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The Ultimate Guide to Fixing Air Plants Turning Brown

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Air plants are pretty fascinating because, unlike any other plant, tillandsia (air plants) can grow without soil. And while it makes them quite interesting, air plants are also very versatile as they can add charm to any indoor space that usually would not incorporate any potted plants. However, this does not mean they do not require any special care.

Browning of tips in air plants can result from improper watering, improper lighting, fluctuation in weather, plant rot, aging, toxins, and lack of nutrition. A healthy air plant should have fresh, intact, and greenish-grey leaves.

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When neglected, one may observe that the air plants have started looking dull/limp, or the tips are turning brown. We will discuss all of these factors, how they can impact the health of your air plant, and how to prevent it. So, get ready to revive your air plant and help them regain their health.

brown tips of tillandsia leaves

Improper Watering

If your air plants do not have enough water, you may observe brown, dry, shriveled, and curly leaves. And on the other hand, a plant may appear mushy, or you may observe a soft base, plant falling apart, or an unusual smell – signs of plant rot due to excessive watering.

If you have placed your air plants outdoors, they would generally not need frequent watering if you live in a region that remains a little humid and receives some rainfall. However, if you live in an arid region and do not receive enough rain, you need to ensure that you water your air plants regularly. You may see brown tips and leaves curling inwards when your air plant is desperate for water.

We all know water is essential to life. While too little water can make your plants thirsty, too much water can make them drown.

On the other hand, indoor air plants would only rely on you for their watering needs. To ensure that your air plants get enough water, soak them in water once a week and mist them every third day with a spray bottle.

Improper Lighting

Another major factor that leads to brown tips in air plants is improper lighting. Air plants require bright but indirect light to mature entirely and stay healthy. However, one must also consider that excessive sunlight, especially direct sunlight, can burn the tips of the air plant. On the other hand, too little sunlight can result in stunted growth. Be sure that your air plants get around 8-12 hours of light daily.

So, if you are planning on growing your air plants outdoors, you should pick a spot where you can hang in the shade or under something to offer shade while the air plants will receive some amount of sunlight.

But if you wish to place them indoors, consider displaying them near a window where it will be enough sunlight for quite a few hours. However, ensure that it does not receive direct sunlight throughout the day as the air plant can burn through the glass.

Fluctuation in Weather

Air plants are native to Mexico, the United States, the Caribbean, Mesoamerica, and Argentina. Thus, air plants do have specific requirements for weather conditions. While tillandsia can survive a short freeze, they need protection and some special care during longer durations with temperatures under 35-degree Fahrenheit.

Air plants growing outdoors would need extra care when the weather changes dramatically. Here is how you can protect your air plants from freezing temperatures:

Be sure you only use a fertilizer formulated for tillandsia and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

“If you have a garden in your library, everything will be complete. “

Marcus Tullius Cicero, Letter to Varro, 1st century AD


Usually, the bloom tracts will last up to a month, and some may even last up to a year. And as the flowers mature, you may come across brown tips on the leaves; this is a natural process which means that you cannot do anything to prevent it.

However, you can make the most out of this situation. The good news is that you will witness some reproduction signs during this time. You may see that “pups” will begin forming at the base of the plant. Most likely, these pups will be surrounded by a brown leaf. Or you may observe that the “pups” are produced on an “off-shoot” stem. So, while one of your air plants is withering, the new one is coming.


Elements like zinc, boron (usually found in fertilizers), rust, and copper are hazardous to air plants. So, while planning on growing air plants, you should be sure that the containers, terrariums, or display does not include these elements.

To ensure that your air plants grow in an environment that is free from all kinds of toxins, here are a few things that you need to consider:

  • Air fresheners may offer a sweet scent to your home, but they contain a lot of toxins. Be sure that you keep your air plants away from air fresheners.
  • There are also certain types of perfumes and colognes that can harm your air plants.
  • Some securing materials and decorative displays also comprise of certain dyes that can prove to be harmful to your air plants.
  • While distilled and filtered water has essential minerals removed, there are additives present in tap water. So, using rainwater is best and spring water can be your second option.
  • If your air plants are growing outdoors, make sure that you protect them from vehicle exhaust and pollution.
  • While air plants can enhance the overall look of your kitchen, they should not be placed near the stove. Be sure that they do not come in contact with kitchen grease that will coat the trichomes. This can make it difficult for the plant to absorb water and nutrition. So, ensure that always use a hoof fan while cooking.

Lack of Nutrition

Many think that all air plants need a, undoubtedly not true. Air plants need air, water, nutrition, and light to thrive. Air Plants have specific cells known as trichomes that gather and utilize nutrition.

Air plants growing outdoors can easily collect decaying plants and insect matter. residuesThus, you would not have to feed them fertilizers. However, you can enhance their diet with a seasonal application of fertilizer.

On the other hand, indoor air plants would require to be fed with fertilizer regularly. But it is imperative to choose the right fertilizer and follow label instructions carefully.

While lack of nutrition is dangerous for air plants, excessive nutrition can also cause brown tips.

Over-fertilizing or overwatering your air plant would not help and will only exacerbate the issue. And if you come across brown tips or notice that your plant is drying, you can soak it in water for a couple of hours to revive it.

Things to Know

  • While brown leaves are a major concern, yellow leaves are also an indicator of dying leaves. It is better to cut them off with a pair of disinfected scissors which will help the air plant spend more energy on growing new foliage rather than holding on to the dying leaves. Here is a video that will help you trim dead leaves of your air plant properly and will give you an idea on how to take proper care of your air plant during winters.
  • Browning leaves can be a normal occurrence only when you notice them at the base, behind new leaves. So, you only need to worry when you come across middle or even upper parts of the plant turning brown. This indicates that your plant is extremely desperate for water.
  • Examine the brown tips of the leaves and ensure that they are not soft. Squish the leaves a little and if you do not sense any resistance, your air plant might be rotting on the inside.

FAQ’s about Tillandsias


Taking care of air plants is not that difficult. Reviving your air plant is also quite easy if you can know the exact issue early. Moreover, if the weather is favorable for the growth of your air plant, you might not face any problems at all.

Also, many air plants are low-maintenance and do not require any special care. And if you are looking for some air plants that you can easily grow in your home, you should read this blog.

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