Fact and Fiction



If you are wondering how to properly water air plants, you are not alone. There are a lot of misconceptions about watering air plants. This is unfortunate because these false ideas have led to many premature air plant deaths and disenchanted air plant enthusiasts. Happily, for you and your air plants, this post will show you that watering air plants is really quite easy.

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This post will save your air plants - learn to water properly

Show You Know: Be sure to take the quick quiz at the end of the post.

Myth: Water in the Air is Sufficient

One common myth is that air plants will get all the water they need from the air. While they do absorb water in the air, air plants need more water than is available through the humidity in the air. This was the false information that my sister, who first introduced me to air plants, was given.

My sister placed her air plant in a teardrop terrarium she had admired its unusual, yet pleasing form. She assumed all was well and that the air plant was sufficiently hydrated enjoying the humid, coastal climate where she lived. One day she reached her hand into the terrarium and the air plant crumbled. Make no mistake, an unwatered, neglected air plant is a dehydrated air plant.

Myth: A Wet Bed for Added Humidity

On the other extreme, just yesterday I was given an air plant from a family friend. After her air plant finished blooming she generously gave me her air plant to add to my collection. She knows that I can never have too many.

She received her air plant as part of a class at a local nursery. The instructor, the owner of the nursery, showed everyone how to wrap the end of the air plant in sphagnum moss. To keep the air plant hydrated the class members were told to soak the plant with the moss in water once a week.

The nursery owner mistakenly believed that the air plant would benefit from the added humidity that the damp moss would provide. Instead, it created an environment for rot.

Be sure to set air plants on dry medium, such as dry rocks. If the air plants are in a terrarium, the plants will do best if it is a dry, not a wet terrarium. A terrarium with a wide opening allows for maximum ventilation.

Air Plant Container Ideas

Style Your Air Plants Like a Pro


To care for air plants never set them on any medium that is wet, or even damp. All rocks, mosses, branches etc. that you use to display your air plants should be totally dry. Like us, air plants don’t want a wet bed.


Many people wonder: How do air plants absorb water and nutrients? Unlike like most plants, it is not through their roots. Instead, air plants absorb water and nutrients through their trichomes, the silvery sheen or sometimes hairlike substance on the leaves. Trichomes are like tiny sponges that absorb water for the plant, like roots do on other plants.


Trichomes give this tillandsia caput-medusae a silvery sheen.

Tip: An air plants roots only function is to help them cling, harmlessly, to their host. These roots can be trimmed off without any harm to the plants. Over time, the roots will begin to grow again and can be trimmed off right at the base of the plant.


When watering your air plants never use soft or distilled water. Tepid tap water will work, but rain water or pond water is ideal. I’m pretty fortunate in this regard, in exchange for a couple of tic-tac candies my son happily fills a bucket of water from the creek behind our house to water our air plants.

Tip: I collect and re-use the rain and pond water I use for soaking my air plants. After a while, the water starts to smell. The more organic material is in the water, the more quickly the water will smell. After several weeks I dump the water on my roses and begin again.

pH Meter

If you’re ready to get technical, air plants prefer their water with a pH between 5.5 and 6.0. It can be tricky getting the pH just right, so don’t give up if you have a hard time. To get an accurate reading, carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Two household products can be used to adjust the pH of your water: vinegar and baking soda. If your water is too acidic, less than 5.5, add a small amount of baking soda. If your water is to alkaline, higher than 6.0 add a small amount of vinegar.

After making pH adjustments, wait until the next day to test the water. This will help you to get an accurate reading. In the meantime, if you need to water your air plants and the water isn’t ready, use tap water.

From experience I can tell you to only add a little vinegar, or a little baking soda. I’ve way overdone it and had to start over. But, I learned, and eventually, I got it. Now, you know another reason I hang on to my rain and pond water. After fiddling with the pH, the water becomes even more precious.

After getting the pH where you want it, re-test it every so often.

How to Water an Air Plant: mist, dunk and soak


Air plants benefit from periodic spritzing with a spray bottle. Especially if you live in an arid climate your air plants will appreciate a refreshing mist. Keep in mind that this method should never be the sole means of watering your air plants. The trichomes will not be able to absorb all the water they need through misting alone.


misting air plants

Ready. Aim. Fire. This tillandsia capitata benefits from periodic misting.

