Air plants are definitely gaining popularity, especially among those born without a green thumb! These interesting plants do not need a pot or soil to grow, getting all their nutrients from the air. So, where exactly do you plant an air plant that doesn’t need soil?
Indoors, air plants love to be planted near a south, west, or east facing window in terrariums, or simply set it on a surface. Outdoors, air plants love to be planted in bright areas that don’t get direct sun, such as on a covered patio, in the crooks of tree branches, or beneath a tree.
You can really get creative when it comes to planting air plants. Below, we’ll go over all the details about where to plant them and how to take care of them!
What Are Air Plants?
Before we get into where to plant air plants, you may be wondering what these alien plants are? After all, what kind of plant doesn’t need soil!
Air plants are grouped under the genus Tillandsia and are found naturally in North and South America. These plants have become very popular in the home due to their exotic appearance and their minimal care needs.
According to the University of New Hampshire, air plants fall into two broad categories:
- Desert region air plants
- Rainforest region air plants
Air plants that are from desert regions will typically have light- to silver-green fuzzy leaves that can sometimes be scaly. Those from rainforest regions will be darker green and have curved leaves instead of the flat, fuzzy leaves of desert air plants.
When it comes to choosing an air plant for your home, most people will go for the air plants from desert regions. These will be far more forgiving if you forget to water them for a few days.
In the wild, air plants will use their roots to latch onto surfaces such as rocks, telephone poles, other plants, and trees. Unlike parasitic plants, air plants will not harm their host. They just use them as an anchor to stay in place.
Plants that use hosts in this manner are known as epiphytes. One of the most well-known epiphytes out there is Spanish moss, which often dangles from live oaks and bald cypress trees.
Although epiphytes like air plants do not normally harm their host, a few studies took a closer look and found that epiphytes can harm hosts in terms of leaf production and premature branch decay.
Overall, air plants do minimal, if any, damage to their host trees.
Why Don’t Air Plants Need Soil?
Soil is the typical medium that plants use to absorb nutrients and water, but air plants operate a little differently. Air plants use things called epidermal trichomes to absorb water and nutrients from the atmosphere.
Trichomes are located on the plant’s leaves and can absorb water in the form of rain, fog, and dew droplets. They absorb nutrients through decaying leaves and other organic matter in the air.
An article in the Journal of Nature Communications looked into the microscopic world of these trichomes and found that they are not only highly efficient at absorbing water, but they’re also great at keeping that water from evaporating too quickly.
This is especially important for air plants that live in desert regions. The air is readily absorbed into the plant, but the process of evaporation is slowed by a thick shield located in the trichome.
6 Places Air Plants Love To Be Planted Indoors
Having plants in your home or apartment is an excellent way to bring some life to the indoors. Air plants are particularly useful in small apartments or spaces where large houseplants just won’t cut it.
Having air plants inside is a necessity in some regions that are just too cold to have them outside. In general, anything below freezing is too cold for an outdoor air plant.
Even though air plants need minimal effort to keep alive compared to other plants, they still require three necessities:
- Air circulation
When choosing a place to plant your new air plant, be sure to keep these three things in mind. Sunlight, in particular, will be a deciding factor when choosing a place for your new air plant.
Air plants love sunlight, but they should never be placed in direct sunlight. According to the University of Florida, you should place your air plants near south, west, or east facing windows. Air plants will not do well in rooms without windows.
With all that in mind, let’s check out all the places air plants love to be planted indoors!
Terrariums, Seashells & Driftwood
Terrariums come in many shapes and sizes and are a great way to display your unique air plant. Terrariums are typically glass or plastic and have an opening somewhere to allow air to circulate inside.
The nice thing about terrariums is that they can be displayed in so many different places depending on your decorative preferences. Some can be the centerpiece of your coffee table while others can hang from the ceiling.
Mkono’s Plant Terrarium Display Glass Tabletop Succulent Air Plant Planter Globe is a popular terrarium that is meant to sit as a centerpiece on a table or displayed on a shelf. All you need to do is fill it with some kind of material inside (small pebbles work great!) and set your air plant inside.
