Although Air Plants are unique in the fact they don’t need soil to grow, it doesn’t mean that they don’t get the same issues as most other houseplants. It can happen if either their environment or care routine isn’t right that they develop yellow leaves. It’s not uncommon and is something that a lot of plant parents face regularly which is why we have put together the complete guide on why Air Plants might get yellow leaves, as well as how to fix and prevent the problem.
Below you’ll find a detailed look at each of the different causes of yellow leaves on Air Plants, from watering issues to temperature problems and even chemical sensitivity.
Too much intense sunlight
If the yellowing on your Air Plant’s leaves is quite patchy and the delicate leaves on your Air Plant almost look scorched and burnt, then it might be caused by direct sunlight hitting your plant. Air Plants can deal with some bright light during the day but several hours of intense light, especially over summer, will cause the leaves to turn yellow. You can get away with more direct light during the winter as the sun is weaker but during the hottest months of the year, move your Air Plant a metre or so further away from the window in warmer months to avoid any leaf burn.
Too much water (misting or bathing)
Too much water is a very common reason behind yellow leaves on Air Plants. As you don’t water your Air Plant as you would your other plants, it doesn’t mean that too much misting or bathing can’t cause similar problems to waterlogged soil. Over time, if the leaves are moist for long periods of time, they will start to rot and turn yellow.
Usually, we would recommend checking the potting mix to figure out if you are overwatering your plant, but with Air Plants, there isn’t any soil to check which makes diagnosing the problem a little trickier.
If you worry that you have been misting or bathing your plant too much then cut back a little to see if things improve. Leaf rot is a lot more common in winter as moist leaves and cold temperatures don’t go hand in hand.
Too much fertiliser
Air Plants don’t need to be fertilised that often, or even at all! You can get plenty of new healthy growth and even Air Plant babies without fertilising once. Make sure you cut back all fertiliser during autumn and winter as your plant is dormant and it can cause real damage, including yellow leaves. The yellowing will usually begin from the tips inwards so that’s a good way to spot if fertiliser is the issue.
Another reason why your Air Plant has developed yellow leaves is cold temperatures. Native to the warmer parts of the world, Air Plants can struggle if exposed to cold drafts so make sure to keep them away from drafty doors or windows, especially during winter. This will display itself as yellow leaves that will fall off your plant.
You might not notice it but even a little stream of cold air coming in from outside can really damage your plant. But it’s not just during winter that you need to worry about cold temperatures causing yellow leaves, if your Air Plant is near any AC vents during summer this can be equally damaging.
Most of the time, our houseplants are totally OK with us using tap water. However, Air Plants are a little bit more sensitive and if you are living in a hard water area then over time a fluoride build-up may occur when misting and bathing your plant. If chemicals do build up on the leaves, it can mean the plant can suffocate. Chemical sensitivity can be hard to diagnose as it can show up quite subtly at first. Most of the time the yellowing will start at the tips inwards.
There are a few ways to make sure that the water you mist and bathe your Air Plant with is fluoride-free. Firstly you can leave a jug of tap water for around 24 hours to allow for a lot of the chemicals to evaporate. You can also use rainwater as the chemical levels are much lower than the treated water out of your tap.
Should I remove the yellow leaves on my Air Plant?
If only the tips have turned yellow on your Air Plant then we don’t recommend removing the leaf but if the entire leaf is yellow, then we would recommend removing it using clean shears. You don’t want your plant wasting energy trying to revive dying leaves so it’s best to remove them.
Check out our Air Plant care guide for more information on how to best care for your plant and prevent any more common problems.