Although misting is not sufficient for watering most air plants, there is one notable exception: the Tillandsia tectorum. This air plant comes from high in the Andes mountains where these plants are uniquely adapted to their harsh environment. Their fuzzy appearance is due to a profusion of trichomes that shield them from the direct light of the sun. Additionally, the trichomes make the most of what little moisture is available.

This means, that not only to these air plants thrive in direct sunlight, but that misting (never dunking or soaking) is the best means of watering them.

The frequency of watering T. tectorum depends upon your climate. If it is humid where you live, thoroughly misting the plant once every three weeks is sufficient. In arid climates, you will need to mist your T. tectorum once a week.

Mist tectorum - air plant

To water a T. tectorum, thoroughly mist it once a week to once every three weeks, depending on your climate. Never dunk or soak a T. tectorum.


If you are in a hurry and you know your air plants are thirsty, giving them a quick dunk will get them through the day until you can give them a proper drink. To dunk an air plant, quickly submerge the plant in water, once or several times. Alternatively, hold the plant under the faucet at the sink.

dunk to water air plants

To dunk air plants, quickly and completely submerge the plants in water. This T. tricolor v melanocrater enjoys a quick dip.


To really hydrate an air plant there is nothing like a thorough soaking. This can be accomplished by filling a bowl with tepid water deep enough to accommodate the entire plant. If you have a lot of air plants you could use a sink or even a tub.

How often do you water an air plant?

About once a week, let your air plants soak in a water bath for about an hour. Be sure to adjust this schedule according to your climate. If it is really humid where you live, 20 minutes may be all your plants need. In dry climates, soaking up to 4 hours may be required.

soak to water air plants

A water bath is the most thorough way to water air plants.

Watering Air Plant Arrangements

An air plant that has been glued to a display can be a little tricky, but i’ts definitely possible. Rather than submerging the entire arrangement into a basin of water, use the your faucet.

Keeping the wood, or whatever the air plant is glued to, out of the water, hold the air plant under a light flow of tepid water. Let the water run over the plant for several minutes. 

water air plant arrangement

Trying to keep the driftwood dry, hold the air plant under the faucet under tepid water for several minutes. Pictured above is a T. abdita glued to driftwood.

After watering hold the display so that excess water will run away from the plant and won’t pool inside the plant.

If the air plants are not glued to the display and can be easily removed. Take them out of the arrangement and water them as you would any other air plant, by soaking the plant in a basin of water.


To ensure a long and healthy life for your air plants allow them to dry properly. After watering your plants let then rest on their side for about 4 hours with plenty of air circulation. This method for drying will prevent water from accumulating down inside the plant and rotting it. After 4 hours return the plants to their display. The importance of allowing your plants to drain and dry cannot be overstated.

allow air plants to dry

To dry air plants set them on their side, or up-side-down to allow excess water to drain away from the plant. You could use a towel, a colander, or a dish drying rack for the purpose.


Going on vacation? No problem. Your air plants will survive without you. Just before hitting the road, soak your air plants for 12 hours. When you come home, soak them again for another 12 hours. This method is ideal for a 2 week vacation. Any longer than that you will need to recruit a neighbor or friend to help you out.

Soak and Dry

Now you know how to properly water your air plants. Your air plants will not crumble in your hand with dehydration, nor will your air plants rot with over accumulated moisture. You’ve got this! Soak and dry. That’s it!


Fertilize for Faster Growth and More Vibrant Blooms

Start Feeding Your Air Plants

  1. Betty says:

    About a month ago I got my first T tectorum! It’s doing well with your help! Thank you! I just got an everlasting air fern! I had one years ago! I had moved and packed it with knick knacks! Didn’t unpack it for about a year and a half! It was still alive! A few parts had turned brown! I broke them off! It had grown thicker in places! I was so surprised! Never had a green thumb so air plants are perfect for me! Thanks for your help!

    1. Anna says:

      Congratulations, Betty! That’s great news!
      All my best,

  2. Pat says:

    Hi, I purchased a bunch of Air plants. Some of them are in a glass globe that are glued down. But there are other air plants that are not glued down and can be removed. can I take the plants out of the globe since they are glued down to soak them and then put them back? I hope to hear from you soon. thanks

    1. Anna says:

      I am not exactly sure what you are asking. But do your best to soak your air plants and then to let them dry. If soaking is not possible, dunking the air plants in water is the next best watering option.

