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How To Grow Air Plants (Tillandsia) & Why You Should

How To Grow Air Plants (Tillandsia) & Why You Should

Don’t have a green thumb, or think you don’t have time to care for plants in your home? Well, think again, because air plants, or Tillandsia as they’re officially called, are some of the easiest plants to grow. While they still need some attention to thrive and live a happy life, it doesn’t take a lot of work to care of them.

Air plants are Epiphytes, which means they grow on another tree, host or object, but they don’t steal nutrients from their host, they just use it as a home to grow on. The plants have tiny vessels in their leaves known as trichomes, which capture moisture and nutrients in the air. What’s really incredible about them, is that the plants utilize their roots to anchor themselves to an object, and that allows them to grow in all sorts of different locations. Their flexibility means that you can use them in numerous types of settings, which is why they’re becoming so popular.

If that isn’t enough to convince you to grow them, here’s a look at some of the other reasons to consider it:

Growing air plants in your home can bring many benefits, including:

  • Indoor plants like air plants allow you to fight off that cold quicker thanks to their ability to reduce dust and increased humidity levels.
  • Plants can reduce stress to make you feel happier, they help you feel calmer and more optimistic. In fact, some studies have found that patients who get to enjoy a garden view in their hospital rooms recover quicker than those who don’t.
  • Plants help to detox a room. They’ve been shown to remove airborne contaminants that can cause headaches, allergies and more, while also putting out clean air, improving the air quality around them.
  • Plants can lower blood pressure – people with indoor plants have been found to not only have less stress but lower blood pressure too. 
  • Plants have been shown to strengthen brain power, allowing you to think clearer, focus better and even be more creative.
  • Air plants reduce carbon dioxide in the air during photosynthesis as well as remove chemical pollutants while adding oxygen back to help you breathe better.
  • Air plants, in particular, are great for those in urban settings as they’re small and require no soil.
  • Air plants are resistant to pests and diseases and are fairly forgiving. Plus, with proper care like ambient air,  the right amount of light and watering, they can last for years and years.
  • Air plants are exceedingly attractive, exotic and come in a variety of shapes and colors – in fact, they can even change colors. While they all start out green, their leaves begin to change as they bloom, with the shade depending on the variety. They might turn hues of red, purple, magenta, orange or even yellow. How many other plants can do that? Plus, some have short, spiky leaves like palms, and others have long, graceful leaves.
  • You can put them wherever you want since they don’t need any soil, creating an even more exotic look. Air plants make a great conversation piece. They can fit in tiny spaces, and be placed in just about anything you can think of, including all types of colorful, trendy containers – this is your chance to really get creative. You can even tuck them into crevices of driftwood, into shells, wire baskets or super glue them to stones.
  • Air plants make air plant babies. Air plants are a great value as they can produce air plant babies. During their lifestyle, they grow these small “babies” or “pups” as they’re technically called. Those can eventually be detached and used on their own.
  • Air plants are ideal for those who have a habit of killing plants as their very low maintenance – they only need watering once a week.

Now you’re probably wondering why you’ve never grown them before, right?

Here’s how to grow and care for your air plants:


All living things need light, including air plants. That means it’s important that they’ll be close to an adequate light source, generally within about 5 feet of a window or artificial light source. Too much direct sun should be avoided as it can be harmful. Air plants especially thrive on kitchen or bathroom window sills that get indirect light – they love the steam from a shower.


As all air plants come from tropical climates where they’d never be exposed to freezing temperatures, it’s important to keep them at a comfortable room temperature – generally about the temperature you keep your home at anyway, meaning the 60s or warmer. Avoid putting them close to an air conditioner vent or a window that gets very cold in the winter.


Provided you don’t keep your air conditioning or heater blasting all the time, which can dry air plants out, you can water them once a week for optimal health. If they are getting dried out, they’ll need more frequent watering. You can also mist them occasionally in-between watering if necessary, though it should replace regular watering. To water them, you’ll place them face down in your sink, a bowl or other container for about 10 to 20 minutes. Afterward, gently shake any excess water off the base of your plants – if they sit in water too long, it can rot or other damage that can kill the plants. Ideally, it’s best to water air plants in the morning and then leave them out of their usual container in a place where they’ll dry within about four hours.

Note that the type of air plant can make a difference when it comes to watering too. Plants that have fuzzy leaves with white, silvery, feathery-type coatings indicate that they are xeric air plants, which comes from a drier, sunny climate, meaning rainfall is less frequent. They have pronounced trichomes that allow them to collect a lot of water when it falls and then hold onto it for use during drier periods. These plants generally don’t need as much more and can tolerate more sun. Mesic types commonly have smooth, glossy leaves. They come from areas like cloud forests that get a lot of shade and rain, where there is an abundance of water. Their trichomes are less pronounced, so they have less protection from direct, hot sunlight and drying out, which means they need watering more often.

A healthy air plant will have wide open leaves, while a dehydrated air plant will have closed and curled leaves.

Taking care of the “pups”

As mentioned, your air plant will have air babies, known as “pups.” It happens as your plant starts to mature and run through its bloom cycle. You can remove the pup when it gets to be about a third of the size of the mother plant – or, you can allow them to hang on and they’ll eventually form a clump which can even be hung on a string, it looks absolutely gorgeous!


Like most plants, your air plant will lose some leaves and grow new ones. You can trim off any dead or brown leaves with scissors. By trimming at an angle, the leaf will have a more natural, attractive appearance.