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Easy Steps to Caring for Your Air Plant

I am a houseplant enthusiast who has just discovered air plants and orchids in the past year or so and have had good luck with them.

My air plant collection sits on a shelf on the back wall of my sun room.

My air plant collection sits on a shelf on the back wall of my sun room.

Simple Air Plant Care

Over the last year or so since beginning my air plant collection, I've read a lot of conflicting advice and watched a lot of confusing videos about caring for these charming little critters. What I have found is that successful air plant care is actually very simple. In this article, I share the easy steps I take to care for my five air plants- even a phalanopsis orchid. Read on to learn more.

1. A Regular Soaking Schedule Is Key to Success

Many people think that air plants can survive with no care, but that simply isn't true. In the wild, they anchor themselves to trees and glean nourishment and moisture from the atmosphere. In a typical home, the air is too dry and empty of nutrients to keep an air plant alive.

Here they all are soaking in a pitcher of filtered water. Use filtered, distilled, or rainwater for soaking. Soak once a week for a couple of hours. Give them a half dose of orchid fertilizer once every four to six weeks.

After soaking, the plants lie out on a clean towel for a couple of hours.

After soaking, the plants lie out on a clean towel for a couple of hours.

2. Don't Put Your Plants Away Wet!

Lay the plants out on a towel to let them dry. They can stay like that overnight or longer. It doesn't hurt them. They should be dry before you put them back in their pots to avoid fungus. Turn the air plants upside down so water will drip out of the rosettes.

Blot moisture from between leaves as needed.

Blot moisture from between leaves as needed.

Trapped Moisture is the Enemy of all Houseplants

All sorts of houseplants are subject to fungal infection if they are kept too wet. I blot the moisture from between the leaves of the phalanopsis with paper towels to be sure no fungus will get a start deep in the crevices. The air plants don't typically need this, but the phalanopsis' big, floppy leaves make it difficult for air to circulate between them.

After drying, I put the plants back in their containers.

After drying, I put the plants back in their containers.

3. Air Plants Do Well in Containers That Aren't Suitable for Other Plants

Here they are with their containers. Air plants can do very well in the little decorative containers that aren't suitable for plants that need soil. For example, the little donkey pictured has no drain holes, so it would not be suitable for any other soil plant. When filled with black pebbles, it works very well for an air plant. That plant is just sitting on top of the pebbles. I just got small sacks of pebbles from the Dollar Tree to use as substrate.

The little herb pot with the phalanopsis and one air plant is empty. I keep a little water in the bottom of it to provide humidity, but it does not touch the plants.

Getting the tall plants ready to go back in their containers.

Getting the tall plants ready to go back in their containers.

Use Small Decorative Containers for Air Plants

The two tall, upright plants go in the terra cotta pots with white rocks. I just pour out half the rocks, set each plant in the center of its pot, and surround it with rocks. I got those little pots in a set of three at Dollar Tree. They are really too small to be suitable for anything else, but they work fine for this purpose. The terra cotta is good because it allows good air circulation to prevent the possibility of rot in the part of the plant that is secured by the stones.

The little fuzzy plant sits on top of the white jigger. I keep a small amount of water in the bottom of it to provide humidity, but the plant does not touch the water.

Ready to go back to the sun porch.

Ready to go back to the sun porch.

4. Don't Treat Air Plants Like Cacti

Air plants like to be in bright, indirect sunlight. They make good kitchen windowsill or bathroom window plants. I keep mine in my sun porch, but I do not keep them near the window. They are on a shelf on the back wall of the porch so that they get plenty of bright, indirect light all day long. I tried keeping the little fluffy plant under artificial light for a while, but it was too harsh for it.

Some people mist their air plants. I have found that, with a good, long weekly soaking, they do fine without misting.

The phalanopsis did well kept in this way for several months, but when the time came for it to bloom, the blooms failed. I have since moved it into an orchid mix, but I still soak it once a week, the same way I do the air plants.

My Air Plant and Orchid Collection

I got a collection of five tiny air plants through Amazon a little over a year ago. In the photo above, the five air plants are around the larger pot. That's my phalanopsis orchid in the larger pot with an air plant in one of the pockets of the pot.

The phalanopsis orchid is about three years old. It was given to me by a friend who had received it as a gift and didn't know how to take care of it. I kept it in lava rock successfully for about a year, but then realized it was just sitting on top of the rock with lots of aerial roots. For this reason, I decided to keep it as an air plant, and this worked fairly well for quite a while.

My Collection

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


justmesuzanne (author) from Texas on March 09, 2020:

Thanks for your comments Peggy and FlourishAnyway. I believe you live in Florida, right, Peggy? Oh, never mind! I see you are in Houston, which is similar. A lot of the air plants in that area could be brought indoors and kept as houseplants. There are types of tree moss in all climates that live in the same way as these tropical ones but are too delicate to come inside. They need to stay out in their natural setting. I know this, because I've tried it! :D

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 09, 2020:

We see many of these air plants attached to branches of trees in our area. I have never thought of keeping them inside as a plant, but for those who wish to do so, you have given good information about how to keep them alive and healthy.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 09, 2020:

Very cute. I have often wondered if these were real.