Air plants (also known as tillandsia) are excellent house plants! There’s no doubt about that. Not only do these attractive flowering plants provide a much-needed lift in indoor air quality, but they also do not require a lot of maintenance.
They can thrive wherever you place them and can even be placed inside soil-less terrarium cages or hanging planters as decorative uptakes to a living room.
When leaves start to shrivel or a plant turns a bit brownish and limp, learning how to revive an air plant may be the foremost thought on your mind.
Here’s a brief overview on How to Revive An Air Plant
Place tap water into the container and then place the air plant gently into the container.
Next Place the container with the air plant in an area that hogs bright yet indirect sunlight.
Remove the air plant after 12 hours.
Place it on top of a paper towel and allow to air dry for a while and observe for a couple of days
If it still continues to shrivel or turn brown, do the soaking method again with a shorter period.
Take time to spritz your tillandsia with liquid fertilizer, if possible with natural/organic fertilizer.
Indoor gardening newbies may think of air plants as invincible, but they are not. When you don’t water them enough or not expose them to enough light (whether artificial or natural), those lovely tillandsias will eventually wither to oblivion.
Don’t lose hope though. With this quick guide, you can easily breathe new life to your air plants and bring more joy to your indoor haven.
What You’ll Need To Revive An Air Plant:
- Container (choose that will fit the air plant)
- Small rock
- Paper towels
- Pruning shears
- Liquid fertilizer
Air Plant Revival Guide
1. Fill a container with tap water.
See to it that it’s enough for the air plant to be submerged but not too much to overflow from the container. To get rid of chlorine in water, allow it to stabilize overnight before soaking the air plant in. Choose a container that has a wide mouth so the plant won’t feel cramped when placed inside. For small tillandsias, a glass bowl is best.
2. Gently place the air plant into the container.
Make sure it is fully submerged. Using a string, tie-down your air plant to a rock to keep it submerged overnight and prevent it from floating on the surface. Do make sure that it’s not hurting the tillandsia though. Tie it just enough and without causing a cut to the base. Or you may want to simply press added weight on top.
3. Place the container with the tillandsia in an area that gets indirect sunlight.
See to it that the room temperature doesn’t drop below 65-deg F (18-deg C). Container must also be placed on an even surface to make sure the plant goes undisturbed as it soaks itself with nutrients from water and sunlight. It will need as much of these two elements to be revived.
4. After 12 hrs remove the air plant.
Shake off excess water by swinging it gently. You don’t want to whisk it like some squiggly octopus or you may lose most of its leaves.
5. Place the plant on top of a paper towel and allow to air dry for a few hours.
See to it that when you bring the air plant back to its container, the leaves are already perking up. New tiny roots may also be evident at this time.
6. Keep the plant under observation for a couple of days.
Do make sure to cut off the limp, shriveled or browning leaves with a pruning shears. Look also for any signs of infection or disease.
7. If the air plant continues to look sick and lumpy, soak it again
In case the plant still looks limpy and dying, repeat the process but only soaking it for 6-7 hours, dry it and then put it back to its regular place. Keep an eye on the plant, if it looks too swollen, it’s absorbing too much water, take it out immediately.
8. Take time to spray your tillandsia with a liquid fertilizer.
Arm yourself with this Tillandsia Air Plant Fertilizer spray bottle and spritz the plants once every 1-2 weeks. Frequency depends on how dry or cold the weather in your area is. This helps with plant growth and vitality. Results are usually visible in a matter of few days.
Tips to Keep Air Plant Alive
1. Remove Chlorine from Tap Water
If you use tap water to submerge your air plants, make sure to leave the water in a bowl for at least 24 hours for the chlorine to evaporate. Chlorine in tap water can harm your air plant. So, don’t rush it, make sure you don’t skip this step of the process :)
2. Dunking may be better than spritzing
Yes, I’ve suggested above that it would be fine just spraying your air plant every few days, but at times it may not be enough. In some weather conditions, Air plants may need just slightly more care than that. So here’s what I suggest where the weather condition is too dry: Once a week, dip them in a container large enough to fully submerge the plants and let them sit there for hours.
Submerging time may vary depending on climatic conditions, but in my personal experience several-hour dunking once a week has not killed any of my air plants, and they’re all thriving. In winter or colder regions you can do this every 3 weeks or so.
3. Always air dry the Tillandsias after Soaking
It’s important that the air plants are dried fully after soaking for hours. They need to dry out completely. Make sure you shake off any excess water it is holding and put them in bright light for at least four hours. This is very important. Dampness is the main enemy of an air plant. Their cores will rot and the plant will die if they are not drained and dried out completely!
4. Choose Indirect Sunlight or Bright Spot
Indirect sunlight or bright filtered light is best for all indoor air plants. Some direct sunlight in the early morning hours is fine, but they shouldn’t be left baking all day. If you understand how “rainforest” plants grow and survive, and try to replicate similar conditions in your home space that will be best for air plant sustenance and growth.
5. Feed Your Air Plants the Right Type of Food.
If you want to have lush-looking plants that you can brag about, feed your Tillys once a month by adding fertilizer to the water mix. Use low-nitrogen bromeliad fertilizer which encourages blooming. But don’t overdose as plants can get burnt from excess fertilizer.
