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Do you have a green thumb? Are you a fan of house plants or gardening, but potted plants aren’t an option at the moment and glass terrariums simply won’t cut it? Well, we’ve got great news for you!

 

 

Air plants are the magical flower that’s about to make your life a lot greener. For starters, air plants do not need soil. So, given the proper conditions for growth, some species of air plant can live anywhere from several months to a few years.


Sounds pretty great, right? Without further ado, let’s dig in (pun very much intended!) to all things air plants. Along the way, we’re going to cover everything that you need to know about what they are, how they grow, and how long do air plants live.

 

Air plants are the magical flower that’s about to make your life a lot greener.

 

 

What Is an Air Plant?

Air plants, sometimes called Tillandsia, are a native plant to the southern regions of North America. It’s natural habitat includes hotter climate areas of the southern United States and Mexico, as well as the tropical climates of Central America and South America.


Since there are more than 650+ different species of air plants, you’re sure to find something you love. Plus, many air plants can survive without the need for soil, making them a great alternative for apartment dwellers or homeowners without a ton of yard space.


Considering they won’t need excess water and can grow with even indirect sunlight, air plants offer garden lovers an option without the need for a lot of space or burdensome care routines.

 

There are more than 650+ different species of air plants.

 

How Do Air Plants Grow Without Soil?

Air plants have no need for soil. The reason is both genius and surprisingly simple. Air plants simply utilize their leaves to obtain enough water and nourishment. Their leaves are able to pull these materials from the air sort of like a plant vacuum.


Because of this, air plants are incredibly easy to maintain, which, naturally enough, makes them a great choice of plant for beginners to gardening.

Even so, they do require a certain amount of care in order to last for a long time. The three primary conditions for an ideal growth environment include:


  • Air circulation
  • Tap water
  • Some sunlight

 

Truth be told, without much water or much light, air plants can thrive. So, if you can provide the main three things in even a modest amount, you’re more than ready for your first air plant.

 

Air plants have no need for soil. The reason is both genius and surprisingly simple. Air plants simply utilize their leaves to obtain enough water and nourishment. Their leaves are able to pull these materials from the air sort of like a plant vacuum.

 

 

How Long Do Air Plants Live?

Generally speaking, most air plant species will only bloom a single time. In fact, this one blooming occasion marks the peak of an air plant’s life. It’s also the period of time that many air plants will change their color, showing gorgeous, deep shades of pink and red.


Even though they will only bloom once, many air plant species’ flowers can still live for a few months. That being said, the best way to know when an air plant’s time is coming to an end is when its flowers begin to fade away and wilt.


But there’s good news! Prior to dying, an air plant will produce something called “pups”, which are essentially baby air plants. These are offshoots of the air plant blooms that can be pruned to grow on their own and embark on the same plant growth cycle as the original air plant.


When you take into account the air plant pups’ own life and bloom, an air plant’s life cycle is actually much longer than a few months. Plus, depending on the size of the mother plant, you may get quite a few pups to grow new air plants year after year.

 

When you take into account the air plant pups’ own life and bloom, an air plant’s life cycle is actually much longer than a few months. Plus, depending on the size of the mother plant, you may get quite a few pups to grow new air plants year after year.

 

 

How Fast Do Air Plants Grow?

Here’s a pro tip: don’t get too discouraged if you think your air plant is growing too slowly. This is actually a very common concern/misconception among first-time air plant home gardeners, so you’re most certainly not alone.


The “problem” here is really that many species of air plant tend to grow very slowly, as compared to some other plant varieties. Many home gardeners are surprised to learn that it can even take up to a few years for an air plant to actually reach maturity and begin its blooming process.


Honestly, as you may have picked up, the key word with air plants, especially when grown from seeds, is patience. That being said, there are a number of air plant care tips that will assist you in taking proper care of your air plant and all but ensuring great growth:


  • Use simple tap water instead of soft water or distilled water.
  • Let your tap water sit for several hours (overnight is even better) to allow the chlorine content to dissipate before using it to spray or soak your plants.
  • Every time you spray your air plants or give them a good soak, make sure they’re in an area with constant circulation and allow them to air dry for about 3-4 hours. If they get soggy, it can ruin them and shorten their lifespan.
  • Make sure all your air plants have consistent access to filtered sunlight. Filtered sunlight refers to bright light passing through an east or west facing window, or even indirect light coming through the leaves of an overhanging tree, if your plants are outside. Artificial light sources can work as well, if natural light isn’t possible.
  • Rinse your air plant instead of soaking in a water bath while it’s in its blooming period.
  • Trim/prune all withered or dry leaves from your air plant flower.
  • Fertilize your air plant only once a month during its growing season. Do not fertilize during winter months.

 

The key word with air plants, especially when grown from seeds, is patience.

 

 

What Is the Air Plant Growth Cycle?

As we mentioned earlier, in addition to being planted from seeds (the slower growth method), air plants can also develop from “pups,” the little offspring blooms that a mother plant will produce (the faster growth method).


The growth cycle of pups can actually become quite sizable within just a couple of months. Depending on your preference, pups can either be pruned from the mother plant or left intact to create an “air plant clump”.


Another pro tip: air plant pups will actually keep on growing even if the mother plant dies. Talk about a magical flower!


All that said, an air plant’s growth cycle will always include the following: flowering, pups/clumps, and seeds.

 

 

Flowering

During flowering, an “inflorescence” will appear. This is fancy plant scientist language for a flower stalk. They can be either a soft orb shape or jagged and sharp. During this period, the leaves near the top will tend to “blush,” becoming a shade pink or red.


Next, an air plant’s flowers will bloom, either alone or in a cluster, and they can come in a wide variety of shades and shapes. This is widely considered to be the most beautiful phase of an air plant’s full life cycle, and some can last an incredibly long time, like the flower of the Tillandsia Xerographica.


The majority of air plants will mature during flowering and then live anywhere from a couple of months to a full year after they bloom.

 

 

Pups and Clumps

Once your air plant has completed its flowering phase, it will not grow anymore. However, it will produce the pups mentioned earlier. Air plants can produce as many as 1-3 pups (sometimes called plantlets or baby plants).


Pups tend to be found near the base of the plant, but they can also be found seeking shelter of sorts beneath drying leaves on the mother plant.


Once a pup reaches roughly a third of the size of the mother plant, you can safely prune them off with shears or a pair of scissors. The pups will then start their own life cycle of flowering, growth, blooming, and produce pups of its own.

Seeds

Once it has flowered, some air plants can also produce seeds. This tends to occur during a dry season, so that rain water doesn’t rinse them away. After the rainy season starts up again, the air plant seeds are ready to germinate and blossom into plants of their own.

 

 

Are Air Plants for You?

The air plant need list is very short: just a little tap water, some sunlight, and a space with good ventilation and circulation of air. Generally speaking, air plants are relatively low stress, requiring a modest amount of effort and care to grow and bloom over time.


The important thing is to have patience if you’re waiting seeds to grow, or, if you have some pups that can start growing right away, then to provide them with enough light and love to keep them going.

 

Generally speaking, air plants are relatively low stress, requiring a modest amount of effort and care to grow and bloom over time.

 

Given proper care and a little love, air plants tend to reward their owners with uncommonly colorful and beautiful flowers, along with an endless supply of new pups for the future, offering a bright spot for any home or apartment. It doesn’t get much better than that.

 

 

Neal Tucker

Neal Tucker is a writer living in Los Angeles. Learn more about him at nealtuckercopy.com.

Neal Tucker

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