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Can You Over-Water an Air Plant?

It’s true that Air Plants have different needs than soil-dependant plants, but that needn’t make you nervous about purchasing one (or several!). When it comes to Air Plants, “different” does not mean more complicated, it simply means “different”. Today we will look at what the watering requirements for Air Plants are and answer the burning question, Can you over-water an Air Plant?”.

Here in Florida, brutal heat can rest on us for weeks on end! I worried about how I could be sure my Air Plants were getting enough water while at the same time being cautious to not over-water them. So I did a little research and some careful observation of my own plants to find out how much water is optimum for Air Plants, and how much is too much. Today I will share everything I learned with you.

So, can you over-water an Air Plant? YES! You can certainly over-water an Air Plant, and it WILL kill the plant! This article will help you avoid some headaches when it comes to the proper watering of your Air Plant(s). We’ll cover:

  • The Methods for Watering Air Plants (and which one is best)
  • How Often Air Plants Should be Watered
  • Reviving an Over-Watered Air Plant
  • And So Much More!

Summer is coming, so let’s get to it!

Can You “Drown” Your Air Plants?

Since Air Plants are alive, they are susceptible to both; drowning from too much water of dying of thirst. Air Plants “breathe” through their pores. These pores, unlike soil-dependant plants, stay closed during the day for water conservation and open at night to allow for photosynthesis. These pores will become damaged if they get “water-logged” and will fail to function properly. Air Plants that are over-watered WILL die if they consistently receive too much water.

What Happens if You DO Over-Water an Air Plant

It may take time to notice, but air Plants that are often over-watered will begin to soften and lose their structural integrity. They will begin to soften to the touch, and their leaves will turn yellow as they struggle to “breathe”. Eventually, they will become completely squishy and those leaves will fall off as the plant dies. If caught in time, though, you CAN save an over-watered Air Plant!

Reviving an Over-Watered Air Plant

If you caught the over-watering soon enough, a little tender loving care and a LOT less water can save the day AND the Air Plant!

Simply follow these 5 Steps to Revive an Over-Watered Air Plant:

  1. Trim off any dead or rotten leaves.
  2. Tip the plant upside-down for 30 minutes to ensure no water has collected in the center (which will cause further rot). You can then flip it right-side-up again.
  3. Move the Air Plant to a slightly sunnier location for about a week and with-hold watering.
  4. Observe the plant to see if your TLC was successful.
  5. Return the Air Plant to indirect lighting and begin effective watering schedule.

How Should You Water an Air Plant?

There are two methods to watering Air Plants. One is more convenient and one is more effective. A combination of the two is what I prefer.

You can water your Air Plants by misting them with a spray bottle. Simply saturate the Air Plant’s leaves, making sure no water collects in the center. To eliminate any pooled water, just tilt the plant and allow draining. On the  “pros” side of the list for using this method are (a) convenience (b) time-saver and (c) easier to water Mounted Air Plants. On the “cons” side of the list is the Air Plant cannot absorb all the water it requires before this mist dries.

Even if misting if your preferred and usual way to water, your plants will benefit from receiving water via the second watering method occasionally.

The second method for watering your Air Plants is by submersion. For this method, you’ll simply submerge the entire plant into some tepid water for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the climate conditions where you live. The “pros” of watering by submersion are (a) allows the plant to draw in all the water it requires and (b) gives you the opportunity to carefully inspect the plant’s condition. The “cons” are (a) more time consuming and (b) less convenient.

How Often Should You Water an Air Plant?

For the plants that I only submerge for watering, about once every ten days is sufficient. The frequency will increase with the onset of Florida summer temperatures.

Because of the variations in climate, lighting, and within the Air Plants themselves, you can expect variations in the need for watering. The general rule of thumb is the drier and warmer the air, the more frequently Air Plants will need to be watered.

Indoor and Outdoor Air Plants will also have different watering needs. I only water my outdoor Air Plants if more than a week has passed without rain, or if the temperatures have stayed above 90 (f) 32 (c) for a week straight.

Since my home is climate-controlled, I water my indoor Air Plants on a more consistent schedule throughout the spring, summer, and fall. During the winter, the furnace makes the climate in my home hotter and drier, AND there is less light, so waterings increase.

For the Air Plants that I water by misting with a spray bottle, once every three days is the norm, along with a monthly submersion.

These watering guidelines are just that. Guidelines. Adjust your watering method and schedule to what makes YOUR Air plants hearty and flourishing!

Can You Under-Water An Air Plant

You can ABSOLUTELY under-water your Air Plant! Even Air Plants that live outside will benefit from the occasional watering from you! When the temperature climbs, the air is arid, or the rains haven’t fallen, water those outdoor Air Plants!

If your indoor Air Plants are failing to thrive, they may be crying out for more water! It won’t take you long at all to discover which watering schedule every Air Plant you own should be on.

HELPFUL HINT: When watering blooming (also called flowering) Air Plants, avoid getting water on the blossom.

Finding Balance in Watering Your Air Plant

Every Air Plant is as individual as you are! The watering regime that makes one plant thrive may be too little or too much water for another. Don’t be daunted by this fact! Your Air Plants are “vocal” when it comes to their own watering preferences. With careful observation, you will soon know which plants need more water and which, less. Be flexible according to the climate, and according to each plant’s individual need.

Browning tips and “curling” leaves are a clear indication that your Air Plant is thirsty. Increase frequency, leave plant submerged longer or submerge if the thirsty plant only receives misting from a spray bottle.

Yellowing leaves and a “squishy” feeling to the plant indicate over-watering may have occurred. Make sure there is no pooled water in the center of the plant and withhold water for a week. If that solves the issue, resume watering but do it with less frequency or a shorter submersion.  

All gardening requires a little “trial and error”. Air Plants are no exception to this rule. This doesn’t mean they are more or less time consuming than any other plant. It simply means that you must learn what best meets your Air Plant’s specific needs.

There are 4 things that keep Air Plants healthy:

  • Adequate Lighting- Air Plants need bright but indirect light.
  • Proper Hydration- Too little or too much water will both eventually be fatal to your plant.
  • Sufficient Nutrition-  Indoor Air Plants cannot collect the nutrition they need from the atmosphere as outdoor Air Plants do. A fertilizer that is specially formulated for Tillandsia or Bromeliads is the only safe fertilizer to use. Follow package instructions precisely.
  • Toxin Elimination- Copper and rust are toxic for your Air Plants. Make sure these elements are absent from any container or display that your plant will touch. Zinc and Boron are also toxic, which is why you cannot use a fertilizer formulated for soil-dependant plants.

Additionally, air fresheners, perfumes and colognes, and certain material paints or dyes can be toxic. If your Air plant isn’t flourishing, and you have addressed the lighting, watering and feeding needs of your plant, check what it’s touching and what is in the air the plant is “breathing”. A toxin might be the culprit!

I hope you found this article helpful and that you’re confident about how to handle each Air Plant’s specific watering needs. When you’ve found the right balance of all your Air Plant’s needs, you’ll be thrilled with the results!

I’ve both under-watered and over-watered as a new Air plant owner. It didn’t take me long at all to become familiar with the correct watering amount and frequency for each plant. Believe me when I say, if I can do it, you can do it!