Fertilize for Faster Growth and Vibrant Blooms

Start Feeding Your Air Plants

Fertilize your air plants

supercharge your air plants

Air plants are slow growing plants, but you can give yours a boost that will assist your air plants in producing pups (babies) and colorful flowers.

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For more growth and more flower color, as well as overall health, start fertilizing your air plants–with a light hand. Air plants can be easily burned by too much fertilizer and not all fertilizer will work for air plants. Use a fertilizer made specifically for Tillandsia. Be sure to use a non-urea nitrogen fertilizer as this type of fertilizer depends on bacteria in the soil to break down the nitrogen into a usable form. Since air plants absorb their nutrients directly through trichomes on their leaves this type of fertilizer will harm air plants. Also avoid fertilizers containing boron, copper or iron, which are toxic to air plants.

Check out this great guide to fertilizing air plants

Break It Down

Fertilizers contain 3 main components: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Nitrogen promotes healthy leaves, phosphorus encourages flowering and potassium supports overall plant health.

These nutrients are represented as an NPK percentage. A label reading 17-8-22 contains 17 percent nitrogen, 8 percent phosphorus, and 22 percent potassium. Recommended strength is to use 1/4 teaspoon or 1/4 strength per gallon of water, whichever is less.

Enhance air plant growth with fertilizer


Best Fertilizer Options

When fertilizing air plants, I suggest using a fertilizer formulated specifically for tillandsias or bromeliads. This will help you to avoid elements which are toxic to air plants but commonly added to most fertilizers. Choose between a pre-mixed spray fertilizer or a granular fertilizer.

Spray Fertilizer

If convenience is your top priority, go with a spray fertilizer. It is the easiest option as the fertilizer is pre-mixed and ready-to-go. Be sure to spray all side of the plant.

Granular Fertilizer

To get the most fertilizer for your money, go with a granular fertilizer. Add the prescribed ratio of fertilizer to the water.  To economize, even more, save and re-use the water containing fertilizer. Label the water as fertilizer water, so it is not confused with other water.

Tip: To avoid fertilizer burn, fertilize once a month after watering, then monitor your plants to gauge your plants’ reaction to the fertilizer.

If you use a water soluble fertilizer, simply add the fertilizer to the water. Once the fertlizer has dissolved add the air plants.

Be Wise

Remember, air plants will live a long time without fertilizing, but too much fertilizer will burn or kill an air plant, judicious fertilizing, no more than once per month, will encourage growth and flowering.


A Cautionary Post

  1. Terry Powell says:

    Great tips. I’m coming back for more.

  2. CHITRA PERERA says:


  3. Sandy Gordon says:

    Hi Anna, I have learned a lot in the last few days! Thank you so much for the education. But I cannot find the answer to this: Do I fertilize all year, or just in the summer? Thanks again for the lessons, and I can’t wait for you to teach me about my orchids.

  4. WANDA J HILL says:

    I am enjoying reading and learning about how to care for my air plants. It does require attention, but the exotic and rare plant deserves the attention. Just ordered fertilizer, which I had not known was a must. I’m looking forward to seeing the results that fertilizing will add to my plants. Thank you for the advice.

    1. Anna says:

      Fertilizer will enhance your air plants – just be sure to use sparingly.
      Enjoy your air plants,

  5. Linda says:

    I have two red abdita air plants. They are watered every three days using the soaking method for thirty each time. Both of them always look so wilted and dry and parched. I ordered them from another site and they always looked this way. Was wondering if soaking them every day for thirty minutes would be too much. Am also wondering since they are red are they (enhanced) or painted if that would be the problem with their inability to obsorb water through their leaves?

    1. Anna says:

      Although red abditas do turn red before blooming, it is likely that they have been enhanced. I have a couple of air plants that were enhanced with florist paint and it didn’t seem to cause any harm. Now, the plants have grown new leaves and it is just the very outer leaves where I can see traces of the paint. You will know if your plants have been enhanced because you’ll be able to see a distinct line when the leaves grow. (It’s like coloring grey hair and that tale-tell line appears a few weeks later.)
      About watering – soaking once a week is probably sufficient. It is very important to let the abditas dry thoroughly up-side-down after soaking. If you continue to give your air plants good care, they should recover. In any case, contact the seller and let them know that the air plants you purchased arrived looking wilted.
      Best of luck to you and the recovery of your air plants,

  6. Manuela says:

    Would I be able to use worm wee to fertilize my air plants. ?

