How do I water an airplant?

An air plant needs water, food and light like other plants do. Because it doesn’t root in the soil and lives off the ground, many people think it doesn’t need watering and lives on air.

This is wrong.

This is why your air plants have died.

It doesn’t use its roots to take up water, it uses its leaves. They have special hairs that act like little sponges (among other very clever things).

velvety close uo

To be able to act like sponges they need to be exposed to water. In the wild they live in places where water literally falls from the sky. This doesn’t happen in the home, or we hope it doesn’t. So you will need to water them.

They can be soaked in the sink or run under the tap, or popped in the shower. Or dunked, like a digestive biscuit in a mug.

In the winter they only need about 10-20 minutes soaking or a quick shower (cold water!); in the summer they will need longer or more frequent waterings. Tap water is fine, rain water is not needed for air plants.

The most important thing about watering is that you do it. The second most important thing is that you drain your plants afterwards. Air plants are basically funnel-shaped, and unless it is very warm and dry, they will die of rot if water gets stuck in the bottom of the funnel. So make sure that they are dry before you put them back where they live.

draining 1

This is why many air plant displays are ‘upside down’ so that there is little danger of the plant rotting.

Learn to judge how your air plant is by holding it to see what temperature it is. A healthy plant should feel slightly cool and resilient in your hand. If it feels the same temperature as the room, and a bit rustly or crackly it probably needs watering. This does take practice! Try touching house plants, holding their leaves gently in your hands to take their temperature and feel how much water they have. You will get the feel for it after a while, and one that is too dry will feel wrong, like a dog with a dry nose. (It doesn’t work so well on a plant that is in full sun, like a sun-bathing cat, they heat up nicely.)

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