You may wonder, how to care for air plants? Many people are very surprised at how easy it is to keep these unique plants alive and thriving. There many different types of air plants available, and many of them do wonderfully in terrariums either sitting on a table or hanging around your home. If you’re wondering how to care for air plants, this is for you. I’ve put together a large list of plants that you can mix and match to create eye-catching designs, and I’ll go over everything you need to know on how to care for air plants so you can keep them happy and thriving for years.
Air plants are an attractive type of plant for people who don’t have a lot of time to care for traditional plants. They are forgiving, easy to set up, and easy to grow in a huge range of environments. They come in different shapes and colors, and they can add texture to a room.
Type of Air Plants
Before we get into how to grow air plants, you want to know which options are available. This way, you can easily find a plant to suit your needs that looks nice in your environment. Although there are dozens of plants available, I’m going to show you the top 17 types. The nice thing about these air plants is the majority of them require the same care and growing conditions, so I’ll answer how to care for air plants after this section, and you can use the same general guidelines for each plant you have.
1. Tillandsia Ionantha
Native to Central America and Mexico, it naturalized in a county in Florida. It grows on trees in the wild while using tiny roots to anchor it, and it does very well in terrariums or wire baskets indoors. It can get between 6 and 12-inches high, and it needs bright but indirect lighting to thrive. They do wonderfully under fluorescent lighting, and you should spray them twice a week to water them. They need 50% relative humidity, and you can feed them a foliar fertilizer once a month. They’ll bloom bright pink and blue flowers during the summer months as long as they can rest in the winter
2. Tillandsia Caput Medusae
This air plant is better known as the head of Medusa because it has a very distinctive shape. As it grows, it forms snake-like leaves that will slowly spread out horizontally and look like small strands of hair. In the early summer, it produces blue or red flowers that stand out nicely against the leaves. They look good in vertical displays like living walls, and you should soak the plant between 10 and 30-minutes a week to keep it healthy. Don’t let the water collect in the bottom of the leaves when you put it back in the container, and it’ll produce yellow flowers throughout the year.
3. Tillandsia Andreana
- Andreana comes from Columbia, and it has leaves that grow out from every side while growing to a height of three or four inches tall. In the center of the plant, it’ll grow tubular flowers in a deep red hue that is beautifully offset by the plant’s lime green coloring. This full air plant looks rounded and puffy, and you can use a spray bottle to gently water it once a week. As for light, this air plant likes a lot of bright but indirect sunlight, and it’ll turn the leaves a blushing red to show it’s ready to bloom and in good health.
4. Tillandsia Xerographica
This air plant comes from Guatamala, El Salvador, and Mexico. It presents as a spherical shape, but the watering routine sets this plant apart from other air plant species. You don’t want to soak it with a watering can or plunge it in water. Instead, you should lightly mist it once a week. Shake off the excess water, and place it on a paper towel upside down to dry. It needs a lot of light, and it’ll produce a spike in the middle that transforms into a yellow or red flower when it blooms.
5. Tillandsia Maxima
Originating from Mexico, this air plant loves a lot of sun. It has light moss green leaves that will slowly take on a coral hue before it blooms into a bright purple flower. It can have multiple flowers blooming at once, and you should put it in a sunny space. It can get six inches wide and six inches tall, and it can withstand less watering than other air plants. Don’t soak it in water, but get a spray bottle and mist it once a week. In very sunny spots, you may have to mist it twice.
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6. Tillandsia Cyanea
Better known as the pink quill plant, this plant produces vibrant bright pink quills with purple-blue flowers. It absorbs nutrients through the leaves, but you can plant it in soil too. Spray it once or twice a week during the spring and summer months, and cut back to a soak every other month during the winter. It likes moderate amounts of sunlight, and you can lightly fertilize it once a year. However, the plant will do well without the fertilizer if you forget. They like good air circulation, but they’re not overly fussy about the temperature.
7. Tillandsia Aeranthos
You’ll get very long and spiky leaves with this plant, and it does very well when you have indirect but bright sunlight. They make popular office or house plants due to their pink and blue flower production, and it can grow to an impressive nine inches high. Water it two or three times a week, but you should only water it enough to dry in four hours. It can survive under grow lights for 12 hours a day, and their favorite temperature ranges between 50 and 90-degrees F to make it easy to keep happy.