If you’re looking for a more unique design that can be hung up, Mkono also sells a 2 Pack Glass Hanging Planter. It comes in two shapes – a globe and a teardrop.
For any crafty folks out there, you can make a terrarium yourself from old glass containers. All you need is something to put inside such as pebbles, a small log, some cool rocks…get as creative as you like! Place your air plant inside and you’re done!
Air plants need air circulation to thrive, so just be sure to leave an opening somewhere.
Small Containers And Bowls
Not only do air plants require minimal care, but you can also put them in just about anything and they’ll do just fine. Bowls, baskets, dishes, and even seashells can all be excellent containers for an air plant.
If you have an ocean vibe going on in your home, using a conch shell as a container for your air plant is a great choice.
Nautical Beach Decor sells a Large Bahama Queen Conch Seashell that is sold in the USA with a ‘harvest hole,’ meaning the conch was removed legally only after the shell was inspected to make sure it was mature enough to harvest.
Driftwood is another great ocean-themed decoration you can use as an air plant container. If you’re not into an ocean-themed container, there are plenty of other small bowls, cute decorations, and themed containers that you can use to match your unique theme!
If you don’t really have any particular theme in your home or apartment, you can always opt for something neutral like Naturally Med’s Olive Wood Rustic Bowl. This will go well in most settings and can be placed just about anywhere.
As always, be sure to place your container in a brightly-lit room out of direct sunlight. Other than that, the placement of your container is entirely up to you and your creative imagination!
We weren’t kidding when we said air plants can thrive just about anywhere! If you’re not thrilled about terrariums, containers, or bowls, you can plant your air plants on the wall instead.
Use something like AOAOPQ’s Air Plant Holder Wood Frame to mount a lattice-like frame on the wall. Use wire to attach the air plant to the frame. This is certainly one of the more unique and interesting ways to display these amazing plants!
You can also use hot glue to attach air plants to any surface you like such as a windowsill, wall, shelf, or counter. However, this isn’t recommended as many air plants require thorough misting or even occasional submergences in water that will require you to remove them from their position.
And re-gluing your air plant each time you water it can get old fast…
3 Places Air Plants Love To Be Planted Outdoors
Air plants can thrive indoors and outdoors if the conditions are right. To display your air plants outside, you’ll want to make sure you live in an area suitable for air plants to survive.
Because air plants are typically from tropical and subtropical areas, asking an air plant to survive outside in, say, Alaska might be a little too much…
But if you live in a warmer climate like the southern United States you are probably safe placing an air plant outdoors. Even if you live in an area that has cold winters, you can always transition your air plant indoors once the temperatures begin approaching freezing level.
You can also check the hardiness zone of your air plant if you know the species. This can help you determine if it will survive outdoors.
Similar to indoor air plants, outdoor air plants should be placed somewhere that gets sun but is protected from too much direct sunlight.
Patios And Decks
There’s nothing better than settling down on your patio after a long day of work, enjoying the sunshine and breeze as it plays across your face.
Air plants love it too!
Covered patios and porches are the perfect places to display your air plants. Because it is protected from direct sunlight, air plants will thrive being out in the open air on your covered porch, but won’t shrivel up from too much sun.
You can use terrariums to hang your air plants up, or use containers and bowls to display them on a covered table on your porch as well. You can also use a mounted lattice board to display your air plants on the wall of your covered porch.
In the wild, air plants often grow on trees using their little roots to grab hold of branches and trunks where they can.
Air plants don’t do any damage to the tree they are growing on, they just use it as an anchor to stay in place. They also benefit from being shaded by the tree so as not to receive too much direct sunlight.
You can use these same tactics to find a home for your air plant on your outdoor trees. Landscape trees are a great place to display your air plant. It can spruce up your landscape tree and bring some new color into your yard.
Air plants love being attached to tree branches or placed in the crooks of trees where the branches meet the trunk. You can help your air plant stay in place by using wire to keep the air plant attached.
