Many new air plant parents make the mistake of thinking that air is the only element these unique plants need to thrive. But the truth is while air plants are unique in that they do not need soil, they do need proper sun and water to grow! In this post, do air plants need sun (Choosing the ideal spot), I’ll help you determine where to place your air plants for the perfect sun exposure and help you provide the optimal growing environment for these new members of your plant family.
About Air Plants (Tillandsias)
Tillandsias, commonly known as air plants and lovingly referred to as “Tillies”, are a genus of over 600 different species of epiphytes (plants that do not need soil to grow). Epiphytes species include Spanish moss (picture Spanish moss hanging from tree branches) and plants in the bromeliad family. Their natural habitats are in the mountains and forests of Central and South America. In nature, epiphytes will often grow on another plant or object that supports them. In a home environment, you can mimic its native habitats by placing indoor air plants in and on various decorative items such as glass terrariums, glass globes, or hanging macrame structures. The freedom of not having to worry about soil lets you use your creative side with your air plant display.
The Fuzzy Stuff – (Trichomes)
Before we jump into lighting I think it would be helpful to know what a typical, healthy air plant looks like. This will help you troubleshoot if your plant starts to run into trouble. These easy-care house plants have shallow to no roots therefore soil is not needed for them to grow. However, what is needed for all varieties of air plants is a healthy coat of trichomes. Trichomes are the “fuzzy sweater” or tiny scales on the leaves of air plants that help the plant absorb water from the surrounding air. Trichomes also block harmful radiation from the sun. This fuzzy white coat on the leaves pulls important nutrients and moisture from the air so while on some plants it looks odd – if not concerning – make no mistake about it, this fuzzy coat is vital for survival.
All Tillies need adequate space with good air circulation so the trichomes can effectively do their job. Expect greener varieties like Tillandsia Bulbosa to have healthy fleshy leaves with fewer trichomes. These varieties can use less light exposure and higher humidity than other varieties. The white or grayish-green types (i.e. Tillandsia Xerographica) may appear less fleshy and can handle almost full sun, and less humidity.
Choosing the Best Light
Let’s go over some tips for choosing the ideal location in your home so your air plants get enough light. First with Tillandsias, rule of thumb – indirect light is best. Near but not in a bright sunny window will give you the best results. Keep in mind that windows and other glass-type containers can magnify the effects of the sun so placement right in a window could be too harsh for these plants. There is a possibility your air plant could thrive in soft morning sun or in north-facing windows but the ideal location will be in a sunny spot with indirect sunlight for 4-6 hours a day.
Can I Grow my Air Plants in a Dark Location?
The good news is that air plants often can survive in a low-light space but really need a good amount of sunlight to thrive. If you are considering air plants for a basement or other dark space in your home you may consider adding some artificial light or you could periodically move them to a higher light area to get their dose of sun. Remember, air plants prefer 4-6 hours of good indirect light per day.
Troubleshooting Getting the Ideal Lighting for your Air Plant
- Artificial Lighting – LED or full-spectrum fluorescent lights specifically designed for growing plants is recommended. Give your air plants about 12 hours a day of artificial light and be sure to place them approximately 12″ away from the light source. Standard (incandescent) bulbs do not emit enough light to provide proper lighting for your air plants.
- Creating Indirect Light – Moving your air plants away from direct sunlight by a few feet will keep them from getting too much sun. You could also reduce sun exposure and create filtered light using a sheer curtain between the plants and the window.
- Low-light Options – As mentioned above, air plants will survive in low-light spaces just be sure to move them periodically into a sunnier spot.
Signs your Air Plant is Getting Too Much Light
Air plants can receive too much sunlight and “sunburn.” The first sign of this is the wilting of the leaves. Wilting may also indicate a lack of water so if you’ve been providing adequate water wilting is more than likely due to too much sun. Changes in leaf color may also mean your plant is receiving too much sun, specifically yellow or orange leaves. Try moving your plants further from the sun source.
Signs your Air Plant isn’t Getting Enough Light
If your air plant isn’t getting enough light you may notice a fading of the color of the leaves. The plant will also have limited to no growth and could become soft. The loss of a good coat of trichomes (fuzzy leaves) may indicate that a plant is in need of a more sunny location for optimum growth.
Seasonal Sunlight Considerations
Be wary of direct light, especially with the stronger summer sun. You may find that you need to move the location of your air plant display to a different window or further away from a light source in the summer months. Also, keep in mind that with more light, air plants will often need more water, so you may have to adjust your watering schedule to ensure your plants are getting enough water for the increased summer sunlight.
Be sure to keep your air plants away from an AC vent as this tends to dry them out.
Moving air plants outside:
If you live in a cooler climate where your air plants are kept mostly inside, consider bringing them outside during the more temperate summer months. If you do so, keep in mind the plants may need an adjustment in their care routine as they acclimate to the new outdoor environment.
Shorter days mean less sunlight during the winter months. You may need to adjust the placement of your air plants to ensure they get adequate indirect bright light.
As with air conditioning heat can affect your air plants if you place them too close to a vent. Heat in a home can also dry out the air which may result in having to increase watering.
Moving air plants inside:
If you are in a climate that dips below 50 degrees you will need to move your Tillies inside for the winter. Keep in mind, air plants are tropical plants and most Tillies prefer temperatures between 50-90 degrees.
Thanks for visiting the blog today for this, do air plants need sun(choosing the ideal spot)post. You may have noticed that I didn’t write about proper watering for air plants. I omitted watering guidelines because I felt that topic needed its very own post! So please visit, how often to mist air plant post for the best way to water these low maintenance plants and for other important air plant care tips. To make this candle ring from air plants visit my Where to find Air plants post. For more plant ideas and care please visit my Indoor Plants page.
Keep Creating Friends!