Air Plants: What They Are and How to Care for Them?

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Air plants are known to many as zero maintenance plants. Air plants are typically found in their natural habitats growing from other trees without soil and surviving in relatively poor conditions. The fact that air plants are so resilient makes them often easy to have and keep indoors even if you have bluer than a green thumb.

Air plants are epiphytes; they like to linger on tree bark of other plants, off rock cliffs, or anywhere besides where you would normally find a plant growing; from the soil. Air plants generally absorb water and nutrients through their leaves compared to their roots, as a typical plant would. These plants, when kept indoors, prefer to be hanging or in a rock-type medium rather than growing from a potting mix. They also like to be misted with water rather than watered directly into the ground. 

This article will cover some of the best indoor air plants to care for and what their care entails.

How To Care for An Air Plant

Air plants do not require much maintenance at all, surprisingly. Yet, they are particular about what they like.

Watering

Air plants will absorb water through their roots in the soil, but it is not their method of preference. These guys would prefer to be misted with water on their leaves every few days and have their roots alone completely submerged for a few hours every couple of weeks. It is recommended if you have a hanging plant or one in a rock-based “soil” to emerge their roots in water overnight every two weeks and then spray every few days until it is time for the next soaking.

Air Dry Thoroughly

Whenever you spray or soak your plant, allow your plant roots to dry out. Misting your plant leaves every couple of days will allow your air plant to get the water it desires, but it is never ideal to let your plant roots stay moist. Too much water or not allowing them to dry out completely will cause your plant to rot, become infested with disease, and potentially die. Always make sure your plant’s pot allows proper drainage to help keep your air plant happy and healthy.

Light, Light, Baby

These fun air plants love bright indirect or filtered light. When searching for optimal lighting in your home, think of a rainforest. The sunlight peeking through the trees is sometimes filtered by large leaves but still bright during the day. That is what you want to aim to accomplish for your indoor air plant. Air plants will do just fine with regular daylight hours, so no reason to add a grow lamp for extended hours. However, if you choose to use a grow lamp due to lack of natural light in your home, that is perfectly fine to help your plant thrive. 

Fertilizer

As mentioned, air plants do well in water; they like rock bases compared to soil, want to be suspended in the air, and will not do well in a ton of regular soil. However, they still like to eat, and when they are not in a potting mix with slow-releasing fertilizer, that has to be supplemented somehow. An air plant’s natural environment would obtain nutrients from the wind blowing nutrients through the air or bird poop droppings conveniently landing on plant leaves. Consider adding fertilizer to your water mixture once monthly for your indoor environment to obtain a more pleasing appearance.

Temperature

Air plants prefer indoor temperatures between 60- and 80-degrees Fahrenheit. The warmer your environment is, the more often your plants may need water. Check them regularly to ensure you are meeting their water needs. Most epiphytes are tropical plants meaning they do not do well in colder temperatures. If you live in a cold area, it is best to place them away from doorways or add a heating pad on low to help keep your plant warm and cozy.

Best Indoor Air Plants

When deciding which air plant to grow in your home, typically, you search for low maintenance, full, luscious, and some people lean towards ones that add character to their space. Here is a compiled list of 12 air plants to grow indoors that are the perfect conversation starters.

Anthurium

Anthurium

Anthuriums are simple plants. They do not require much maintenance outside of finding the perfect spot in bright, indirect sunlight, and they like to be watered thoroughly but allowed to dry out before being watered again. If you plant your Anthurium in soil, opt for an orchid type of soil or a perlite base. Anthuriums need quick-draining, quick-drying soil to thrive.

Bromeliad

Bromeliad

Bromeliads are fun plants with an exotic touch. They have a wide color variety and will make a unique long-lasting houseplant with the proper care. At first appearance, the Bromeliad plant can give the vibe of being high maintenance. However, they are relatively simple plants. They like orchid mix soil with a mix of sphagnum moss. They prefer to be well watered weekly and add a humidity tray beneath your pot to provide optimal moisture.

Mistletoe Cactus

Mistletoe Cactus

Even though it has cactus in the name, this is a tropical rainforest plant, not a desert plant. When growing indoors, the goal is to replicate the rainforest atmosphere. The mistletoe cactus wants medium to high indirect sunlight and high humidity. If sunlight is not filtered, it could quickly bum the delicate leaves.

