While one of the primary benefits of air plants is that they are low-maintenance and don’t require soil doesn’t mean they don’t require any care at all.
If your air plant is looking lifeless, it’s possible that it just needs a little TLC to revive it.
This article will help you identify whether or not your Tillandsia is dead and, if it isn’t, some tips on how to revive it.
How to know if your Air Plant Died
The leading indicator of whether an air plant is dead is if its leaves are dry and crispy from root to the tip of the leaf. If this is the case, and you have tried soaking and misting it (more on that below), your air plant is dead and gone.
On the other hand, if the leaves feel mushy and you notice extensive mold growth at the base of the plant, then it is likely that your air plant suffered from root rot, which is primarily caused by over-watering.
Can (and How ) To Revive a Dying Air Plant
If it’s not too late, nor have you taken steps to try and revive your air plant, you should take the following steps to see if you can bring it back to life.
How to Revive a Dry Air Plant
Here are the necessary steps to revive a dry air plant:
- Remove the plant from any containers or holders.
- Remove any leaves that are not worth saving (typically dry and crunchy from the tip to the base).
- Fill a sink or bowl with natural and nutrient-rich water such as rainwater or pond water. Don’t use tap, distilled, or filtered water as these don’t have the nutrients that air plants need.
- Soak your air plant for about 20-30 minutes, ensuring that all of the leaves are fully saturated.
- Once finished, gently shake off any excess water and allow the plant to dry upside down on a towel for about an hour.
- Once dry, place the plant in a location with bright, indirect light and good air circulation. A terrarium near (but not on) a window is ideal.
How to Revive a Rotting (Overwatered) Air Plant
If you think your air plant is suffering from root rot, then follow these steps:
- Remove the plant from any containers or holders. This is especially important if it’s normally housed in a terrarium, as the humidity can further exacerbate the issue.
- Remove any leaves that are not worth saving (typically mushy with mold at the base).
- Place the air plant in a room with bright, indirect light and good air circulation. We advise against the outdoors when trying to save a rotting air plant as the temperature and humidity may fluctuate too much, further damaging the plant.
- Monitor the air plant closely over the next few days. Continue to remove any mushy or moldy leaves as you see them.
- If the plant shows signs of new growth, then it is recovering. However, if there are no new signs of growth after a week or two, then it is likely that the plant is beyond saving.
- Should the air plant be recovered, be sure not to over-water it or place it in the same area as before, as one of these was likely the cause of the root rot in the first place.
What Causes an Air Plant to Die?
While watering is the leading cause of death for air plants, there are a few other reasons why your air plant might not be looking its best.
While they are a low-maintenance plant, Tillandsia’s shouldn’t be neglected. Make sure to mist or soak them in water regularly. If you are unsure how to care for your air plant, we provide you with watering instructions for all popular types of air plants.
Most Tillandsia’s come from tropical regions and thus require bright, indirect sunlight and high humidity. If your air plant isn’t getting similar conditions, you must supplement its environment.
Many folks like to place air plants in bathrooms as the humidity is often quite high. However, it’s important to ensure good air circulation as stagnant air can lead to fungal growth.
If you live in a dry climate, or perhaps where you live, experiences the four seasons, you will need to supplement the humidity accordingly. This can be done in several ways, such as placing a humidifier near your air plants, grouping your air plants together, or placing them on a tray of pebbles and water.
Air plants thrive in warm weather, with an ideal temperature between 50-85 degrees. If the temperature in your home falls below 60 degrees at night or in the winter, then your air plants will likely suffer. We recommend moving them to a warmer location that is less like to experience large temperature swings.
While pests aren’t as common on air plants as on other houseplants, they can still happen given the lack of soil. The most common pests on air plants include mealybugs, scale, and aphids. These pests will suck the sap out of the plant, causing it to wilt and eventually die. If you see any pests on your air plants, we recommend isolating them and treating them with an insecticide spray.
Too Much Fertilizer
While we all love a healthy-looking air plant, applying too much fertilizer can actually do more harm than good. Overapplication of fertilizer can kill the plant.
If you are mounting your Tillandsia, take great care not to harm the plant. We recommend using E6000 glue as it is safe for Tillandsia and other air plants.
Check for Pups
Check the plant for pups if your plant is on its last leg. Pups are small baby air plants that grow from the mother plant’s base. If you see any pups, you can carefully remove them and pot them up on their own. This will give you a new plant to care for and potentially save the mother plant from death.
When All Else Fails: Till it Into Your Flower Bed
While sad as it may be to see your air plant die, all plants come to an end at some point. If you can’t seem to revive your Tillandsia, we recommend tilling it into your flower bed. This will provide nutrients to the soil.
Should you cut off the brown leaf tips?
It depends. If the tips are slightly brown, they may show signs of life with proper care. However, if they are in poor shape or completely brown, then it’s best to remove them. This will help the plant focus its energy on new growth.
If it’s dry, should you provide extra water?
No. This is the one mistake people often make when caring for air plants. If the plant is already dried out, then soaking it overnight in water can actually kill the plant. We recommend following a normal watering schedule.
Will addtional fertizilizer work?
As mentioned above, too much fertilizer can actually kill your air plant. If you think your plant needs a little boost, then we recommend using a diluted Tillandsia fertilizer.
What if the leaves are falling off?
If the leaves are falling off and the plant looks generally unhealthy, then it’s likely too far gone to save.
Samantha Taylor is the Senior Editor of airplantcentral.com. Her love for plants goes back to her childhood when she spent hours in the garden with her dear grandfather. As an aspiring botanist, she started her own business specializing in air plants.