Another option is to hang your air plants from a low tree branch. You can use terrariums or something like Shappy’s 4-piece Hanging Air Plant Holder Tassel. This comes with 4 plant hangers complete with a loop and S-hook for easy hanging.
If you decide to go this route, just remember that you still may need to water your air plant from time to time, especially if it is a rainforest air plant that is used to humid, wet conditions.
Terrariums can also be used to hang your air plant from a low-hanging tree branch. Just make sure the terrarium is out of the direct sun as much as possible.
Covered Landscaping Like Flowerbeds With Shade
You may have noticed a theme going on here…air plants do not do well in direct sunlight. For this reason, planting them out in an open landscape or flowerbed is not a good idea.
However, if you have a flowerbed or landscape with taller plants and shrubs, air plants can thrive under light shade conditions.
You can get creative with where you place your air plants within a flowerbed or landscape. Use interesting containers, terrariums, or even driftwood to give your flowerbed an exotic and unique look.
Caring For Your Air Plant
With any house plant, certain requirements must be met for the plant to survive and thrive. Air plants are no different.
To keep your air plant happy, you’ll want to pay close attention to:
- Sunlight: As we mentioned before, air plants do not like direct sunlight. But depending where the air plant is native to will affect how much sunlight it needs. Desert air plants typically prefer more sun than air plants from rainforest regions.
- Temperature: Air plants are used to tropical and subtropical climates. According to the University of New Hampshire, they prefer temperatures between 65℉ and 85℉.
- Water: Just like sunlight requirements, water requirements will differ between desert air plants and rainforest air plants. Overwatering can be just as damaging as underwatering since air plants are susceptible to rot if they are overwatered.
For desert air plants, misting them every other day with a spray bottle may be sufficient to keep the plant happy and healthy. If you start to notice brown leaf tips or curling leaves, it means your air plant is not getting enough water.
For rainforest air plants, you can soak them in room-temperature water for fifteen minutes twice a week to get them the proper amount of water that they need. Allow the plants to dry before placing them back in their container.
- Fertilizer: Because domesticated air plants do not have access to rotting leaves or other organic material, you should provide fertilizer to ensure they are getting the necessary nutrients.
Cute Farm’s Tillandsia Air Plant Fertilizer is an excellent product that can be sprayed directly on your air plant once per week. This product has the bonus of coming with an air plant care guide too!
That’s A Wrap!
Air plants are fun to have around the house or apartment. They’re exotic, strange-looking, and fairly easy to take care of.
Air plants can be planted indoors or outdoors depending on if the conditions are favorable. In both indoor and outdoor settings you’ll want to find a place that has plenty of light, but not too much direct sunlight.
To recap, here are the 9 places that air plants love to be planted:
- Small bowl or container
- Hung on the wall
- Covered patio or deck
- Attached to tree
- Hanging from a tree branch
- In protected landscape
That’s all we’ve got for you today! Happy air planting!
Flores-Palacios, A. (2015, October 12). Does structural parasitism by epiphytes exist? A case study between Tillandsia recurvata and Parkinsonia praecox. Plant Biology, 18(3), 463-470.
Papini, A., Tani, G., Di Falcon, P., & Brighigna, L. (2010). The ultrastructure of the development of Tillandsia (Bromeliaceae) trichome. Flora – Morphology, Distribution, Functional Ecology of Plants, 205(2), 94-100.
Raux, P. S., Gravelle, S., & Dumais, J. (2020, January 20). Design of a unidirectional water valve in Tillandsia. Nature Communications, 11(396).
Soria, N. F., Torres, C., & Galetto, L. (2014, October). Experimental evidence of an increased leaf production in Prosopis after removal of epiphytes (Tillandsia). Flora – Morphology, Distribution, Functional Ecology of Plants, 209(10), 580-586.
Valencia-Diaz, S., Flores-Palacios, A., Rodriguez-Lopez, V., Ventura-Zapata, E., & Jimenez-Aparicio, A. R. (2010). Effect of host-bark extracts on seed germination in Tillandsia recurvata, an epiphytic bromeliad. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 26(6), 571-581.