How to Water Air Plants?

Worried about when and how to water your beautiful new tillandsias? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

All you need to know about misting, dipping, or soaking your precious and delicate air plants is right here.

Popular opinion tells you to mist your Air plants often in between your dunking sessions, depending on how the leaves are coming along.

The trick is to balance your moisture, so they get enough to feed on but not so much that rot develops. A misting spray bottle, a decent-sized bowl/sink, and more-than-you-think-you-need paper towels are things all air plant enthusiasts should have on hand for a good watering schedule.

Air Plant Varieties with a sprayer
Air Plant Varieties (Source: Amazon)

For the uninitiated and the curious in equal measure who have no idea where to start and what all that above means, here’s the complete and comprehensive do’s and don’ts for watering these amazing plants. 

How to Know if your Air Plants need Water?

One of the biggest worries for Air plant owners is knowing when your plants need water. And why not? There are a considerable number of factors that come into play.

If you live in an arider, hotter environment, you should be aware that you will need to water or spray your plants more frequently, but again these plants are as hardy as they come.

How Do I Know When to Water Ponytail Palm? will provide you with for sure tips to know if your Ponytail Palm is thirsty or not

Plant parents may develop intuition when it comes to knowing when they need to be a bit more generous or sparing with their watering.

But for the surety here are a few handy eye tests and general knowledge for beginners. 

  • Wrinkled or curled leaves suggest dehydration. The more they flex, the more severe the dehydration.
  • After watering, your plant’s leaves will get stiffer and more water-filled, and when they are thirsty, they will become softer and lighter in color.
  • Browning or crisping is the most obvious sign that your plant has been severely underwatered and is in immediate need of some moisture.
  • Your plant has likely succumbed to rot if the base of the plant turns dark or black and leaves are dropping out or off from the center if you are overwatering it.

Be Careful as it might probably be too late to save the overwatered Air plants.

So as much as the question is when to water your Air plant, the flip-side in importance is also the question of when NOT to water your Air plant.

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How to Water Air Plants?

We recommend cleaning your air plants thoroughly under running water or soaking them in a water bath for 20-30 minutes as the primary way of hydrating them.

Misting your plants with a spray bottle is an excellent way to refresh them in between waterings. Some of the methods are:

Misting

Mist your plant at least once to thrice a week, making sure that the entire surface is soaked (but not so much that there is water dripping down into the plant).

You need to spritz in the hotter and drier air (summer, early fall). The cooler and more humid the air (winter and spring), the less misting is required.

To spritz the plants, use a spray bottle or a plant mister. 8 Best Plant Spray Bottles for Watering Plants is here saving your time by providing you the feature of each sprayer with pros and cons.

After spraying the entire plant, leave it on a towel to dry for a few hours before returning it to its decorative container or arrangement.

Please remember, that heaters and fireplaces do dry out the air, so there is that consideration as well.

Morning is the best time for all the watering as evening soaking or misting disrupts the plants’ ability to respire overnight and extends drying time.

Soaking

This is the ideal way to water air plants since it allows the water to seep into the plants.

Soak your air plant in room temperature tap water (or rain/pond water if you can access it) for 20-40 minutes every week.

  • If you have a family of these delicate plants, you may use the sink or hell, even the bathtub.
  • Fill a bowl or sink halfway with water and float the air plants in it.
  • Avoid distilled water.
  • Then, take the plants from the water, turn them upside down to let any excess water drain, and set them on a towel to dry.
  • Gently shake the plants to remove any excess water from the base and leaves, and place them out to dry in a place with enough air circulation to dry them out in about 4 hours.
  • After the soaking is done, the plant should be able to dry completely within that time frame.

High ALERT!! If your plant stays wet too long, rot may set in.

Rinsing

A blooming plant should be rinsed rather than soaked in water, and the delicate blossoms should be rinsed with care.

This method is primarily used for plants that are in good health and do not require a complete soak. After misting, it is the second easiest form of maintenance.

  • Put your plants in a colander or strainer and rinse them under running water for a few minutes.
  • Make sure the entire plant’s surface has been thoroughly soaked.
  • The crucial thing now is to keep the leaves from rotting, so set them upside down on some paper towels and let the water runoff before placing them back on their display.

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How Often do we need to Water Air Plants?

As previously mentioned, there are risks to both over-watering and under-watering your plants, and again, these are mostly on the extreme side of things.

While the plants can withstand a prolonged lack of exposure to water, they will not grow or thrive and will finally die off if it becomes too much.

