From Wilting to Thriving: How to Revive Your Air Plant

Tillandsia, or air plants, cling to nearby surfaces and grow without needing soil. However, it may wither quickly if you do not adequately care for this plant. The best thing about air plants is that they can be grown virtually anywhere. With their spike-like, scaly green foliage, air plants make an eye-catching addition to indoor and outdoor spaces. These epiphytic plants do not require soil to thrive. Through their leaves, they absorb all the air’s nutrients and moisture.

Air plants require little care. However, if yours are droopy, shriveled, or brown, they may require special attention. Fortunately, reviving air plants is relatively easy, and numerous quick fixes exist. 

What Causes An Air Plant To Die?

dying air plant

Air plants can live for five years if they have the right conditions.

Providing too little water, too much water, or not enough air and sunlight might cause your air plant to die in just a few days. The leading cause of a dying or withering air plant is a lack of proper care. In particular, the water your air plant receives may be insufficient, resulting in a lack of nutrients and moisture that will allow it to grow properly. 

Lack of adequate air circulation around it can also make the air plant die if not corrected on time. Maintain proper sunlight and feeding while keeping pests at bay as much as possible.

Essentially, because this plant receives its growing conditions and nutrients from the air and regular watering, it is easy to neglect the air plant, causing it to wither and die.

If the entire air plant falls apart when dead leaves are removed, it has already died. If the air plant rots, it may be impossible to revive it. This is likely if the plant’s base turns black or brown or the leaves have begun to wilt and fall from the center.

How To Revive An Air Plant

Now that you know why your air plant looks sickly, it’s time to discover ways to bring it back to life. An air plant can become ill for a variety of reasons. It could be due to neglect, being shipped from afar, or simply the weather. If you discover that your air plant is dying or has been damaged to some extent, you can still take measures to revive it before it dies

1. Get Rid Of Dead Leaves

If you notice any dead leaves on your air plant, remove them before starting the revival process. In most cases, dead or damaged leaves will fall out of the plant or its branches without much effort on your part.

Ideally, your air plant should have only a few dead leaves. If you have too many of them, you may be unable to save your plant.

When removing the damaged leaves, ensure that the rest of your air plant remains intact.

2. Soak It Overnight

Your next course of action should be to soak the air plants. It is the most effective method for reviving air plants. If you don’t have much time, you can submerge the plants in water for 6-8 hours. This will give them enough time to absorb moisture and nutrients.

The best way to soak is to do so overnight. Pour lukewarm water into a large bowl to soak the entire air plant. The water level should be 1-2 inches below the bowl’s lip. This will ensure that the plant receives consistent and adequate hydration.

Take the affected air plant and immerse it in water. The key is to keep the plant submerged in water at all times. Tie the air plant to a heavy object, such as a pebble or rock, to keep it from floating upwards. This will keep it submerged throughout the night.

When the plants have finished soaking, remove them from the bowl.

Remove any excess moisture or dampness from the air plant. Allow it to dry for about 4-5 hours in a well-lit area. This step is critical because allowing the dampness to persist can lead to the death of an air plant. Overwatering is just as bad as dehydration.

3. Provide Air And Sunlight

Air Plant Receiving Air and Sunlight

After soaking, place the air plant in its container in a location with bright but indirect sunlight. You will also need to keep the temperature consistent and warm enough throughout the process. 

Air plants have three primary needs: air, water, and light. Your air plants may be dying due to a lack of sunlight. Indoor air plants thrive in bright, filtered, indirect light 3-5 feet from a window. A little direct sunlight, preferably in the morning, will also work wonders. 

If you leave these plants in the sun all day, they will get sunburned and suffer from dryness. Artificial lighting is also a good idea, but keep the plants close to the light source and turn the lights off at night. This assists the plants in retaining adequate moisture. It’s also worth noting that air plants cannot survive in cold temperatures. Maintain temperatures at or above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Another essential requirement is adequate air circulation around the plant to receive enough oxygen to survive and thrive, especially since these plants rely on CAM photosynthesis or Crassulacean Acid Metabolism

A major cause of plant death is insufficient air circulation. An open-air display is brilliant if you want your air plants to survive and thrive. Air plants kept under glass in terrariums or other enclosed spaces die quickly. 

Aeration helps to moderate air temperature and keeps water from accumulating on leaves. Place your air plants away from heating and cooling vents.

