Houseplants get a bad rap as difficult and time-consuming chores. But not all house plants are created equally. Some of them are genuinely low-maintenance like air plants.
There's no soil to keep moist. You only have to worry about watering once a week and misting here and there, depending on your location. Yes, you do have to water. They don't feed off the air.
Air plants are native to Central and South America and are epiphytic, meaning they grow on branches and little crevices without harming the tree. Native to tropical weather, these often alien-looking plants love humidity as they absorb moisture through their leaves.
This plant genus has many pros. Air plants are incredibly low-maintenance, thanks to their easy care and placement versatility. They can grow on almost anything — think seashells or inside terrariums — and often grow "pups," giving you instant free plants. They fit just about anywhere, as long as they have the right amount of light. You can even set a weekly alarm for your watering routine (more below) and help them thrive.
The only downside comes if you live in a dry climate and your apartment's humidity level is hard to maintain. Air plants need high humidity (think more than 50 percent), so if your apartment goes below that, they won't be a good fit for your household. You'll struggle to keep up with their moisture needs, making you both very unhappy.
While air plants and succulents have a similar vibe, they're definitely not the same. Here are the three main differences between the plants.
There are hundreds of species, but you'll see trends of the most popular ones in your local greenhouse. Here are the 10 best types of air plants for your next shopping trip.
The most popular air plant you'll see in your local greenhouse, this tillandsia is difficult to kill and it's extremely hardy. You'll see its leaves change from silver-green to red right before it flowers.
Originally from Colombia, this type of air plant grows in a round rosette shape with bright green leaves. Since its leaves are on the thinner side, it will require more misting throughout the week.
Native to Central America, this type of air plant has thicker leaves and prefers misting over soaking for its watering schedule. As it matures, it will reward you with a red flower spike.
The maxima can handle more sunlight than other air plants (think south-facing window) and it turns a beautiful red right before its purple blooms pop out.
This fuzzy air plant grows tall — up to three inches — and turns a fun pink when it begins to bloom.
Soft to the touch and with beautiful, deep orange color, this species grows to eight inches tall. It's a good addition to bring color to your grouping of air plants in a glass container or on a bookshelf.
The gardneri grows a bit bigger than what you're used to seeing — up to 12 inches. Its silver-gray leaves tolerate a little bit more shade than others, but it still needs plenty of moisture.
Talk about a showstopper. This air plant is nicknamed "fuego," or fire in Spanish, and shines in hot pink and purple. It's small but grows fuller over time.
If you're looking for small (less than two inches), this tillandsia is for you. When it blooms, you'll see tiny yellow flowers all over. It's the perfect addition to your terrarium.
This type of air plant has a bulb shape and requires high humidity. You'll recognize it by its squiggly green arms that come off its body.
Whether you're new to houseplants or a seasoned plant parent, air plants are a great addition to your plant family. Their care is relatively easy as long as you do it consistently. If they're happy, they'll reward you with beautiful blooms and even small pups.
As with any other houseplant, a plant's ability to survive depends on its environment, so it's vital that you pay attention to your apartment's lighting and humidity and how your plant reacts to it.
Depending on where you have your air plant and your apartment's climate, your watering schedule will vary. If it receives a lot of bright indirect light and your home is mainly dry, your air plant will need more water.
As a rule of thumb, begin with soaking (yes, fully submerge) your air plant in a bowl with room temperature water for around 10 minutes. Set a timer — this is important as the plant can't remain in the water for long. Do this in the morning if possible for faster drying time.
Once the timer goes off, shake the air plant to remove excess water and place it upside down on a paper towel. It should dry within one to three hours, depending on size. If it takes longer, your plant may rot and be beyond saving.
Depending on your apartment's humidity during the drier months, you'll want to fine mist the air plants once a week. Just so the surface remains moist, but not dripping wet. Crispy, browning tips will signal that your plant isn't getting enough moisture.
If you can't remove the air plant from its container to submerge, you'll have to rely solely on misting. Make sure that you mist around the plant and not inside it, especially when inside a terrarium.
Air plants need bright, indirect light to grow and thrive. This means near a window (preferably east- and south-facing windows) where the area remains illuminated all day but gets no direct sunlight.
The more sunlight your plant receives, the more you should check its moisture levels and up the misting to twice a week if needed.
Keep their environment between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit to make them comfortable. As long as you feel good inside your apartment, they will, too.
The best part about air plants is how versatile they are when it comes to décor. Since they're soil-less, you can play around with fun containers, add them on bookshelves and more as long as they have the right light to grow.
Air plants love humidity. It's how they get the needed moisture to survive in the forest. Grab a small glass terrarium, add a bit of bark to the bottom and a few different plants to the terrarium. Place it on a mantel or your dining table as a centerpiece.
Since they require no soil, you can place different air plants on top of books throughout your bookshelves along with other knickknacks. It brings some greenery to your décor.
Again, these plants thrive in humid environments — and what's the best spot for them? The bathroom. Add them to your floating shelves in between your skincare and Q-tips for beautiful yet straightforward bathroom décor. Just place them on a rack or grab a small bowl for them.
Stack up a few air plants inside a tall glass vase. It makes the perfect centerpiece for your dining table or brings visual interest to your bookshelf. Here's a quick tutorial.
Hanging planters for air plants will create a beautiful visual in the corner of your home. They come in different materials depending on your style, from macramé to glass to ceramic. These minimalist planters can go with any décor.
Makers on Etsy have cute magnets just for air plants. They come in various designs and are an affordable way to add more greenery to your kitchen. These are a good option.
Crystals rose in popularity in recent years as a good option for décor. They come in different colors and textures. If you have a few on a shelf, add an air plant on top of it to play off the textures.
Grab a piece of treated wood, stain it on your choice color and add a few D-ring clips to it to hang the air plants. You can also purchase one if you're not feeling crafty.
You can pick up a few sea urchin shells, flip them upside down, and add your plant to it. It will resemble an octopus or jellyfish once completed. There's a tutorial here, or you can purchase them ready to display.
Air plants love sunlight! The more light, the better. If you have an east (morning light), you can set your plants on the windowsill. They'll get the light they need throughout the day. Be careful with direct sunlight as it can burn them.
Air plants are affordable and easy to find. You can visit your local greenhouse or home improvement store for a wide selection, or you can go shopping online. Etsy's small plant businesses often carry a variety of air plants.
They're easy to ship, just make sure that they certify that the plants were grown in a nursery versus being harvested from forests. Specialty plant stores like The Sill carry air plants too (see above).
Keeping track of watering schedules, lighting requirements and soil types can make owning plants not fun, especially as a beginner.
But air plants are easy to take care of, don't need soil and have no pests, plus you get to save on expensive pots. They're incredibly versatile when it comes to décor and are the right option for your new plant collection.