How to Grow and Care for Air Plants (Grey Tillandsia) Indoors

Air Plant, Tillandsia spp

Photo Credit: Little Prince Plants

Botanical name: Tillandsia spp
Family: Bromeliaceae
Sufamily: Tillandsidoeae


Air Plants (Grey Tillandsia) are unique plants that do not need to be planted in a potting medium as furry scales on their foliage take up water from humid air and obtain nutrients from air-borne dust and moisture.

Grey Tillandsia literally live on air and hence the common name "Air Plants". These plants can be displayed by sticking them on coral, shells, drift wood, hanging them and many other ways.


When Air Plants bloom, the leaves around the flowers change color and provide a lasting bright display, but the blooms themselves last only a few days.

Once the flower-head fades, the rosette of leaves in the Air Plant begins to die and is replaced by offsets (pups) at the base.

Types (Varieties)

The most widespread species of Air Plants is Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish Moss) which can be found hanging on trees throughout the warm tropical forests.

Tillandsia caput-medusae is one of the most popular Air Plants whose thick and twisted leaves arise from a bulbous base and has very showy red bracts and blue flowers.

Another common variety is Tillandsia ionatha which forms a compact rosette of arching silvery leaves and grows only a couple of inches tall. Its inner foliage turns red when the stalkless violet flowers appear.

Tillandsia juncea is a long-leaved species whose rush-like foliage spreads outwards and a single flower-stalk bears the terminal blooms well above the heart of the plant.

Tillandsia argentea is a silvery species whose short leaves spread untidily outwards as the plant develops.

Where to Buy

Beautiful Air Plants in various sizes are available online at Etsy. Buy Air Plants online from Etsy.

Air Plant, Tillandsia spp

Photo Credit: Little Prince Plants

Air Plants Care Indoors

Air Plants (Grey Tillandsia) thrive in bright light but away from direct sunlight, warm and humid conditions coupled with fortnightly feeding during the growing season.

Regular pruning is necessary to keep the Air Plants neat as well as create enough space of the growth of pups. Keep reading for more on these growing conditions and how to provide them.

Light Requirements

Air Plants grows best in bright light but away from direct sunlight. Air Plants can also grow under a grow light where the natural lighting is not adequate.

Turn the plant regularly to ensure that it receives light on all sides for even growth. Check out this guide on understanding light for houseplants.


Watering Air Plants grown in a glass container

Ensure that the container has an opening for proper air circulation to prevent rotting and disease infestation.

Water the Air Plant by daily misting of the leaves during the growing season. Reduce misting to 2-3 times weekly during the cold season.

Watering Air Plants that are in the open

Water the Air Plant by dunking; dip the entire plant into a container of water and allow some time for the plant to absorb the water.

Dunk the Air Plant 2-3 times per week in the growing season and reduce in the cold season.

Shake off excess water from the Air Plant and hang it upside-down to ensure no water remains standing in the center as it can lead to rotting.

To ensure that your Air Plant dries out quickly to avoid crown-rot, water it in the morning so that it can dry out during the day when temperatures are higher than at night.

Use tepid, chlorine-free water like rain water for your Air Plant. Do not use chlorinated water as Air Plants are sensitive to chlorine and may cause it die.

Do not use distilled water as the distillation process removes all the nutrients required for growth. Ensure there is good air circulation for your Air Plant to prevent pests and disease infestation.


The best temperature for growing Air Plant indoors is an average warmth with a minimum of 100C. However, to bring the plant to flower may require temperatures above 260C.


Air Plant requires a humid enviroment as is present in their natural environment. If the humidity is too low, the plant will respond with brown leaf tips.

To raise humidity, mist it more regularly or use a cool mist humidifier. Check out these techniques on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

Ensure that there is good air circulation to discourage pests and diseases infestation.

Fertilizer (Feeding)

Feed the Air Plant with a liquid fertilizer (foliar feed) every 2 weeks during the growing season. Do not use a fertilizer containing urea nitrogen as Air plants cannot use urea nitrogen. Do not feed during the cold season as growth is minimal and it may cause fertilizer burn in your Air Plant.


Pruning Air Plant involves removal of dead leaves to keep the plant neat and tidy and to allow adequate room for the new plants to grow. Remove the dead foliage by cutting at the base with a clean knife or a pair of scissors.

Snip off the dry, brown leaf tips with sharp scissors. Cut them at an angle so that they can blend in naturally with the rest of the leaves.


Air Plants (Grey Tillandsia) are propagated from offsets (pups) appearing at the base of the plant.

When the offset is several months old or 1/3 to 1/2 the height of mother plant, cut it away from the mother plant.

Ensure that the offset has some roots attached it to hasten establishment. Display the offset on its own and continue with the usual routine care.

Air Plant, Tillandsia spp

Photo Credit: Crocus

Air Plants Problems Indoors

Air Plants (Grey Tillandsia) problems indoors are due to cultural faults in lighting and watering. These problems include slow growth, plant death, rotting, brown leaf tips. diseases and pests among others. Read on for more on these problems, their remedies and solutions.

Slow growth and pale leaves

Air Plant slow growth and pale leaves are due to inadequate light as they grow best in bright light away from direct sunlight.

Move the Air Plant to a brighter spot where it will receive bright light but away from direct sunshine or instal a grow light where the natural lighting is not sufficient. Check out this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

Brown leaf tips

Air Plant brown leaf tips are due to two possible causes. One possible cause is underwatering. Water the plant more regularly and ensure the entire plant is thoroughly soaked.

The other possible cause of brown leaf tips in Air Plant is overfeeding. Reduce either frequency of feeding or quantity of feed for the plant as Air Plants are slow growers and require very minimal feeding.

Brown or grey slimy crown and roots

Air Plant brown or grey slimy crown and roots is an indication of rotting due to excess water standing at the base of the crown.

Trim the rotten roots but if the crown is rotten, discard the plant as it is too far gone and can not be saved. Always drain excess water from the crown after watering or wipe it dry with a soft cloth.

Plant dying

Air Plant dying is due to two reasons. If it has not flowered, the cause of death is crown and stem-rot disease due to water sitting in the crown.

If the plant has flowered then rotting and death of rosette which bore flower-stalk is natural to give room for the new plants.

Remove the dead foliage by cutting at the base with a clean knife or a pair of scissors.

Leaves whitish even after watering

Air Plant leaves whitish even after watering are due to low air humidity as they require a humid environment to thrive.

Mist the plant more regularly or place it in a glass bowl and keep a wet sponge inside to raise humidity. A cool mist humidifier is also a good option to raise humidity for the Air Plant.

Leaves reddish, dry and brittle

Air Plant leaves reddish, dry and brittle are due to exposure to direct sunlight. Move the plant to a shadier spot or protect it from direct sunlight.


Air Plant pests; scales and mealy bugs. Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to other houseplants and treat it appropriately for the pests.

To discourage pests infestation, raise humidity by more regular misting or use a cool mist humidifier.

Is Air Plant toxic?

Air Plants (Grey Tillandsia) are non-toxic to humans and pets. The Air Plants are safe to grow indoors.

You liked it? Share on social media.

On the Blog

You liked it? Share on social media.