Tips On How Do You Water Air Plants?

Air plants may be easy to grow, but their very name can cause mass confusion when it comes to actual care procedures.

One of the biggest debates is on watering these strange houseplants.

Learn to water air plantsPin

Ask five air plant enthusiasts how to water an air plant and you’ll get five different answers.

In reality, the needs of an air plant vary depending upon its environment. The variety, bright light, indirect light, humid conditions, air circulation, and more. What works for you may not work for the next person.

Table Of Contents

Here are some tips to find and maintain the best watering regimen for your own air plant.

Watering Air Plants: Considerations

As mentioned, an air plant’s needs are based largely on its environment.

The ideal temperature range for an air plant is between 50° and 90° degrees Fahrenheit.

The warmer the average temperature, the more often your air plant will need water.

The Truth About Misting

A major factor in watering is the ambient humidity.

Being a tropical plant, Tillandsia is used to an environment where they can simply pull all their moisture from the air. The popular Tillandsia ionantha is a good example.

This is why most air plants instruct you to mist regularly.

In reality, misting is rarely enough in the average home, although it may suffice in a busy bathroom.

Containers Make a Difference

An enclosed environment allows you to regulate the ambient humidity, which affects the plant’s watering needs.

Aerium and terrariums with high humidity allow the plant to drink more naturally.

However, larger terrariums often have more airflow, reducing the amount of water your air plant can get.

When to Water Air Plants

After taking the above factors into account, you’re ready to set a rough watering schedule and decide whether misting will be enough.

In general, mist your air plant every ten days in a smaller, more humid enclosure and every five days in a larger one.

For plants in a normal home environment, you should soak instead of misting using the same schedule.

Bathrooms and kitchens are more humid, so you may be able to get away with a soak every ten days with supplemental misting as needed.

Remember that the schedule may need to be adjusted slightly between spring/late fall and summer/early fall to account for the temperature change.

As with most plants, an air plant will let you know if it needs more water.

Be warned that overwatering is dangerous and easily leads to rot, so it’s better to give too little than too much.

A dry air plant’s leaves will become more curved, and the tips will turn brown or crispy.

Overwatered plants don’t always give off obvious signs until it’s too late.

Signs of rot include a brown or black base and/or central leaves beginning to fall off.

While it may be possible to save an overwatered air plant if caught early enough, rot moves quickly and is usually terminal.

Reading Your Air Plant – How Do You Know If Your Air Plant Needs Water?

As with most plants, an air plant will let you know if it needs more water.

Be warned that overwatering is dangerous and easily leads to rot, so it’s better to give too little than too much.

A dry air plant’s leaves will become more curved, and the tips will turn brown or crispy.

Overwatered plants don’t always give off obvious signs until it’s too late.

Signs of rot include a brown or black base and/or central leaves beginning to fall off.

While it may be possible to save an overwatered air plant if caught early enough, rot moves quickly and is usually terminal.

How to Water Air Plants

Now you have an idea of when to water. The next step is giving the plants something to drink.

What Type Of Water Should You Use For Air Plants?

You should avoid tap water when possible, as the added chemicals can harm your plant (and aren’t that great for you either).

When possible, try to use filtered, distilled water, or (when possible) natural rainwater.

You can emulate rainwater occasionally by adding hydrogen peroxide.

How to Mist Air Plants

Misting is fairly straightforward unless the plant’s flowering.

Use a spray bottle to spritz the plant while trying not to get any water on the blooms.

Be sure to give the plant a little shade while it dries or keep glass containers in bright, indirect sunlight, so there’s less risk of scorching the leaves.

When misting into a glass container, spray around the plant instead of directly onto it.

This helps create a more humid environment so the plant can drink naturally.

Plants with thin, wispy leaves, such as Tillandsia andreana and Tillandsia fuchsii v gracilis, dry out quickly but are easily overwatered.

These plants respond best to frequent mistings with an occasional dunk. 

How to Dunk Air Plants

Many kinds of air plants are sensitive to soaking but misting might not be enough.

Briefly dunk those plants in a shallow container of water at watering time.

Gently shake off the excess water and give the plant time to dry before placing back in a sunny location.

Always dunk air plants with a bulbous base instead of soaking them.

The bulbs are hollow and can easily retain water if soaked, causing the plant to rot.

These plants should either be misted or dunked and shaken out.

Examples include:

  • Tillandsia bulbosa
  • Tillandsia butzii
  • Tillandsia caput medusae
  • Tillandsia pruinosa
  • Tillandsia pseudobaileyi
  • Tillandsia seleriana

How to Soak Air Plants

Most air plants will need to be soaked.

A small tub or basin on water works best. Soak flowering plants in a container shallow enough to keep the blooms dry.

Most air plants will need to soak for between 10 and 20 minutes, with additional time to dry before putting them back into their usual sunny spot.

A note on Xerographica vs. Mesographica Plants

There are two major categories of air plants that can affect how much water they need.

Xerographica plants (or Xeric, for short) are native to a drier climate than their kin.

Xeric plants usually do best when sprayed or dunked, as opposed to soaking for some time, and are at higher risk of developing rot.

They can usually be identified by their flat, more silvery leaves and the higher amount of fuzzy trisomes present.

Tillandsia tectorum and Tillandsia xerographica are good examples of a xeric air plant.

Mesographica (AKA mesic) plants are adapted to moderate humidity and prefer a good soak to misting.

Their foliage tends to be a darker green with fewer trichomes present.

The leaves are also often curled or cupped.

Some plants are semi-mesic and have brighter green leaves with a smaller amount of trisomes.

These plants will need a brief soak and misting or other moderation between mesic and xeric watering methods.

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