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Gardening 101: How to Water an Air Plant

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Gardening 101: How to Water an Air Plant

January 8, 2020

Pity the poor tillandsia. With its affable, low-maintenance personality, your little friend tends to get ignored on a bookshelf. Its nickname–air plant–may reinforce the idea that it needs no special attention.

But while an air plant doesn’t need soil, it does need to eat. Here’s how to water an air plant:

Photography by John Merkl for Gardenista.

There are hundreds of different species of tillandsia (and thanks to rampant hybridizing, it&#8\2\17;s hard to find two that look identical). But one thing air plants all have in common is they need water to live.
Above: There are hundreds of different species of tillandsia (and thanks to rampant hybridizing, it’s hard to find two that look identical). But one thing air plants all have in common is they need water to live.
A rule of thumb: water a tillandsia once a week.
Above: A rule of thumb: water a tillandsia once a week.

Fine tune the rule: If the air in your house is particularly dry, water an air plant more often (every five days) and in a humid environment, water every ten days.

If you have a lot of air plants, fill your sink with water and let them go for a swim.
Above: If you have a lot of air plants, fill your sink with water and let them go for a swim.

Instructions:

Step 1: Fill a basin, bowl, or sink with water and dunk your air plants.

Step 2: After 10 minutes, remove the plants from the water and spread them on a towel to dry.

Step 3. If the plants still seem wet, turn them upside down to shake water out of their bases.
Above: Step 3. If the plants still seem wet, turn them upside down to shake water out of their bases.

Be particularly careful with bulbous tillandsias (you will recognize them because they have visible bulbs at their bases) because if they get waterlogged, they will rot.

Step 4. On days you don&#8\2\17;t water, you can mist tillandsias lightly. You will notice that as they soak up water, air plants will turn a more vivid color of green.
Above: Step 4. On days you don’t water, you can mist tillandsias lightly. You will notice that as they soak up water, air plants will turn a more vivid color of green.

N.B.: We’re in the throes of houseplant season and here’s some help to keep yours happy in winter:

Finally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for air plants with our Air Plant: A Field Guide.

Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various houseplants with our Houseplants: A Field Guide.

Interested in other tropical plants for your garden or indoor space? Get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various tropical plants with our Tropical Plants: A Field Guide.

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