Caring for Air Plants (Tillandsia)

Houseplants| Indoor Gardening

Have you been thinking about buying air plants, but have hesitated because you aren’t sure how to care for them?  Or have you had air plants that didn’t do well and you weren’t sure why? Generally speaking, air plants may be pretty low maintenance compared to some house plants, but they do require care and attention.  Our resident houseplant expert, Judy, shared the goods on how to best care for air plants (Tillandsia).

If you don’t like getting your hands dirty, then Tillandsia is totally the plant for you. This modern-looking plant doesn’t require any soil in order to live, and (bonus) they also don’t require a lot of attention.  Generally, if you put them in the right spot, they will do their own thing and just sit there and be adorable. They are also extremely versatile in regards to where you can place them. If all this sounds good to you, then read on, because they do need SOME attention.  


You can put Tillandsia just about anywhere.  One popular choice for Tillandsia is in an elegant glass globe like the one you see above (and won’t you feel fancy?!).  Some other options would be in/on

  • a decorative dish (filled with sand or not)
  • pottery or ceramic
  • sea shells
  • driftwood

Check out the adorable spot Marsha found to keep her Tillandsia.         

You can even use a waterproof adhesive (like Liquid Nails), twist ties, wire or staples (careful not to staple fleshy parts) to attach an air plant to something.  Just keep in mind that gluing your Tillandsia to something may change the way you water it. If you find a spot you think would work, it would most likely do just fine, as long as there is enough light…which brings us to lighting.  


You want to put Tillandsia in a bright location, but not in direct sun.  If the room or area has a lot of humidity, it can tolerate more light.  You can put the Tillandsia outside on your patio, porch or deck if you want (but again, not in direct sun).  Some will do well in low-moderate light, but if you find that it is not doing well, you may want to move it to a location with more light.  If your Tillandsia is in a glass globe, keep in mind that the glass will intensify the heat and the light, so if may dry out more quickly…which brings us to watering.  

(I love this black-tipped Tillandsia. How cool is that?!)


While air plants do not require as much water as many houseplants, they do still require water.  The location of your Tillandsia may change how often it needs water.  If your Tillandsia is in a humid location, then it will not need to be watered as often.

The kind of water you use to water your Tillandsia is really important.  Tillandsia get their nutrients from water instead of soil, so you need to use water that has nutrients and minerals.  Rain water is an excellent choice, but if you don’t have access to rain water, you should use non-chlorinated water (well water or spring water).  You should not use water that is distilled or treated by your city/town.  

During the summer, as a general rule, water your Tillandsia every 7-10 days by placing it in a bath for about 20 minutes.  Submerge the whole plant and let it get a good soaking. After soaking, shake it off really well, then place the Tillandsia on paper towels or a towel to dry and allow it to dry completely before placing it back in whatever container you keep it in.  Generally speaking, this will take about 2-3 hours. If your Tillandsia is in a very humid location, you can usually get away with just misting it instead of putting it in a bath. But you will still want to take it out of its container to do that and allow it to dry.  (Judy also had a fan blowing on these in the pic below.)

Like most houseplants, Tillandsia does “go dormant” in the winter, so it will not require as much water.  You will probably be fine to just give Tillandsia a good misting every couple weeks. Again, don’t forget to allow it to dry completely before placing it in a container.  (Speaking of winter, Tillandsia looks amazing in a glass ornament on a Christmas tree!  Did you know we sell Christmas trees, too?!?)


Just like any plant, Tillandsia will do better if you can fertilize it from time to time.  We have a fertilizer in stock that you can use (pictured above), but you can use a bromeliad (17-8-22) or orchid fertilizer as well.  Mix the fertilizer with water (follow the directions on the fertilizer for prep) and mist as you would if you were watering it. Again, allow it to dry out. You will want to fertilize twice a month. (TIP:  If you have a fish tank or pond, you can water and fertilize your Tillandsia at the same time, no extra fertilization needed.)