Do Air Plants Need Sunlight? Yes!

Find Out How Much

give your air plants the right light

let there be light

Some people wonder: Do air plants need sun? The answer is Yes! They do! It’s important to know the right-light sweet spot is for your air plants. The short answer is bright, indirect light.

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Of course, that answer can be fine tuned. I’m sure you have noticed the silvery sheen or whitish fuzz on your air plants. Sometimes it is more visible on the underside of the leaf. On some air plants the sheen is highly visible, on others, not so much. The silvery sheen or fuzz has a name: trichomes.

Perfect - now my air plants get the light they need

Trichomes serve many purposes. Like a sponge they absorb water for the air plant. That’s why soaking is the best way to water air plants. Soaking gives the trichomes time to reach maximum water capacity. But, trichomes are more than sponges.

Soak air plants in water

Soaking your air plants in gives the trichomes a chance to absorb water and prevents dehydration.

Trichomes are serve as sun shields protecting the leaves from intense sunlight. The more trichomes an air plant has the more sun they can handle. Give the more silvery air plants the most very most light possible. Keep in mind that because our homes are so much darker than the outdoors, give your air plants the best indirect light that your home has to offer.

T. aeranthos basks in indirect light

Perched atop a bit of driftwood, this Tillandsia aeranthos basks in bright, indirect light. Although the trichomes are difficult to see, be assured that they are there.

You may be thinking: I know my side table is dark, but that is exactly where I want to place my air plant display. My answer is: Go right ahead and put your air plants wherever you want. This may mean that your plants won’t last as long as they would have in a more sunny location. But there is an alternative.

Play musical air plants. Watering day is the perfect time to take the air plants from their less than ideal locations and place them in the very best light location your home has to offer. Then take the air plants from their ideal location and place them on your side table. Or, wherever makes you happy to see them. Just remember that a weekend stay in prime light is not enough to compensate for primary residence on the dark bookcase.

Play musical air plants to give air plants enough light

Because my home has wide eaves, I know my air plants will never get enough light hanging out in my living room. By playing musical air plants they can take a short turn in the less than optimal lighting without any long-term harm as long as I don’t let them sit there for too many days before returning them bright, indirect light.

Remember when I said that indirect light is ideal for your air plants? Now I am going to modify that advice. A bit of direct light can actually be beneficial and can bring out more color in your plants. That said, watch for sunburn on the plant’s leaves and make sure they are adequately hydrated and ventilated. Weather permitting,cracking a window will add more air circulation for your air plants.

Pull up your blinds, throw open your curtains and let in the sunshine!

  1. April Kay says:

    Thank you for your care tips so we can take better care of our air-babies 🙂

  2. Sandy says:

    I am so enjoying your daily instructions and comments. Thank you sharing your love of air plants. Love reading other comments as well.

    1. Anna says:

      Thanks, Sandy!
      All the best to you and your air plants,

  3. Nil says:

    I love all the insight you provide in your posts. I never soaked my air plants before reading your article. I always misted every other day. Since I started soaking them and drying them upside down overnight, to my dismay several have developed root rot. I have tried less soaking time and still they get root rot. What am I doing wrong? Also in terms of proper lighting my windows all face south and southwest exposure. I’m afraid they will burn up even though I have filtering shades and sheer curtains and tinted windows. Right now I am using a plant light and a humidifier in my dining room. Adjacent to that room I have a ceiling fan which stays on constantly. So air circulation is not a problem. Your expertise is needed! Thank you.

    1. Anna says:

      If your air plants did better before soaking them, then I recommend going back to misting them. Environmental conditions vary. Do what works for your air plants. If you are afraid of burning your air plants with the southern exposure, just move them back another 12″ away from the window. One note about the humidifier, use the lowest setting so that you protect your home from too much humidity.
      So, in a nutshell, go back to misting if that is what has been working for you.
      All my best,

  4. Tracey Lorah says:

    Hi Anna, I got air plants for Christmas and since then I have got 4 more I just love them .I have a question can you tell me what pups look like.i love all your advice it has help me so much…


    1. Anna says:

      Congratulations on your air plants! At first, pups look like a tiny bump, usually on the base of the air plant under an older leaf. As the pup develops it begins to look more and more like the mother plant.
      Click on the link below to several images of air plant pups:
      Air Plant Growth Cycle

  5. Anu says:

    Can i grow air plant in artificial light and put them out once a week?

