In their native environment, air plants absorb moisture and all nutrients necessary to their existence from the damp and humid atmosphere.
It is possible to successfully grow them at home, even though the air is different from their natural habitat.
Specialist air plant fertilizer sprays ensure they get all of the nutrients Tillandsias need to thrive. It isn’t essential to feed air plants, but it aids growth, encourages blooming and formation of off-sets.
What are Air Plants
Tillandsia – the genus of plants widely known as air plants, are epiphytes. Their root system is for anchoring them to a substrate; they don’t need soil for feeding purposes.
They are not parasitic; air plants don’t drain anything from their host.
Tillandsia leaves are covered in a series of tiny, hair-like cells called trichomes. They are minute reservoirs that absorb and store moisture, light, and nutrients from the air.
Air Plant Fertilizer Spray
Garden and pot plants typically grow in soil; that’s where fertilizer is added. Tillandsias don’t need soil to grow; the only way to feed them is directly onto their leaves as part of their watering regimes.
There are many specialist air plant feeds available. Look for Bromeliad (the family to which the Tillandsia genus belongs) or Tillandsia fertilizers.
Many products are available as ready mixed solutions in spray bottles with adjustable jets.
Some air plant fertilizers come in highly-concentrated, powder-form. Directions on the packaging explain the exact quantities for mixing. It is the ideal product to use for dunking/soaking plants or to decant into spray bottles.
Fertilizing isn’t a substitute for watering air plants; they should run concurrently as part of routine care.
Never be tempted to use traditional houseplant fertilizer; it is too strong for Tillandsias and may contain copper or zinc, both are toxic to air plants.
How to Make Home-made Air Plant Fertilizer Spray
Home-made air plant fertilizer is cheap, easy to make, and chemical-free.
- Collect healthy moss from your yard, on trees, or on logs. Look for the most vivid green stuff; gather it carefully to ensure some live strands are still attached.
- Finely chop the moss with a kitchen knife; it should resemble the texture of granular fertilizer.
- Mix with blood meal (dried blood used in fertilizers, available online, or pet and garden stores) at a ration of 80:20.
- Store the mixture in a Ziploc bag until required; it is most effective when fresh.
- Add the mixture to a bowl of water before dunking. Pond or aquarium water is always best as it has plenty of minerals and nutrients of its own.
If you don’t like the idea of gathering moss, a quick online search will show local stockists.
What to Look for in an Air Plant Fertilizer Spray
Air plant fertilizer contains a mixture of healthy nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
The best products contain low-level nitrogen, although vital to the plant’s well-being, too much leads to nitrogen burn, resulting in its death.
Tillandsia fertilizer should be non-urea-based. Urea formulae use bacteria in soil, converting it into a usable form for plant growth. Air plants don’t need soil, urea won’t process without it, so it is futile.
When to Fertilize Air Plants
Over-fertilizing is one of the biggest killers of air plants; they cannot tolerate exceptionally high levels of nutrients; Avoid it by fertilizing plants once per month.
If you notice the leaves beginning to blush, an additional spray of fertilizer is fine. The plant is reaching full maturity, will soon bloom, and grow off-sets (pups)
It is the most energy-intensive season for the plant; a little additional food is received gratefully.
The best time to fertilize air plants is directly after watering; their trichomes are open and most receptive.
Spray the leaves sufficiently that excess solution starts to run off. It is imperative to leave the plants in a well-aerated space to dry thoroughly before returning them to their position.
If you’re adding the fertilizer to the monthly soak, give the plants sufficient time to dry. With most Tillandsia, this should take around 4-hours.
Air plants that don’t dry out are prone to rot eventually, leading to their death.
If your particular air plants have a bulbous base or are rosette-style, it is worth spraying them in an upside-down position. It prevents water from stagnating at the heart of the plant.
If you have an excellent irrigation schedule for your Tillandsia (using only pond or aquarium water) there is a chance that your plants are already receiving most of the nutrients and minerals they need.
But, even then, using a plant-specific, specialized air plant fertilizer spray can encourage healthy growth and bloom.
Monthly fertilizing helps to keep air plants in top condition, with enough energy to grow several pups.