Should You Water Airplants? How Much Water Should They Get?

Did you recently add an air plant to your indoor garden, but aren't sure how much watering is required, or if it's required at all? Air plants are peculiar in how they are easily transported, and can grow quite easily from cuttings. In this article, amateur gardener Jason White looks at what you can expect when watering air plants.

Watering Air Plants

Blame it on the pandemic, but it’s proven; houseplants are more popular than shoes. Based on statistics on Google searches, ‘buy houseplants’ is more widely searched than ‘buy shoes. The number of houseplant statistics rose drastically over the last year, and that trend will likely continue. Reports show that 66% of households in the U.S. have some form of houseplant.  

As the popularity of houseplants continues to grow and numerous options to choose from, which houseplant is the best option? One of the more unique house plant options is the air plant.  

The air plant is easy to take care of and, as the name implies, survives without any soil. But how does an air plant live with no roots in the ground? Should I water air plants? How often do I need to water them? These are common questions from owners of these types of plants, and we examine them below. 

What is an Air Plant? 

Tillandsia With Water Droplets
Air Plants are Epiphytes, so they do not need soil to grow.

To understand how an air plant survives on just air and water, it is vital to understand what exactly it is.  

The formal name of an air plant is Tillandsia and is a member of the Bromeliaceae or Bromeliad species. They are also known as Epiphytes which means they do not need any soil to grow.  

They are native to Central and South America as well as Mexico and the southern United States. Because these areas have jungles, mountains, and deserts, they provide the perfect climate for the air plant to thrive as it survives on the nutrition from dirt fibers and the moisture in the air. 

While they do have roots, their purpose is to attach themselves to an object for support. They grow in the wild on trees and sticks and hang on by their roots. 

Types of Air Plants 

Generally, Tillandsias have the same look and size, but each type contains various, distinctive characteristics that set them apart. These discrete differences can range from the color of the plant to the direction its leaves grow. 

Here are some of the varying types of Tillandsia and the distinctive differences that set them apart. 

Tillandsia Bulbosa 

Tillandsia Bulbosa
The bulb-like base of this type of Tillandsia gives it its name, Tillandsia Bulbosa.

The Tillandsia Bulbosa has leaves that are thick and wiry with a bulb-like base. This type of air plant has a mysterious look as its leaves extend outward as it grows. Two types of Tillandsia Bulbosa air plants are the Bulbosa Guatemala and the Bulbosa Belize. 

  • Bulbosa Guatemala – the Bulbosa Guatemala leaves grow out in all directions giving it a unique sea creature look. The leaves generally do not grow as long as the Bulbosa Belize but make up for it with their random growth directions. 
  • Bulbosa Belize – the most noticeable difference between these Tillandsia Bulbosa is the direction the leaves grow. The Bulbosa Belize grows longer leaves that generally stretch upward, giving it a more calm appearance. 

Tillandsia Bulbosas start green but eventually turn red and may produce a purple flower when in full bloom.  

Tillandsia Ionantha 

Tillandsia Ionantha
This type of Tillandsia is well known for its fun colors and shapes.

Known as one of the most popular Tillandsia air plant varieties is the Ionantha. Its popularity comes from the pointed leaves that come in various colors and their symmetrical, bush-like growth pattern. Some Tillandsia Ionantha varieties include the Ionantha Guatemala, Ionantha Fuego, and the Ionantha Rubra. 

  • Ionantha Guatemala – the sharp, spiky leaves of the Ionantha Guatemala sets it apart from other varieties. As the plant ages and grows, the green leaves begin turning red or pink, making it a focal point in any living space.  
  • Ionantha Mexican – also referred to as the Ionantha Fuego, this plant is known for its vibrant, red leaves. The red leaves mixed with a green base and purple leaves give the Ionantha Mexican a unique look. 
  • Ionantha Rubra – if I had to pick a favorite, it is the Ionantha Rubra. As the plant grows, it develops a subtle change in color from green to burgundy, giving it a neutral tone. Like other air plants, it produces a purple flower and can even form smaller plants that are detachable from the parent plant.  

The Tillandsia Ionantha varieties of air plants provide a colorful focal point for any collection. They also keep a relatively uniform growth pattern for those particular plant owners who prefer uniformity. 

Tillandsia Fasciculata 

Tillandsia Fasciculata
If you want a large air plant for your home, the Tillandsia Fasciculata is right for you.

The Tillandsia Fasciculata, also known as the giant air plant, need a larger container or area to grow as they can get up to 18 inches tall with a root span of 5 inches wide. Two varieties of Tillandsia Fasciculata include the Fasciculata Tricolor and the Fasciculata Hybrids. 

  • Fasciculata Tricolor – as the name implies, Fasciculata Tricolor plants boast a variety of yellow and oranges when in full bloom giving off a tropical feel. 
  • Fasciculata Hybrids – as with any hybrid, the Fasciculata Hybrids give you the option to cross some of your favorite plants to create a unique look specific to fit your decor needs.  

