Air plants are great for those who like a natural element in their living or workspace but don’t have much time to commit to its care since it doesn’t need to be planted or often watered. But what happens when a bloom starts to develop?
When your air plant blooms, you are approaching the end of its life cycle. But not to worry because it will start to produce new air plants or “pups” to start anew with. Once the pups have reached a good size, you can separate it from the “mother,” and the mother will wilt away.
To successfully help raise your new air plant pups and give the mother a peaceful send off, follow these 8 steps. Don’t worry, the work involved is still minimal.
Air Plant 101
Air plants belong to the Tillandsia genus and have over 650 species. They are an evergreen perennial plant native to Northern Mexico, Southeast U.S., Mesoamerica, and the Caribbean. The common name of an air plant comes from having a minimal root system and attaching to anything.
They produce vibrantly colored flowers to attract pollinators like moths, hummingbirds, and bats. To produce seeds, they need to be pollinated by another Tillandsia of the same species, but it could take years to get to this point. For a great beginner’s guide to air plants, check out Living With Air Plants: A Beginner’s Guide to Growing and Displaying Tillandsia.
Basic Care Needs
An air plant doesn’t need much attention if you follow a few rules:
- Put in a sunny place. Air plants need sun but don’t like direct light. The amount of sun changes depending on the species of Tillandsia. The species with stiff leaves will need more sun, and the softer leaved species need less. A great place for any species is furniture or wall hanging that is off-set from a sunny window.
- Water once a week. It’s a common misconception that air plants don’t need to be watered, or only need a spritz of water every so often. To make sure your plants live to bloom, you need to water your air plant it once a week for most of the year. In winter, you can get away with watering it every 2 weeks. The best way to do so is to submerge the whole plant in water overnight, or an hour at a minimum, then let them air dry in indirect sun.
- Fertilize monthly. Adding fertilizer to the water bath once a month will make sure your air plant is getting missing nutrients. This isn’t a make or break step, but your plant will be more likely to flower and produce pups if you fertilize regularly.
If you can keep up these easy-care guidelines, then you will enjoy your air plants for years to come.
How Long Do Air Plant Flowers Last?
The life of an air plant can be years before it produces a single bloom. Once it blooms, you can pollinate it to create seeds or let it produce pups. Most Tillandsia will produce pups without being pollinated.
How long it takes for an air plant to produce a bloom will depend on its species. Some take a few months like Tillandsia stricta, aeranthos, and houston. The smaller air plants have shorter life cycles, and the flowers last a couple of days.
Check out this great time-lapse video on YouTube:
Now that your air plant has flowered follow these 8 steps to make sure it lives out the rest of its life happy.
Step 1: Get Your Pics In
The Tillandsia produce wonderful and sometimes large flowers. Once your air plant has a bloom, it will be worth showing off to your friends. People don’t know that air plants flower. More often than not, they are glued to a piece of driftwood and forgotten about.
Educate your friends by posting the best pictures on your social media. You responsibly took care of your air plant, and you deserve to show it off. After this article, you will also be able to tell all your friends how to properly take care of a Tillandsia.
Step 2: Enjoy It
The life of the bloom will depend on the species of an air plant. The larger the plant, the larger the bloom, and the longer the bloom will last. Enjoy the time you have to look at the beautiful colors because the flower may start to wilt after 2 days or it may last months.
Step 3: Water Carefully
The air plant needs special attention during the flowering stage to make sure pups form once the flower has died. You will still water the plant as instructed above, adding Bromeliad fertilizer for an extra health kick.
It’s important NOT to submerge the flower while watering. The petals are delicate and won’t hold up to a water bath.
Step 4: Snip the Bloom
When the flower is past its prime, you can snip it off to encourage pups to form. You don’t have to do this step to get pups, but the flower will take energy away from pup formation.
Simply pull the dead flowers off the spike or snip the spike all together. This step can take a while, so be patient with the flower. If you want to produce seeds, you will need to pollinate the flower before it dies. This isn’t necessary to get pups, but without pollination, you won’t get seeds.
Growing an air plant from seed is painfully slow. They need lots of water, as they naturally germinate in the rainy season.
Step 5: Continue Regular Care
With the mother plants’ flower gone, you can go back to your regular care schedule. Water every 1-2 weeks, depending on the heat (they will die if too hot), and place in indirect sunlight.
Step 6: Watch the Pups Grow
The pups may start to form pretty soon after you snip the flower, or they might take a couple months. It’s important not to give up on your Tillandsia.
The number of pups you get will depend on the species. Some produce one pup, and others will produce ten. You will want to let the pups grow for a while to make sure they are strong enough to survive without the mother.
The pups will be pretty distinct. They look like brand-new air plants growing out of the base of the mother. They will have their own center. The size of the pup should be about 1/3 of the size of the mother before moving onto the next step.
Step 7: Separate From the Mother
Once you believe the pups have reached the correct size, it’s time to remove them from the mother plant. You will hold the pup as close to its base as you can and twist it off the mother. Be gentle, as most air plants are small.
The mother may continue to live for a little longer and produce another round of pups, but most will start to die away.
Step 8: Start Over
Now the pups are free of the mother, and you can start the process all over again. Let your Tillandsia grow to its full size, wait for it to bloom, and follow these steps. If you take care of your air plants, you could have a lifetime supply from a single plant.
The worst thing you can do for your air plant is to forget about it. Make sure to put it in a place where you will enjoy it and remember to water regularly.
Waiting for it to flower is a slow process, but by the end, you will feel like a proud plant parent with pups to give to your friends if you choose. Make sure to tell your friends how to care for their new air plant, so they can enjoy the beautiful flowering and pup growing too.