8. Tillandsia Bulbosa
This plant gets its name because it has a bulb-like appearance. It originally comes from Central America, and it loves very humid environments. Anyone who lives in a dry environment will have to mist the plant every other day to ensure it survives. You can soak it for an hour once a week if it looks like it’s not getting enough water. It can grow to six-inches high, likes a lot of air circulation, and it favors higher temperatures in the mid-70s to low-80s. Fertilize it once or twice a month lightly during the summer months and cut back to every other month in the winter.
9. Tillandsia Capitata
This plant comes from the Dominican Republic and Mexico, so it’s no surprise that it loves full sun and very humid conditions. The leaves switch from soft green to peach before it’ll grow a purple flower. It’ll get two or three inches high by three or four inches wide. You can add pebbles with a light layer of moss into an air globe to encourage it to grow, and you should mist in several times a week to keep it moist. It likes temperatures between 50 and 80-degrees F, and it also needs a decent amount of air circulation to help it dry out between watering sessions.
10. Tillandsia Cotton Candy
Tillandsia Cotton Candy or Tillandsia Houston is a hybrid air plant. To get it, you mix Tillandsia Recurvifolia and Tillandsia Stricta. It forms a pink cotton-candy colored bloom, and it has green spiky leaves. You should keep it under bright, indirect lighting in a west or east-facing window. Water it every two or three days using harvested rainwater or water from the hose if it’s outside. Submerge it in a bowl for 10 or 20 minutes once a week, and fertilize it once every two weeks during the spring and summer and once a month in the winter.
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11. Tillandsia Didisticha
This plant comes from South America, and it has a reputation for growing larger than most other air plants. It can get up to an impressive foot tall, and it has muted green and pink leaves. It’ll produce a white flower under the best growing conditions, and it likes full but indirect light, and it needs a moderate humidity level. You can mount or suspend the plant in substrate as long as you don’t bury it, and you want to water it twice a week during the summer and once a week in the winter.
12. Tillandsia Fuchsii
This plant has light green leaves that will form a long pink stem that a bright purple flower grows and blooms from. They usually grow in clumps, and this makes an excellent companion plant. Soak your plant once every week for five to ten minutes in a small bowl of water, and flip them upside down because they absorb water through their leaves. They like moderate light, and you can get away with setting them right on a shelf instead of in any substrate. They grow three to four-inches wide by three or four-inches high.
13. Tillandsia Funckiana
This is a unique plant because it has quill-style leaves that all spike up the spine in one direction. The plant will curl one way or the other based on their environment, and they’ll adjust with the light and water. The leaves turn yellow when they’re ready to bloom, and they form a neon orange flower. They’re a smaller plant that grows up to three inches high and two inches wide at the most, and you should soak them twice a week in a bowl for 10 minutes to water them. They need good circulation, and they like bright but indirect lighting.
14. Tillandsia Gardneri
Native to Brazil, Columbia, and Venezuela, they thrive in humid and warm climates. However, keep the plant out of direct sunlight because it can burn the leaves. It can get up to seven-inches wide and 6.5-inches tall, and it has a very papery appearance with silvery leaves. Soak it weekly in a bowl of water for 10 minutes and allow it to dry. For the temperature, try to keep it between 50 and 80-degrees F, and it can get away with moderate humidity levels. It also does well under fluorescent lighting like you’d find in an office.
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15. Tillandsia Fuego
You’ll get a distinct red coloring with this plant that makes it stand out, and the leaves come with a pretty ombre pattern that starts with a moss green coloring before transitioning to red-pink coloring. It only grows to be around an inch high, so you can put quite a few in a larger terrarium. It needs up to 12 hours of filtered light a day, and you can mist it every three days. Soak it once a month for 20 minutes in water with a liquid-based fertilizer, and it likes humidity.
16. Tillandsia Stricta
This air plant comes from South America, but it can survive in several different climates without a problem. It can grow in sand dunes and trees, and there are several different varieties in a broad range of colors and shades. You can have spiky leaves and a pink flower in the center, and you should fully submerge it for 30 minutes once a week. Let the dry before putting them in their enclosure. As a general rule, they light bright, filtered light with temperatures that range from 50 to 90-degrees F.
