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Air Plants: What Causes Holes in Their Leaves?

Although Air plants are easy to care for and often considered hard to kill, they may suffer and develop unsightly holes in their leaves under poor care.

Basically, the holes in the leaves of the Air plants are caused by pests, fungal diseases, physical damage or simple natural occurrences. With prompt identification and treatment, you can prevent the further spread of holes in the plant.

Thus, ensure to read till the end to learn all the reasons behind holes in your Air plant and respective treatment.

What are Air Plants?

Air plants, aka Tillandsias, are unique, peculiar epiphyte plants that belong to the Bromeliaceae family.

Unlike other houseplants, they can grow and survive without soil. All they need for growth is water and air.

They can absorb moisture and nutrients from the surrounding air, which is why they are called ‘Air plants.’

These peculiar plants do so with the help of small scales known as trichomes on their leaves.

Despite the tiny size, these scales act like a reservoir and provide water to plants in need. So they do not ask for frequent watering.

What Causes Holes in Air Plants?

Although the Air plants are legit sturdy and hard to kill, they become vulnerable under improper care.

The prolonged poor care may cause dying Air plants with signs of severe holes alongside browning leaf tips on wrinkled papery leaves.

Thus, prompt treatment measures with correct identification of the issue are crucial.

Here are some reasons why your air plants have holes in their leaves.

1. Physical Damage

Improper mishandling of an Air plant can cause physical damage and potentially cause holes in its foliage.

Likewise, if you have pets or kids, they may chew on them and leave unsightly holes in the plant.

Thus, be careful with Air plants and keep them somewhere safe beyond the reach of pets and kids.

2. Insect Infestation

Air plants are not immune to pest invasion and can get bugs that suck out nutrients, leaving holes in the foliage.

Common pests that might cause holes in your Air plant are mealybugs, aphids, and scales.

These bugs feast on younger juvenile leaves, turning them mottled or discolored if not treated immediately.

hanging air plant
Most of the Air plants can tolerate direct sunlight, but some get scorched, leaving behind dry, brown spots which eventually can become a hole.

So, regularly inspect the plant for potential infestation and provide immediate treatment to prevent further damage.

Also, these pests lay eggs on the leaves, indicating their infestation. Thus, manually remove them if you come across ones to stop the infestation from becoming severe.

3. Disease or Fungal Infection

Some fungal diseases can result in leaf decay and cause holes leaves of the Air plant.

Some diseases that may cause holes in an Air plant are Cerospora, Anthracnose, and shot hole diseases. These diseases start with yellow or discolored spots, which gradually spread over time and cause holes in the foliage.

If you notice such signs of infection, carefully prune the affected area and apply horticultural or neem oil.

As fungal diseases are often the result of improper watering habits. Thus, aim for a flexible watering habit that suits the watering needs of Air plants.

Also, you should mist Air plants in the morning so you do not leave them wet at night.

4. Natural Variances

The Tillandsias do not naturally feature holes in their foliage, unlike Monsteras with fenestrations.

However, these plants may develop dips and rise or wiggling texture in their foliage over time which may look like holes.

Also, aging may cause leaves to wrinkle, decay, and potentially have holes.

In such cases, you can do nothing, so just sit back and appreciate nature’s doing.

Do Air Plants Need Drainage Holes?

Staying true to its name, Air plants do not need to be planted in a planter like regular houseplants.

So, many mount them on the wall or hang them in a fancy holder. But some store Air plants in a pot, and they often get puzzled about whether it needs drainage holes.

The answer is ‘No,’ they do not need drainage holes as they do not need any substrate to grow on.

However, they should not be left in stagnant water in a pot to avoid overwatering.

air plants holes
Overwatered Air plants are prone to get fungal diseases and invite pests. So, aim for a proper watering habit and always let the plant dry before placing them in a pot.

Instead, focus on watering the Air plant by soaking them for 30 minutes weekly. If you place the Air plant in a pot without letting it dry, the pot must have drainage holes to let out excess water.

Otherwise, the Air plant holder or pot will not need drain holes.

Editor’s Note

Tips for Growing Air Plants!

Air plants can thrive both indoors and outdoors with natural habitat-like conditions.

Also, they prefer bright sunlight with moderate humidity, so place or mount them in west or south-facing windows.

Otherwise, you can also aim to grow them in glass terrariums ensuring proper air circulation.

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