Air plants (Tillandsia spp) are unique and fascinating plants that have gained popularity in recent years due to their low-maintenance requirements and ability to grow without soil. As part of the Bromeliad family, air plants are related to pineapples.


Contrary to their name, air plants do not actually float in the air but rather attach themselves to other plants or objects using their roots. They are known as epiphytes and absorb nutrients and moisture from the air and rain.

In this short video guide, the experts at Every Picture Tells a Story share their top tips for growing air plants, including where to grow your air plants and how often to water them.

How to grow air plants

Grow air plants in bright but indirect light, such as near a window. They can tolerate some direct sunlight, but too much can cause their leaves to burn.

Air plants require temperatures between 10-32°C and moderate humidity levels, around 40-60 percent, making them ideal for growing in terrariums and bathrooms.

Where to grow air plants

Air plant terrarium
Air plant terrarium

Air plants can be grown in various rooms in your home, particularly those with higher levels of humidity such as the kitchen or bathroom. They can be displayed in creative ways, such as in glass terrariums, hanging planters, or mounted on to driftwood, tree branches, bricks, or stones. In the UK, air plants can be moved outdoors in summer but should be brought indoors in early autumn, as they struggle with temperatures below 12ºC.

How to care for air plants

Dunking an air plant in water
Dunking an air plant in water

Watering is an essential aspect of caring for air plants. Since they do not grow in soil, they rely on air and rain for their water and nutrient needs. Air plants therefore need regular misting to keep them hydrated. In a bathroom it's likely your air plants will receive sufficient moisture just from the mist generated from regular showering. However, in rooms with lower humidity, you will need to water them.

Watering methods for air plants include misting, soaking, or dunking. Misting involves spraying water onto the leaves using a plant mister. Soaking involves immersing the entire plant in water for about 20-30 minutes. Dunking involves quickly submerging the plant in water and then removing it. The frequency of watering depends on various factors, such as the species, the environmental conditions, and the time of year. In general, air plants should be watered every one to two weeks.

In addition to watering, air plants also benefit from regular fertilisation. They can be fed with a diluted liquid fertiliser specifically formulated for air plants or bromeliads, which can simply be applied to the water you're spraying onto the leaves or dunking the plant into. It's a good idea to fertilise air plants once a month in spring and summer. Follow the instructions on the fertiliser package for the correct dilution rate and application method.

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Air plants also require some general maintenance. Gently shake or tap them after watering to remove excess water from the leaves and prevent rot. Remove any dead or yellowing leaves by gently pulling them off from the base of the plant. Trimming the roots is not necessary, as they serve as anchors rather than absorbing nutrients.

How to propagate air plants

Removing dead stems from Spanish moss
Removing dead stems from Spanish moss

Air plants naturally produce offsets, also known as 'pups', which can be propagated to grow new plants. Pups are smaller versions of the parent plant that grow at the base of the plant, and eventually develop their own root system. To propagate air plants, gently twist or wiggle the pup until it detaches from the parent plant. Avoid pulling or cutting it off, as this can cause damage. Once the pup has been separated, you can either let it grow on its own or replant it in a separate location.

To replant the pup, you can place it on a suitable surface, such as a piece of bark or driftwood, and secure it with a non-toxic adhesive or string until it establishes its own root system. Place the pup in bright, indirect light and water it regularly as you would with a mature air plant.

Pests and diseases

Air plants are relatively pest-resistant, but they can occasionally be affected by common pests such as mealybugs and scale insects – more likely if grown outside in summer. Isolate any affected plants to prevent the infestation from spreading to other plants, particularly if you're bringing them back indoors in autumn.

Outside, scale insect and mealy bug are usually dealt with naturally by predators such as birds and ladybirds. Indoors, try manually removing the insects from the leaves by hand.

Buying advice for air plants

  • Always choose healthy plants from reputable sources to ensure their quality and longevity
  • Look for specimens with vibrant-looking leaves and no signs of pests or diseases
  • Avoid plants with brown or wilted leaves, mushy or black roots, or any visible signs of infestation
  • Several reputable online retailers in the UK offer a wide variety of air plants for purchase. Some also stock containers and other air plant paraphernalia

Where to buy air plants online

Air plant varieties

Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides)
Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides)

Tillandsia ionantha – a small air plant with vibrant green leaves that turn red or pink when it blooms. It's a hardy species that can tolerate a wide range of light conditions.

Tillandsia xerographica – a large air plant with silvery-grey leaves that form a rosette shape. It requires bright, indirect light and moderate humidity levels.

Tillandsia bulbosa – a unique air plant with bulbous, curly leaves that give it a distinctive appearance. It needs bright, indirect light and moderate humidity levels.

Tillandsia capitata – a medium-sized air plant with thick, silver-green leaves that form a tight rosette shape. It requires bright, indirect light and drier conditions compared to other air plants.

Tillandsia aeranthos – a small air plant with green leaves that have a slight curl at the tips. It's a hardy species that can tolerate a wide range of lighting conditions and prefers moderate humidity levels.

Tillandsia brachycaulos: A medium-sized air plant with bright green leaves that can turn red or pink when it blooms. It needs bright, indirect light and moderate humidity levels.

Tillandsia usneoides – also known as Spanish moss, this air plant has long, trailing green-grey leaves that can drape and hang from branches or other surfaces. It needs bright, indirect light and high humidity levels.

Tillandsia capitata ‘Peach’ – this has soft, fuzzy, peach-coloured leaves, releases a mild, sweet fragrance when flowering, and is perfect for terrariums or hanging displays.