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Is your air plant turning brown? Do the tendrils look a little worse for wear? Well we’re here to help and give you the best advice for looking after or reviving your air plant.
We have done extensive research on air plant care and have recommended what we believe are the most common and important care tips. From our own experience with air plant care, we have found that you need to do what works for you in your environment. So, it is important to allow your plant to adjust to your own home and then refer to the advice once you get an idea of what your air plant needs.
FIRSTLY, YOUR AIR PLANT MIGHT NOT ACTUALLY BE DYING
Browning on the tips of air plant tendrils is actually very common and not always a sign of poor health. This tends to be common with varieties that have thinner, more delicate tendrils such as the Ionantha, Filifolia and Argentea (which you can see here in our Whale Air Plant Holders) and can sometimes be caused by the tendrils being slightly damaged (which unfortunately can’t always be avoided in the post).
Browning at the base of some air plant species is a part of their natural colouring (e.g. Juncifolia), whereas with some species (e.g. Ionantha) it is a sign of rot or drying out from lack of water. It might even be a good idea to compare photos of your plant with healthy ones online to see whether the colouring of your plant is natural or indicative of poor health.
With any singular leaves that have browned, you can gently peel these off the plant to allow the healthy ones more exposure underneath.
If your plant’s green leaves are turning yellow or producing brown spots, this can be a sign of too many or a lack of nutrients. The best thing you can do for this is check their position to see whether they’re getting enough indirect light, or purchase special air plant fertiliser spray which contains the necessary nutrients. Even though it’s tempting to overspray the plant with this, it’s actually better to only give it a light spray, however more frequently if the plant is in need of revival.
WATER TYPE SENSITIVITY
It is recommended that your air plants are watered/soaked with natural rainwater, although, understandably, this isn’t as convenient as getting water from your tap. However, if you live in an area with hard water, this can do more harm than good to your plant. Hard water contains chemicals such as fluoride, chlorine, calcium and magnesium, which for obvious reasons aren’t ideal for your plant to consume too much of!
What you can do is simply leave the tap water out for a day or so to allow the majority of the chemicals to evaporate before watering. Or, alternatively, a water purifier can also do the job of softening the water.
Like all plants, air plants need frequent watering, such as misting and bathing. If your plant looks or feels especially dry, then it’s likely it isn’t being watered frequently enough. A general recommendation for most air plants is a weekly misting and monthly soak, especially for plants with finer tendrils such as Juncifolia and Filifolia that can’t hold as much water.
It is also essential the water you’re soaking or misting the plant with isn’t ice cold, so it’s best to leave the water until it reaches room temperature before watering to prevent any shock.
Typically, air plants can be over-watered too! As they naturally grow in fairly dry and hot climates, they wouldn’t be used to excessive watering in the wild. Air plants with bigger and/or thicker tendrils, such as Caput and Capitata Peach, have a larger area to absorb water, so they don’t need as much as air plants with finer tendrils, such as Filifolia, Argentea, Juncifolia and Ionantha. If your air plant’s leaves are turning yellow, this can be a sign of overwatering, so it’s important to find the right balance for your plant.
Air plants flourish best in bright areas with indirect sunlight. The browning on the leaves can be a sign of sunburn if the plant is in direct sunlight for too long. If you water your plant and dry it in the sun, this can be equally damaging for the plant, so always aim to let the plant air dry.
It is also important to consider the angle of the plant whilst you’re watering it. It’s best to dip-soak the tendrils in water and not the bulb. This is because with varieties of air plants that have hollow bulbs, such as Caput and Juncifolia, water may become trapped and cause the plant to rot from the inside.
As you’ve most likely received your plant in the post or have bought it from a shop, its environment may have changed suddenly which can cause stress to the plant as it tries to adjust to its new surroundings. Usually the plant will adjust within a week or two.
Temperature can really affect your plant’s health. Even a slight wind chill through a window or an AC unit can be damaging. The ideal environment for a plant is somewhere with warmth and humidity, such as a bathroom, kitchen or conservatory. Our jellyfish look especially good hanging in the bathroom!
In general, whilst you are allowing a plant to recover, it’s a good idea to move it from the previous spot it was in to allow it to ‘rest’, but still allow it to receive enough light without being in direct sunlight.
Check out our other blogpost Meet Your Air Plant to learn about the nature of your air plant species and its specific care.