The Tillandsia Fasciculata is a desirable option for those looking for a single statement air plant that will grab anyone’s attention as soon as they walk into the room. The significant size of this plant makes it a leading choice for creating your own hybrid. Because of this, it is a very versatile option.  

Should You Water Air Plants?

Yes. Air plants do need water regularly. However, when watering them, the exact method and frequency are not commonly known as there are multiple opinions on the correct technique.  

Even though not everyone agrees, there is a general understanding of how often to water your air plant and the best method for doing so.  

Watering an Air Plant

Spraying a Tillandsia Plant
Spraying is the most popular method used to water it.

Watering your air plant is a meek yet vital task. There are two main ways to water your air plant. The first is by misting the plant with a spray bottle; the other is by dunking the plant in a glass of water for a specific timeframe. 

Misting the plant is simple as it only requires a squirt bottle and some water. Ensure the squirt bottle chosen to perform the task has a mist option; this is the easiest way to ensure every part of the plant receives some of that much-needed water. Give it several squirts of the bottle to give it a good coating. 

When dunking the plant, choose a glass big enough to hold the plant without it touching the sides. Fill it with water, and place it down in the water pressing it down to ensure every part of the plant is covered. 

Watering Frequency

Tillandsia Plant Soaking in Water
Soaking air plants can keep them refreshed for up to 10 days, whereas misting can last for 2-3 days.

Air plants can go for several days without water, depending on how long it is previously watered. You read that right; the length of time spent watering your plant is a major determinant of the frequency of waterings.  

When misting, it needs water every 2-3 days to ensure it’s getting enough nutrition to survive. The best way to remember to water your plants is to set a reminder on your phone or tablet that informs you when it is time to water again.  

The dunking method takes a little more patience and attention. When using the dunking method to water an air plant, leave the plant in the water for 20 minutes to an hour. This ensures the water saturates the plant and allows it to go without another watering for up to 10 days.  

While both watering methods have their benefits, the dunking method is preferred as it gives the plant the type of watering natural to its wild habitat. However, if the plant has a bloom you do not wish to disturb, the misting method is the best option.   

What Are Air Plants Used For? 

Tillandsia Plants
There are a number of helpful benefits to having air plants in your home.

It is common knowledge that air plants provide a magnetizing focal point for any room they find themselves in. But are there any other benefits to owning them besides for looks? You bet! 

Air plants provide multiple health benefits such as: 

  • Improve air quality – they improve the air quality by removing air contaminants like dirt and dust. This makes them an excellent resource for homes with pets inside or owners constantly running in and out, allowing these dirt and dust particles to come inside.  
  • Emit fresh oxygen – due to photosynthesizing, these plants produce fresh oxygen, giving you cleaner air to breathe. They can photosynthesize in the nighttime hours, which gives fresh oxygen to breathe while you sleep. They ultimately act as a sleep aid.  
  • Reduce humidity – because they are native to rainforests, they thrive on moist conditions as they get their nutrition from the moisture in the air. Therefore, they reduce humidity by grabbing that moisture in the air and using it to survive. 
  • Reduce stress and lower blood pressure – simply being in the presence of plants gives you a sense of relaxation, which reduces stress and can even lower blood pressure. Keeping them in the home is ideal for individuals working a high-stress job or for those who live in a stressful environment.  
  • Combat depression and loneliness – obtaining a sense of purpose help combat depression and loneliness. Having the responsibility of taking care of a living thing such as a plant provides a sense of purpose as it is your responsibility to keep your plants alive. Therefore, air plants are a great tool to get you out of your slump and keep you feeling vibrant. 

In general, plants have an extraordinary power to provide health benefits for humans. Therefore, not only are plants pleasing to look at, but they are an excellent resource to keep in your home if you have a weakened immune system or are fighting off an illness. 

Plants inside the home can improve your overall health without the financial responsibility of purchasing and taking medication. They also prove one of the easiest plants to keep alive. This feature is almost more compelling to make an air plant purchase than the array of beautiful colors and shapes to choose from.  

Final Thoughts 

If every other plant in your home seems to keep dying, it may be time to try your hand at an air plant. They require minimal care, no soil, and little water to survive.  

If watered correctly, they can survive up anywhere from 3 – 10 days without more water, making them the perfect houseplant if you travel often. Still, when you do water them, make sure you do so properly by either misting or dunking the plants.  

With so many varying options to choose from, Tillandsias remain a versatile houseplant option for contrasting styles and tastes. The Tillandsia Bulbosa is a superb option for those looking for a strikingly beautiful plant.  

The Tillandsia Ionantha proves a more subtle option for someone looking to add a color pop to their design scheme. Lastly, the Tillandsia Fasciculata holds the medal for an ostentatious option for those looking to make a lasting first impression. 

While air plants are perfect for spicing up your living room visually, they also possess multiple health benefits to keep your overall health in check. These benefits include improved air quality, fresh oxygen, minimal humidity, stress reduction, lowering blood pressure, and combat depression and loneliness.  

If you are looking for the perfect plant to spruce up your living space while providing health benefits and minimal maintenance, the air plant is the ideal fit.

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