Tillandsias, commonly known as Air plants, can grow anywhere without soil. But if you have them attached to a piece of driftwood, how will you water them without soaking the wooden support?
As a whole, dunk Air plants into a bowl of water in 3-5 successions to water the wood-mounted plant. Alternatively, place the Air plant under running water for a few minutes, careful not to wet the mount. Afterward, shake the excess water off and let the plant dry upside down for several hours.
Below, I provide detailed instructions on watering your wood-mounted air plants, along with helpful watering tips:
Depending on the type of plant the watering method will differ so, I covered the when and how to water for each type of air plant first but….
If you want to skip to the step-by-step instructions on how to water a wood mounted air plant, click here.
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How To Tell If My Air Plant Needs Water?
Like other plants, Air plants will show visible signs of stress when it is underwatered. Forgetting to water them once or twice is forgivable. Just soak them in a bowl of water overnight, dry them for several hours the next, and they will bounce right back. But too much drought period may cause lasting damage to the plant eventually.
Here are the telltale symptoms of an underwatered Air plant:
- Faded color on the leaves.
- Curling leaves.
- Brown tips on the leaves.
Since Air plants don’t need soil to grow in, it’s challenging to know when the plant needs water. I can’t even use my trusty moisture meter either! You can rely on visual cues, but this may be too drastic because you must wait for the plant to dry out before watering them.
But there’s a way you can get around this. Here are two things that’ll help you decide on a watering schedule for your air plants:
1. The type of Air plant you have.
Air plants can be categorized into 2 types: Mesic and Xeric.
Mesic air plants come from tropical, humid areas like South America. Their leaves are thin, dark green, and smooth. They prefer more filtered light than their counterpart type and are usually found thriving on trees.
A. How often do I need to water Mesic air plants? Once a week.
B. How do I water Mesic air plants?
- Soak them in a bowl of water for 20 minutes to an hour.
- Dry them out for a few hours on clean paper or tea towel, preferably with a fan nearby. This ensures no stagnant water is left on the leaves to prevent rotting.
Xeric air plants originate from desert-like regions. Their leaves are usually broad, flat, and fuzzy with a gray tinge. Their hairy leaves are the plant’s adaptive trait to absorb as much moisture and nutrients from the air around it. Most of the time, they can be found growing on rocks.
A. How often do I need to water Xeric air plants? Every 7-10 days.
B. How do I water Xeric air plants? Lightly mist with a spray bottle. Do not spritz too much water on the plant; otherwise, its fuzzy leaves trap too much moisture and cause rot. If water is dripping down the leaves, place your air plant near a fan to help it dry quicker.
2. The surrounding humidity levels in the room around it.
Indoor conditions often have low to medium humidity levels ranging from 20 to 40%. Most plants can tolerate these conditions, including Air plants. But it does mean their watering schedule may be more or less frequent, depending on the season and local climate.
In this case, using a digital hygrometer is extremely helpful because it helps you track the current humidity levels around the plant. If it’s above 50%, you can safely water the plant biweekly. If it’s below 20%, you may have to water it 2-3 times a week to prevent it from drying out too much. I use this hygrometer from Amazon to keep an eye on my more fussy tropical plants like Fiddle Leaf Figs and Calatheas from sulking. It has a solid 4.6 stars with 21,424 ratings!
But if you’re growing your Air plant outdoors, chances are you don’t need to water it at all. But it’s best to keep an eye on them in case of unpredictable weather changes, like heat waves. If frost is predicted and temperatures are dropping, bring them inside.
Sounds kind of complicated? Don’t worry; I got you covered! Here’s a little watering schedule chart I made to summarize everything above:
|Humidity/Air Plant Type||Mesic Air Plants||Xeric Air Plants|
|High Humidity||Once every 1-2 weeks||Once every 3-4 weeks|
|Low Humidity||Once or twice a week||Once every 10-14 days|
Note: This is merely a standard guideline on how often you should water your Air plants. It may vary depending on your situation but feel free to use and adjust this schedule as you see fit.
What is the Best Way To Water Air Plants Mounted on Wood?
There are three ways you can water air plants that are glued/rooted to a piece of driftwood:
- Dunk the Air plant upside down 3-5 times into a water bowl.
- Soak the Air plant under running water for 2-3 minutes.
- Lightly mist the Air plant a few times.
In all three cases, avoid getting the driftwood wet to prevent eventual rot. Whether treated wood is used or not, eventually, it will still deteriorate over time. Getting it wet will quicken that process. So pat the wood dry if there are some splashbacks, OR cover it up with plastic.
Afterward, you need to allow the plants to air dry for at least 4 hours, if not the whole day. As mentioned in the previous section, this is vital to prevent excess water from accumulating between the leaves, which could rot the plant.
Helpful tip: Place the wood mount upside down between two supports or a drying rack. This will help prevent water from dripping down onto the wood while the plant is drying. Afterward, you can place your wood-mounted Air plants back in their usual display.
Frequently Asked Questions about Air Plants on Wood
Air plants will grow around any support, including wood. They are epiphytes, meaning they develop roots to attach themselves to their host plant without absorbing its nutrients.
Use twine, wires, or plant-safe glue to attach Air plants to the wood mount for a faster application. However, do not use copper wire as it is toxic to the plant. You can also let your Air plant develop roots naturally on the wooden support, which is doable but may take a lot longer.
Air plants can be placed on various items, such as the following:
– Wood mount
– Quirky plant stands
– Tiny cupboards
– Open terrariums/Aeriums
– Hanging baskets
– Decorative rocks
– Small pots
– Miniature cages
It’s relatively safe to apply hot glue to Air plants to stick them onto their support. However, it’s partly unreliable because the glue will eventually degrade and loosen the plant from its mount. But the good news is that your Air plant may have grown roots around its structure by then, so it wouldn’t fall right off.
Misting is beneficial for Air plants with fuzzy leaves. It is ill-advised to soak or dunk them in water as the plant will retain too much moisture in its leaves, which can lead to rotting. Although, it’s important to note that other Air plants benefit more from a proper soak. It typically depends on whether you have a Mesic or Xeric Air plant.
As a whole, tap water with high mineral content is unsafe for watering Air plants. Salt will build up in between the leaves and cause damage. Using rainwater, pond water, aquarium water, or filtered water instead is best. However, if your tap water is known to be relatively low in minerals, you can use it. But it’s usually better to err on the side of caution and stick to rainwater.
It’s useful to soak Air plants overnight if it is severely underwatered. Otherwise, it’s unnecessary. Allowing air plants to sit in water for extended periods can cause them to rot.
It doesn’t matter which way Air plants face when soaking in a bowl of water. But it is crucial to set the plant upside down when drying, especially if it has a bulbous base. This will help excess water drip off the plant, preventing stagnant water from collecting at the bottom.
Fertilizing Air plants is unnecessary but can be beneficial if you want to encourage growth. Use a very diluted liquid fertilizer specifically for Air plants or Bromeliads and apply it every other month. If the Air plants are placed outdoors, then fertilizing is not needed.
All in all, it may be a bit tricky to water your Air plants if they are mounted on wood. But, it’s not impossible. As long as you protect the wood from getting wet and thoroughly dry out your plant, it’s as easy as pie. Happy planting!