Proper water intake, or hydration, is essential to every living thing, including your Air Plant(s). Too little hydration can be fatal, and so can too much! So just how much water does an Air Plant need and how often do they need it? How do you go about watering air plants: blossoming, mounted and in terrariums?
Today we’ll find out! There’s nothing at all complicated about watering Air Plants. That’s good news for me because I only have a little time each week to devote to caring for plants. Air Plants are easy to maintain once you’ve found the perfect combination of water, sunlight, and food to make them flourish!
How much water does an Air Plant need? Enough to keep it soft, supple and green! How often will an Air Plant need to be watered? Often enough to keep it soft, supple and green! A little sleuthing will be in order to find out what works best for you and your individual Air Plants because each is unique in its needs. Trial and error is the name of the game.
In this Quick Reference article, we’ll go over:
- The Best Water for Air plants
- Methods for Watering Air Plants
- How to Water Blossoming Air Plants
- How Often to Water Air Plants
- Watering Air Plant Displays: Wood Mounted or Otherwise
So let’s get started! By the end of today’s article, you’ll be a pro at making sure your Air Plants are receiving just the right amount of water, no matter the variety or display medium!
What to Know About Watering Air Plants
What Kind of Water Do Air Plants Need?
Hands down, rainwater is the best possible water for Air Plants! Tap water has additives unless it is coming directly from a well on your property. These additives in “city water” can be detrimental to the health of your plant.
Distilled or purified bottled waters are often water that has had essential minerals removed that are present in rainwater or well water. If you do use bottled water, opt for spring water. In their natural environment, Air Plants utilize ambient moisture and thrive on it without any help from us at all! Staying as close as we can to how it’s done in nature is always the best strategy!
Collecting Rain Water for Your Air Plants
In your yard: If you live in a home with a yard, collecting rainwater for your Air Plants will be a breeze. Simply set a container out and wait! The container needn’t be as special or fancy as a rainwater barrel (but it certainly can be!). A bucket, plastic bin, or anything else that is not made of copper and will not rust will do the trick!
HELPFUL HINT: It’s often easiest to collect rainwater by placing your container under an eave spout, or where you notice a lot of “run-off” during a rain. I keep my watering can right at the corner of my house, the rainwater runs off the roof there like a waterfall!
From your apartment: What’s a city-dweller to do when they need to collect rainwater? They get creative! Can you utilize a window sill? A front porch or stoop? A lanai? How about the roof-top? Put your sleuthing hat on the next time it rains, and find the prime location to place a container.
REMEMBER: A rain-collecting container can be of any size, but must not be made of copper, or any material that will rust.
The 2 Methods for Watering Air Plants
Which is Best for You?
- Watering Air Plants With a Spray Bottle: Spritzing your Air Plants with a spray bottle is quick and convenient. You’ll simply saturate the entire plant. Afterward, you must be sure no water has collected in the center of the plant. This can promote rot. If water has collected there, just tilt the plant to the side to allow drain-off.
CAUTION: The Air Plant can’t utilize all the water from a spritzing, so if spritzing is your preferred watering method, you may want to consider a monthly submersion.
- Watering Air Plants by Submersion: Using a container not made of copper or a material that can rust, submerge the entire plant in rainwater (or well water). Let the plant(s) soak from about ten minutes up to four hours, depending on the climate and humidity, which we’ll address further along in this article.
REMEMBER: Tilt your Air Plant(s) after submersion, allowing them to drip dry so no water collects in the center of the Air Plant.
NOTE: Do NOT water your Air Plant by soaking their roots in a container of water! Unlike other plants, Air Plants absorb water through their leaves and not their roots.
You’ll find that each method of watering is simple, but in some cases, one method is more effective than the other. For instance, my outdoor Air Plants get a weekly soaking if it hasn’t rained.
My indoor plants. on the other hand, are spritzed with a spray bottle two or three times a week. Every month or so (depending on how thirsty they look) They get submerged for an hour-long soak.
It’s trial and error, friends, that will lead you to discovery!
Watering Blossoming Air Plants
Air Plants will generally flower once in their life-cycle. These blooms are both beautiful and delicate! Air Plant Central recommends you gently spritz the blossoms with rainwater every other day or so, and do NOT submerge them.