  3. Minky says:

    I live in temperate south coast
    Australia and have my airplanes outside attached to trees and driftwood on my fence. I water them with the hose when it doesn’t rain. Therefore they don’t get drained.
    I seem to be breaking all the rules but they seem to be fine.

    1. Anna says:

      That’s fantastic! Congratulations on your thriving air plants! You’re so fortunate to live in a climate where you can grow air plants outdoors.
      All my best,

  4. Alicia Adams says:

    Hi Anna,
    I live in FL and have access to lake water. I tested the pH and it reads 6.8.
    How do I lower the alkalinity? or is this reading OK.
    Thanks for all your help.

    1. Anna says:

      Add a tiny bit of baking soda, stir, then re-test again the next day before using.

  5. Vicki Dunn says:

    Is there a certain temperature the water should be at to soak or miss?

    1. Anna says:

      Tepid is best – neither hot nor cold.

  6. candy says:

    I live in Tucson… rainwater is sometimes scarce Can I reuse rainwater for soaking without damaging plants? Thanks

  7. Sandy Gordon says:

    Hi Anna! I live in Tucson AZ. Should I be misting my plants once a day, or just once a week? It is very dry here in the summer (duh), and the furnace makes it dry in the winter. Directions, please? Thank you, Sandy

    1. Anna says:

      I live in Utah, where it is also very dry. I don’t mist my air plant, but I do turn on a humidifier (set to low), and I do soak, drain, and dry them once a week. My work-around misting is the humidifier – it also keeps my fingertips from splitting in the winter as well.

  8. DPAndis says:

    I am not sure what i have, but I heard to use pond, spring water, but don’t use tap water. I bought spring water in bottles to mist and soak. I am really confused over what kind of water you can use…

    1. Anna says:

      It is more a matter of good and better. For most people, tap water will work. Pond and spring water are better for air plants but can be inaccessible for some people. Use whichever water source works best for you and your air plants. If your tap water is heavily chlorinated, let it sit out for a day before using it to water your air plants.

  9. Kathleen says:

    I am a brand new Mama to several air plants! I live in Colorado, dry and sunny throughout all seasons. Dunking and soaking and drying upside down is going to be the watering routine. I know all roots are trimmed when you buy them. Two air plants are glued and three are not. I’d like two to root to driftwood and rocks for the other one. A few questions: Is there an estimated time for them to root to the wood and rock? Also, when do pups start to grow? Do all species of air plants flower? Finally, should air plants dry in bright, indirect light, the same as their growing condition light or can drying be done anywhere except in direct light? Thank you in advance for taking time to answer these questions!

    1. Anna says:

      I don’t have an exact time frame for rooting the air plants to wood and rocks. I imagine it is like a watched pot that never boils. One thing is certain: it will take quite a while. I would wait for roots to grow. Then once the roots are a couple of inches use twine to tie the roots to the wood/rocks.
      Pups grow after the air plant flowers. As pups are not guaranteed, make sure that your air plants receive lots of bright, indirect light to help give them the energy they need to produce pups.
      Yes, all air plants flower.
      About light and drying air plants. A few hours out of bright, indirect light will not hurt your air plants. It is much more harmful to have water sitting in the cup of the air plant.
      Best of luck to you and your air plants,

  10. L says:

    Hi, Anna. I keep looking up watering tips but I’m confused as I’m getting so many conflicting notes. Some places say dunk once a week, other’s say mist and dunk. Some say dunk for only 5-10 minutes, others say do it for hours. I’ve been dunking my plants once a week for about 30 minutes, then letting them dry for several hours to make sure they’re fully dry, but their edges are a bit brown so obviously I need to change up my routine. What would you suggest I do in this situation? I ‘ve read so many conflicting articles that I have no idea whether I’m over-watering or under watering.

    (The roots look fine save for the one which was exposed to copper before I got to it. It’s just the edges of the leaves that look a bit brown.)

    For the record, I live in a somewhat humid place (TN, near a lake, there’s a huge mold problem around here) how should this affect how much I should water my air plants?

