Get the Dirt on Air Plants

These spindly plants called tillandsia are tenacious enough to skip the soil and add funky style to your space.

With air plants, the possibilities are truly endless. Pair them in a grand display with succulents and orchids. Or forgo a container altogether. Set tillandsias on coffee tables, nestle them into your favorite nook or place them on a bookshelf or windowsill. They’ll look great no matter what! But however you decide to grow them, follow these basics for success.

WATER

Misting a few times per week keeps most air plants fresh, but if your leaves look crispy and are curling inward, soak it in tepid water once a week for one to two hours.

LIGHT

This plant loves the sun, so give it as much bright, indirect light as possible. An east-facing window will give your plant a few hours of direct sun, which results in an air plant with better color and growth. If your air plant’s leaves look discolored or faded, it’s not receiving enough light.

TEMPERATURE

Whether it’s sweltering or snowing outside, air plants do just fine all year long because they grow best indoors in an average home temperature. Move them outside, though, and they’re likely to wither if temperatures get lower than 40 degrees or climb higher than 100.

BLOOMS

All healthy tillandsias have the potential to bloom and transform their overall look, but their flowers can differ as much as the plants themselves, from fanciful blue petals to super tiny green blooms. Just practice patience and make sure your air plant gets maximum light and sufficient water. 

Read More! Grow your expertise with Air Plants: The Curious World of Tillandsias by Zenaida Sengo, an artist and horticulturist. This book is packed with gorgeous photos and easy-to-follow care instructions for air plants.

Air plants grow well in the simplest of displays, like in a cluster of rocks or in a bowl.Photo by Daily Life of Mojo (flickr)
Photo by Daily Life of Mojo (flickr) Air plants grow well in the simplest of displays, like in a cluster of rocks or in a bowl.

MAKE IT!

Air plants have a remarkably long shelf life, and that makes them ideal for decorating. Liven up a desk space with tillandsia terrarium or weave a couple of plants into a festive wreath with branches of blue cedar and sprigs of berries.

Kaitlin Stainbrook
Kaitlin Stainbrook, Associate Editor, Birds & Blooms Although Kaitlin is a newbie when it comes to birding and gardening, she loves getting to learn on the job. (She's already impressed a few friends by being able to identify a couple songbirds!) Previously, she worked on other Reader's Digest magazines like Reminisce and Country Woman. Hidden talents include playing the ukulele and speaking Japanese.