Air plants, commonly known as tillandsias, do require more than just air to live on, but they are virtually maintenance-free. Air plants have small scales on their leaves, called trichomes, which absorb nutrients and water from the air. They do not require soil, so their roots are only used to cling to other things for support. Air plants are epiphytic, but not parasitic, which means that they grow on the surfaces of other plants, but they do not take any of their nutrients from other plants. Unless you live in a tropical climate, air plants should be kept inside most of the time.
Air plants need constant air circulation for healthy growth, so avoid putting in enclosed containers that limit air flow.
Air plants should be misted with water every 3 to 5 days and then soaked in water every 3-4 weeks. Soak your air plants by completely submerging them in water for 30 to 60 minutes. Dry them upside down so that the water does not soak into the base of the plant, which will rot them out eventually.
Room temperature water is fine for air plants, but avoid softened water because the salt level is typically too high for them.
Air plants do not need nitrogen, so they do not require fertilizer. However, adding a liquid fertilizer once a month while submerged in water will help keep them healthy. Use a fertilizer that this specifically for tillandsias, bromeliads, or an organic houseplant fertilizer at quarter strength.
Air plants originate from tropical climates, so they do best in environments that are between 50 to 90 degrees. Keep away from air vents or cold windows in winter.
Air plants prefer indirect, filtered light and can quickly dry out if they are exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time. Place them near windows or artificial light sources that receive 1-3 hours of filtered light per day.
Lower leaves can dry out as the air plant grows. Gently clip off dried tips or roots with scissors as needed.
While air plants can live for several years, they only bloom once in their lifetime. Their blooms are called pups, and they can be quite colorful. Once these pups grow to ⅓ the size of the parent plant, gently clip them off to start a new plant. Air plants that are in bloom should not be submerged in water, so just mist them until their blooms are clipped off.
You leave pups on the mother plant, rather than clipping them off, and they will grow into larger groups of plants called clumps. Grouping different air plant clumps look great in larger containers because they will continue to grow around and on top of each other.
Since air plants do not require soil, they can be planted in or mounted on to nearly anything (except for copper). Using hot glue, Liquid Nails, fishing line, or non-copper wire, you can attach air plants to wine corks, shells, driftwood, rocks, or just about anything you can come up with. Make sure to only glue to root of the plant, not the leaves.