Air plant care cheat sheet

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Fast growing air plants

How Fast Do Air Plants Grow? (Indoors and Outside)

I am regularly asked, how fast do air plants grow? Well, these intriguing plants grow quite slowly compared to other house plants. On average, Tillandsias take about one to three years to reach their mature size. Their growth rate is influenced by factors such as light, air circulation, and most importantly, proper watering.

The rate of growth also varies depending on the species of air plant. Generally, the larger the species the longer it will take to reach adult size.

How Air Plants Grow

Air plants grow by absorbing nutrients and water through their leaves instead of their roots. They have special structures called trichomes on their leaves that help absorb what they need from the air that surrounds them and rainfall.

However, if you keep your air plants indoors you’ll need to make sure you’re providing them with enough water, by submerging them for about 20-30 minutes once a week. They’ll only take in what they need, so no worries about overdoing it.

When it comes to growth rate, air plants are generally slow-growing, but they can grow faster with proper care. Keep in mind, that the growth rate may differ based on factors like life cycle, growing conditions, and the specific species.

Newly germinated air plants, for instance, usually grow more quickly than mature ones. Also, an air plant in the middle of its blooming cycle has pretty much stopped growing and will eventually die after blooming.

A large air plant

You can expect pups/offshoots (baby plants) to develop as the mother plant matures, and these pups will continue growing until they eventually bloom. The blooming cycle varies among species, but it typically takes 1 to 3 years for air plants to bloom.

To encourage faster growth in your air plants, ensure they get bright, indirect light and proper air circulation. You should also mist your plants occasionally to promote a more humid environment.

They will also need fertilizer applied every two weeks during the growing seasons and once a month during the winter months.

Air plants grown from propagation, like those from offshoots or cluster division, tend to grow faster than those grown from seeds. I’m always fascinated to see how fast pups can develop into mature plants.

A mature air plant

One thing to note is that air plants change in size throughout their lifespan. They’ll gradually increase in size until it’s time for them to bloom, at which point they’ll produce pups before ending their life cycle.

The pups then carry on the growth process and contribute to the propagation of air plants, ensuring the survival of the species.

Propagating Air Plants for Faster Growth

Propagating air plants is a breeze, and you don’t have to be a green thumb to do it. These amazing plants reproduce on their own when given proper conditions. Tillandsias produce blooms and then sprout pups, which are baby plants/clones that either appear from the base of the mother plant or along its flowering spike, depending on the species.

When propagating, it’s essential to be patient. The mother plant will likely take 1-3 years to bloom, after which it will slowly wither away and die, within a year or two.

However, during the blooming stage or shortly afterward, pups will start to grow from the mother plant and form a cluster of air plants.

A blooming air plant

To propagate your air plants for healthy growth, follow these simple steps:

  1. Wait for the pups to grow: Don’t separate the pups from the mother plant too early. It’s best to let them reach at least a third of the mother plant’s size before attempting propagation.
  2. Gently remove the pups: When you feel it’s the right time, remove the pups carefully from the mother plant. You can use your fingers, a pair of sterilized scissors, or a knife, to gently wiggle the pups free. Be extra cautious not to damage the mother plant or the pups in the process.
  3. Give the new plants a suitable home: Now that you have successfully propagated an air plant, make sure you provide it with the right conditions to thrive. This includes proper air circulation, light, and occasional soaking in water. I also like to mist my pups 2-3 times a week in addition to the weekly soak during the first few months after separation.

Common Air Plant Varieties and Their Speed of Growth

You might have heard of Tillandsia Xerographica, one of the larger air plant species. Known for its unique rosette shape and silvery-green leaves, it’s a stunning plant. But be patient, the growth rate of this beauty can take up to 5 years to reach its mature size.

Species - Tillandsia Xerographica

Spanish moss (Tillandsia Usneoides) is famous for its long stringy-like appearance. Though it might seem like it would be a slow grower, it grows faster than many other air plants.

You can expect your Spanish moss to grow a few inches per year but remember conditions like humidity and light will impact its growth rate.

Species - Tillandsia Usneoides

Another popular air plant is Tillandsia Ionantha Maxima. This variety, known for its bright colors during its blooming period, grows at a moderate pace.

Maxima will reach its mature size in about 1 to 3 years. To help this plant thrive, provide bright indirect light and lots of humidity.

Hybrid - Tillandsia Ionantha Maxima

Like the other Ionantha varieties, Ionantha Maxima will benefit from regular misting.

In general, air plants have a reputation for being slow-growing plants. They typically need a few years to reach their full potential. However, some species grow relatively faster than others.

Frequently Asked Questions

Air plant care cheat sheet

What factors affect air plant growth rates?

Several factors affect the growth rate of your air plants. Firstly, adequate lighting. Tillandsias love bright, indirect light. Next, proper watering is key. Not too much, not too little, just the right amount. Temperature and humidity also play a role in their growth.

Finally, using air plant fertilizer can give your plants a little boost. Just be sure not to go overboard with it.

How often should I water my air plant to promote growth?

When it comes to watering, air plants have their own set of rules. If kept indoors, you’ll want to soak them in water for about 20-30 minutes once a week. After soaking, shake off the excess water, and make sure they’re completely dry before putting them back in their location.

This will prevent rot and keep your plants happy and healthy. Some species (with very white/silver leaves) may only require misting so get to know your plants.

What is the optimal light exposure for air plants?

Air plants love bright, indirect light. Put them near a window where they can bask in the glory of the sun without getting scorched. Too much direct sunlight can fry your plants, while too little light will stunt their growth.

So find a sweet spot where they can enjoy the light without feeling the heat.

Do air plants grow better indoors or outdoors?

Air plants are very adaptable when it comes to their living quarters. They can thrive both indoors and outdoors, given the right conditions. For indoor growth, ensure they get proper lighting and airflow.

If you want to keep them outdoors, make sure they’re in a protected area, and not exposed to harsh weather or extreme temperatures.

How can I use air plant fertilizer to improve growth?

Sometimes your air plants need a little extra love, and that’s where fertilizer comes in. You can use a water-soluble fertilizer, mixed at one-fourth of the recommended strength, or preferably use a pre-mixed foliar spray specifically manufactured for Tillandsias.

Don’t go overboard, though. Too much fertilizer can do more harm than good. I like to fertilize my plants once a month in the winter and fortnightly during the spring and summer months.

What are the different growth stages for air plants?

Air plants go through a few growth stages in their lifetime. They start as tiny seedlings and then grow into mature plants with leaves and roots. The next stage is called the “blushing” stage, when the plant’s leaves can change color in some species, followed by blooming, and then the development of pups/offsets.

After producing pups, the mother plant may stop growing and will eventually die, but don’t fret, your new pups will take her place and continue the cycle.

Author - Stephen Little
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