    Also thanks on the T. tectorum None of the sites I had read mentioned that one was different. I just got one of those and dunked it a couple times so far, but it doesn’t look too bad. I’ll just refrain from watering it again for a while and let it be. I hope that didn’t hurt it too much 🙁

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Anna says:

      If you live in a humid area, that’s a good thing for your air plants. A 30-minute soak with a thorough drying for several hours should do it for your air plants. I wouldn’t worry too much about the dry tips. It does take the plants time to acclimate. The biggest concern I would have would be to make sure that your air plants dry really well up-side-down after watering. You don’t want crown rot – it is a death sentence for air plants.

  11. Sylvia says:

    If I plant the air plants in glass balls with a front opening, would it be damaging the plant taking it out for soaking?
    Alternative ideas?

    1. Anna says:

      While air plants grow best out in the open air, growing air plants in glass balls is an attractive way to display them. I recommend enjoying them for as long as they live. Then, when you want to care for air plants out in the open air, you can try that too. In the meantime, try to gently remove them from their glass globe to water them. Before returning them to their display, let them dry thoroughly for several hours upside-down.
      All my best,

  12. Zaer says:

    Hi can i use blu tack to secure my airplants on a piece of dry wood etc, or would that do harm to my air plants?

    1. Anna says:

      I am not familiar with blu tack. I would give it a try and see how it goes. Otherwise, I can recommend


      It will not harm your air plant and dries fairly quickly.


  13. Durga says:

    Great. Thanks Anna

  14. Ginger says:

    I have hard water. Does that mean I can use water from my faucet? Thanks!

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful question. I have hard water too and my air plants are thriving. Hard water means that you have a high mineral content in your water. Soft water, on the other hand, has no minerals- and air plants don’t like that.
      Have a great day,

      1. Durga says:

        Hi Anna, Can I use filter water to soak the plants?

        1. Anna says:

          Filtered water is fine for watering air plants, especially as filtration removes chlorine. Just be sure to stay away from soft water and distilled water.

  15. Jocelyn says:


    Thank you for the great info! I have killed air plants by rot and now I’m nervous!🙄 I was soaking twice weekly because it gets very dry during the winter. Can soaking too often cause rot, or is dry time the most important? Is there a way to tell if the air plant is dry enough?
    Thank you!

    1. Anna says:

      Great question! This is what I do during the winter months – I get really dry air as well: I use a humidifier, then I soak my air plants every 7-10 days. The air is cooler, so they don’t need to be watered as often. It sounds counter-intuitive, but the humidifier keeps them from drying out too much.
      Yes, your air plants do tell you when they need water. Notice how the leaves look when they are well-hydrated. When the plants begin to dry out, the leaves will begin to curl in.
      Thanks again for your thoughtful question,

  16. V says:

    My husband put way too much water in my plant and I am afraid he killed it. Would you have any suggestions for fast drying or any advice for my poor plant. I am afraid that he filled the bottom of its terranium and it sat for at least 5 days. 🤦‍♀️😳😔 The plant itself is all soft and it wasn’t before this incident.

    1. Anna says:

      Just place the air plant where it can get lots of air circulation – out in the open, not in a closed container. Set the air plant up-side-down so that any residual water can drain away from the cup of the plant. Let me know how it goes.
      Best of luck!

  17. Coco says:

    My air plant looks a bit dry. It has gotten smaller and more compact. Can I still rejuvenate it by soaking?

    1. Anna says:

      Yes, soaking your air plant is exactly what you need to do. After soaking your air plant is it crucial to let the air plant dry up-side-down to avoid water accumulating inside.
      Best wishes to you and your air plant,

  18. Gayle Fiford says:

    Thank you Anna
    Helpful info.

    1. Anna says:

      You are most welcome.
      Have a lovely day,

  19. Ariel says:

    My air plant looks like the one in the picture above the Trichomes header. What causes the actually leaf to turn brown? The center and baseblook healthy and even the inner leaves. It’s only the outter ones that turned.

    1. Anna says:

      The picture of the air plant with the brown marks you are referring to are caused by water marks. To answer your question, it is constant moisture, without a chance to dry out that has caused the brown marks. While the marks do fade, they will not ever completely go away. Over time outer leaves do fade and wither and can be either gently torn off or trimmed off with scissors.

