How to Grow Air Plants

High angle close up of woman holding plant pot with a selection of air plants.
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Air plants—also known by their botanical name, Tillandsia—are some of the most unique houseplants you can grow. Both modern and futuristic in appearance, these epiphytes truly defy the rules of gardening by not requiring any soil; instead, they absorb their nutrients from air and water, which makes them incredibly low maintenance. Air plants can grow in a hanging glass container, sitting on top of decorative stones in a mason jar, or just hanging out on top of a log. Increasingly popular, you may see them in restaurants, coffee shops, and art stores. You, too, can learn how to grow air plants with some simple care tips.

How to Plant Air Plants

Even though you won’t be putting them in soil like most plants, there are a few different ways to get air plants started in your own home. 

Growing From Cuttings and Starter Plants

Growing air plants from cuttings is a relatively simple process that can save you money in the long run, especially if you want to expand your collection.

After an air plant blooms, it produces little pups at the base of the main plant. Don’t remove them right away; instead, wait until they are about a quarter to a third of the size of the main plant. Gently pull one off—if it won’t come off easily, it’s probably not ready—and soak it in water. After you remove any viable pups, place them in indirect sunlight, and they should be able to keep going on their own.

Using a starter plant to initiate the growing journey is because you’ll be able to find an air plant first to meet your exact needs, choosing the color, shape, and size yourself. After choosing from the different varieties available, decide on a good location for in your house.

Air Plant Care

One of the greatest things about air plants is just how easy they are to grow—they truly are the type that you can set down and forget about for a while. But for long-term success, make sure you have the right conditions.

Light

Air plants like bright, indirect light throughout the day. Don’t put them in outside directly in the sunlight; instead, find a room that lets in a lot of natural light. If you don’t have these right conditions, fluorescent lights will work, too. With the right lighting, air plants can thrive in offices and businesses, too.

Soil and Nutrients

Rejoice: You don’t need soil, so that’s one less thing to buy. Additional nutrients are optional; if you do decide to use fertilizer to give you plants a boost, only do so a few times a year. A general fertilizer designed for houseplants should work.

Water, Temperature, and Humidity

The best way to water air plants is to soak them every two or three weeks for about 15-20 minutes at a time. This should be enough to perk them up and keep them going. The other way to water is to use a spray water bottle, directly spritzing the plant so it can soak in the moisture. In fact, this is a great thing to do in between waterings. Just give them a light spray a couple times a week. These plants enjoy heat and humidity, so this also helps emulate their natural environment.

Air plants like it hot and humid because it’s how they would naturally be growing in the wild. So keep them in warm locations, away from drafty windows or areas.

Common Pests and Diseases

Keep an eye out for bugs on your air plants, and if you notice any, try to diagnose and treat right away. For wilted or discolored leaves, you might just need to give your air plant more light or water. If you think you might have more of a challenge on your hands, take a photo and share it with garden friends or experts to help you figure out what you might be dealing with. Early detection is always key for a good recovery, especially with indoor plants. 

Air Plant Varieties

Air Plants
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You can find more than 450 air plant varieties in the world. As you start to learn more about these plants and the different shapes, colors, and sizes, try to find a good source for buying air plants. Here are a few specific cultivars to look for.

  • Fuego: These types of air plants aren’t very big (sometimes just an inch or two tall). They are known for bright purple and pink colors, and they’d look great paired with other air plants.
  • Sky plant: This is one of the most popular because it’s one of the easiest to grow. The silvery green leaves will turn red and pink before they bloom. It’s a very reliable air plant and perfect for beginners. 
  • "Maxima" sky plant: This one is worth looking for as well. Also hardy and easy to grow, it’s one of the largest air plants you can find, reaching up to 6 inches tall and 4 inches wide.
  • Bulbous air plant: It’s great to pair this with other plants in a larger display. It looks like it has long tentacles, reaching 6-8 inches long.

Where to Buy Air Plants

Because of their popularity, you can find air plants in many places these days. Home stores, grocery stores, garden centers, and even farmer’s markets—it’s common to see hanging air plant displays available for purchase; they often include the decorative holder or display. For just the plants themselves, try finding an indoor plant store in your area. You can also find lots of varieties and options on Etsy. Finally, there’s specialty online stores like Air Plant Design Studio