If you keep your air plant in a jar or container with a lid, leave the lid slightly ajar to ensure a free oxygen supply.

4. Feed Your Plants

Plants become hungry. The most common misconception about air plants is that they absorb whatever they require from the surrounding environment. Once a month, add air plant fertilizer to the water mix to feed your air plants. Use air plant or bromeliad mix according to the package directions. If you can’t find air plant fertilizer, use a 1/4-strength liquid houseplant fertilizer instead.

5. Get Rid Of Pest And Diseases

The presence of pests is a rare and frequently overlooked reason your air plants are dying. When watering, this is an excellent time to inspect for pests. A mealybug can be identified by a cottony, web-like substance. These pests coat themselves in a waxy substance to protect themselves before feasting on the plant’s sap. 

The treatment for such pests is straightforward. To begin, isolate the plants from the others. The plants should then be washed with a diluted mixture of mild liquid dish soap and water. Clean every crevice using a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol. 

Return the plant to others after some time has passed and all pests have been removed. If your air plant has pests or diseases, you should eliminate them as soon as possible. Try fungicides, neem oil, baking soda solutions, or even dish soap to get rid of them.

How Does A Healthy Air Plant Look

Air Plant

It is simple to identify a healthy air plant. It will have green to gray vibrant leaves. It will receive bright but indirect sunlight and plenty of moisture, and a well-hydrated air plant will have flatter, broader leaves.

Those with visible trichomes appear extra fuzzy and healthy. The entire game revolves around hydration. Air plants communicate their thirst through their leaves. If they’re healthy, their leaves will be vibrant and full of color, with no yellowish-brown tips.

General Air Plant Care

To keep a Tillandsia hydrated, soak it in a bowl of warm water for an hour once a week during the summer and once every three weeks during the winter (some people find that a 10-minute soak is sufficient, so observe your plant to determine its specific needs). 

If the plant becomes swollen, it absorbs too much water and would benefit from a shorter bath. Place your air plant in direct, indirect, or filtered sunlight from spring to fall. During the winter, place it in direct sunlight. Winter sunlight may need to be supplemented with full-spectrum artificial lights for about 12 hours daily.

Make sure Tillandsia has enough air circulation. If your air plant is in a container, remove it and place it somewhere light and airy. Alternatively, remove Tillandsia from the container every week for a full day. After watering, always shake excess water off your Tillandsia and allow it to dry in a colander or on a layer of paper towels. If water remains on the leaves, the plant can be harmed. If your Tillandsia is in a sea shell, empty it as needed to keep the plant from sitting in water.

Feed Tillandsia bromeliad fertilizer twice a month. Alternatively, use a regular, water-soluble fertilizer diluted to one-quarter strength or orchid food diluted to one pinch per gallon of water.

Key Takeaways:

  • Your plant may die due to rot brought on by water accumulating in the plant’s crown. Air plants must dry out in between waterings. If water remains in the air plant’s crown, it begins to rot and turn brown, making it appear to be dying.

  • Underwatering is the cause of an air plant’s ends turning brown. Watering air plants twice a week and giving them a good soak is recommended. Due to drought, if the air plant is submerged, the leaf ends begin to curl up and turn brown.

  • If they are consistently damp, air plants can start to feel soft and turn brown or yellow. Between watering sessions, air plants need to dry out and have good airflow. The leaves of the air plant turn yellow or brown and appear to be dying if it is kept damp for an extended period.

  • If exposed to excessive amounts of direct sunlight, temperatures over 85°F, and low humidity environments, air plants may scorch brown. In contrast to the full sun, which turns the leaves brown, air plants thrive under bright indirect light.

  • If it has curling brown leaf ends, put the air plant in tepid water for 10 minutes so the leaves can take in the water they require to revive. To aid in the recovery of the brown leaf ends, keep the air plant away from direct sunlight and water it at least twice weekly.

  • A dying air plant can be revived by recreating its natural environment with bright, indirect light, watering it at least twice weekly, and letting it dry before watering it once more. Maintain the temperature of air plants between 50°F and 65°F at night and 65°F and 85°F during the day.

Revive it!

Even when air plants are easy to care for and require little maintenance, they can appear sickly or limp. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should be aware that the cause could be dehydration. Finally, once you’ve determined what’s killing your air plants, remember that prevention is always better than cure. And, because no lesson is learned without experience, if your plants are no longer viable, write everything down as a lesson learned for the future, and continue to care for the remaining plants.

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