How Long Do Air Plants Live and What’s Their Average Lifespan?

Are you thinking of adding an airplant to your indoor living space, but aren't sure if you want to because you don't know how long they actually live? In this article, amateur gardener Jason White examines how long airplants typically live, and how you can extend their lifespan through proper care.

How Long Do Air Plants Live

Air plants have been around for thousands of years. Individual air plants can live for years, even generations if new plants are repeatedly grown from “pups,” or broken-off leaves of the mother plants. This makes them quite popular for novice gardeners, as they are quite easy to propagate and care for.

Of course, they can be found in nature, but they can also be found in people’s houses more and more as their popularity grows. Air plants are like any other plant that we grow, but most varieties flourish the best without being planted in soil. 

Air plants are great plants to start with if you are just starting out. They are hardy little plants if you care for them properly, and they offer a great, low-maintenance way to bring life into your home without the mess, work, and lack of space that come with a plant that requires a big flower pot.  

What’s So Special About Air Plants?

Colorful Tillandsia Plant
Tillandsia plants are very easy to care for.

Air plants, also known as Tillandsia, are Epiphytic, which means they can grow on various objects or hang in the air without a pot, and they can live for many years. They don’t even need water very often because they absorb it from the air through their leaves. This is why bathrooms or kitchens are great places to hang them.  

Some people prefer them as an alternative to flowers. These fascinating little plants come from many different places around the world; some of them are treasured by Native Americans and have a long history with humans. 

Nowadays, you can find air plants at most garden centers or on e-commerce plant websites, where a wide selection is available for purchase online. 

Although air plants can be grown from seeds, this method is not recommended as it is far lengthier and more difficult a process than growing plants from pups, offshoots from a mother plant.  

How Air Plants Differ From Other Plants 

Tillandsia Plant in a Glass Globe
These plants do not need soil to grow.

One way that they differ is how they can be grown. Contrary to what many people think, they don’t need soil, and a broken-off leaf can grow into an entirely new plant. Watering is a different concern as well for air plants. 

Air plants are a better option for people who prefer to use less water in their homes to be “greener” and friendlier towards the environment.  

They can also last much longer without needing soil or water. You’ll just need to place them somewhere that gets plenty of indirect natural light from the sun. Make sure you do not leave them indoors for a long time.  

Caring For Air Plants

Tillandsia Plants Outdoors
Hardy Air Plants are very easy to maintain and only need indirect sunlight and regular watering.

Air plants are mostly easy to care for and enjoy being around a lot of natural light, although for most varieties, it should be indirect light. They also do not need much water and can survive as long as they have roots and leaves. You could potentially keep an air plant in the same spot for years. Certain varieties of air plants can grow well in the soil.  

Tillandsia plants are very durable and do not die easily, so even if you are not blessed with a green thumb, there is little to worry about when it comes to accidentally killing your air plant—as long as you keep a few things in mind that may differ depending on the variety of your plant. 

Most air plants should not be planted in soil because this can lead to root rot. Varieties that are greener in color will be the most likely candidates for soil planting because they need more water. Such varieties are also more sensitive to direct sunlight.  

Lighter-colored varieties need less water and will benefit most from growing in the air or on an object. These varieties are more tolerant of hot and dry weather.  

To take the best care of your air plant, find out what your particular variety needs. Keep your air plant within five feet from a window and at least a few feet away to get a sufficient amount of natural, indirect sunlight.  

If your air plants have dry limbs, they will not survive. Make sure you water them at the roots regularly. Be careful not to over- or under-water them. This means soaking your plant for about 20 minutes in a bowl of water every week and misting especially when the weather is hot.  

Your plant will benefit from the nutrients it can absorb from the air when left outside. But these plants are in fact delicate when it comes to too much sunlight exposure. Too many hours of direct sunlight, if the sun is extremely bright, will put a lot of stress on an air plant that could lead to death. 

Tips To Extend Life Expectancy

Large Hanging Tillandsia Plant
Though they are low maintenance, Air Plants still require special attention to thrive.

There are many different ways to take care of an air plant, and you can try any way that fits your schedule, but here are some basic rules to follow: 

  1. Decide where you want to keep your air plant. If it’s a room that gets a lot of humidity, like the bathroom, this will affect how often you need to water your plant. If the room gets hot, you’ll need to adjust the location.
  1. When you soak your air plant, use tap water. Your plant will benefit from some of the minerals found in the water. However, you should use tap water that has been left to sit overnight. This will cause the chlorine to dissipate, providing the maximum possible benefit and least amount of harm to your plant.  
  1. If you have a variety that can do well with soil planting, just be careful not to overwater. You may want to add just a few teaspoons of water at a time. This way, the soil gets moist but not saturated. 
  1. If you don’t water your air plant for a while, make sure you submerge it in water. This will help your plant recover. Don’t rely on misting as your main method of watering. 
  1. Keep your air plant out of hot temperatures or direct sunlight. This can burn the leaves and cause them to shrivel up. If you need to put it in a place that gets very hot, try putting it near a source of ventilation. This way, it will absorb nutrients from the air and keep itself cool. 
  1. In between soakings, you can also use a spray bottle to mist your plant. You can also find specialized care products for air plants. This way, they get the nutrients they need to stay healthy and happy.  
  1. A fertilizer can be used once a month at the most, and you can skip it altogether during the winter.  

The Lifespan of an Air Plant 

Tillandsia Plant in a Sea Shell
The lifespan of an air plant depends on the variety you have and how well it is taken care of.

So, how long do air plants live, generally speaking? An individual plant, not counting the pups that grow into their own plants from broken-off leaves, can live up to a few years. Of course, this is only the case if they receive the proper care. This is about average when compared to the lifespan of other houseplants.

Researchers have been studying air plants for a long time. They have found that a single plant “family” will survive for thousands of years (without the right care or environment, it might not be as long). 

One way to test an air plant’s age is to weigh it before and after each growth period. You can thus determine how much it weighs at certain times throughout its life span. 

Most individual air plants bloom once in their lifetimes and die within a few months of blooming. Although some species will survive up to a year afterward.  

Final Thoughts

According to Merriam Webster, to plant means “to set in the ground for growth.” In that case, the name “air plant” is something of a misnomer! However, they still need the proper care in order to have an extended life. Hopefully, the tips we have provided on how to take care of your air plants will help you keep yours alive as long as possible.  

If you have a plant that you particularly love, you can even keep it alive for generations to come! 

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