Airplants are tough but vulnerable to a number of misconceptions regarding their care. The ability to cultivate tillandsia in one’s home or garden like any plant requires some study and patience. Below are 5 simple rules of thumb to follow when caring for Tillandsia:
You will need to regularly water your airplant. There is a widespread misconception that these plants can live without watering inside a home or garden. Unless your airplants are growing outdoors in a climate mirroring their native habitat water is key! While your specific environment and the species being grown effects watering there are some basic guidelines one can follow to keep your Tillandsia happy.
For indoor cultivation we recommend submerging your airplant underwater once every 7-10 days for 6-12 hours. Make sure your soaking container does not have any soaps or chemical residue which will harm your plant. After soaking make sure your plant dries completely within 4 hours. Do this by placing somewhere with light and air circulation and make sure to turn the plant upside down and shake out any excess water. Dry air caused by air conditioning and heat makes a light spritz with a water bottle or the steam from your shower unlikely to support your Tillandsia’s water needs for long.
Water quality in order of preference for tillandsia is:
3) Tap water allowed to sit for 15 minutes (for chlorine to dissipate)
4) NEVER use distilled which will kill your plant by removing nutrients through osmosis)
Outdoor watering varies based on your climate. If it’s hot and dry regular watering through spraying or soaking may be necessary while in a damp rainy environment no irrigation at all may be required.
Tillandsia light needs vary by species but all thrive with bright filtered light. This means when indoors placing your tillandsia within a few feet of a window. Outside your airplant prefers to be in a location where they receive light, this can be dappled shade in climates with stronger sunlight and full sun in milder climates. Morning sun is always safest but full afternoon sun is possible where the climate is temperate.
Check your airplant leaf color and shape for insight into it’s native habitat’s climate. Grey or white fuzzy leaves suggest it came from an environment with high intensity sunlight. The lighter colors and fuzzy appearance caused by large trichomes both insulate the plant from water loss. Greener leaves with wider surface area and less fuzzy appearance indicate a shadier wetter native climate.
While sunlight is ideal a grow-light can also be used to support your Tillandsia’s needs. A full spectrum light designed for plant growth is required however, not simply a bright light which will not contain the wavelengths necessary for photosynthesis.
Tillandsia are always happiest with some fresh air circulation and the nutrients from air. While Tillandsia can survive indoors, they will be happiest by an open window. The movement of air over their leaves is vital to their long term health, which is why display options restricting this should always be avoided. This often overlooked component of airplant care is important to keep in mind, if a permanent location with fresh air is not available rotating your plant can be a helpful solution.
If you are comfortable with the temperature your Tillandsia likely is too. Most will die if temperatures reach freezing and in the high 40 degree F we start to get nervous about leaf damage. On the high end airplants can tolerate temperatures as high as 100 F so long as proper watering and a lack of direct sun is present.
There are also a couple of lesser known ways to harm your airplant that should be avoided. First is the use of copper wire which is poisonous to Tillandsia and should never directly touch of drip water onto the plants. Other metals are fine, but avoid copper! Another mistake is over handling your airplant. Besides the chance of leaf breakage the oils in our fingers clog the sensitive leaf surface. While handling occasionally isn’t the end of the world it’s important to try and wash your hands first or wear gloves when doing so. All Airplantman products allow you to water your Tillandsia within a waterproof holder, this avoids the need to handle the plant each time your water.