Air plants are resilient by nature and therefore don’t require much fussing. There’s no reason to hire a plant sitter, for example, while you go on vacation.

However, the key is always in moderation.

Most practically, your plants should be watered once per week, but 2-3 times per week is advised for the best care. A 2 or 3 hours long bath is recommended every couple of weeks. 

Water Air Plants
Water Air Plants (Source: I Saw The Science)

Exactly How Often?

Many garden centers and plant stores will tell you to mist your air plant with a spray bottle a few times each week.

Others argue that misting is too inconsistent and does not give enough moisture to the air plant and that misting should not be the primary method of watering your air plant.

How often is “a few times a week” then? 3 to 7 times is the ideal range in most cases, depending on how dry your household is and the time of year naturally.

In the summertime, they require more water, whereas air plants can cope on less during winter.

Another option is to rinse them; this requires you to take them from their display (something misting doesn’t) and place them in a strainer.

All portions, including the leaves and roots, must be thoroughly hydrated during this process, ideally happening twice a week.

This is comparatively less time-consuming compared to soaking. Soaking is, however, the most complete method, although it again requires taking the plant from its display.

Either one of these should, at the very least, be used once or twice a week.

Are you now wondering how often do you need to water your other houseplant as well? Not for all but we can provide you with the tips for some, such as: ZZ Plant, Kalanchoe, Chinese Evergreen and many more

Factors that Impact Watering Air Plants

The bigger yet shorter questions at hand are:

Indoor or Outdoor, What’s the Difference?

The most obvious answer is the correct one.

Indoor plants retain moisture at a higher volume, given that the air is more humid and doesn’t need as much watering.

The outdoor ones get the most direct sunlight and harsher conditions and therefore need a bit more maintenance, including watering.

Will the Soil have an Effect?

An air plant uses its roots merely as a grabbing device and nothing more.

An air plant feeds through its leaves, so the soil you place it in has little to no effect on how much and how often you water the plant.

After all, it is an air plant; soil shouldn’t matter.

Air Plant in glass bottle
Air Plant in Glass Bottle (Source: Unsplash)

Winter and Summer: Their Role?

As previously mentioned, these are hardy plants, and the climate will not have as much of an effect on their livelihoods.

However, for optimum conditioning, regulating your watering schedule depending on the climate should have a positive effect.

A touch more in the summer and a touch less in the winter. Of course, if your summer includes more direct sunlight and winter involves cloudy skies, then you might need to adjust more than a touch.

Remember that heating devices such as fireplaces and space heaters dry out the air, so your plants might require a bit more watering in the winter if that’s the case.

Again pay attention to when your plant needs watering with the signs mentioned above.

Kind of Water being Used

Air plants aren’t fussy about water, and tap water is acceptable, depending on the quality of water quality in your area, of course.

The ideal is to use rain, aquarium, or pond water since it has more nutrients.

Note: If using one of these waters, you do not need to add any more fertilizer.

If you’re using tap water, let it sit for a few hours to allow the chlorine to settle (maybe 24 hours in some areas.)

Distilled water is to be avoided at all costs as it is lacking in any and all nutrients that these plants need. Also, avoid using chemically softened water, which is sometimes excessively salty for our beloved air plants.

Fertilizing: Yes or No

Fertilizing air plants is neither a difficult nor a necessary task.

Though a monthly or quarterly application of fertilizer assists in the development of air plants, skipping this step isn’t the end of the world, especially if you water air plants with rainwater or water from an aquarium or pond.

Use an air plant-specific fertilizer or bromeliad fertilizer a few times a year to fertilize air plants if you’re so inclined.

Another alternative is to use 1/4 of the recommended strength of normal, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer. When you mix diluted fertilizer with irrigation water, the plants are fed and watered simultaneously.

Do this regardless of whether you mist the plants or soak them in water; they absorb it all the same.

Conclusion

These delicate and beautiful plants are well and truly as low-maintenance as they come.

Just imagine a plant that doesn’t need weeding, tending, feeding, and watering on a daily basis and looks like something out of a fairy tale.

They’re the perfect hassle-free aesthetic addition to any household and not just that; they’re the perfect travel companion as well.

Tillandsia Xerographica in a Pot
Tillandsia Xerographica in a Pot (Source: Pixabay)

Just like us humans, all they need is a little love and tenderness (and the occasional watering) to sustain themselves.

So go out and get one for yourself and partake in the joy that is on owning an air plant. As now you know from everything above, watering them is a breeze (or a mist, I should rather say).

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