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Avoid These Things, or Your Air Plant is Toast

From fertilizers to water, there are many ways to care for your air plant. But, just like any other plant, there are also ways to unintentionally kill it. Here are some things you should avoid if you want your air plant to stay healthy and happy.

Urea-Nitrogen, Boron, and Zinc Fertilizers

Urea-Nitrogen, Boron, and Zinc Fertilizers

While it’s true that air plants need nutrients, using the wrong kind of fertilizer, or too much of any given fertilizer, can damage or even kill your plant. Urea-nitrogen, boron, and zinc fertilizers are all highly toxic to air plants and should be avoided.

These ingredients are found in popular fertilizers such as Miracle-Gro and other generic plant foods. But don’t worry; if you still want to give your Tillandsias a bit of a boost, there are plenty of air plant specific fertilizers on the market that are safe to use.

Use Proper Water

Pond Water for Air Plants

Depending on how your type of air plant must be watered, using the wrong kind of water or too much water can also cause problems.

Generally, we recommend nutrient-rich water like pond or rainwater instead of using tap, distilled, or filtered water. This is because these water sources may contain chlorine (tap water) or are absent of any beneficial nutrients (distilled and filtered water).

For example, Tillandsias that come from dry environments, such as the deserts of Mexico or South America, do not like to be constantly soaked in water. Therefore, these plants should only be watered every week with a spray bottle.

Conversely, Tillandsias that come from more humid environments, such as the rain forests of Central and South America, will need to be watered more often. These plants should be soaked in water for about 20 minutes once a week.

Poor Placement

Air plants aren’t like your typical houseplant. Where you place your air plant can have a big impact on its health.

Air plants need bright, indirect sunlight to thrive. Additionally, air plants are either epiphytes or lithophytes, meaning that they grow on other plants or rocks rather than in soil.

What about Copper?

Copper Terrarium

Some Air Plant sites often say that copper is a metal to avoid when growing air plants. The theory behind these claims states that terrariums with copper components can “leach” copper onto the plant, causing them to turn brown and eventually die.

We have not seen any evidence that this is actually the case and believe it to be an old wives’ tale. Additionally, some folks over on Reddit also had a discussion about this topic and could not find any evidence to support the claim, either.

Of course, if you’re still concerned about copper leaching onto your air plants, you can always opt for terrariums with glass or plastic components.

Got Pests?

If your air plants get an infestation of mealybugs, scale, or any other type of pests, it’s best to take care of the problem as soon as possible. Rather than using harsh pesticides that could potentially damage your plant, try using more natural methods, such as neem oil. Neem oil is a safe, organic pesticide that will kill the pests without harming your air plant.

Are Air Plants Toxic Themselves?

Are Air Plants Toxic to Pets

Inevitably, given that there are few toxic-looking air plants, someone is bound to ask: “Are air plants poisonous?”

The short answer is no, air plants are not poisonous.


While air plants are non-toxic, we would advise against eating them. Instead, we’d recommend eating another delicious plant that is part of the Bromeliad family, the pineapple!


If you’re worried about your pets getting ahold of your air plant, don’t be. Tillandsias are non-toxic to both cats and dogs. We wrote about this recently in our post, “Are Air Plants Poisonous to Pets?

Purify Air

Like all plants, air plants play a key role in purifying the air around them. By removing harmful toxins and replacing them with clean oxygen, air plants help to create a healthy environment for you and your family.

So there you have it! These are the things you should avoid if you don’t want your air plants to kick the bucket.