Growing an air plant sounds like an easy option: All they need is air, don’t they?
It’s not, in fact, quite that simple and your air plant may wilt and begin dying if the conditions are not quite right.
Why is my air plant dying?
If an air plant is dying, it has most likely been over-watered, but it can also be affected by too little water, the amount of available light, or chemicals (such as harmful salts, or fertilizer). It is also possible that the plant has simply reached the end of its natural lifespan.
Why is My Air Plant Dying: 7 Reasons
Too Much Water
It may sound crazy to say that you can give a plant too much water, but you can! Especially an air plant, which doesn’t need as much water as most plants that grow in soil.
To water an air plant, you can either spray it or soak it briefly.
Spraying will be necessary for plants that are firmly attached to their support. Take care that you don’t try to soak the plant with the spray, though.
Water must not accumulate in the base of the plant. Rather spray the plant lightly more regularly.
If your air plant is relatively independent and can be moved, then you can soak it in water once a week. Don’t soak it for too long, or it can begin to rot.
The air plant should be held upside down and submerged in the water for about 5-10 minutes. Take the plant out before gently shaking off the excess water.
Dry the air plant completely in the sun, or it may develop rot.
This can also happen if the plant is kept in an enclosure that is consistently humid, such as a terrarium.
In this case, it is best to take the plant out of the enclosure, soak it, allow it to dry thoroughly, and then return it to the enclosure.
I recommend that you think about your air plant as being in its natural environment: it mostly takes water from the air, so that means a regular, light spray or a weekly dousing is best.
Too Little Water
Just because an air plant doesn’t need a lot of water, it doesn’t need watering at all. If you leave the air plant for too long without water, then it will dry out and die.
This is especially important if you live in a drier climate, or during the hotter months. The drier the air, the more regularly you will need to water your plant: you can spray it in between the soakings.
Too Much Light
Like any plant, air plants need an adequate light supply. This isn’t a problem if they grow outside.
However, if you grow your plant inside, then make sure that it is near a window, or at least in a space that does get natural light.
The light must be filtered, or indirect, as air plants are sensitive to light. If they receive too much, especially direct sunlight, the leaves may dry out, which can kill them.
Too Little Light
All plants need light to photosynthesize. This means that you must make sure your air plant receives enough light: at least 4-5 hours each day.
Plants prefer sunlight, but an air plant can grow under artificial lighting. However, you should at least avoid fluorescent lighting, as the band of light is not sufficient.
Preferably, you may even get a special light for the plant, that will supply enough of the correct light.
Natural Life Cycle
Your air plant may be dying simply because it has reached the end of its life span.
This happens after it flowers, for the only time in its life. Before it dies, though, it will send out a few new, small ‘babies’, that will grow and run their own life span.
If an air plant becomes coated with a chemical substance, the leaves will not be able to take in Carbon Dioxide, which is essential for them to photosynthesize.
Harmful salts are one of the most common substances that can do this.
Rather use untreated water for your plants, which do not contain additional chemicals. This includes rain or well water, or bottled water.
Too Much Fertilizer
Air plants should generally not need fertilizer. At the most, they can be fertilized once a month.
You should use a fertilizer that is suited to bromeliads and which is quite diluted. Fertilizing too often, or using a fertilizer that is too strong can burn the plants.
What Air Plants Are
Quite simply, air plants literally do not need any soil to grow. They do need to grow on some form of support, such as a tree so that their roots can take hold.
Air plants aren’t parasites, hence, they don’t take any nutrition from their host. They get whatever water and nutrients they need from the surrounding air’s moisture.
What Air Plants Need to Grow
Air plants can grow in different environments, so they will easily adapt to living in your home or garden. Wherever you do grow the plant, it needs to receive sufficient indirect light and enough water.
Remember that the climate of your area is an important factor in caring for your plant.
If you live in a humid environment, with high rainfall, then you will not need to water it very often. If you live in an area with a drier climate, then the plant will need more regular watering.
Air plants are attractive and quite adaptable, but they do need to have the correct conditions to thrive.
If your plant does look as though it is dying, then the most likely reason is over-watering. Take care, though, that it has enough light and no chemicals have harmed it at all.
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.