Birds Nest Fern

Birds Nest Fern

Hands down, one of the top three easiest indoor epiphytes to maintain and grow. The Birds Nest Fern craves bright, filtered light and medium to high humidity. A humidity tray will quickly help you achieve the moisture needed for this plant. If growing in soil, aim for a well-draining and quick drying. If developing in a rock or handing base, ensure you mist the plants thoroughly and regularly. By doing these few care tips, your Birds Nest Fern will thrive.

Cattleya Orchid

Cattleya Orchid

The orchid is known to be a resilient plant. They need high humidity and bright light, but aside from that, they do not require much more aside from the essential watering. The foliage may still appear green if the Cattleya Orchid does not have enough light, but the flowers will suffer. High lighting conditions are required to help the flowers bloom to their full potential.

Rabbits Foot Fern

Rabbits Foot Fern

Rabbit Foot Ferns love high humidity and bright indirect light. If you have a bathroom window available, these ferns will thrive by simply hanging them in a bathroom window. The moisture from the shower will keep your plant happy and healthy.

Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus, aka the Schlumbergera plant, is a popular, loved by many, can’t go wrong plant. The Christmas Cactus needs at least six hours of bright indirect sunlight and prefers to dry out between watering. If the Christmas Cactus receives too much water or can’t drain properly, the roots will rot, causing the plant to die. Less is more when it comes to water and this plant baby.

Oncidium Orchid

Oncidium Orchid

Orchids have always been known as easy indoor plants. The Oncidium Orchid is no different. The most crucial care requirement for the Oncidium Orchid is receiving the optimal light. Oncidium leaves turn colors to reflect their needs. Reddish green leaves indicate too much light, and dark green almost black tinted signals too little light.

Staghorn Fern

Staghorn Fern

Deep green, flat, antler-like leaves make these plants a sight to see and fun addition to any decor. The Staghorn Fern prefers to dry out between frequent watering’s and thrive in medium to bright indirect lighting conditions.

Blue Star Fern

Blue Star Fern

Blue Star Fern is a tropical rain forest plant that prefers warmer climates. Luckily for us plant lovers, this fern can easily adapt to most environments making it a great indoor addition. If you provide your Blue Star Fern with well-draining soil, bright indirect sunlight, and medium to high humidity levels, then your plant will thrive.

Orchid Cactus

Orchid Cactus

The Orchid Cactus is easy to care for yet, delicate plant. This plant will burn if placed in direct sunlight, making it best for medium to bright indirect light. The Orchid Cactus also loves water but never wants to sit in water, so be sure to let your plant dry out thoroughly between watering’s. Orchid Cactus plants love to show off their beautiful blooms draping over a hanging pot.

Tillandsia

Tillandsia

The Tillandsia is one type of epiphyte that does not like to be potted in soil, ever. This plant does best when you get creative with its placement; a popular placement preference for many is inside a glass globe or mounted to a decor piece. Give your Tillandsia bright, indirect sunlight, high humidity, and soak it in water once every week overnight, and it will thrive. When water soaking your plant, make sure you allow it to drip dry before placing it back in its home to prevent rot.

Air Plants – The Wrap-up

As you may have noticed by now, air plants are relatively easy to have as indoor plants even though, typically, they do not grow in a way that we are conditioned as standard. You cannot go wrong with adding one of these plants to your indoor garden.

FAQ

A common theme among most air plants you will notice is that they all like light, bright indirect sunlight. Again, think mimicking a tropical rainforest. Bright light filtered through canopy treetops.

In this article, we provided a list of the best air plants to grow indoors. This list includes Anthurium, Bromeliad, Mistletoe Cactus, Birds Nest Fern, Cattleya Orchid, Rabbits Foot Fern, Christmas Cactus, Oncidium Orchid, Staghorn Fern, Blue Star Fern, Orchid Cactus, and Tillandsia.

Most, not all, air plants are native to tropical regions. Some are from other areas but when using this information to decide the best care for your indoor air plants, think of mimicking a tropical setting.

Often epiphytes will prefer not to be grown in standard types of soil or bases. This can cause some confusion for many of us. But finding an alternative indoors is more manageable than what probably first came to your mind. Many air plants like to being suspended in the air, so consider hanging potters. Glass globes, cups, and rock mediums are just a few other ideas of how to grow your air plant indoors without the typical potting mix.

Air plants are epiphytes. This means they are usually found growing from other plants, tree bark, rocks, or other mediums in their natural habitats. Epiphytes adsorb nutrients and water through their leaves rather than their roots.

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