  20. Polina Vershilina says:

    Anna, thanks for your answers!
    I will try to do my best for these magical plants! 🙂

  21. Polina Vershilina says:

    Anna, thank you for your answers!
    I’ll try do my best for for these magic plants! 🙂

  22. Polina Vershilina says:

    And I have one more question:
    if I soak Tillandsia, and she begins to form a flower spike.
    Can soaking damage the peduncle?
    And how to deal with soaking in such cases?

    1. Anna says:

      Yes, soaking can damage the flower. Just do the best you can to protect the flower when watering. When an air plant is in flower you could run water over the plant, while shielding the flower with your hand. Even if the flower is damaged, a pup should still form.
      Let me know how it goes.

  23. Polina Vershilina says:

    Anna, tell me, please:
    I bought a Tillandsia Tectorum in the online store, she will soon come to me.
    How can I water this Tillandsia if the humidity is over 80% in my apartment?

    1. Anna says:

      The Tectorum is the one air plant that you should not soak. Just mist it once a week, maybe every other week since the humidity in your apartment is so high. Tectorums are fun air plants!

  24. Polina Vershilina says:

    I will try not to spray Tillandsia at all, I will only soak them for 1 hour, once a week and see how they react to this regime.

  25. Polina Vershilina says:

    Anna, thanks for the wonderful article! 🙂
    Tell me, please, if the air humidity is usually more than 80% in my apartment, is it enough to spray my Tillandsias once a day and soak it once a week?
    Or maybe they do not need to be sprayed at all?

    1. Anna says:

      I think you are right, you can skip spraying them, and just soak them once a week.

  26. Jerry Gillingham says:

    You say to let the tap water to air out,but I live in Antioch,Ca. They use chloramine I’m told that it doesn’t dissipate out of the tap water.

    1. Anna says:

      If your tap water isn’t suitable, you can use (and reuse) bottled water. Just be sure not to use soft or distilled water.

  27. CANDY says:

    I am enjoying your tips. I have been told that after your plant has pups it will die. I have one plant that has had 2 pups and it is still doing well. I separated the pups and they are surviving. I was also told that after flowering they die. Is this true? I have a gold fish pond and they are always having babies now my Tillies.. I guess my home is fertile. Lol.

    1. Anna says:

      Congratulations on your fertile home:-)
      It is true that after an air plant flowers (air plants flower only once) and has pups that it will eventually die. This doesn’t mean that it will die tomorrow though. The air plant could still have lots of time left.
      Have a great day!

  28. Joy kelley says:

    Thank you Anna I love the idea of draining your air plants in a dream board they dry so nicely thanks for the great info

  29. Keri says:

    I have an air plant that has fuzzy white fur and is drying up. Every time I spray it it gets worse. What should I do?

    1. Anna says:

      Thanks for reaching out to me. By your description I am guessing that you’re growing a Tillandsia Tectorum. First, a little background on this fuzzy air plant: The T. tectorum is native to Peru, in the Andes mountains where it is high and dry. What little water they receive is from cloud condensation. These plants need very little water and lots of sun. My guess is that you are over-watering your plant. Spritzing it once a week to once every three weeks (depending on your climate) will give the T. tectorum all the water it needs.
      Best of luck!

  30. rosek says:

    Thanks for quick reply…………On of my gifts for my granddaughter for Christmas is an air plant……….We are going on a play date to outfit it’s terrarium and pick out plants…………..I am also doing a small one for myself………Your site has given me the confidence to go ahead with this project………..This will be a great sharing and fun experience with her………….Thanks again……..

  31. rosek says:

    Is tap water ok and do I need to let it sit for awhile before using…………

    1. Anna says:

      Great question! Yes. Tap water is fine. If you’re tight on time, you can use regular tap water. That’s better than not watering. But, if you’ve plan ahead and let the water sit before using that’s even better.

  32. chantile says:

    Brilliant! I’m SUCH a bad plant parent, this really helps, thanks!!

    1. Anna says:

      I’m so glad I could help!

  33. Emily says:

    This is such a revelation! Thank you for this post. There are so many false ideas about how to water air plants. So great to have a fool – proof way. Thank you!

    1. annaw says:

      Thanks Emily! I appreciate your comment!

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