Frequently Asked Questions
Why aren't air plants grown in pots like other plants?
Air plants are part of a classification of plants called epiphytes. Epiphytes absorb moisture and nutrients through their leaves, not their roots. The purpose of roots for epiphytes is to attach onto trees, rocks, and other substrates, typically growing up off the floor of their natural environment. Some air plants grow better in pots, but it is never necessary to pot an air plant
Do air plants make good house plants?
Sadly, they are not great houseplants. There are many species that can successfully live and grow indoors, however in my experience air plants do better overall outdoors due to an increase in moisture in the air and the movement or air, both of which are valuable to the success of air plants. Stick with the plants in our "easy to care for" section if you want an air plant to keep indoors, and check out our cares guides for additional info on successful indoor growing
Do all air plants bloom?
Yes! Every air plant blooms. Some are small, simple, and hardly noticeable like Tillandsia usneoides, some are large, colorful, and complex like Tillandsia xerographica and Tillandsia concolor. They may not bloom every year, but every plant that is happy, healthy, and alive will bloom
Do air plants die after they bloom?
Most air plants (over 90%) exhibit determinate growth patterns, which means once any one plant blooms, it will stop growing, and all remaining energy will be transferred to the offsets or "pups" the plant produces after bloom. A select few air plants exhibit indeterminate growth, meaning a plant will keep growing after blooming. The remaining group of air plants are monocarpic, meaning they die after blooming without producing offspring. Generally, pups grow larger than their parent, so you can expect your plants to get bigger each generation
What do I do with the flowers after they die?
The sooner you cut off the spent bloomspike and flowers, the sooner the plant redirects its energy to pup production. If you pollinated the plant or it is a self pollinating species, you can leave the bloomspike attached until you have harvested the seeds. We typically try to cut as much of the bloomspike off as we can reach, however leaving a small stem is no problem either, as long as you get the flowers
It doesn't seem like my plant is growing, is it okay?
Overall air plants are pretty slow growing, usually taking 3-5 years to reach a mature size. We encourage you to take annual pictures of your plants so you can see the growth year to year as sometimes it can be hard to notice, especially when you are always looking at it. If you haven't fertilized in a while, now might be a good time to do so. Other things you can do to ensure your plant is healthy:
- Simply hold it in your hand. Even though air plants are very light, when they are alive, they have some weight to them. Dead air plants are almost weightless, and you will feel the difference. If it's weightless, it's toast
- Give a light tug to the leaves in the center of the plant. If several leaves or the entire center comes out, the plant rotted. If this happens, you can hold onto the pant and sometimes a new plant will start growing in, but it isn't a guarantee that will happen
The tips of the leaves on my plant are turning brown, what am I doing wrong?
This could be a couple different things: not enough water, not enough light, or too much fertilizer. It usually is not the last option, so I will try giving it a 1-2 hour soak, dry it out completely and move it to an area with a little more light. IMPORTANT: brown tips will not magically turn back into their original color. In order to tell if you fixed the problem, cut the brown tips off when you move it, and if it keeps browning, you know you need to make another adjustment
It looks like there are new plants growing on my plant, what do I do with them?
Congratulations, you are officially a plant grandparent! Those are the pups you've heard us discuss, and that's how life carries on for these guys (along with growing from seed). You have two options:
- Leave them be, and your one plant will turn into a clump. This option allows the pups to grow faster and usually requires less water than individual plants. The pups grow faster because they can take moisture and nutrients from the mother plant; seedlings and separated pups must fend for themselves in those areas
- Separate them. It is recommended you wait until a pup is 1/3 - 1/2 the size of the mother before separation to ensure best chance of survival for the pup. Doing this means you have more plants which you can share with others or find a new home for, but those plants will now grow slower not having the mother to "borrow" from
I've read a lot of different information about giving water to air plants. What's the difference between misting/spraying and soaking?
The cool thing is that either method can keep a plant happy and healthy, with a few exceptions. Some plants that are very xeric (hailing from dry regions, like xerographica and tectorum), would prefer not to be soaked.
I personally prefer misting/spraying as a regular watering method because it more closely mimics how they receive water naturally. Similarly, because these plants breath and nourish through their leaves, I try not to submerge them for long periods of time (think: trying to hold your breath under water, you can only do it so long!). I use soaking as a rehydration technique at the end of the month for any plant that looks a little underhydrated by soaking them for up to 4 hours and drying them out completely immediately after the soak.
Whatever method you choose, just remember that drying the plant out completely within 6-8 hours of getting water is arguably more important than the amount of water and the frequency of water it gets.