Airplants. Everything you need to know.

If you’re looking for a new option to freshen up your interior space this season, look no further than air plants. They’re ideal for the cooler seasons - when living in the right conditions, they thrive indoors and are the perfect way to add winter greenery to your home. 

 Unlike the name suggests, the unique-looking plants can’t live on air alone - they simply don’t need soil to survive and grow. They’re epiphytes, which means they grow on things which aren’t soil (but they don’t have a parasitic relationship with whatever they’re clinging to). They can have a magical silvery frosted appearance, which is down to their coating of trichomes: cells which help them absorb water and stay hydrated. 

Caring for your air plants

When cared for properly, air plants are relatively low maintenance and rewarding to own. They live happily in mild temperatures ranging from 12-30 degrees - though the light and temperature they require depends heavily on the humidity of the space. If they’re in a moist environment like a bathroom, they can get away with less light and temperature, however if the space is dry, they’ll need ample indirect sunlight, warmth and watering. 

 Watering air plants consists of two methods - misting and soaking. Air plants need weekly submerging in water (preferably bottled or rainwater) to fully hydrate. Once removed from the water, they should fully dry out within three hours to avoid rotting - if your plant is still wet to the touch, it means your room doesn’t quite get enough light, warmth or air flow. In between soaks, lightly mist your air plants to keep them moist. 

When it comes to air plant babies, propagating them is an easy process. Air plants are monocarpic, meaning their life cycle consists of growing to maturity, flowering once (this is an indicator of their old age), then dying. Offsets grow from the base, and should be detached from the mother once they’ve reached about a third of her size to ensure they’ve received plenty of nutrients from her first. 


Air plant issues

There are only a couple of pesky problems that can arise with air plants - and luckily, it’s obvious when they’ve occurred. The first is rot (which can be spotted if the centre of the plant turns brown and soggy). This is simply down to water collecting, or the plant living in a space without enough ventilation. Make sure you dry your air plants upside down to help avoid this happening.

The other issue is the opposite - the air plant can dry out if watered too infrequently, or if it lives in an environment with overly high temperatures and low humidity. Thankfully, you can bring your air plant back to life in this case by soaking it.

Styling your air plants

Air plants are aesthetically interesting, and can create unique, eye-catching arrangements in your home. Mount them using driftwood planks and rustic wooden picture frames for a natural look, or minimalist copper mesh or wire wall-mounts for them to cling to in a modern office space. 

Terrariums are a brilliant way to showcase your beautiful air plant collection among other succulents and miniature plants. Pop your air plants into glass bowls, light bulbs and other hanging glass shapes, allowing them to bathe in sunlight.


Written in collaboration with Mollie Carberry

Caroline Johnston