Most plant parents tend to have a slightly weird obsession with Air Plants as they are completely unique and require such different care compared to the majority of our urban jungles. When it comes to propagating them, it’s actually pretty simple as they grow pups that can be used to form new plants.
In this post, you’ll find the complete Air Plant propagation guide, including a step by step process, what tools you’ll need and all of our top tips to help you along the way.
Why propagate Air Plants?
Whether or not you choose to separate the pups on your plant is completely up to you as they can grow forever attached to the mother plant. However, there are several reasons why you might choose to remove and use them to create new plants. Firstly, it’s a great way to get more plants without spending any more money. Who can say no to free plants! But if you already have too many plants in your home then these pups can make great gifts for friends and family. They are low maintenance and look great in every room – the perfect present!
Another reason that you may be forced into propagating your plant is that you have noticed your mother plant is starting to look unhappy and unhealthy. If this is the case, it might not be long until the pups on your Air Plant also become wilted and die.
Propagating Air Plants is easy!
What tools will I need to propagate my Air Plant?
This is the easy part – especially because you really don’t need much to grow new plants.
Healthy and mature Air Plant
Container with fresh water
What methods can I use to propagate my Air Plant?
There is only really one way and that’s through removal of pups. These are small Air Plants which will grow off the base of your mother plant once it is mature enough. It’s probably the easiest method of propagation and there are very few things that can go wrong if you follow the right steps.
How to propagate Air Plants through pups
Locate healthy pups to propagate
The only issue you might have is that your plant isn’t mature enough to grow pups. This happens at the end of the bloom cycle which happens on at different times. Some varieties will bloom after one year, others will take 3 years before growing any pups.
If your Air Plant is at the point of maturity where it is growing pups, you’ll notice them growing out of the bottom of your plant. Usually a few will grow at once out of the mother plant. You want to make sure that the pup is about one third the size of the mother plant. This will mean it can happily survive on its own. Any smaller and you risk the propagation being unsuccessful.
Remove the pup from the mother plant
Start by gently tugging at the pup to see if it can be easily removed from the mother plant. Ideally, you want the pup to come away without needing to cut it off. This tells you that the pup is ready to be separated from the mother plant and can grow on its own.
If it doesn’t come away from the mother plant by just tugging at it, and the pup is large enough to grow on its own, then you can slice it off using a clean sharp knife. If you aren’t sure where to cut, we recommend cutting more from the mother than the pup.
Give your pup a bath
After removing the pup from the main plant, give it a very quick bath in fresh temperate water. It should be fully submerged for about 10 seconds. Make sure the water is not hot or extremely cold as this will shock and harm the delicate Air Plant pup and could damage it long term.
Find the right spot to grow your new pup
Air Plants need bright but indirect light to thrive so make sure you place it in the right environment. Then just continue your usual care routine and over time it may even start to grow new pups of its own. That’s the natural cycle of Air Plants.
An Air Plant pup ready to be propagated!
Air Plant Propagation FAQs
It’s definitely easier than some other plants but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its own set of problems, questions and difficulties. It’s really important to understand the basics, such as time of year, equipment and fertiliser needs.
For nearly all houseplant propagation we would always recommend starting in spring or summer to give the best chance of growth. Whilst this would be ideal for Air Plants too, you can get away with doing this in cooler temperatures. This is because pups don’t need to grow roots. Whilst spring and summer reduces the risk of leaf rot, there’s no reason why you can’t successfully remove the pups all year round.
Grow lights are great to use when if your home doesn’t have enough natural light or you’re propagating in autumn or winter. So if you want to supplement light for your pup, go for it!
Just make sure that they aren’t also getting intense natural sunlight as too much light can damage your delicate plant pretty quickly.
Unfortunately, you can’t propagate an Air Plant from just a single leaf. This is because the anatomy of the plant means you can only use pups that grow off the mother plant. A single leaf will wilt and die pretty quickly.
You will have a lot of success without fertiliser, but if you do choose to fertilise wait several months for your new plant to recover from the shock of being removed from the mother plant. Then when it’s ready, only use a fertiliser specifically designed for Air Plants.
Every variety is different and you’ll sometimes find only one pup grows from the mother plant, other times 2 or 3 will grow and occasionally even more.
It’s important you give them a very quick bath once you remove them from the main plant. This will help hydrate it. Then you’ll want to bathe it weekly in summer and less frequently in winter. You should look to be misting it every few days in summer but much less in winter as soggy cold leaves will very quickly kill your plant.
Common problems when propagating Air Plants
Propagating houseplants will never have a 100% success rate and you may encounter some problems along the way. But don’t worry, we have learnt the hard way to bring you all the different problems that might arise as well as what this means and how to solve them!
Air Plants are very slow growers and will often grow in size as well as developing new leaves. This means it’s really hard to tell if it’s actually growing if you see it on a daily basis. We like to measure the size of the pup when we propagate it so we can check back to see its progress.
It’s also worth being aware that you won’t see much growth in the colder months of autumn and winter so don’t be alarmed if nothing happens.
If the base of your new pup has turned dark brown/ black and leaves are starting to fall off, chances are it has received too much water. Unfortunately, if your plant has gotten to this stage of rotting there is little chance of saving it.
The most common cause of curling leaves on Air Plants is dehydration. Try misting or bathing your plant more regularly and the leaves should return to normal.
There aren’t many steps involved but it’s important that you follow all the advice to give you the best chance of success. With the right methods, care and environment you shouldn’t have any issues!
Check out our Air Plant care guide for more information on how to care for your new pups.
Written by Joanna Turner