Air Plant Fertilization: How and When to Do It

Air plants need the right nutrients to flourish. Are you using the right fertilizers?

Fertilizers are not all the same. Air plants demand different nutrients than other flowering plants. As a result, it is vital to choose the right product and understand when and how to use it.

Air plants are distinct from typical soil-dependent plants in that they obtain nutrients and moisture through their leaves. Trichomes, which are small scales or “hairs” on the leaves, operate as reservoirs, absorbing water and nutrients from their surroundings.

It’s a frequent misconception that air plants obtain all of their water and nutrients from the surrounding environment.

Our Favorite Products

  • Cute Farms Liquid Nutrients
  • Drunken Gnome Tillandsia Air Plant Food
  • JR Peter’s Jacks Classic All Purpose Fertilizer – Diluted to ΒΌ strength

How Does an Air Plant Take in Nutrients?

Nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus are only a few of the nutrients that air plants require. Almost all plant fertilizers contain these three nutrients, but not in the needed ratio.

It’s also critical to utilize a nitrogen fertilizer that isn’t based on urea, as this will supply nitrogen that tillandsia can use. Urea-based nitrogen is converted to a useful form for plants by bacteria in the soil. Since tillandsia are not planted in soil, they cannot process nitrogen in this form.

How Often Do You Have to Fertilize?

A monthly or quarterly application of fertilizer can help your tillandsia grow faster. That being said, your air plants don’t need to survive.

In fact, adding too many nutrients can cause problems for your plant. If you fertilize more than once a month, the plants can suffer nitrogen burn, which can eventually lead to death.

Also, remember that fertilization is not a substitute for regular watering, so make sure to water air plants when you fertilize and according to your normal watering schedule (roughly every week).

Plants soaked in white water basin

When to Fertilize?

Fertilize your air plants once or twice a month from March to November, when they aren’t blossoming. Don’t fertilize your air plants from the time they start budding until they finish flowering to make the flowers last longer.

How to Water and Feed

I recommend using the soak method to fertilize and water your air plants. For regular watering, it’s simple: immerse your plant in a basin of water for 20 minutes to an hour every week to ten days. For the infrequent times that you fertilize, just add the nutrients to the water during the soak. Make sure the water is at room temperature to avoid shocking the plant.

I recommend utilizing rain, lake, or well water for regular watering. It is not recommended to use distilled or filtered water because it contains fewer minerals. 

Another way to give nutrients to your plant is to mist it. Select a liquid fertilizer for your air plants, or dilute your powder air plant food in a spray bottle before spraying your air plant. Mist the leaves of your air plant with this fertilized water until they are completely moist. After watering as normal, allow 4 hours for drying.

Remember to Dry

After you’ve watered your plants, make sure they’re completely dry. It is important to adequately dry your air plants by lying them on their side or upside down on a dishtowel. They should be entirely dry to the touch within 2 hours following their bath.

Air plants should not be placed back into terrariums or vases until they are completely dry. If you follow these simple watering guidelines, your air plants will be happy and healthy. Choose any of the many air plants available and you will have a unique plant for your house!

Alaine Connolly
Alaine has been working way too hard in horticulture since 1992, beautifying golf courses, resorts, and hotels. She is a part time landscape designer who works full time caring for a 28,000 square foot public garden. At home, she maintains her own 400 square feet plot. Alaine lives in northern Illinois - zone 5b.
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