How to - Gardening Resources

The magic of air plants

Discover how to care for and add these interesting epiphytes to your indoor decor

Watering and feeding air plants
According to Volman, spraying your air plants or keeping them in a humid space just won’t be enough. Air plants need to be submerged in water for one to two hours per week. They can last up to two weeks without water, says Volman, but a weekly watering is ideal.

Similarly, air plants like clean, natural water. They don’t like chlorine or salt, so opt for rain water or drinking water instead of tap water if your community chlorinates its water or you use a water softener (if your water is chlorine-free, you can draw from a bypass tap to avoid softened water).

You only need a small jar—air plants don’t grow very large—or bucket filled with water from a rain barrel or with some kind of plain drinking water to keep your air plants happy. Room temperature or slightly warm water is best. After they’ve had their fill, let them dry on a dish rack or other tray before placing them back in their vase or on whatever type of vessel you’ve dedicated as their home—this could be anything from a piece of wood to a textured stone.

If the air in your home is very dry, you can leave your plants submerged longer than two hours or water them more frequently. Volman says it’s difficult to overwater air plants (except for two desert varieties, the xerographica and tectorum), so err on the side of more water.

Since our water doesn’t necessarily have the same nutrients as the humid air in tropical locales, Volman says Canadians also need to fertilize their air plants. You can find fertilizer designed for bromeliads and air plants in particular at greenhouses specializing in tropical plants.

Besides the fact that air plants need to be submersed to get a good drink, Volman says there’s a bonus here: because of their texture, many air plants can collect a fair amount of dust, so dunking them all the way in water helps keep them clean looking, too!

Lifespan and multiplication
With proper care, air plants can live long lives—up to eight years for most cultivars, but sometimes upwards of 20 or 30 years!

After they flower, says Volman, they’ll multiply. At this time, they’ll produce between one and eight pups, which grow on the side of the mother. Wait to separate them until they are at least half the size of their mother, then gently pull them apart. If a few roots stick, you can cut them.

Care for these pups the same way you have your other air plants. Your collection will continue to grow, particularly if your plants have lots of water and light.

main image by Irrenoph

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