Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’ve had your air plant for a few months now, and even though you’re giving it the right amount of care and light, it doesn’t seem to be growing! If this is you, there’s no need to worry. Members of the Tillandsia genus – common name air plants – grow really slowly. But with the proper care, you can expect to see some great results with time.
In this article, we’re reviewing air plants, including their care needs and their growth speed. Given the right conditions, there are some ways to keep your air plant growing at a healthy rate.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is An Air Plant?
- 2 How To Tell The Difference?
- 3 How Fast Do Air Plants Grow?
- 4 How Big Do Air Plants Get?
- 5 Air Plant Care
- 6 Light Needs
- 7 Water Needs
- 8 Soil And Fertilizer Needs
- 9 Base Or Potting Needs
- 10 How To Propagate Air Plants
- 11 Humidity Needs
- 12 Types of Air Plants
- 13 Conclusion
What Is An Air Plant?
Tillandsias (Tillandsia spp.) is the scientific name for air plants, which are members of the Bromeliaceae or Bromeliad family. They are also known as epiphytes, which means that, in nature, they grow on surfaces like the branches of trees and don’t require soil.
The air plant is commonly found in the jungles of Central America and South America, as well as mountain tops and deserts. They can also be natively found in Mexico and the southern United States in North America.
Air plants are Epiphytes, which means they do not require soil to grow, and they do, instead, need a platform/object to grow upon. These plants are not parasitic on their host.
The air plant gets its sustenance from the moisture and soil fibers that float about in the air – or that decompose at the base of the plant. The roots are primarily used to connect themselves to the supporting object.
There are two common varieties of air plants, typically divided into Mesic and Xeric types. These two air plant types have different growth rates.
Mesic Air Plants
The Mesic variety is commonly found in rainforests and naturally prefers higher humidity and bright indirect light. It wants more regular waterings as well.
Xeric Air Plants
The Xeric variety is from the desert or dry climates, meaning they like drier conditions.
Read more about air plant care in this article.
Look at my lil guy just vibing amongst my air plants hehe pic.twitter.com/iYCbYpDktT— bé lì ʕ ⸝⸝·ᴥ·⸝⸝ʔっ(100%) (@bbyxlb) July 22, 2022
How To Tell The Difference?
Mesic air plants typically have greener and smoother leaves, while Xeric species are regularly fuzzy (this is caused by the plants’ trichomes) and almost grey-colored. In terms of growth speed, Xeric varieties often grow slower.
That said, the largest species of Tillandsia is a Xeric air plant, so growth speed isn’t the same as the size at maturity.
Can’t get enough of air plants? Check out these 25 tips for growing Tillandsia Ionantha!
How Fast Do Air Plants Grow?
The species of the air plant determines the growth rate, but overall, Tillandsias are very slow growers.
A seed can take up to two months to germinate and up to eight years to reach maturity.
The growth rate of an air plant is also incredibly slow, with many varieties only growing about an inch in size in two years.
On reaching maturity (five years is an average amount of time for this to happen), the air plants will begin to produce pups (baby plants). These baby air plants can be removed from the mother plant and replanted.
How Big Do Air Plants Get?
Air plants vary in size depending on the variety. Some of the most miniature air plants only grow to about two inches, while the Tillandsia xerographica (King Air Plant) can grow up to 60 cm in width.
Air Plant Care
When growing an air plant, the type of care will depend a bit on the variety you own. Mesic air plants will do better in indirect light and higher humidity, while xeric air plants thrive in drier climates and more direct light.
For growing indoors, typically, a Mesic variety is a little easier to care for. Both types need to have good air circulation.
As the video above explains, there are two primary thoughts for watering air plants: dunking and misting. Both options have merit and we’ll discuss them more below. Whatever you choose, Allow for drying time before returning the plant back to its home.
Read on for some more proper care details below.
Tillandsia air plants need a lot of filtered bright light to do well, which can either mean indirect natural light from an east or west-facing window or indirect artificial light.
Full sun for over an hour a day can typically burn or dry out your air plants. In most cases, indirect sunlight is the best option.
