How Long Do Air Plants Live For? Tillandsia Life Expectancy

Air plants, which are praised for their easy care, have a captivating life cycle that makes them an extraordinary and valuable enhancement to your indoor space. While your Air plant may seem to be growing at a slow pace, there’s significantly more happening inside it than meets the eye.

Air plants are perennial plants with a life expectancy of 2 – 5 years, depending on the variety you are growing and the plant’s health. However, blooming indicates the end of the Air plant life cycle with several months to live. 

Air plants are perennials, so they live through many growing seasons but how many years exactly? This article elaborates on this topic, and I have some tips to increase life expectancy so that your Air Plant lives longer.

The Lifespan of An Air Plant

The several hundred species of Air Plants come from deserts, forests, and mountaintops. Although they do not need soil, they are accustomed to growing in several mediums.

Picture of dying air plant

Air plants, known as the Air Fern or Tillandsia, are colorful decorative plants that attach to almost any surface and start growing. Understanding your Tillandsia’s lifespan and life cycle is the first step in providing the best care for your plants.

A significant milestone of the Air plant life cycle is blooming. Air plants bloom only once in their lifetime. We know that flowering means your plant is near the end and has reached maturity.

The flowering stage begins with the flower stalk or inflorescence. Soon these inflorescences will turn into Tillandsias flowers that come in different shapes and shades of colors. You might have a single flower or a cluster of flowers. Your Tillandsia will also switch colors and create a beautiful display of pink and red during the blooming phase. Usually, the area near the leaf tip will develop a blush.

Picture of an Air plant attached to a tree

The Air Plant will not increase in size after this phase, but they are not entirely dead because as the flowers start fading, the plant will produce tiny pups or offsets. Most pups will grow near the base of the Tillandsia plant, but some are hidden under the dried leaves of the main plant.  

Although you cannot stop the main plant from dying, you can multiply your plant using the offsets. You can utilize each of them and propagate to grow new Air plants. You can also let these offsets form clusters to create a Tillandsia Ball. This growth cycle is how the plant preserves itself.

Please wait for the pups to grow ½ the size of the main plant before separating them or letting them grow on the plant, and once the main plant has completely withered off, separate it from the pups.

The plantlets are not the only thing your Air plant will produce because you might also harvest some seeds after the flowering phase. You can collect and germinate these seeds before they are washed away through watering or rainfall.  

The last stage is when the core turns blackish brown and starts rotting. The bloom period is different from the overall lifetime of the Air Plants.

Air Plant blooms usually last at least two weeks, but some can last for a year. The blooming time depends on your variety and the level of care provided. Like other perennials, Tillandsia lives more than two years; usually, the maximum life expectancy is five years.

Picture of an Air plant with colorful leaves

What Factors Impact the Life Expectancy of Air Plants?

The health and lifespan of Tillandsia depend on the following factors.

How the Air Plant was Propagated?

The maturity time will depend on the propagation method. Seed propagation means your plant takes at least five years to mature, whereas pup or offsets division will result in a mature plant within 2-3 years. The growth will be slower if you propagate via seeds.

Picture of hand holding air plant offset

Some Air Plants growers report that plants propagated using seeds are stronger and healthier than other methods. Most growers buy their Air plants as a plantlet which takes less time to reach maturity.

Type of Air Plant

The next factor is the species you are growing; there are two main groups of Air Plants; Xeric Tillandsias and Mesic Tillandsias. Xeric varieties are slow growers compared to the Mesic ones, and this also means the Xeric plants will last longer because it takes them more time to reach maturity.

These groups are created based on the natural habitat of the Air Plants. The leaf texture also varies; Mesic Air plants have fuzzy leaves with many trichomes, whereas Xeric Air plants have smoother ones.

Xeric TillandsiasMesic Tillandsias
Their native habitat is desert-like, drier areasThey come from the rainforests
Based on where they grow naturally, they need less frequent wateringFrom tropical habitats, Mesic varieties need frequent watering
Thrive under bright direct light Thrive under indirect light
Like high humidityLike average humidity

Growing Conditions

Remember, no matter what variety you grow, it all comes down to the care you provide to keep your Air plant thriving. If you do not create the required growing environment, forget about years, your plant will die within a few months.