    1. Anna says:

      I haven’t ever tried that type of fertilizer. One thing to keep in mind is that while nitrogen is important for air plants, it has to be given to them in a useable form. Urea-based fertilizers cannot be absorbed by air plants.

  7. Joni says:

    I am so thrilled I found your site! I have learned more with your tips than you can imagine. I was so ignorant of air plant care I didn’t even know what question to ask. Thank you!

    1. Anna says:

      Thanks so much!!! I appreciate your kind words!
      I wish you and your air plants the very best,

  8. Julie Jones says:

    I have been using pond water on my air plants should I still fertilize or will it hurt them. I just. Recently found out that this pond has no oxygen it only gets rain water is this pond water ok to use or not

    1. Anna says:

      If you are using pond water, don’t worry about fertilizing. Air plants require very little fertilizer anyway so they will get all they need from the pond water – including pond-rainwater.
      Thanks for reaching out,

  9. Lisa coleman says:

    I have the spray fertilizer, is it better to use it as a spray or should you add it to their water that you dunk them in?

    1. Anna says:

      Both work well. The fertilizer that you add to water costs less and goes further than the spray on fertilizer. Just be sure that the fertilizer is bromeliad friendly.

  10. Bruce says:

    I have an abundance of air plants, as I make small ceramic holders and sell them along with other ceramic sculptures. People love them. In the warmer months, I take a bucket of water from our small outdoor pond, and soak my air plants in that. There is natural “fertilizer” in the pond water and they seem to love it, as I have had blooms every summer! I just don’t know what to do once the bloom is done….cut, not cut? With my Medusas, the bloom stalk seems to never dry up!

    1. Anna says:

      I chuckled at your comment about your medusas bloom stalks never drying up. I’ve experienced that same thing.

      Yes, once you can see that the flower is spent, you can trim it off. I have left some flowers on and they do produce seeds. I’ve been saving them thinking that one day I will try to grow some tillandsia from seed. I’ve heard that the specimens are fantastic, but the process is long and finicky.

      I’d love to see your ceramic air plant holders. Email me some pictures if you get a chance, [email protected]


  11. Maria says:

    Good day! I have only a few and they are in our greenhouse (with our orchids).
    So far, I have been lucky but grateful for all the tips you have given. I am now
    Armed in advance should problems occur.
    I have learned a lot from your tips. Thank you very much. Looking forward to the next tip or session.
    Till next time….. Aussie May.

    1. Anna says:

      I bet your greenhouse with air plants and orchids is lovely! Thank you for your kind words!

  12. Fung says:

    Thankyou for all your tips and information ,I have a red one and start loosing it’s red color ,then I realized I have been soaking mine for 3 to 4 hours sometimes in a stainless steel bowl among with my other air plant ,never turn them up side down,so some got brown roots .I don’t water them enough that is why I soaked them ,but now after reading your post ,realized all the wrong things I have done for them.

    1. Anna says:

      Stainless steel is fine for air plants, but you only need to soak them for an hour – tops. Letting them drain and dry after watering is SUPER important.
      I wish you the best in caring for your air plants,

  13. Elizabeth Zurita says:

    Gracias por tu gran generosidad de compartir tus conocimiento, para mi es nuevo el cultivo de la flor de aira.
    Elizabeth de Chile

    1. Anna says:

      It was wonderful to hear from you. I lived in Chile about 20 years ago for a little over a year and loved your beautiful country and the people. Enjoy your air plants!
      Warmest regards,

  14. Jack says:

    Just got my first air plants. I excited to start caring for them and fixing the right places to put them. Then I noticed that to of them have flower buds coming out of them. I did some research and I read that air plant die after blooming. I don’t want to lose them so soon. Is this true? If I cut the buds off to keep them from blooming wil they live longer?

    1. Anna says:

      It is true that after blooming that your air plants will eventually die, but they can live a long time after blooming. Also, flowers mean that the air plant will produce pups, so you’ll get a replacement air plant at the same time!
      I have never cut off the blooms on my air plants – I’m always so excited for the pups. I don’t know if trimming of the flower will prolong the life of the air plant.
      Have a great day!

  15. Robyn says:

    I live in Canada and these sellers don’t sell their fertilizers to Canada. Is there a site other than amazon that sells Air plant specific fertilizers?