    1. Anna says:

      I grow my air plants with natural light, but I do have orchids that I grow under artificial light and they are doing well. I imagine that the air plants will also do well. Keep in touch – I’d love to hear how they do.

  6. Trixie says:

    I live in Houston and will be out of town for 2 weeks. I have a vine ball (Michael’s) with air plants on it and outside with indirect light. If it rains while I am gone will our 80-90 degree heat be enough to dry out the plants?

    1. Anna says:

      If possible, I recommend bringing the vine ball indoors while you are gone and then bringing it back outdoors. The winds may be too drying.

  7. Dominique Denis-Lalonde says:

    Hi Anna,
    Just curious, is it best then if you do want to keep an airplant in a darker-room/spot, that you pick one that isn’t as full of trichrome. Two of our are very silvery, but one is not. I’m wondering if that one would do better in this particular spot.
    Thanks for all your help!

    1. Anna says:

      Yes, the fewer the trichomes the lower the light requirements. That said, all air plants do best with bright, indirect light. One option is to rotate the air plant in the darker area with another air plant in a brighter area. That way the air plants could take turns being in optimal light.

  8. Rose-Marie Sommer says:

    After years and years of flying to the Bahamas and bringing back air plants that had relatively short lives ( before the days of computers) l notice our flower shops are now selling them. I am tempted, with your expertise to start again! Thank you for your tips.

    1. Anna says:

      I am so happy to hear this!
      Great hearing from you,

  9. Jan Stoddard says:

    Thanks for your great wisdom in raising air plants. I’m learning so much.

    1. Anna says:

      Thanks so much! I appreciate your comment!

  10. Alicia Hill says:

    My three little plants came in the mail, I noticed several brittle leaves looked like it had been snapped. Will they die? Or be more damaged? Or will they still thrive under proper care and loving?

    1. Anna says:

      Air plants can look a little haggard after being mailed, but usually, they have been well cared for and will bounce back. Let the seller know how the air plants looked upon receipt, then wait and see if they recover.

      For more information, check out this helpful article:

      All my best,

  11. Annie says:

    Hi Anna…loving your advice thank you. I’m learning a lot from you. I have lots of Air Plants and adore them….Some do better than other, so your advice will help me get them all sorted out.

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you so much! Air plants are hidden gems among the plant world. It is a joy to share what I learn about them with you!
      Have a lovely day,

  12. Pat says:

    One of your answers above mentioned not putting the dome on a terrarium. I just purchased an air plant for a terrarium to pair with some moss and rocks. I have the dome on currently. My thinking is that the air plant might like the moisture…guess I need to find a new home for it?

    1. Anna says:

      You could always replace the air plant if it doesn’t do well in the terrarium. Good air circulation will definitely prolong the life of your air plant, but if you really like the look of the terrarium, just plant on eventually replacing the air plant.
      Why not have your cake and eat it too? 😉

  13. Anita says:

    Thank you for the great tips. I’m wondering if there is a tell tale sign that the air plants aren’t receiving enough light?

    1. Anna says:

      Great question! Thanks for asking. To determine if an air plant needs more light, look for overall fading and/or faded spots. Air plants with insufficient light may appear healthy and then suddenly fall apart in water, as lack of light will lead the air plant incapable of absorbing both light and water.

  14. Melissa A Nurmi says:

    I have my air plants under grow lights for the winter and all are a few inches away from the lights themselves, but I’ve noticed that some of them besides my Caput Medusae and Xerographica have begun to get brown leaf tips in spite of misting twice a day. Any advice?

    1. Anna says:

      It’s a good idea to keep the lights about 12 inches above the air plants. Air also tends to be a bit drier in the winter. If you have a humidifier, your air plants would appreciate the added humidity during the winter months if you live in a dry climate, or if you have a furnace going.
      Take care and thank you for your thoughtful question,

  15. Gayle Fiford says:

    Hi Anna.
    Thank you for sharing your great tips. Really making me understand about my air. My air plants have never produced flowers?
    Thank you.

