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Can Air Plants Grow Outside? How Would I Care for Them?

If you don’t live in a tropical or sub-tropical environment, you probably won’t find Air Plants clinging to trees, telephone poles and electrical wires when you take a leisurely stroll in the evening. Perhaps during that stroll, you’ll be thinking of an Air Plant you saw featured online somewhere and wonder, “Can Air Plants grow outside?” and if so, “How would I care for them?”

Well take off your walking shoes and put on your reading glasses, I have the answers for you! In this article, we’ll find out more about the life of Air Plants and whether they can weather the weather outdoors where you live!

So, can Air Plants grow outside?  Yes, Air Plants can Absolutely live outside, providing the climate is warm and humid! Outside IS where they originated. And how would you care for those outdoor Air Plants? You would ensure that outdoor Air Plants receive plenty of indirect sunlight, adequate hydration and nutrition, and protection from extreme temperatures and toxins. Please continue reading to find out…

  • The safe temperature range for outdoor Air Plants
  • The best place for outdoor Air Plants to thrive
  • How to care for outdoor Air Plants

Best Temperatures for Outdoor Air Plants

There’s no doubt about it! Air Plants flourish outdoors in temperatures between 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit (10-32 degrees Celsius). The temperature poses no threat to their life, however, until it drops below 50 degrees (f) or climbs above 90 degrees (f). In those two events, precautions will need to be taken.

Caring for Outdoor Air Plants in Extreme Heat 

Here in the central to the coastal area of Florida, summertime temperatures can be brutally hot for weeks on end! During these weather assaults, those of us with outdoor Air Plants must take steps to protect these delicate beauties. If your summer temps rise like that, too, here are 3 Ways to Protect your Outdoor Air Plants From the Heat:

  • Increase Shade- Whether your outdoor Air Plant is growing “wild” or was “planted” by your own hands in its container, direct sunlight will SCORCH the plant, and could prove fatal (see the illustration of a scorched wild Air Plant above). Be sure your Air Plant is shaded during the time of day the sunlight most hits it.
  • Up Your Watering Game- During extreme heat, your outdoor Air Plant will be “thirstier” just like you and me. Inspect your plant(s) every other day during summer months with your eyes peeled for signs of over-drying. If the Air Plant seems wilted, or you notice browning on the leaf tips, your plant needs more water.
  • Consider a Nutrition Supplement- Using a fertilizer on outdoor Air Plants is usually optional. They collect their nourishment from mid-air and generally thrive on it. But we know that heat can find us lagging, don’t we? It’s likely your plants will benefit from an extra shot of nutrition during extreme heat. Make sure to ONLY use a fertilizer formulated for Tillandsia or Bromeliads, and follow manufacturer’s instructions. If you want to grab some fertilizer from Amazon, here is a convenient link for you:

Protecting Outdoor Air Plants From the Cold

We’ve already discovered that any temperature below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) is detrimental to the life of an Air Plant. Make a plan to protect your outdoor Air Plants when you know the temperatures will be dropping.

Here are 3 Things You Can do to Protect Outdoor Air Plants from the Cold:

  • Shelter Them From Wind- A “wind chill” can make a temperature act colder than it actually is. Move outdoor Air Plants away from open winds. Nestle them up next to a building, put them on the porch, or make sure the trees around them are blocking the wind.

 Should Outdoor Air Plants be Moved Indoors?

If the weather-person is predicting temperatures to drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) MOVE YOUR OUTDOOR AIR PLANTS INSIDE. Although a robust Air Plant may weather the lower temperature with minimal damaging results, why take a chance?

Smaller, more delicate Air Plants will likely NOT live through those lower temperatures, even covered for protection. MOVE THEM INDOORS. They will stand a much better chance of living through winter, even if you only place them in a shed, barn or garage.

If the temperatures will be below the safe range for more than a day or so, you may want to consider an artificial light source while you wait to move the Air Plants back outside. I found a simple and inexpensive “grow light” bulb to use. You can grab yourself a bulb that fits in a standard lamp right here on Amazon.

When the outdoor temperatures rise above 50 (f) or 10 (c) again, simply return your Air Plants to their outdoor home.

How Much Light do Outdoor Air Plants Require?

You’ll want to find a spot for your outdoor Air Plant(s) that has bright light, but not direct light. A porch or lanai are great locations, as well as a spot of shade from a tree.

Too much direct light will cause irreversible damage to your plant, and too much shade will cause your plant to wither instead of flourish. Here at my house, the east side of my property offers the most sunlight in a day, and I tend to display most of my outdoor plants there.

How to Care for Outdoor Air Plants

Now that you know how to find the perfect lighting, what else will you need to do to care for those outdoor Air Plants?

    • Although outdoor Air Plants will receive most of their hydration from ambient moisture, they should still be checked weekly (twice weekly in summer) for signs of ‘thirst”. A thirsty Air Plant will have a slight droop to its leaves, and usually, straight leaves will “curl in” toward the plant.
    • Outdoor Air Plants utilize decaying plant particles and insect matter in the air. This is generally a sufficient diet for them and often, fertilization is not necessary at all. However, you may want to use fertilizer once per season as a supplement to promote lush leaves and support blossoming.

Outdoor Air Plants That are  Drying or Dying

If your outdoor Air Plant is shriveling, drying out or feels brittle, Decreasing sunlight exposure and more water are likely in order. However, if the leaves on your Air Plant are turning yellow and it feels “squishy” to the touch, your plant may require less water and more sunlight. Either way, some TLC (tender loving care) is in order!

What is TOXIC for Air Plants?

Since Air Plants are alive, they are susceptible to being poisoned, even to the point of death. The following things are TOXIC to Air Plants; check your displays, containers and the environment in which your Air Plant “breathes” to make sure none of the following things are posing a threat:

  • Copper
  • Rust
  • Chemicals
  • Zinc
  • Boron
  • Chlorine
  • Soaps
  • Certain Dyes, Perfumes, and Colognes
  • Air Fresheners
  • Grease and Heat (if Air Plant is Near Stove)
  • Vehicle Exhaust
  • Insecticides
  • Weed Killer
  • Fertilizer for Soil-Potted Plants

Which are Better, Outdoor or Indoor Air Plants?

I’m not trying to pop a trick question on you, I promise! The only honest answer I can give for this question is, “It depends!” In colder climates, an Air Plant is going to do better indoors, providing it receives proper light, hydration, and nutrition.

In warmer climates, an Air Plant might grow better outside, as long as lighting, hydration, and nutrition are addressed. Most homes in hotter climates are air-conditioned, dropping the temperature to below 80 degrees (f) or 26 degrees (c) where Air Plants thrive best.

There is not a “one solution for all Air Plants” answer to whether they grow best outside or inside (climate permitting)!

If the climate is favorable to Air Plants where you live, you can have full and healthy Air Plants indoors or out! With a little trial and error, you’ll find the perfect spot for each addition to your collection. Experiment a little to find where your Air Plants  thrive because the right question isn’t necessarily “Where do Air Plants grow best?” Rather, the question should be “Where do Air Plants grow best FOR YOU?”