How Long Do Air Plants Live? The Expected Life Span

white notebook beside air plant

Air plants or tillandsia are a family with more than 600 different species. These plants don’t require a lot of maintenance and grow without setting their roots in the soil. You can find these plants in Mexico, south-eastern states and other areas with a warm and tropical climate. How long do air plants live? How can you take care of these plants? Here is what you need to know.

Air plants can live for several years in ideal conditions. These plants are native to areas where there isn’t a lot of humidity. They have special scales on their leaves that absorb water and nutrients from the air around them instead of growing a root system like other plants.

The lifespan of an air plant can vary from one species to another, and the condition in which the plant lives can have a huge impact on its lifespan. Here is what you need to know about properly caring for these plants and how to extend their lifespan.

Why Are Air Plants Different From Other Plants?

Air plants on the container

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Air plants or tillandsias are epiphytes plants. They have a very limited root system and will attach themselves to other plants or surfaces like wood or rock. They have narrow leaves that can absorb the water and nutrients the plant needs to grow.

In nature, you will find these plants in deserts. They can grow on tree branches or even on rocks.

Air plants are a family with more than 600 different species. These plants vary in size, and you will notice some differences in their flower colors. There are some slight variations in how you should care for different species, but you might have to try a few different things to figure out what is best for the species you have.

How long do air plants live? Any air plant can potentially live for years regardless of its species.

How Much Light Do Air Plants Need?

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Air plants do best when there is indirect sunlight. If there is direct exposure to sunlight, it’s best to limit it to a few hours each day. These plants will lose their moisture if there is direct exposure to sunlight.

You need to hydrate your air plants more regularly if there is direct exposure to sunlight. In nature, larger plants and trees would provide shade for air plants. Try introducing shade to reproduce these conditions.

Air plants can also grow under fluorescent light. They need 12 hours of exposure to fluorescent light a day and shouldn’t be more than three feet away from the light source.

There is a popular trend that consists of keeping air plants in small glass bowls. You can use glass bowls to create original air plant terrarium, but keep in mind that glass will intensify the effect of sunlight. 

How Often Should You Water Your Air plants?

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We recommend spritzing water on the leaves of your air plants every other day. You should also soak your air plants in tap water once a week.

Spritzing the leaves every other day and soaking the plant once a week should be enough for most air plant species, but don’t hesitate to adopt a different schedule if you notice that your air plants need more moisture.

When you bring a new air plant home, let it soak for at least 15 minutes before letting it dry. You can then start spritzing the leaves every other day and soak the plant between 15 and 30 minutes once a week. It’s best to use room temperature water.

Let the plant air dry before putting it back in its hanger or terrarium. Mold and rot can appear if the plant doesn’t dry. Shake off excess water from the plant after soaking it, and let it air dry for a couple of hours. If a plant takes more than three hours to dry, it will probably rot. Let your plants dry upside down to prevent mold and rot from appearing on the base of the plant.

Your air plants will need more or less water, depending on how humid their environment is. If you live in an area with cold and humid winters, soak your plants every other week or soak them weekly for ten minutes instead of 30 minutes.

Your plants will need more humidity if the air is dry, if the temperature goes up, or if there is direct exposure to sunlight.

Where Should You Keep Your Air Plants?

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Air plants don’t have much of a root system. You will notice some small roots growing if you leave your air plants in the same spot, but keep in mind that tillandsias don’t need soil to grow.

Soil retains moisture, which means that letting air plants grow in a soil medium will shorten their lifespan since mold and rot will eventually appear.

Air plants need plenty of fresh air. In nature, these plants would grow on other plants or rocks. Let them do this in your nursery if you can. You can also create similar conditions by keeping your air plants on a window sill or a wooden table.

The best way to make sure your air plants get all the fresh air they need is to use hanging plant holders or baskets. I love these hanging plant holders from Amazon because they are the perfect size for small air plants. 

Avoid keeping your air plants in a room that doesn’t get a lot of fresh air. Nurseries can often get hot and stuffy, which isn’t ideal for your air plants.

What Is the Ideal Temperature for Air Plants?

Air plants are resilient. They do well in a wide range of temperatures.

You can keep your plants in an environment that is anywhere between 50 and 90°F. However, exposure to warm temperatures means you will have to water your air plants more often.

How Should You Take Care of Your Air Plants During the Blooming Period?

Air plants flower once in their lifetime. It’s a beautiful process since flowers typically have bright colors. It’s also exciting to finally see what the flowers look like.

Blooming can last days or weeks. The larger air plant species can bloom for months, and a few species have a blooming process that can last for more than a year!

Unfortunately, tillandsias die after they flower. It’s possible to keep them alive for months and sometimes even years after they flower with the proper care, but flowering is often a sign that the plant has reached the end of its lifetime.

Flowering is how tillandsias reproduce. You will see small growths appear on the sides of the core of the plant. These growths will become air plants after a few weeks.

You can safely detach the air plant pups once they reach a third of the size of the mother plant. You can also leave them attached to the mother plant to get a clump of air plants. You will typically get between one and three new plants with an air plant flowers.

Air plants still need light, water, and plenty of air during the blooming process. However, the flowers can easily rot if there is too much humidity. We recommend briefly soaking your air plants during the blooming process without submerging the flowers if possible.

A blooming air plant might need more water and nutrients than usual because of the growths. You can introduce nutrients and spritz the leaves with water more often.

What Are the Most Common Issues You Will Run into While Caring for Air Plants?

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Air plants are desert plants. Just like succulents, they have a long lifespan and don’t require much maintenance. Most issues come from watering the plants too often.

How long do air plants live? It all depends on the conditions in which the air plants live. An air plant can have a long and healthy life with the right amount of light, water, and air. However, too much water can kill an air plant within a matter of days.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do if an air plant has started to rot or if mold is present. You will notice that the leaves are falling and the base of the plant might turn black or brown. These signs indicate that there is too much humidity and air plants typically don’t recover from overwatering.

There are a few common issues you might run into:

  • A few dried out leaves and roots are perfectly normal. You can remove them by trimming them.
  • If you notice that your air plants aren’t growing, add some fertilizer to their water.
  • If the plant looks wilted or burnt, there is too much exposure to sunlight.
  • If the leaves turn brown or if their concave shape becomes more noticeable, you need to water the plant more regularly.

Air plants don’t require a lot of maintenance as long as you can create ideal conditions for them. They’re very inexpensive and easy to find so you can start collecting them and figure out how to care for different species. We recommend ordering a small pack of air plants from Amazon to get started!

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