    1. Anna says:

      Thanks for reaching out to me. Here are a couple of things you can do to promote flowering:
      First, give your air plants more light. It takes a lot of energy (in the form of light) for them to produce flowers.
      Second, fertilize your air plants, but do so sparingly.

      The bad news is that air plants bloom only once, so if your air plant bloomed before you got it, you’re out of luck.

      My first course of action would be to give your air plants more light – be patient.

      Thank you for your thoughtful question,

  16. Cari says:

    Very helpful plant tips! Thank you. Also using a grow light in my 55 gallon aquarium turned air plant terrarium. Any hints & comments will be apreciated. Thank you

    1. Anna says:

      Ooooh! Sounds beautiful. My only tips would be to dry the air plants thoroughly after watering before returning to the terrarium and to not add a lid to the terrarium for optimum air flow.
      Have a great day,

  17. Robyn says:

    These tips are great. I’m learning all about the reasons my previous air plants have not had a very long life. And will try no to make those mistakes again. Will a grow light i have on my fish tank, also be beneficial for my air plants, if i set them under the lamp for an hour every day? I live in a cold climate, and do plan to move them to the kitchen window but there is a bit of a draft there in the winter months and will worry they will get cold there.

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you for your kind words. I haven’t grown air plants under lights I would love to hear how it goes. I have orchids under lights that do very well – but my air plants are doing great without artificial lights. PLEASE, let me know how it goes.

  18. Stacy says:

    Great article! My new addiction.

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you! The great part about an air plant addiction is that it’s a healthy addiction. Think how clean your air is with all those air plants!

  19. Violet says:

    Hi Anna, Thanks for all tips and advice. Since I accidentally deleted tip #3, I am kindly asking you to resend it please if that is possible. Thanks much.

    1. Anna says:

      Hey Violet,
      Check your inbox. I just sent you tip #3. Let me know if you didn’t get it.
      I’m glad you’re enjoying the tips!

  20. Jenn says:

    I’ve had my airplants for a couple years now with no deaths yet. I keep them in the front of a window that gets full evening sun. They do great but no offshoots yet, that’s my #1 wish. I soak them once a week. Love reading your article!

    1. Anna says:

      Congratulations on your air plants! That is kind of puzzling that your air plants haven’t produced any pups. Watch for your plants to change color- become more red or orange, starting in the center. That is a signal that they are about to bloom–and produce a pup for you.
      I really want you to get some air plant babies!

  21. Mario says:

    Thanks Ana … I am fascinated with the discovery of the world of air plants and think that I had them nearby, additional complement with the decoration……In my city (Quito) there is only one variety … I plan to travel around the country to find more varieties.

    1. Anna says:

      What an exciting journey of discovery lies ahead for your! I’m jealous!

  22. sandra carr says:

    i really learned a lot about my airplants thx so much

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you Sandra! I am glad you found my site helpful.
      Please, let me know if you have any questions about air plants that I can answer!

  23. Chris says:

    Can Air Plants survive being outside?

    1. Anna says:

      Yes they can. Keep your air plants above 40-50 degrees F and water frequently and provide some shade if temperatures reach above 100 degrees F.
      Have fun growing air plants outdoors!

  24. Caroline says:

    I have been going over your steps on Air plants and I have to say looking at so many “Growers” sites and listening to their advice etc.. I get confuse! Your steps however, are very easy to understand and very helpful. I have been taking notes and feel confident in giving my presentation next week.. THANK YOU so much..

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you Caroline. I am so glad that you find my information helpful and easy to understand!
      You’ll do great on your presentation!

  25. Joy kelley says:

    Great advice thanks so much joy

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you Joy!
      I’m so glad I could help!

  26. Nancy says:

    Thanks for the great advice. Now I know how to show off my air plants and also keep than happy and healthy!

    1. Anna says:

      Thanks Nancy!

  27. Dave says:

    Great info!

    1. annaw says:

      Glad you like it!?

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