17. How to Care for Air Plants – Tillandsia Chiapensis
Native to Mexico, this plant is flexible enough to survive in many different environments. It does well in partial shade or full sun, and it can grow up to five-inches wide. When it matures, you’ll get red and pink flowers in the center. Soak it twice a week in a bowl of water for 10 minutes per time, and lightly mist your plant two or three times a week between soakings if it’s very hot and humid. Temperatures can range from 50 to 80-degrees F, and it’ll get almost four-inches high.
How to Care for Air Plants – General Instructions
Now that you know several types of air plants, I’m going to tell you how to care for air plants. I’ll cover everything from watering, soaking, and how long they live. This way, you’ll have everything you need for your plants to thrive all year round. You can apply natural fertilizer if you think your plant needs a boost but it usually does well by itself, and this makes it very beginner-friendly.
Anyone wondering how to care for air plants may be surprised at how easy it is across the different types. They need sunlight, water, and a little humidity to do well, and many will reward your efforts with beautiful flowers.
How Long Air Plants Live
One of the first things you have to learn when you’re learning how to care for air plants is how long they live. This will help you plan out your terrariums, and you won’t freak out if your plant starts not doing well because it’s getting to the end of the life cycle.
Depending on the environment and the variety of air plants, many of them can live for several years. It takes several months for the seeds to germinate, and this is why you typically get small plants when you order or buy then. Generally speaking, expect most of your air plants to live for at least three to five years. One nice thing is that air plants produce pups that turn into full-grown plants in a few months, and this continues the lifecycle of your air plant. One problem when people wonder is how to care for air plants is that they think the plant dies after it flowers, and this isn’t always the case. They can go dormant, grow pups, and continue living.
How to Water Air Plants
One of the biggest factors you have to learn when you learn how to care for air plants is the watering schedule. You don’t have to run out and harvest rainwater with these plants, and most will tolerate plain tap water. Plants in hotter and more humid environments will need to be watered more than plants in cooler and less humid growing environments.
How to Care for Air Plants – Misting
One big thing you can do for your plant is mist it several times a week between deep soaking. To do this, you’ll need a spray bottle with water. Get up close to your plants and liberally mist them. You want to aim for the leaves because most air plants absorb water and nutrients through the leaves rather than the roots. You can add a half-strength liquid fertilizer, or you can make your own weak fertilizer. Don’t fertilize your plant each time you mist it. Instead, fertilize it once every other week or once a month.
If you notice that the leaves are starting to turn brown around the edges, the light could be burning the leaves. Move them back from the light source and give them a few days with less water to help them recover. They should dry out within a few hours of misting to prevent rot.
How to care for your plants 101 involves learning how to mist your plants to keep them adequate moist between soaking to keep them healthy.
How to Care for Air Plants – Soaking
Soaking is very important when you’re learning how to care for air plants. Most air plants absorb all of the nutrients and water they need to grow from their leaves instead of their roots. So, you have to submerge it upside down in a pot or cup of water How many times a week you do this and the duration will depend on the individual plant. However, many of them require at least 10 minutes once or twice a week.
Once you submerge the plant, pull it out of the water, gently shake it out, and leave it out on the counter to dry for four hours before putting it back in the terrarium. This should give it enough time to dry so the leaves and roots don’t rot. Air plants like succulents are very sensitive to rot, and it can kill the entire plant very easily.
How to Care for Air Plants – Enclosures
Many air plants like terrariums because they’re open plastic or glass enclosures that let a lot of light in while allowing for a lot of airflow and humidity to build up. You can hang these enclosures or set them on your table or shelves, and this makes them very easy to care for. It’s possible to add decorative shells or rocks to the terrarium to give it a whimsical look. Air plants do well in traditional pots set on window sills as long as you don’t try to bury the plant because this can suffocate it or induce rot.
You may be tempted to bury your air plant in a substrate, but most do well set on top of the substrate or even in nothing but a bowl with a few decorative pieces.
Now you know how to care for air plants with all of the most important highlights covered. I’ve given you 17 different types of air plants and explained the best lighting and watering conditions for each one. You can take this information and green up your space with these beautiful, small, plants.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.