There are a few exceptions. A silver-leafed air plant, for instance, can handle more direct light. Tillandsia xerographica can actually live in full sun.
Like most considerations for Tillandsias, it often comes down to some key differences between Mesic and Xeric.
Xeric varieties are commonly grown in the desert, where they receive naturally more direct light. Mesic varieties grow under the canopy of rainforests, so they can typically thrive in less light.
The best way to hydrate Mesic air plants from the Tillandsia genus is to water them every week to week and a half – and then give them mistings during winter months when the natural humidity is low.
You can either dunk or spray your air plants. For Mesic plants, I recommend dunking, as they are used to incredibly high humidity. You can still follow up with spraying when there are natural dips in humidity.
For Xeric air plants – or any air plants with thicker leaves that naturally store moisture – the best watering method will likely be misting every week or so.
If you notice curly leaves on your air plant, you need to increase your watering/humidity.
Regarding the type of water, you should aim for filtered or even rainwater. But I know that this isn’t always an option for indoor growers. If you have to use tap water, let the container of water sit for a full day before soaking/misting your air plants with it.
Another consideration is the temperature. Cold and hot water can stress an air plant. Aim for room temperature water, especially when soaking an air plant.
Ayo my air plant that I’ve had for almost year has started to flower 🌸 pic.twitter.com/XQ6FB7F7tw— 🌨️ Wander (@_WanderingMan) July 22, 2022
Soil And Fertilizer Needs
If your air plant is not growing, you should consider providing it with fertilizer. While air plant fertilizer isn’t required for your Tillandsia to live, it’s highly recommended and can be an excellent way to jump-start growth.
Fertilizing can also add longevity to your air plant. In terms of which type of fertilizer, any traditional air plant fertilizer, orchid fertilizer, or bromeliad fertilizer will do fine.
You should plan to fertilize once a month to keep the plant healthy. Fertilize when you’re doing your regular watering, whether dunking or misting.
Base Or Potting Needs
Since air plants don’t naturally grow in dirt, you can show them off in some incredibly creative ways. Indoor growers have been known to place them in glass globes, jars, hanging holders, attached to driftwood, in terrariums, or in simple (or elaborate) planters.
How To Propagate Air Plants
Tillandsia plants reproduce when a mature plant generates an offset – called pups. These new air plants grow from the mother plant’s base and then are removed.
During each of your mature plant’s bloom cycles, you can expect one to three pups. Growers can decide if they want to remove the pups and display them or let them continue to grow as part of the mother plant, making an air plant cluster.
I like to remove the small air plant and display it separately.
The life cycle of the air plant is fascinating to watch. Keep an eye out for this new growth.
Humidity is an incredibly important consideration for Tillandsias.
Many tillandsias are tropical plants that require moderate to high humidity to thrive. You should aim to keep your home’s humidity level around 65% for Mesic air plants. This can be high in many homes, especially in the winter. You may need to supplement your home’s humidity with a humidifier.
Xeric (which means dry) air plants are typically from dry environments – such as desserts or rocky dwellings. These air plants like a drier climate and only need relative humidity. Your weekly mistings should be enough for this plant.
Types of Air Plants
There are many air plant species in the world, meaning you have many different options to choose from. Check out some of our favorites.
Spanish Moss – Did you know that Spanish moss is actually from the Tillandsia genus? This epiphytic flowering plant is known for growing on trees in tropical environments.
Tillandsia xerographica – t. xerographica is sometimes called the king of air plants because of its large size. It is an excellent option for new indoor growers. It’s considered one of the slowest growing Tillandsia species.
Tillandsia caput-medusae – This popular air plant is silvery-green in color with purple colors across the base and up towards the leaves. Most caput-medusae are green, but some have a frosted white appearance.
You can buy most air plants from an online grower (there are many on Etsy) or at local garden centers. They make great housewarming presents.
Tillandsias are popular plants that give your home a tropical and exotic vibe. While they are slow growers as a whole, the good news is that they can live a long time with pretty minimal care.
When figuring out the care needs of your specific air plant, start with figuring out the type (Mesic or Xeric). Using this as your starting point, you can adjust to meet their light and humidity needs.