Air Plant, commonly known as Tillandsias, is known for its method of growing which is much more different than most other house plants. So they might be confusing for beginners. As compared to other plants, these plants are really very hard and need much less attention than other house plants. Having less but a specific type of care is needed for its growth. Sunlight plays a very important role in its growth. For Air Plants, small periods of direct sunlight is best but too much direct sunlight can cause moisture depreciation. Therefore the amount of sunlight can be a big factor to determine its growth for beginners. In this article, we are going to discuss all the facts related to light tolerance for air plants. Keep reading to know it in more detail.
What Actually Air Plant Is?
Air plants are the members of Tillandsias family and are part of the Bromeliad species with over 650 other fellow species. They are also known as Epiphytes; that means they grow on another tree, host, or object. They don’t need soil to grow and develop. Therefore the moisture and nutrition required by the air plants come from the dirt fibers that are paddling in the air with the help of tiny vessels present in the leaves called trichomes. You can easily find air plants in the jungles, mountain tops, and deserts of Central and Southern America and Mexico, and the Southern United States in North America.
Air plants only need a platform for their growth, they are not actually parasitic. They only need their host as a mode of support. Due to this reason, air plants don’t need soil to grow, also there are many species of Tillandsias that should not be planted in soil; this makes the air plants flourish in different varieties of settings, containers, and spaces. The flexibility of air plants is the property that makes them much more different from other houseplants and that led to their use in different schemes and also increases the use of air plants in homes and offices as a decorative material.
Air plants are very easy to grow, but still, they need some attention to thrive and live a healthy life. If provided with an adequate amount of light, water, and temperature; then Tillandsias also live for several years, providing ‘pups’ as a bonus to enjoy for years.
Let’s understand the role of sunlight in the growth of Air Plants or how much direct sunlight air plant need?
How Much Direct Sunlight Does an Air Plant Need?
For Air Plant, a few hours of bright filtered light or indirect light is good, and also humidity decides the tolerance of the light by the plants – the higher the humidity; the higher will be the light tolerance. The daily limit of sunlight is different for both outdoor and indoor plants. If you are going to keep your Air Plant indoor, make sure that it is placed near an adequate light source. Within the range of 3- 5 feet of an east or west- facing window is best for this. If you don’t have a proper supply of light in your house you can keep your air plant under an artificial light source. While keeping your plant outdoors; keep in mind to place your plant in any shaded portion, like under a tree or balcony; where the sun doesn’t hit them directly for more than one hour. Some varieties of Air Plants tolerate direct sunlight. Air plant shaving silver-leafed variety having thicker more hearty leaves can tolerate direct sunlight. For e.g. Xerographica air plant is one that can tolerate full or direct sun.
Signs of Over-Exposure to Sun
Excess of everything is bad; so as in case of sunlight tolerance of air plants. Signs of over-exposure to the sun can be easily noticeable that including brown spots and airless marks on the inside growth of the air plant and also outside leaves that are wet appeared as damaged patches on them. As soon as you will notice the signs of sunburn in the plant, take your plant at once from its current location and move it to do some light maintenance. Smoothly trim or cut the damaged leaves or areas of the plant with help of scissors. Now, do a good soaking of the Air Plant and find a new place for your plant; a better place out of the sun. Don’t fertilize your plant until it will be healthier again.
How to Take Care of Air Plants?
Like any other plants, air plants also need some care to thrive properly. Although it doesn’t require much care but a little specific type of care. So other than the requirements of sunlight there are many other requirements needed for air plants. If you want to know how to take care of your air plant, then keep reading. We are sharing some tips with you regarding its care.
Tip 1: How Much Light is needed by Air Plants
Normally air plants in their natural environment grow under the shade or shelter of another plant and filtered sunlight is recommended for them to thrive. I have already detailed about sunlight requirement for air plants earlier in this article; please refer to that.
Tip 2: How Often to Water Air Plants
Which Type of Water is the best suitable for Air Plants?
As we know Air Plants collect their nutrients from the organic matter found in rainwater and dust in the air. The microorganisms present in it come from our Tap water (removed to make it useful). So, rainwater, birdbath water and pond water that has high organic matter are the best suitable for Air Plants.
How Often to Water Air Plants?