    1. Anna says:

      Google bromeliad fertilizer and see what comes up. Those fertilizers will also work well. If you can’t find a fertilizer, it will be okay, your air plants should still do well.

  16. Melissa says:

    Thanks for the tips..I got into airplants just a few months ago like 6! Well so I’ve done very well with my orchids…but not so much on my air plants…I’ve lost 2 of the long grass type (can’t find a name for it) to rot..I think when I bought it had trouble it was very dry and I soaked it..and seem to have helped but then yesterday I watered them and it all fell apart and was mushy..I dry them on there side and upside down I have 15 so far and rest seem fine…any tips to look for with finding healthy plants?

    1. Anna says:

      I couldn’t agree more! While air plants are SUPER EASY to care for, buying unhealthy (severely dehydrated) air plants is the fastest way to lose them. I am a proponent of buying them online. In my experience air plants from chain stores look terrible because they haven’t been properly watered/soaked and dried after watering. If you do purchase from a brick and mortar store, talk to someone who works there and find out how the plants are being cared for. I have purchased LOTS of air plants online and have been very pleased. They do look a little worse for wear after being shipped, but they look great about a week or so. I take a lot of comfort in knowing that they’ve been well cared for before I got them. I’ve had hundreds of air plants and I can count on one hand the number that have died. That’s how sturdy these crazy, amazing air plants are.


      If you do purchase in-store, here are 4 tips:
      1. Ask someone who works there how they care for their air plants. If they say that they spritz them with water, the air plant is probably dehydrated. The exception is the T. tectorum. This air plant prefers spritzing.
      2. Find out how long they have had the air plants. If they have been there for several weeks and haven’t been watered, or only misted–they are dehydrated.
      3. If you are buying from a specialty air plant store, or you live in a very humid climate, the air plants are likely in good condition.
      4. Most air plants will curl tightly when dehydrated. Look at the leaves on T. aeranthos, T. xerographica, and T. caput-medusae. These air plants will all curl tightly when they need water.

      Thank you for your question!

      PS: Like you I love orchids as well as air plants. In my opinion, they are perfect partners. I have a sister website dedicated to caring for orchids, I’d love for you to check it out! Just click on the link below.

  17. Violet says:

    Good morning Anna.
    I am exceptionally grateful for this opportunity to learn all about tillandsia care.
    So far you have given me a wealth of useful tips. Thanks much.
    I am at tip three (3) and as always very excited for the next.

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you Violet!
      Let me know if you have any questions about your air plants. I’m always happy to help.

  18. Caroline Hertz says:

    Bonjour je viens d acheter des plantes aériennes combien de fois et comment les arroser merci

    1. Anna says:

      Apprenez à arroser les plantes aériennes:

  19. barbara king says:

    I have received some air plants as a gift and some of them have brown tips and a few have a leaf coming off the bottoms here and there …what do I do??? I am totally new to air plants……….. thanks…Barbara

    1. Anna says:

      Brown tips are a sign of underwatering or over fertilizing. I have found that the thinner the leaf the more prone the tips are to turning brown. You could try watering more and fertilizing less and increasing humidity levels by using a humidifier(on the lowest setting). They could also be getting too much heat/sun. Try moving the air plants a little further from your window sill if they are right in your window. Or, you could try air plants with thicker leaves.

      A few leaves coming off at the bottom are okay, but if you notice the base turning purplish or blackish the base of the air plant has started to rot. Rot cannot be reversed, but it is easy to prevent. After watering your air plant, turn it up-side-down for several hours to let the water drain away from the plant.

      I hope this helps!

      You’ve got this!

  20. Janice M Amos says:

    Thanks so much Anna. I took them out of the copper holders. After reading your article regarding copper. I also ordered the fertilizer recommended on your site. Gonna feed these little guys using your instructions. Thanks again.

    1. Anna says:

      Remember to use a light hand with the fertilizer. Less is more.
      Have a great day!

  21. Janice M Amos says:

    I’m enjoying my daily tips. Looking forward for the next one. Thanks so much for your help.

    1. Anna says:

      I’m so happy you’re enjoying your tips! I love sharing information about air plants!

  22. Rushidah says:

    Thanks on your valuable tips!

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you! I appreciate your feedback!

  23. Joy kelley says:

    Great info. Spot on!
    Thanks so much,

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