Watering Your Air Plants in Different Climates
I live between an arid central Florida and the high-humidity coastline. Here, there are seasons where daily rains fall, and seasons bordering on drought. I take all these factors into consideration when watering my Air Plants! The lower the humidity and the higher the temperature, the more often I water. The higher the humidity and the lower the temperature, the less often I water.
Sometimes the Air Plants I spritz with the spray bottle need a good soaking, and sometimes the ones I soak only need a good spritzing! It will only take a couple of months for you to be able to recognize when your Air Plant needs more or less water. Their leaves speak for them, we need only learn to “listen”. Dry or brittle Air Plant leaves are asking to be hydrated. Squishy or yellowing leaves are announcing they need less water.
How Often Should You Water Your Air Plant?
Taking into consideration the things I mentioned in the above section, climate, humidity, and temperature, how often you water your Air Plants will likely vary from season to season. The less humidity there is in the air, the thirstier your Air Plant will be.
Outdoor Air Plants should be checked weekly for signs of thirst. These signs include brittle leaves and limpness. It’s springtime right now, so I am watering my outdoor plants once a week. As summer creeps into Florida though, I know the frequency of watering will increase.
DON’T FORGET: Even outdoor Air Plants should not have water puddled up in their center. Even after a rain, I tilt my Air Plants so any excess water can drain off.
Indoor Air Plants should be examined about every three days for signs of thirst. Depending on the climate control in your home, they will generally require a spritzing twice a week (or even three times weekly), or a long weekly soak, if that’s how you water. Please keep in mind that not all water from spritzing your Air Plant will be utilized. If spritzing is your preferred watering method, you’ll need to do it frequently.
Watering Mounted Air Plant Displays
With a little thought and some trial and error, you can find the optimum watering method for however your Air Plants are mounted for display! Here are some suggestions for watering mounted Air Plants:
Wood Mounted: Some people love the distressed look prolonged water exposure can give to wood. Other people, not so much! If your Air Plant cannot be removed from the wood for watering, you may want to consider covering the wood, leaving only the Air Plant exposed for watering.
I use a plastic grocery bag for this task, and can even submerge my Air Plant in water without too much water getting on the wood. After I have drained the excess water and removed the plastic bag, I dry the wood with a soft cloth.
Alternately, you can cover the wood while you spritz the plant if that is your preferred watering method. Allow for excess water to drain off, and gently pat the wood dry when you’re finished watering.
HELPFUL TIP: Do NOT use any polish or other treatment on the wood to which an Air Plant has been mounted. The ingredients in the product could be toxic to the plant!
Other Air Plant Mountings:
Displays other than wood are generally easier to facilitate watering. If the Air Plant is removable from the display, do that for watering. If it is firmly affixed, water it where it is. Use the watering method (spritzing with a spray-bottle or submersion) that makes the most sense. Remember to drain the plant well by tipping the whole display to allow for drain-off.
Watering Air Plants in Terrariums
Without question, a terrarium is an excellent way to display your Air Plants! What’s more fun than creating a natural habitat?!? However, if you opt for a terrarium display, there are a couple of things you’ll want to keep in mind.
- The terrarium will need good ventilation. Too much humidity will promote rot in your Air Plant.
- Air Plants should be easy to remove for proper watering, and allowed to dry before returning to the terrarium.
- There should be no materials or moss in the terrarium that stay wet.
- Rocks, marbles or decorative stones are great bases for terrariums because their dryness helps prevent rot.
SOUND ADVICE: When your Air Plant’s roots begin to grow, snip them close to the plant with sharp scissors. It the roots have frequent exposure to wetness, plant rot could develop. If you utilize the roots to support the Air Plant, be sure the roots are always dry.
Do Air Plants Need Fertilizer?
Most outdoor Air Plants will flourish without fertilizer. You may want to use some once or twice a year to promote good health and beautiful blossoms, though. Indoor Air Plants, on the other hand, will require fertilizer once per season. Think of it as their vitamin and mineral supplements!
CAUTION: Only use a fertilizer formulated for Tillandsia or Bromeliads! Other fertilizers may contain copper, zinc, or boron… all toxic to Air Plants. You can grab fertilizer for your Air Plant(s) from Amazon by following this link.
I hope this article has answered all your Air Plant watering questions! Each plant’s variety and display location will dictate the amount of hydration it requires, as well as the climate, temperature, and humidity where you live. Make no mistake, watering frequencies will vary, and you may have to try more than one way (or frequency) of watering until you find what works best for each individual Air Plant.
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.