The watering of air plants depends upon the climate in your area. But ideally, air plants must be watered once a week on average. As we know air plants require high humidity up to 50% which is not possible to maintain especially in homes and offices. But we know that they can hold water that is being collected by them for a few days. Air plants like Xerographica can hold water for long and therefore needs to be soaked once a week. Air Plants like Argentea having thin leaves are not able to hold water for so long, so they must be soaked twice a week.
How to Soak Air Plants?
Having the knowledge about watering the air plants is not enough until you don’t know how to soak them. Air Plants can be soaked in a bowl, which is filled partially with the collected water. Then place your plants bottom up by keeping the base out of the water. After 2 hours, remove your plant from the water and let it be on a towel to drain out the water. After that, keep the plant in an area with good air movement. After absorbing water the plant will turn into active green and the trichomes will close. Here the most important thing to keep in mind after soaking is to let the plant dry completely because due to this the plants can rot.
- Never use softened water to soak air plants because they are rich in sodium and this high salt present in it can kill the plant.
- Also, distilled water has no nutrients; therefore it has no nutritional value to the air plants.
- The last thing to keep in mind is never wet the flower of the air plant if it is in the bloom stage.
Effects of Overwatering or Underwatering on Air Plants
Nobody can determine the amount of water given to your air plants is sufficient or above or below the limit. Indications of overwatering or underwatering the air plants are different. Let’s try to figure it out:
- An overwatered air plant will become soft, discolored, and rotten. Also, the leaves of the air plant start to fall out from the middle of the plant. This is all due to watering the plant thoroughly or it can be also due to the fact that the air plant is not able to dry out properly after watering.
- Whereas, an underwatered plant will become breakable and fragile. The leaves of the air plants will curl and the tips of the leaves will also become brown and get dry.
Tip 3: Temperature Tolerance of Air Plants
Air plants generally require temperature in the range between 50° F- 90° F or 10° C- 32° C. Moreover, air plants can still exist in temperatures more than that range. Even if, they will thrive best in wet air; therefore they grow healthy in sunny bathrooms due to the presence of shower humidity that they will absorb. Many people try to give their air plants a humid atmosphere by giving them moisture twice a week.
Tip 4: Are Air Plants Toxic?
Well, the answer to this question is NO. Air plants are not toxic to humans, cats, dogs, or any other animals. So don’t worry if your infants get into your air plant collection.
Tip 5: When do Air Plants Bloom?
The blooming of air plants totally depends upon the environment, season, type, and maturity. Caring for plants is another factor that determines the time when they will bloom. Like in some plants, Blooming occurs in spring or summer because these are the seasons when days are long and can be exposed to light for a longer period. In their natural environment, air plants take a much longer time to bloom than in nurseries. In nurseries, they make the air plants bloom even before the maturity time with the use of ethylene gas. Wherein, naturally it takes 5- 25 years to bloom air plants depending upon the environmental conditions.
Tip 6: How Often does Air Plants Bloom?
Air plants bloom once in their whole life. The bud or bloom of air plants lasts up to days to months. Some plants of air plants species yield only one flower while others produce many flowers. If you are going to plant an air plant in your house, after extreme care and patience; if it blooms then it is worth the wait and cares you have given.
Tip 7: Best Fertilizer for Air Plant
As rainwater or other fresh water is used to water the air plants, then there is no need for an additional fertilizer for air plants to survive. But still, if you want to fertilize your air plant then it will make your plant happy and healthy. Hence use of water-soluble orchid or Bromeliad fertilizer helps in promoting growth, reproduction, and blooming in air plants. You can use this fertilizer in your plant care routine once a month or so.
What is the Life Cycle of Air Plant?
You have read earlier that air plants bloom once in their lifetime. Air Plants will take years to bloom and once they bloom, the blooming period extends from several weeks to many months. As soon as a bloom appears, air plant will start consuming its energy to produce new “pups” (baby air plants) that will be coming out from the base of the main plant. Once the pup grows from the bloom, the bloom disappears; thus making the mother plant die. This is very sad to hear about your lovely big old plant reaches this stage, but this is simply a phase of its natural lifecycle. Getting new babies from this process is a gift to plant holders.
Air Plants, as the name described require air to nourish. Apart from it, the requirements for light and water cannot be ignored. Air plants do need direct sunlight but for some limited time, otherwise indirect filtered light is the best option. So now having an air plant in your house is no longer a big issue. Just take care of it properly by using the tips we have discussed in this section. Also, don’t forget to share with us your Air plant story!