How to Grow and Keep Air Plants

Air plants with purple and red blooms in a white vase.

Tillandsias are often referred to as '‘air plants" since they do not require a soil bed in which to grow. When living in the wild, air plants take over surrounding objects like trees and rocks by attaching to them with their root systems. While their roots are used mainly to support the plant structure, air plants soak up the moisture and nutrients they need to survive through their leaves. As houseplants, Tillandsias are easy to take care, with just a few requirements outlined below.

Air Ventilation

Just like the name suggests, air plants need constant air circulation in order to keep them looking vibrant. Keep your Tillandsia in an area that is well-ventilated and provides constant air movement.


Since air plants do not grow in soil, they must get their required moisture through their leaves. There are two strategies for keeping Tillandsias moist. First, you can choose to mist them a few times each week with a spray bottle or plant mister. During the spring, summer, and early fall, they need to be misted daily. In the wintertime, they only need to be misted one or two times a week. The second option is that you can give them water baths every two weeks. Soaking your air plant will provide the necessary amount of moisture and limit the possibility of your plant getting parched. To soak your air plant, remove it from its container and place it in a bowl that will allow you to immerse your Tillsandsia in water. After 60 minutes, remove your plant and turn it upside down to gently shake off any excess water that may have collected inside the leaves. You can then place your air plant back into its container. Whether you choose to mist your air plant, give it a bath, or use both methods, be sure to use filtered water to prevent chlorinated tap water from damaging it.


An air plant against a denim backdrop.

It's important to fertilize your Tillandsias on a monthly basis during the spring and summer months. The fertilizer product you use should be in liquid form and contain low amounts of nitrogen. It should also be a product developed specifically for Tillandsias which do not grow in soil. Be sure to read the mixing instructions provided by the product manufacturer. When applying the fertilizer to your air plants, mix the liquid so that you have a product that is a quarter of the regular strength, as Tillandsias do not do well when over fertilized.


Tillandsias grow best when they are exposed to indirect, bright light. A sunny window spot would provide too much exposure and a darkened interior space would provide too little. Your plant needs a spot with bright light where no direct sunlight can damage it.


An air plant with a pink bloom.

Air plant blooms vary in color and duration. Blooms can appear in almost every color of the rainbow and last from several days to several months depending on whether you have a fast or slower growing plant. Many bloom naturally from the late winter months to the middle of the summer.

Common Care Mistakes

Often, people forget to water their Tillandsias because they regard them as plants like succulents that don't need a lot of moisture. However, low moisture levels will decrease growth and eventually damage the plant. Be sure to follow the watering instructions listed above to give your Tillandsia a long life.

Tillandsias absorb water through their leaves and do not grow in soil. Treating them like other plants by placing them in soil or covering their roots with moss will prevent them from drying out, and cause the plant to rot and die. Be sure to keep the roots of your air plant free of any coverings.

Excess fertilizer can burn Tillandsia plants. A maximum concentration of ¼ to ½ teaspoon of liquid fertilizer combined with one gallon of water should be applied to your air plant once per month to maintain its health.