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Best Practices: How to Water Air Plants for Healthy Growth

Air plants, famous as Tillandsias, have made gardening easier by being soilless but can get tricky regarding water requirements.

Generally, the air plant absorbs moisture from the host plant and air, but that does not suffice the requirement. So balance the moisture by using a mister to mist the plant once every 4-5 days or a bowl to soak the plant, mainly in the morning, once every 1-2 weeks.

Here is a guide about misting, dunking, and soaking your precious and delicate air plants.

How to Know if your Air Plants Need Water?

Although the nature of the air plant is unique and peculiar to other members of the Bromeliad family, the indication of water deprivation is similar.

The plant signals the need for water through its leaves by curling inwards along its length, dried-up tips, and limp appearance.

Also, you can touch the plant leaves to see if they are plumpy, as air plants without water get lighter and softer.

Alternatively, you can check if the plant is overwatered as the plant succumbs to rot and the base of the plant turns dark black and leaves fall off.

This indicates you to wait a few days before the next watering as the plant is already suffering from over-moisture.

Meanwhile, the location also determines the watering schedule as air plants in arider and hotter environments need more often spraying of water.

How To Water Air Plants?

As a plant new to the gardener world, understanding the routine and techniques of watering air plants is crucial.

The most common three methods of replenishing the moisture needed by the air plant are listed below.

Misting Air Plants

Misting is usually for varieties of air plants sensitive to excess moisture, like Spanish moss and rock air plants, requiring frequent misting for growth.

Set a misting schedule once every 4-5 days, ensuring the entire surface is soaked (but not till water drips down the plant).
Water falling on an air plant
After misting the air plant, wipe off the leftover droplets to prevent infection.

However, you need to spritz in the hotter and drier air (summer, early fall) while decreasing in cooler and humid air (winter and spring).

Start the misting by filling a spray bottle or plant mister with tepid spring water.

If the air plant is inside a terrarium or enclosed space, remove it to prevent excess water from storing in the container.

Sprinkle the leaves in the early morning till they are fully covered but do not drizzle down the tips. Lastly, dry the plant before returning to the previous location.

Soaking Air Plants

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

However, use water rich in minerals like spring, rainwater, pond, or creek water, as the plants take nutrients from the water.

Follow the steps to perform the soaking technique carefully.

  • Start by filling a bowl or sink halfway with water and float the air plants.
  • Remember to keep the buds and flowers above the water to prevent falling off.
  • Let the plant stay in the water for 20 minutes to an hour.
  • 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 excess water from the base and leaves.
  • Place them out in a place with enough air circulation to dry them out in about 4 hours.
  • After the soaking, the plant should dry entirely within that time.

Perform the soaking methods once every 1-2 weeks to replenish the water reservoir.

Rinsing or Dunking Air Plants

The dunking method is primarily used for plants in good health and with more curled leaves, like Xerographica, which do not require a complete soak.

Meanwhile, a blooming plant should be rinsed rather than soaked in water, and delicate blossoms should be rinsed carefully.

After misting, it is the second easiest form of maintenance that you can perform once every 7 to 10 days.

Go with the steps below to get a hold of the technique for performing dunking in air plants.

  • Take a bowl and fill it with lukewarm water.
  • Dip the air plant in the water-filled bowl several times and moisten it.
  • Alternatively, 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.
  • Turn the plant upside down to drain the excess water or place it in a paper towel.
  • Lastly, let the water run off before placing them back on its display.

Take reference from the video below for visual aid!

How Often do we need to Water Air Plants?

Air plants are resilient by nature and therefore don’t require much fussing. However, the key is always in moderation.

Most practically, you should mist your air plants once weekly, but 2-3 times per week works best. A 2 or 3-hour bath can also be done every two weeks.

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.

Nevertheless, do not let the idea confuse you and determine the schedule by evaluating the year’s season and your home’s location.

The drier the season, the more water air plants demand. While summertime requires more watering, winter is always calm and requires less frequent watering.

Factors that Impact Watering Air Plants

Air plants are always famous as hardy plants, but prolonged negligence and wrong guess can indirectly hamper plant growth.

Some of the factors to keep in mind while watering is:

1. Plant Location

If you have air plants in an indoor location, mainly in highly humid areas like the kitchen and bathroom, reduce the watering amount.

Also, watering should be minimal for the air plants in terrariums or glass globes placed in an indirect light location.

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

2. Season of the Year

As previously mentioned, air plants are hardy, and the climate will not affect their livelihoods as much.

However, regulating your watering schedule depending on the climate should positively affect optimum conditioning.

Summer includes more direct sunlight, and winter involves shorter days. So you need to adjust the watering volume as the water dries faster on hot days rather than on cold.

Meanwhile, the air will dry faster if you use heating devices such as fireplaces and space heaters in winter. So you need to increase frequency.

So pay attention to every detail while watering air plants as it is vital for survival.

3. Quality of Water

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

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

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

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

Also, avoid distilled water that lacks nutrients and chemically softened water, which is sometimes excessively salty for our beloved air plants.

4. Frequency of Fertilization

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

Though a monthly or quarterly application of water-soluble fertilizer assists in developing air plants, skipping it isn’t deadly if you water them with rainwater, aquarium water, or pond water.

Use an air plant-specific 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 standard, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer.

When you mix diluted fertilizer with irrigation water, the plants are fed and watered simultaneously. So do it to maintain both the watering and fertilizer simultaneously.

From Editorial Team


Air plants are delicate and low-maintenance as they do not need weeding, tending, feeding, and watering daily and look like something out of a fairy tale.

They are the perfect hassle-free aesthetic addition to any household and a perfect travel companion.

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