Lacking a Green Thumb? Here’s How to Take Care of “Unkillable” Air Plants

Do you have a green thumb? If you don't, it's okay—there's hope for you yet; you just need a plant that requires less care than the likes of a finicky fiddle leaf fig or sunlight-craving miniature rose bush. Try an air plant instead!

What is an air plant?

Also known as tillandsia, this type of plant that can grow without soil and gets most of its nutrients from the air. In fact, air plants not only survive without dirt but they’re said to thrive. This, along with periodic watering, makes them nearly “unkillable” and ideal for those who have trouble taking care of potted plants.

There is an incredible variety among air plants. Tillandsia comprises more than 650 different types, from ones that will fit in the palm of your hand to large plants with twisted, almost sculptural-looking leaves.

How do you care for an air plant?

While you won’t have to do much with an air plant, it does require some care. Most of this comes in the form of soaking the plant. When you first receive your air plant, you should soak it in water for about half an hour. Once you’ve drenched your air plant for the first time, turn it upside down to let it dry overnight.

You’ll want to water your air plants at least once a week for the smaller varieties or twice a week for the larger ones. There are a few options for how to do this. One is soaking the plants in water for 20 to 30 minutes (in a bowl or bathtub) with a longer two-hour soak once a month. Another option is to rinse it under a sink faucet (ideal for larger plants with flowers).

Misting can also be done if a plant needs more water throughout the week; you’ll know if a plant is dehydrated if it feels soft and lighter in color or has wrinkled or rolled leaves.

Air Plants and Air Plant Holders

Photo: The Sill

Where can you buy air plants?

Air plants have exploded in popularity in recent years, and it’s easy to find them in places as common as the grocery store. Additionally, there is a bevy of online plant shops that will ship tillandsias to your door, including a couple of our favorites like Amazon and Brooklyn-based The Sill.


Next up: Creative Air Plant Holders

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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