This is the second part of a 3 part series on Tillandsias (Common name: Air plant) care. In the first part, we covered proper sunlight for Air plants and covered the most asked questions about choosing the perfect spot for these unique – no soil needed – additions to your plant family. The third part is all about where you can buy Air plants plus a fun display idea. In this post, How Often to Mist Air Plants (all your watering questions answered) we discuss all things watering so your spidery-looking, easy-going plants can thrive.
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How Air Plants Absorb Water
In nature, Air Plants (Tillandsias) simply rely on rain water and will pull moisture and nutrients from the air. For indoor air plants, it’s a little more tricky since the air in most homes can be dry, and well… indoor rain water really isn’t a thing in most homes. In a typical potted plant, it’s the soil that plays a vital role in holding water and keeping it available for the plant. That water is then pulled up through the plant’s roots and supplied to the rest of the plant. Air plants come with very little to no roots and do not grow in soil. What this means is their system for pulling in required moisture is like the plant itself – a bit unique.
Here’s where Trichomes come in! Air plant leaves are covered with a white fuzzy coat of Trichomes. As mentioned in my Air plant care part 1 – Trichomes are the “fuzzy sweater” or tiny scales on the leaves of air plants that help the plant absorb water from the surrounding air and block harmful radiation from the sun. Trichomes can pull 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.
Essentially without roots, air plants pull in moisture through their leaves via Trichomes.
Watering Indoor Air Plants
Without soil, naturally occurring rain water, or humid conditions an air plant parent is tasked with providing their air plants (Tillandsias) the moisture they need. There are two watering methods and when both are used you will find your air plants thriving. The first is the misting method, the second is a weekly and bi-weekly soak. The frequency will depend on which type of tillandsia you have as well as how dry or humid your home is.
Two types of Air plants – Xeric and Mesic
There are many varieties of air plants that fall into one of two species – Xeric or Mesic. Xeric and Mesic basically refer to the type of native environment that the Tillandsia originates from. This is important since their care will be dictated by their origin.
Mesic is from the Greek word mesos, meaning “middle”, refers to a habitat of moderate humidity. Many air plant species fall under the Mesic category, originating from moderately humid habitats like South American forests – these plants prefer moderate humidity and more frequent watering. Think of Rainforest conditions for this species. Mesic Air plants are often greener than Xeric and can have curly leaves. They tend to be a bit fleshy and their trichomes are often seen on the base of the plant.
Xeric, from the Greek word “dry”, are from drier more desert-like climates and can often be rock dwelling. They typically have an abundance of trichomes (fuzzy leaves) and appear lighter and grayer than Mesic’s. Xeric’s can handle direct sunlight and prefer less water. In their natural habitat, these Xeric plants will normally collect sufficient moisture from the moisture the air. Due to the volume of Trichomes, Xeric air plants (Tillandsia Xerographica) are often more fuzzy spider-like plants that appear more gray-green than Mesic plants.
Misting Your Air Plants
With a water plant mister or spray bottle, you can simply spray your air plant 2-3 times a week. Make sure the entire plant is sprayed. Once sprayed make sure there is plenty of air circulation so the plant can dry quickly. Air plants can rot if they are in spaces without plenty of air. For some Xeric air plants misting a few times, a week may be enough. However, most air plants and certainly Mesic plants (the greener types) will need a combination of misting and soaking to receive the moisture they need to survive.
Note: If your air plant is in a humid environment like a greenhouse, just misting may be sufficient.
Soaking Your Tillandsia
Most Tillandsia enthusiasts will agree, soaking your indoor plants once every week is your best bet when watering your air plants. As mentioned above, in unusually high humid environments or with some Xeric type plants just misting may be sufficient. But with most, a good water bath is ideal. Below is a “How to” on soaking your air plants but first – whether you mist, soak, or do a combination of both there are some special considerations for the type of water.
The Best Type of Water for Your Plants
When watering your air plants, don’t use chlorinated water as it can harm them. Instead, use rainwater, pond water or distilled water if possible. If you want to use tap water, allow it to sit out in a bowl for 24 hours first so that the chlorine evaporates. Also when soaking use room-temperature water so you don’t shock the plants.
Frequently Asked Questions
They will be thriving! Always use the best water possible (rain water, pond water, or unfiltered water). Use the soaking method shared below with occasional misting. Most importantly watch how your plants are responding to their care. A happy air plant is healthy looking, growing and if it’s a flowering variety – blooming!
A good soak is in order! You may want to try soaking for several hours or overnight. Then remove the air plants and set them upside down until dry. In the future consider more frequent watering or perhaps reducing the amount of sun exposure your plant is receiving. Hopefully, this extended soak will get your plant heading back in the right direction.
An overwatered air plant is a lot harder to rescue than a dry plant, so if you spot any signs of rotting, stop watering immediately until it begins to turn around. Signs of overwatering include center leaves falling out or the base of the plant begins to turn black or brown, The base may also turn mushy – these are signs that it’s beginning to rot from too much water. Remove any damaged parts and place the plant in a sunny spot. Keep in mind good air circulation is essential and xeric types do not need a lot of watering.
How to Soak Air Plants
- 1 bowl
- 4 cups water (room temperature/non chloraniated)
- 1 (or more) air plants
- 1 cloth towel or paper towel
- Fill a clean bowl with enough water to submerge your air plants. The water should be room temperature and chlorine free. Note: Air plants tend to float which is not a problem. Just submerge and then let them float.
- Let the air plants soak for 1-3 hours.
- Remove the air plants from the water and discard the soaking water. Gently shake the excess water to get the water out from center of the plant and sit the air plant upside down on a paper towel.
- Allow Air plants to fully dry before placing the plant(s) back in your air plant display. Always place Air plants in a sunny spot recieving indirect light.
Most importantly, while air plants are low maintenance and easy care plants it takes some practice to nail down a consistent, effective watering routine. Watch them… look for signs of overwatering or underwatering. When it comes to plant parenting having guidelines is helpful however the best way to care for your green babies is by simply checking in on them on a regular basis and making adjustments as needed. If you pay attention almost all plants with let you know what they need!
Thank you for visiting the blog today for this How Often to Mist Air Plants (all your watering questions answered) blog post. If you haven’t already read Part 1, Do Air Plants Need Sun? (Choosing The Ideal Spot) please do. Also, Part 3, Where to Buy Air Plants is available now! This post includes a fun idea for displaying your air plants.
For more plant care please visit my Indoor Plant Fertilizers You Can Make at Home (Feed Your Plants the Natural Way) post where we discuss using natural waste materials at home to make fertilizer.
Keep Creating Friends!