You must pay special attention to the light, temperature, and humidity care schedule because these delicate plants will not show any damage symptoms. You should even pay attention to the type of water you use for these plants. Air plants prefer tap water instead of distilled water. But make sure the tap water does not have a high chlorine content.

As the name suggests, these perennial plants’ air supply is essential. So ensure your Air plant is situated in a location with good air circulation. Whether you grow your Air plant in a bed of rocks outdoors or a fancy glass container inside, it should have lots of space for expansion.

How to Increase the Lifespan of Air Plants?

Everything ends with flowers.

Helene Cixous

Increasing the lifespan includes knowing both the dos and don’ts of the epiphytic Air plants. Whether you are new to Air plants or already have one, it’s known that they don’t grow in soil in the natural environment. Even though some varieties are planted in soil, this growing medium will create an environment for mold and rot. Which eventually reduces the lifespan of your Air plant.  

You can apply the following tips to ensure your Air plant lives for as long as possible.

Treating the Air Plant Leaves

Pay attention to the leaves to decide whether your plant is dying. The leaves will start curling or wrinkling once they have dried. If you notice some color on the leaves of the main plant, you can take steps to increase the lifespan. Some green leaves mean hope, and your plant is still alive.

  • Prune away the dead foliage so the plant can focus the energy and nutrients on growing new pups or other healthy leaves.
  • Soak the plant in water to revive the drying leaves. Let the plant stay in water overnight.

Caring for the Air Plant during Blooming

Picture of a blooming Air plant

Plants need extra care during the blooming phase because most energy is consumed for flower production. In the case of Air Plants, they also need the energy to produce the offsets. One of the crucial requirements of your blooming Air Plant is moisture. Air plants do not need the same amount of water, so knowing your growing variety is essential.

Ensure you do not leave any water on the flowers because this will cause the flower to rot and die. In my opinion, misting air plants the plant from time to time is safer, and leaves should only be moistened.

Fertilizing Air Plants

Just because Air plants thrive without soil does not mean they do not need any nutrients for growth. These plants absorb nutrients from their surroundings in animal and plant waste, leaf litter, etc.

When grown as houseplants, fertilizing Air plants can add a few months (or maybe years) to their lifespan because it will enhance the blooming and accelerate the production of new offsets.

Liquid fertilizers or any other form of soluble fertilizer are recommended for Air plants because it’s easier for the leaves to absorb the nutrients.

One precaution regarding fertilizing is not to use fertilizers with Boron and Zinc. These two nutrients might be helpful for some other houseplants, but they are dangerous for Tillandsias. Avoid using a urea-based fertilizer if your Air plant grows in a soilless medium.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes the Air plant to die sooner than the average life expectancy?

Environmental stress, improper care, or neglect can kill your Air plant before reaching its life expectancy. Under and overwatering are the common culprits behind the early death of your Air plants because they cause the plant to turn dark and rot. Sunburns due to direct sunlight exposure can also destroy the leaves on this plant.

What should you do with your dead Air plants?

Plants contribute to nature even after death because they decompose and become food for other living things in the natural habitat. You can also compost your dead Air plants; if not, you can discard the plant.

Will pruning help in encouraging growth in your Air plants?

Grooming your Tillandsias will improve their appearance, but most importantly, it removes any dried-up or dead leaves and allows the plant to use the nutrients to grow new leaves or flowers.

Can your Air plant live forever?

Your Air plant species will live forever through the plantlets. But make you provide good care and keep the plantlets thriving.

How many pups or plantlets will your Air plant produce?

On average, Air plants usually produce 1-3 plantlets on a single plant. This number can vary based on how well you cared for the mother plant, but these baby plants can be grown into new Tillandsias. Some growers have had up to 8 pups as well.

Will indoor Air plants live longer than the outdoors?

Whether you grow the Air plant indoors or outdoors, the main thing that will impact the life span is the growing conditions. Because in the end, the healthiest Air plant will live longer, which can be achieved in any growing setting as long as you maintain the right environment.

Conclusion

To conclude, Air plants have an exciting growth cycle. You might think your plant will eventually die, but that only happens after it grows some plantlets for you.

The colorful flowering stage of the Air plants ends with a new plant, so it’s not exactly the end of your plant. The article’s tips will help you maximize the natural growth cycle and preserve your precious Air plant. You can select any plant from our list of 20 Air Plants to Grow at Home and start your collection of Air Plants.

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