Just buy an air plant, but unsure how to care for it? While Tillandsias are a low-maintenance plant, they require regular watering to stay healthy and thrive.
But how often should you water your air plant? And how long should you soak it for?
The answer to these questions depends on a few factors, such as the type of air plant you have, the size of your plant, the climate you live in, and whether or not your plant is blooming.
We’ll cover all of this and more in this article.
On average, you should soak your air plant for 20 minutes once a week.
If you live in a hot and humid climate, you may need to soak your air plant more often, as the plant will dry out more quickly.
If you live in a drier climate, you may need to soak your air plant less often.
As you’ll see in a minute, this isn’t a rigid rule – some air plants will need to be soaked more often, while others can get by with less water.
Keep a Log of Your Air Plant’s Health
When owning an air plant, it’s good to keep track of how often you’re watering it and how your plant responds.
This will help you determine how often to water your air plant in the future.
For example, if you notice that your air plant is starting to look a bit wilted after a week without water, you’ll know that you need to increase the frequency of your watering schedule to two times per week.
On the other hand, if you notice that your air plant is looking healthy and happy even after two weeks without water, you can reduce the frequency of your watering schedule.
Lastly, if the leaves turn yellow or mushy, that’s a sign you’re overwatering your air plant, and you should reduce the watering frequency.
Should You Soak a Dehydrated Plant Longer?
This is always the next question that people ask: if my air plant is looking a bit dried out, should I soak it for longer?
The answer is generally no.
If you think your air plant is dehydrated, the best thing to do is to soak it for the normal 20 minutes. Soaking it for longer may induce root rot, fatal for air plants.
Instead, you should soak it twice weekly or supplement the plant with a regular misting schedule.
Is it Safe to Soak Overnight?
Absolutely not. While it’s fine to soak your air plant for 20 minutes at a time, letting it soak overnight will kill the plant.
What Type of Water Should You Soak Air Plants In?
When watering your air plants, it’s best to use naturally sourced water. Natural water, such as rainwater or pond water, is rich in nutrients and minerals to help your air plant thrive.
We recommend against using distilled, tap, or filtrated water, as these types of water lack the nutrients that air plants need to stay healthy.
What Do You Soak Your Air Plant In?
Any large bowl or container will do – just make sure it’s big enough for your plant to completely submerge in water.
Understanding the Natural Habit of Air Plants is Important
To better understand how often and how much to water your air plant, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of where air plants come from and what their natural habitat is like.
As the name implies, air plants grow in the air – often on the sides of trees or other plants. They are epiphytes, which means they have very little or no roots. Instead, they get the majority of their nutrients and moisture from the air around them, along with regular rainfall.
For example, many air plants come from Guatemala, which receives over 5 inches of rain per month from May to October.
In contrast, air plants that come from a desert region, such as Peru, don’t experience regular rains. Instead, they must get by with the moisture in the air and whatever rain may fall sporadically throughout the year.
What Type of Air Plant Do You Have?
If you are uncertain of the type of air plant you may have, we’re here to help. We have put together a list of the most common air plants and information on how often to water each one.
Check out our list of the different types of air plants to learn more.
Each Species is Different
There are three features of air plants you should be mindful of when soaking them:
If the air plant has a bulbous base, it will hold more water than one with a thinner base. This means that plants with a bulbous base can go longer without water. Additionally, an air plant with a bulbous base must be shaken more vigorously to remove all the water from its roots.
The thickness and density of an air plant’s leaves will also affect how long it can go without water. Heavier, thicker leaves mean the plant can retain more water, while thinner leaves will cause the plant to dry out more quickly.
One of the distinct characteristics of air plants is that they contain trichomes. These are tiny, silvery-white hairs that cover the plant’s leaves (source). The main purpose of trichomes is to help the plant absorb moisture and nutrients from the air around it (source).
Some air plants have more trichomes than others, which means they are better equipped to absorb moisture and go longer without water. Generally speaking, if your air plant leaves are dense in trichomes (it has a silvery appearance), you will only need to water them once a week (like the Tillandsia Xerographica).
Mist When Flowering
An air plant will only bloom once in its lifetime, and the air plant blooming process can last anywhere from two weeks to two months. After it blooms, the plant will die.
During this time, you should mist your air plant more frequently to keep it healthy and hydrated.
Soaking the air plant may remove essential pollen from the flower, preventing the plant from producing offsets (pups).
Root Rot is a Common Killer When Soaking
One of the leading reasons why air plants die is root rot. Root rot occurs when the plant roots are left submerged in water for too long, causing them to break down and rot.
To avoid root rot, shake excess water from the plant once it has finished soaking. Additionally, only soak your air plant as often as necessary to keep it healthy – don’t soak it just for the sake of soaking it.
Can you soak air plants too long?
Absolutely. If you soak your air plant for too long, the roots will rot, and the plant will die.
Should you place your plants upside down when soaking?
It is not necessary to place your air plant upside down when soaking it. However, if you have an air plant that does not have a bulbous base, you may want to place it upside down so that the water can be evenly distributed throughout the plant.
Can you rescue an air plant that experienced root rot?
Unfortunately, once an air plant has root rot, it’s very difficult to make it come back to life. If anything, try placing the air plant in a drier environment and see if it can recover. However, it’s very unlikely that a plant with root rot will be able to come back to life.
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.