears bleached or white, it may be exposed to too much sunlight. If it looks faded, losing leaves, and doesn't seem to be growing, it may need more sun exposure.

How to propagate air plants

The best way to propagate an air plant indoors is to remove its young (or offspring).

Epiphytes bloom only once in their life, but after that they do not die immediately; They continue to produce pups, often for several years, then fade away as those pups slowly mature and produce flowers of their own. Separate the pups from the mother plant to expand your airplant collection or allow them to grow and clump in their place.

To separate the pup from the parent plant, wait until it is at least one-third the size of the parent. Pinch it at the point where it is attached, which is usually at its base. Raise the fragile puppy in bright, indirect light and be more diligent in caring for him until he settles down.

Growing epiphytes from the tiny seeds produced by the flower is challenging and takes four to five years to produce an adult plant – with only limited success – so seed propagation is not recommended.

View air plants

Air plants look great alone or in groups where you can display several varieties together. They can be placed in terrariums or attached to anything from magnets to driftwood to create your own interesting displays using a little hot glue or clear fishing line to secure them. Tillandsia The species also makes good companions on a branch with orchids because they like the same conditions. You can also find glass or plastic balls made specifically for hanging. For varieties with colored leaves, e.g Tillandsia aeranthus 'Amethyst', also known as pink air plant, try using a container that complements or contrasts its colors.

Because they don't grow in soil, air plants can be displayed in almost any way you can imagine. Try creating an air plant wreath, a hanging mobile, or a beach-shaped terrarium that resembles an octopus. Without much effort on your part, these houseplants can add fun, unique greenery to almost any space.

Peter Cromhardt

Types of air plants


Tillandsia ionantha 'Conehead' grows 2 x 3 inches tall and forms a small, clumping rosette of thick leaves that turn reddish-pink as they mature. The flower is violet. It grows well in partial shade.


Tillandsia ionantha 'Rubra' is a small air plant that grows only 2 inches tall. It has fuzzy foliage that turns from bright red to orange in direct sun. It is perfect for displaying in small terrariums or seashells.

Air flower

Tillandsia aeranthus It is a type of air plant and has a charming common name: air flower. This air plant is an excellent choice for beginners and reaches 6-9 inches tall. It has dark green leaves and pink and blue flowers that often last for weeks.

Frequently asked questions

  • How long can an air plant live as a houseplant?

    The average lifespan of an individual air plant is between two and five years, depending on the species, propagation method and level of care, but a single plant can produce enough branches (or pups) to live indefinitely.

  • Do all air plants like to be soaked weekly?

    Tillandsia roofs Air plants, such as “snow,” differ from the typical air plant soaking routine. They perform best with one to three sprays a week, without soaking at all.

  • Can you water air plants with tap water?

    Rainwater is the best type of water for air plants. It's fine to use tap water, but it's best to leave it in an open container overnight. In this way, the chlorine will dissipate.

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