How Much Sunlight Do Air Plants Need?

Do air plants require sunlight as well? If they do, what is the optimal and safe amount of sunlight exposure for these distinctive plant types? It’s clear that proper plant care is essential for the growth and well-being of all plant species.

Tillandsias prefer bright but indirect, filtered light if they get some light, either indirectly from a window source or artificially from full-spectrum fluorescent lights. Rooms with southern or eastern-facing windows are also good locations.

Tillandsias have a unique characteristic: they do not need soil to grow.

These plants take pleasure in having a soil-free lifestyle. One thing that allows tillandsias to thrive in “air” without a functional root system. These evergreen and perennial plants can stay alive by deriving moisture and nutrients from the air around them.

Just How Much Sunlight Does Tillandsia Need?

Let’s understand the right amount of sunlight your tillandsias requires. But before that, it is essential to mention that the conditions for air plants to thrive are the right amount of water, light, and air circulation. Once you get all these aspects right, your tillandsia will thank you for thriving for longer.

Low-light spaces are simply annoying for Tillandsias.

You are probably concerned that the ideal location you have in mind to display your tillandsias is dark. Deciding to put it where you will mean that your air plant wouldn’t last as long as in a sunny location. You might risk placing your air plant on that dark shelf and giving it some sun during watering days. However, we do not guarantee that this minimum exposure to sunlight will give your air plant all the sun it needs.

Here are some suggestions for the ideal rooms you can place your air plants in with consideration of the sunlight aspect:

  • Rooms with an eastern or southern-facing window: Such rooms make the best place to place your tillandsias. This is because these rooms enjoy bright sunlight for most of the day.
  • Rooms with a north-facing window: Such rooms can also be an alternative location to place your air plants in. All you need to do is ensure that the plant is close to the window and the light penetrating the room isn’t blocked away by trees or buildings.

Does West-Facing Windows Provide Enough Sunlight For Air Plants

Rooms with west-facing windows are discouraged because these rooms receive sunlight a little later in the day. They also tend to be quite hot because of the time they begin to receive sunlight and might end up frying your plants. Therefore, the amount of sunlight your air plant will receive in a day will be minimal.

Humidity is another aspect that impacts the amount of light your air plant can withstand. If you put your plant in a location that receives high amounts of sunlight, you will need to make it more humid. Ideally, you can place your air plant in a sunny bathroom! This way, it will gain both good moisture and good sun.

When it comes to the suitable duration for exposing your air plants to sunlight, you need to remember that leaving them exposed to sunlight for too long will drain out their moisture, causing them to get burnt, and may die eventually. However, different species of tillandsias tolerate exposure to sunlight differently.

For instance, if your tillandsias have thin leaves, they may not do well with exposure to sunlight for long. Air plants with thicker and fuller leaves can hold moisture for a long and tolerate sunlight better for a good part of the day. A particular air plant species with silvery leaves are best equipped to handle exposure to direct sunlight.

Some air plants, known as trichomes, are often covered by hair-like substances on their leaves. These trichomes carry out two primary functions. One of them is helping the plants absorb nutrients and moisture from the air. The other function is helping to reflect off sunlight from the air plant and lower plant temperature.

People living in a desert area or a southern state with extreme sunlight need to be more careful with the exposure of their air plants to sunlight. Such sites lack humidity; therefore, the air plants may dry out and get damaged faster. On the other hand, air plants in cooler and more humid areas can tolerate more sunlight.

Keeping Air Plants Indoors

In a nutshell, the rule of thumb is if your air plants are kept indoors, place them close to a window away from direct sunlight. If you keep your air plants outdoors, ensure they are kept in a location that isn’t directly exposed to sunlight for more than one hour during the day. Place your tillandsias under a tree or on a shaded patio or porch. Paying attention to the location of your tillandsias will ensure you control the amount of sun it receives.

So, how can you know that your tillandsia is exposed to too much sunlight? Signs that indicate your tillandsia is receiving too much sunlight include.

  • Brown spots on the leaves.
  • The appearance of dry patches on the surface of the leaves.
  • The overall air plant may also appear unhealthy.

Noticing these signs of sunburn on your tillandsias will prompt you to take action to save the plant.

  • First, you must remove the air plant from its current location. This way, you’ll prevent further damage to it.
  • Next, you’ll start taking some light-controlling measures. Ensure you’ve transferred your plant to the new location isn’t exposed to too much sunlight. Light control also means limiting the hours your air plant is exposed to sunlight.
  • Also, carefully remove the damaged leaves. You can gently pull off the outside leaves that have suffered the most damage. If the leaves don’t come off easily, use scissors to trim them.
  • Finally, begin nursing the air plant back to good health. Soaking it in water is a good move. Afterward, maintain a consistent watering schedule that includes misting the tillandsias.
  • Remember not to fertilize your air plant until you notice it has fully recovered and is again healthy.

Can Alternative Sources of Light Work with Tillandsias?

Those keeping tillandsias indoors are probably curious whether they can survive with alternative light sources. The good news is that the answer to this question is yes. In the absence of natural light, you can still place your air plants in the basement or the office or room that isn’t exposed to sunlight. In this case, here are the rules you will need to follow:

  • The source of light must be a full-spectrum fluorescent light. Using standard incandescent bulbs does not guarantee you will have the right quality of light- that your air plants need to carry out the photosynthesis process successfully.  If you have placed your air plants in the basement, we advise that you purchase a special bulb or “grow lights” for them. Bulbs such as Gro-Lux, Vita-Lite, and Repta-Sun are good choices.
  • Regarding the distance between your air plants and the light source, you should keep the plants not more than three feet away from the light.
  • Another critical aspect to consider is the duration of exposure. Your tillandsias must be exposed to the light source for at least 12 hours daily. This way, they will have sufficient light to stay alive.

Some additional tips you need to know other than the light requirements are:

  • The watering frequency for your air plants depends on your environment. However, the general rule is to water your plant once weekly; you can increase the frequency based on your environment. Avoid using chlorinated water.
  • Use bromeliad fertilizer or a water-soluble orchid fertilizer in your tillandsias to make them bloom better and reproduce.

You might be interested to read this detailed post I wrote on 12 Air Plants Easy to Take Care of

Frequently Asked Questions

What is unique about air plants?

Air plants are named as such because they are epiphytes, meaning they live in trees instead of anchoring their roots in the ground. Instead, they absorb rainwater and nutrients through their leaves and small roots.

What do air plants need to survive?

As their name states, “air plants” do not require soil and take their nutrients from the air; they still need water, nutrients, and light to survive. Air Plants are technically epiphytes, meaning they grow in nature on another tree, host, or object.

Can air plants survive without air?

Air plants cannot live on air alone. Air plants get nutrition by absorbing water through their leaves. However, if the air in your home is dry, water more often (every five days), and in a humid environment, water tillandsias every ten days.

How long do air plants last?

Air plant blooms have a different lifespan – some lasting only a few days to 2 to 4 weeks. However, for around a year, some larger air plants’ blooms can last much longer.

How do I know if my air plant is healthy?

Check your plants’ leaves for clues on whether they are thirsty. Dry curl leaves and a healthy white fuzz mean your plant is healthy, not necessarily drying out. Brown leaf tips and a general shriveled appearance are other clues you are under-watering.


Regarding the sunlight aspect, air plants love bright yet indirect light. When exposing your plant to direct sunlight, you run a very high risk of “frying” it. You, therefore, want to avoid placing your plant right in front of a glass window or a windowsill with unfiltered light. The primary consideration with air plants is to ensure you have put them in a room you consider the brightest in your home.

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