Air plants should be exposed to bright, indirect sunlight for at least 4-6 hours per day. While these plants are very tolerant of different light levels, too much direct sunlight can cause them to sunburn.
This article will discuss how much sun air plants need, how different settings can affect their growth, and what to do if your air plant is getting too much or too little sun.
Understanding Air Plant’s Natural Habitat
Most Tillandsia species are epiphytes, meaning they grow on other plants or objects. In their natural habitat, air plants would perch on a tree branch or rocky outcropping and receive dappled sunlight throughout the day.
While some species of Tillandsia can withstand the full sun for the better part of the day, such as the Tillandsia tectorum, most air plants prefer bright, indirect light.
Most air plants are native to tropical or subtropical regions, including Southern USA, Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America. These areas generally have high humidity levels and consistent temperatures throughout the year.
More humid conditions will allow the air plant to tolerate more sunlight.
Good Indoor Locations for Air Plants
When placing an air plant inside, it’s important to find a spot where it will receive bright, indirect sunlight for at least 4-6 hours per day. A south or east-facing window is often a good option.
Westward-facing windows may also work, but the light will be more intense in the latter part of the afternoon. Therefore, it’s important to avoid placing air plants in dark corners of the room or next to north-facing windows where they will not receive enough sunlight.
Good Outdoor Locations for Air Plants
When it comes to outdoor locations, a shady spot is often best.
For northern climates, air plants should be taken indoors during the late fall, winter, and early spring months when temperatures start to dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
For southern climates, it’s important to find a spot where the plant will be protected from the intense afternoon sun. A covered porch or patio is often a good option. For example, if you live in Florida, your air plant will likely do best if it’s placed in a spot that receives morning sun and afternoon shade.
Where to Place Your Air Plant in an Office?
While air plants make for a terrific office plant, it’s important to find a bright spot for them. If your office has full-spectrum fluorescent lighting, this can provide enough light for an air plant to thrive. However, incandescent lighting is not as effective, so it’s best to supplement it with natural sunlight.
If your office is shady, you may need to place air plants on a windowsill or near an artificial light source such as a grow light.
Can They Live in a Windowless Environment?
While air plants can technically live in a windowless environment, they will likely not thrive, especially if full-spectrum lighting is unavailable. Therefore, if you must place an air plant in a windowless room such as a bathroom, garage, basement, etc., it’s important to supplement with artificial light.
You can find grow lights at most hardware stores or online. It’s important to choose a grow light that emits both blue and red wavelengths of light as this will help promote healthy growth.
Keep the grow light on the plant for 10-12 hours per day to mimic the natural light cycle.
Signs Your Air Plant is Getting Too Much or Too Little Light
The best way to make sure your air plant is getting the right amount of light is to observe its growth habit.
If your air plant is getting too much light, the leaves will turn red or brown and may become crispy to the touch. Not blooming is also a sign of too much light.
If your air plant is not getting enough light, the leaves will start to grow long and leggy in an attempt to reach the light source.
Either condition will often slow down the plant’s growth rate.
If you notice your air plant is not looking its best, simply move it to a spot that receives more or less light until you find a happy medium.
Should you mist or water your air plant more, depending on the light?
If your air plant is in a brighter spot, you may need to water it more frequently as the leaves will dry out quicker. On the other hand, if your air plant is in a shadier spot, you may need to water it less often. As a general rule of thumb, air plants in brighter light will need to be watered about three or four times per week, while those in shadier spots will need to be watered about once a week.
Should you fertilize plants in low-light locations?
Absolutely! Fertilizing your air plant will help supplement the nutrients it might be missing due to the lack of light. Use a fertilizer made specifically for air plants and follow the directions on the packaging. Typically, you should fertilize your air plant about once a month.
Do air plants grow well under artificial light?
Yes, air plants will grow under artificial light as long as it is full-spectrum lighting.
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.