How to Water Air Plants

Keep your air plants happy and hydrated with these three methods.

Close up image of a small air plant in a terracotta pot being sprayed with a mister.

The Spruce / Cori Sears

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 15 mins
  • Total Time: 35 - 55 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Air plants are truly unique within the plant world—absorbing moisture and nutrients through their leaves rather than their roots. They grow happily without soil although contrary to what their common name may lead you to believe, they do require more than just air in order to survive. This often leads to confusion about how to properly water these tropical plants—and with lots of conflicting information out there regarding the best way to water air plants, it can be tricky to figure out where to start. Don’t worry, we’re here to set the record straight so you can keep your air plants happy and hydrated indoors.

There are three ways to water air plants: soaking, misting, and dunking. Most air plants can be watered by soaking, while certain species prefer the misting or dunking method. Figuring out the variety of air plant that you have will help you make the correct decision when it comes to watering.

When to Water Air Plants

Water your air plants in the morning to ensure that they have enough time to dry during the day. How often you should water your air plants will vary slightly depending on their growing environment as well as the type of air plant that you have. If the plants are growing in a location that is consistently humid, they may need to be watered less often than if they are growing in dry conditions. 

However, as a general rule, most air plants will need to be watered once every 1 to 2 weeks when they are grown in typical household conditions. Make sure that you read up on the type of air plant that you have as well to confirm how often it should be watered.

Overhead shot of everything required to properly water air plants.

The Spruce / Cori Sears

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Spray bottle or mister
  • Bowl, cup, or vase
  • Towel

Materials

  • Filtered or distilled water

Instructions

How to Water Air Plants by Soaking

Most air plant varieties can be successfully watered using this method.

  1. Prepare a Vessel

    Fill a small bowl, cup, or vase with lukewarm filtered or distilled water.

  2. Submerge the Plant

    Place your air plant in the water, ensuring that the majority of the leaves are submerged, and leave the plant to soak for 20 to 40 minutes.

    Three small air plants soaking in a bowl of water next to a striped towel against a white background.

    The Spruce / Cori Sears

  3. Shake and Air Dry

    Once the plant is done soaking, remove it from the water and shake the excess water from the leaves. Then, place the plant upside down on a towel for 10 to 15 minutes so it can drip-dry before returning it to its regular growing location. This will help to prevent any remaining water from sitting on the leaves and causing rot.

    Three different varieties of air plants laying upside down on a striped towel to dry after being watered.

    The Spruce / Cori Sears

How to Water Air Plants by Misting

Certain air plants such as the Tillandsia tectorum should be watered by misting rather than soaking or dunking due to its extra fuzzy trichomes. Other fuzzy varieties of air plants can be watered using this method as well.

  1. Prepare the Water and Plant

    Fill a spray bottle or mister with lukewarm filtered or distilled water. If your air plant is growing in a glass terrarium or enclosed space, remove the plant before watering. You don’t want excess moisture getting trapped in the terrarium which could lead to stem rot.

  2. Mist Thoroughly

    Mist your air plant thoroughly until the leaves are moist but not dripping. Let it dry before returning it to its original location.

    A small air plant being watered by misting.

    The Spruce / Cori Sears

How to Water Air Plants By Dunking

Air plants with curled leaves such as the Tillandsia xerographica prefer to be watered with a quick dunk rather than a long soak. This particular Tillandsia variety also does not need to be watered as often as some of its smaller relatives. Once every 2 to 3 weeks at the most should be sufficient.

  1. Prepare the Water

    Fill a bowl, cup, or vase with lukewarm filtered or distilled water.

  2. Dunk Quickly

    Dunk the plant in the water, ensuring that the whole plant is submerged, and then remove it from the water right away.

    A large Tillandsia air plant being watered by dunking in a bowl of water.

    The Spruce / Cori Sears

  3. Shake and Dry Upside-Down

    Shake any excess water from the leaves of the plant and set it upside down on a towel to dry for 10 to 15 minutes before returning it to its original location.

Signs That Your Air Plant is Overwatered

Since it is not always easy to tell when air plants need to be watered, overwatering is one of the most common causes of indoor air plant deaths. If you notice your air plant rapidly losing leaves, or the base of your air plant turning brown and mushy, it is likely that you have overwatered your plant. Unfortunately, once the damage has been done there is not much you can do to save an overwatered air plant. Setting the plant aside for several weeks and avoiding any further watering is your best bet for reviving a soggy air plant.