In general, air plants need as much bright and indirect light as you can give them. Direct sunlight will cause them to burn and get crispy while not enough light will stunt growth.
The type of air plant, ambient humidity, and tolerance will also play a huge role in how much light your air plant will need.
Air plants will forgive insufficient and excess light, so you have room for error as you figure out the best place to put them.
In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about their light preferences and some clues which will tell you if your tillandsias need more or less light.
No two plants or locations are alike, so be patient and learn to read your air plants!
How much light do air plants need?
Air plants require as much bright indirect light as you can possibly give them and will even appreciate some direct rays in the morning or late afternoon when the sun isn’t so strong. Air plants can also be hardened off gradually to withstand more sun.
Factors to Consider in Exposing Air Plants to Light
As mentioned earlier, air plants grow best when you place them in areas that have bright yet indirect light.
But, besides these generalizations, the amount of sun your tillandsia can handle depends on whether it’s a mesic or xeric species and what the humidity is like in your home.
There are two types of air plants, and this will determine how much light your air plant will need.
Xeric species are desert-dwelling air plants that can withstand much more sun. They typically have short silver hairs coating their leaves which can protect them from direct sunlight.
If you are dead-set on placing your air plant display in a spot that gets direct sun, choose a xeric variety and slowly expose them to more sunlight each day.
Forest-dwelling mesic air plants, on the other hand, only receive sunlight that’s been filtered through a tropical canopy.
Mesic air plants tend to have smooth broad leaves meant to capture as much sun as they can. In the rainforest, this is an essential quality.
In your home, they might be overly exposed.If you’re determined to keep your mesic air plant in an area that gets direct sun, form a canopy around them with sun-loving houseplants that have lush foliage.
Regardless of what variety they are, how much light tillandsias can receive strongly depends on the temperature and humidity in your home.
When temperatures are higher and conditions are drier, your air plants are much more sensitive to sunburn. If temperatures or moderate, humidity is high, and your air plants stay well-watered, they will be much more resilient to direct sun rays.
Lots of natural light encourages blooming. If kept in low light conditions they might survive but they won’t grow very quickly or bloom.
If you’ve gotten to this point and still aren’t sure what bright, indirect light means, check out our article – Light Levels for Plants Explained.
Best Windows for Air Plants
There is no ‘best-facing window for placing your air plants because it depends a lot on your conditions.
In general, southern windows work best because they get the most amount of light. However, depending on other conditions other directions work great.
Eastern facing windows can work quite well because the sun tends to be milder during the morning. This means you might be able to place your air plant in a spot that gets some direct light.
As long as humidity is high enough, your air plant might actually love this setup.
North-facing windows can also work as long as nothing obstructs the sun – like another building or a tree. It will be indirect light, so you’ll want to maximize the number of light hours.
The most dangerous direction to place your air plant is in a western-facing window because it will not get enough light during the day until it gets scalded with hot afternoon sun.
The afternoon sun can be too harsh for these sensitive plants. So if your room of choice has a western-facing window, make sure to supplement morning light with artificial light and protect your air plant in the afternoon by pulling the shades.
Artificial Light for Air Plants
Air plants are well suited to grow under artificial lights. You can either use artificial lights to boost the amount of light you get from the sun. Or you can use artificial light to grow air plants in areas without any natural light.
Normal incandescent light bulbs won’t work. Instead, you need LED or fluorescent bulbs which offer a full spectrum of light that is essential for your tillandsia to photosynthesize.
If your only light source is from light bulbs, then you need to leave them on for at least twelve hours per day. Just make sure they get around 6 to 8 hours of darkness since plants need to ‘sleep’.
When setting up the artificial light for your air plant display, you must place the light within 3 feet of the air plants. If you place it further they won’t be able to benefit from the light.
The last thing I’ll mention for artificially lighting your air plants is a suggestion to get a timer for the light. A timer is inexpensive and will make your life much easier.
No matter where you are or if you’ve forgotten, the timer will turn the grow light on and off for you so that you can just forget about it.
This article from the University of New Hampshire’s agricultural extension program can clear up more questions about optimizing plant growth with artificial light.
Frequently Asked Questions About How Much Light Air Plants Need
How many hours of light do air plants need?
Air plants make great low-light plants because they don’t absolutely need a lot of light. However, in order to thrive, you’d do well to provide them with lots of bright indirect light. The amount of light hours air plants need to thrive depends on whether it’s natural light or artificial light. If it’s natural light, they’ll appreciate about 8 hours of indirect light. If it’s only artificial light, they’ll need about 12 hours. Just make sure they get some off time at night.
Can you put air plants outside to get sunlight?
Yes, air plants don’t have to be kept as house plants and you can place them outside to get the maximum amount of light. They can also add natural details to your outside space. If you put your air plants outside to get lots of light, take care that they are shaded during the hottest hours. Placed in a tree branch or nestled into the side of your porch railing will give them enough protection from scalding light.
Are air plants low-light plants?
Air plants are not low light plants but they will survive in low light. If you want them to grow larger, produce shoots, and eventually flower, you must supplement low light conditions with artificial light. Alternatively, you can move them to a brighter room.
Can air plants get too much light?
Even though air plants enjoy lots of bright, indirect light there is such a thing as too much light. Two cases of excessive light would relate to its duration and intensity. If air plants get light that is too hot and intense they can suffer from sunburn – a symptom of too much direct light. The second reason is that they haven’t been given any time without light. Air plants need to sleep, so if you are lighting them 24/7 they will never build up the energy reserves to flower or produce pups.
What are the best rooms for air plants?
The best room for air plants depends on each home. As long as air plants get watered properly, have good airflow, and get a bit of light they will survive. If you want them to do well and eventually flower, here are some suggestions: 1) Kitchens and bathrooms are great, humid areas for mesic air plants. If there isn’t enough natural light, supplementing with artificial light is easy and doubles as a nightlight. 2) Rooms with large windows that get lots of sunlight are also great places. 3) Put them outside in the summer in a location shielded from the sun, like in the nook of a tree.
Air plants will survive in low light situations and are therefore marketed as ideal plants for bringing some greenery into dark locations. Although they will live with little light, air plants do best when they get lots of bright indirect light.
If you’re thinking your air plant could use some more light, supplement it with grow lights. Artificial lights will help your air plant maintain regular growing habits despite being in a dark room.
If you’re determined to display an air plant in a bright location with direct sunlight, opt for a xeric variety and then slowly train it to become more used to those light conditions.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.