Where do I keep an airplant?

Air plants (Tillandsia) need light, water and food in the same way that other plants do. So where do you put your new air plant so that it looks good, and thrives?

Some people put their air plants in the bathroom assuming that they will get enough moisture from the damp air. They won’t, you need to water them.

You can split Tillandsia into two main groups for light needs in the UK. The smooth green ones like T. butzii, T. tricolor, T. pseudobaileyi, T. bulbosa (clockwise from top left) need daylight but not direct sun.

In practical terms this means a windowsill that the sun doesn’t get to, or only shines first thing or last thing. Or a brightly lit area that is shaded (which sounds like a contradiction in terms….) for example a hallway that gets a lot of reflected light, an enclosed porch or conservatory that is shaded by trees or other buildings.

The other group is the silvery, velvety ones like T. ixioides, T. fuchsii var. gracilis,  T. oaxacana, T. seleriana (anti-clockwise from top left)  T. tectorum and T. caput-medusae.

These plants can tolerate a lot more light, because the silvery, velvety hairs (trichomes) on their leaves reflect harsh light and protect them.

velvety close uo

So these plants will enjoy a bit of direct sun, and can be put somewhere where they will get direct sun for a few hours a day.

A note of caution with new plants;  plants, like people need to get used to new situations. So introduce new plants to a vanilla, goldilocks environment first. Somewhere that is not too dark, not too light, just a bit boring.  By this I mean an area with no direct sun, that doesn’t get too hot or cold (not above 22c or below 15c). Once they have settled in you can put them somewhere more appropriate.

An air plant will not survive well under artificial light, it’s unlikely that it will get the right sort of light unless you get specialist growing lights.

In terms of temperature they will be ok if you are comfortable without outside clothes on. They can go outside in the summer, once night temperatures are regularly over 10c. As with all plants, extremes or wild fluctuations are bad (don’t do as I did years ago and put a plant in front of the fire to keep it warm when the rest of the house is sub-zero). And remember that as with humans more heat and light means dehydration, so you will need to water more if your plant is somewhere warmer and lighter.

And yes, if you keep your air plant in the cold and dark, you won’t need to water at all. This will be because it has died.


Published by mercyjm

Living in Kent, I am a qualified horticulturist, currently self-employed as a gardener Herne Bay & Whitstable areas; I sell houseplants and airplants at markets locally.

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