6. Keep the temperature nice and cozy
It’s difficult to mess up with air plant temperature requirements as these plants are happy with a wide range of temperatures ranging from 50 degrees to 90s. Just be aware that hotter and drier the air, the more thirsty the plants will be, so you have to water submerge them more frequently as discussed above. It goes without saying that air plants do not survive in freezing temperatures.
7. Clean your Shears before cutting
Before cutting off dead or browned leaves of your air plant, make sure you disinfect your pruning shears. Dip the blades in a bowl containing a solution of half water & half 70% alcohol. Soak them for a few minutes and then dry them with a clean cloth. Doing this will ensure that no bacteria from the blades pass on to your dear plant and infect it.
8. Air your Air Plants
Yes, your glass terrariums are great, but air plants do need the circulation of air. An enclosed vessel without proper airflow will encourage wet, stagnant conditions, and this may spell disaster for your plants.
If you are obsessed with the beautiful glass home for your plants, at least choose a glass vessel that has as wide an opening as possible like that of a fishbowl. Also, ensure that the plants are dry completely before you place them back inside.
9. Clean inside of Seashell carefully
If you are using a Seashell or an Urchin shell for your air plant, make sure you check the inside of the shell from time to time and clear any extra water that might be accumulating inside the shell. Water pooling and cause root rot to air plants.
Yes, Air plants, are so much fun and cool looking with their spiky tendrils and since they don’t need soil to survive, there are actually endless creative ways to display them. Starting from terrariums to popping them inside seashells and even making them into jewelry!
They are in general hardy and easy to care for if you know what to do. The most common problems people have with air plants are due to incorrect watering procedures.
So make sure to follow the steps below to water air plants the right way and keep them hydrated and happy all year long.
How to water air plants the right way to keep them healthy and happy.
Since Air plants are grown without soil, in the air all their liquid need has to be fulfilled through absorption of moisture through their leaves. They need consistent moisture, either from very high humidity as that created in a greenhouse or from regular weekly soaking.
Often the store-bought Tillandsia label recommends spraying them with water from a misting bottle a couple of times each week. As already discussed above this is not the recommended way because spritzing is inconsistent and doesn’t really provide the air plant with enough moisture.
When Tillys grow in the wild, they get enough moisture from the air which in general is much more humid than it is at home indoors, so the recommended way is to soak them to rehydrate.
Yes, the greenhouses just mist them, because the climatic condition inside a greenhouse is already humid. If you live in a humid climate, you may be able to keep air plants alive by just spritzing them.
But for air plants that are adopted as houseplants and kept in a not so humid environment, the key to healthy air plants is soaking them in a bath regularly.
How to Bath Air plant?
To properly water air plants, remove them from their glass home or wherever you have them displayed and submerge in a bowl or sink full of enough water to completely cover them. Repeat the 1-8 air plant revival process as laid out above, except soak them for about 4 hours for regular baths.
What type of water should be used for Air Plant?
Never use chlorinated water for your air plants. If possible use rainwater as it is natural or filtered water if possible. If you have no option other than to use tap water, allow the tap water to sit out in a bowl for 24 hours first so that the chlorine evaporates or boil water for 20 minutes and let it completely cool before using it for the tillandsia.
Chlorinated water can turn the tips of the plant’s leaves brown.
What is the best way to keep Tillandsia hydrated all year
Depending on the season, and your climatic conditions, it’s recommended to bathe air plants at different frequencies. For example, in the summer when it is hot and dry, it’s best to bathe them at least once a week, but in the cool winter months, soaking them once every three weeks is fine.
Bottom line, in order to revive dying air plant or sustain the hydrated & healthy life of Tillandsias you need to pay attention to weather conditions as the season changes, the health of your air plant and water accordingly.
Air Plant Revival FAQ
Yes, air plants cannot just live only on air & sunlight. It also needs some water to survive.
These are the signs that will tell you that your Tillandsia is dying -
- Leaves are curling
- Leaf edges are drying up
- Browing or rotting at the base of the plant
Air plants are naturally covered with tiny hair also known as trichromes, which is whitish grey in color. If the leaves are too white, it means the plant is too dry and needs water soaking.
Rainwater is best if available. Otherwise use tap water, leave it open for day in bowl before using it to soak the plant.
No, those parts have rotted. Cut them off from near the joint of the leaf to prevent the rot from spreading.
Air plants can survive with minimum lights, even indoor lights.
You can use Miracle Grow at 1/4 strength. Using too much can certainly kill the plant.
Yes, it can survive without any issue hanging up side down.
The soaking time depends, take it out immediately if it swells too much, which can end up in rotting,
No, its likely to die if you constantly keep the plant in sunlight. 2-4 hours of in-direct sunlight is more than enough for Tillandsias.
In rare cases air plants can be attacked pests such as mealybug which will leave webby & slippery substance on the plant. If that happens, soak the plant in mild soapy water and clean the plant with a wet cloth before putting it back.
From several months to several years. It very much depends on the species of the plant.
Yes, if water stays on leaves or makes a pool at the root for too long, it will end up rotting the plant.
Learning how to revive an air plant should be a worst-comes-to-worst option for indoor gardening enthusiasts like you. To ensure that your lovely tillandsias will not suffer the ill fate of wilting, withering & dying, follow the instructions above to give your air plants the best chance of revival.