Air Plants are different from nearly every other type of houseplant because they don’t need soil to survive (hence the name). But this can make caring for them and treating issues complicated because we can’t always just do what we know. There are quite a few reasons why your Air Plant might be struggling to survive so we have condensed all the important information into the post below so you can figure out what is killing your Air Plant.
We have grouped over and underwatering together into this section because they are two sides of the same coin when it comes to Air Plants. Watering them is a very different routine than your normal soil potted plants. You need to soak them in a bath for about 20-30 minutes every week or so. You can also mist them occasionally if they are looking a little dry.
However, too much or too little bathing will mean that your Air Plant will die. Either from the leaves rotting if there is too much moisture, or the leaves shrivelling up and drying out if they are not bathed or misted enough.
It can be a tricky balance with Air Plants and each individual plant type is slightly different. If your Air Plant has flat leaves then it is perfectly hydrated. You only need to be concerned when the leaves start to curl inwards.
Using tap water
If you live in a hard water area then tap water is not always the best thing to use on Air Plants. The water contains chemicals such as fluoride that over time will impact your plant’s health.
There are two ways to avoid this problem that are free and don’t involve getting a whole purification system installed in your home. Firstly, you can leave a watering can full of tap water standing for over 24 hours. Over that time most of the chemicals with evaporate or sink to the bottom of the watering can. Then the only thing left to do is remember not to pour away the last few inches of water. The other method is to collect rainwater as it is a lot better to use that the treated water out of your tap.
Another problem that may be causing your Air Plant to die is too much direct sunlight. Air Plants don’t mind the sun but if they are placed close to a window during summer, the intense sunlight can scorch the leaves. This is unfortunately irreversible so we recommend trimming away any burnt leaves so the plant can focus on new healthy growth.
To avoid this problem move your Air Plant a little further away from the windows during the summer so it gets less of that intense light directly falling onto its leaves.
Not enough sunlight
Although direct light can cause leaf burn, not enough sunlight can also be really damaging to your Air Plant. They are not low light plants so will really struggle in shady corners or rooms with not much natural light. If you think that your Air Plant isn’t getting enough sunlight then move it to a brighter spot in the home and monitor how it reacts. It may mean that it needs more bathing and misting as a result of more light.
Much like light and water, it is a real balancing act to get the right temperature for your Air Plant. They will struggle in both really cold temperatures and hot environments. The best thing to do is monitor the temperature with a thermometer to make sure the spot you have your Air Plant is the right one. You want to make sure that the temperature doesn’t drop below 12°C (54°F) or rise above 30°C (86°F).
Hotspots caused by radiators/cookers and draughts caused by cracks in windows or doors can also be really damaging to your Air Plant. You might find that the overall temperature in the room is perfect, but are not detecting the hot spot or cold draft in the room.
This is a really easy thing to do with Air Plants because you might think it’s fine to use the standard houseplant fertiliser when you bathe your plant. Instead, there are some really great Air Plant specific fertilisers that are just the right strength for your plant. Remember that because your plant doesn’t grow in soil, the rules around fertiliser are a little different.
Air Plants grow in cycles and produce offshoots and baby Air Plants. Unlike Spider Plants, for example, where the mother continues to thrive after growing babies, Air Plant mothers grow their pups until they are just as big as the main plant and will then die. This is just part of the natural cycle of many types of Air Plants. It’s not anything you did wrong or because of their environment. The best thing to do in this instance is propagate the offshoots and nurture them until they themselves begin to produce their own Air Plant babies! You will soon become really used to the natural cycle and how to spot the different stages.
Those are the most common reasons why your Air Plant might be dying. There are quite a few variables and factors so it’s important to go through each one and investigate whether this is the main problem. Watering is always our first stop with Air Plant problems as it is just so different from what we are used to with our other plants.
If you want to find out more about how to care for your Air Plant, or if you have any other more specific issues with it, then visit our Air Plant care guide. We also have a downloadable ebook which has all the information you need to help all of your houseplants thrive.
How To Care For Your Houseplants (eBook)
Everything you need to know to keep your houseplants happy and healthy.Find out More