The Ultimate Guide to Fixing Air Plants Turning Brown

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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.

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, prepare to revive your air plant and help them regain health.

brown tips of tillandsia leaves

Improper Watering

You may observe brown, dry, shriveled, and curly leaves if your air plants lack water. And on the other hand, a plant may appear mushy, or you may observe a soft base, a 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 must regularly water your air plants. 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

Impro lighting is another major factor that leads to brown tips in air plants. 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 plan 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 sunlight.

But if you wish to place them indoors, consider displaying them near a window with enough sunlight for several hours. However, ensure 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 special care during longer durations with temperatures under 35 degrees 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 that means 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 displays do 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.
  • Certain types of perfumes and colognes can harm your air plants.
  • Some securing materials and decorative displays also comprise certain dyes that can harm air plants.
  • While distilled and filtered water has essential minerals removed, there are additives present in tap water. So, 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 you always use a hoof fan while cooking.

Lack of Nutrition

Many think all air plants need a, but this is undoubtedly untrue. 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 must be fed with fertilizer regularly. But choosing the right fertilizer and following label instructions is imperative.

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 also indicate dying leaves. Cutting them off with disinfected scissors will help the air plant spend more energy growing new foliage than holding on to the dying leaves. Here is a video that will help you trim the dead leaves of your air plant properly and will give you an idea of how to take proper care of your air plant during winter.
  • 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 the middle or even upper parts of the plant turning brown. This indicates that your plant is extremely desperate for water.
  • Examine the leaf’s brown tips and ensure they are not soft. Squish the leaves a little; your air plant might rot inside if you do not sense any resistance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are my air plant leaves turning crispy?

The leaves of an air plant can turn brown naturally due to aging, and these leaves are replaced by new ones that emerge from the center. Brown tips or crispy leaves can be a result of insufficient water. While mesic types need deeper watering around once a week, xeric types need it once every 10 days during summer.

Do Air Plants Bloom?

Yes, air plants bloom but only once in their lifetime. However, that is not the end of their life cycle. The air plant can produce up to 12 pups that will mature to replace the original air plant.

Are Air Plants Toxic to Animals?

No, air plants are not toxic to pets or animals.

What to do with Tillandsia after flowering?

After an air plant blooms, continue watering and giving it adequate sunlight. Soon you might notice tiny “pups” under the leaves of the mother plant. Now is also an excellent time to fertilize as this can help with pup growth.

How long can air plants go without water?

Mesic air plants can survive for up to two weeks without being watered. Remember that the plant will survive but not thrive in most cases. Watering is required regularly for the majority of mesic air plants.


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

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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