How Much Direct Sunlight Does An Air Plant Need?

Air plants do not need direct sunlight. However, bright indirect light is best because it will encourage the plant to spread its beautiful leaves. The leaves of an air plant may look like they are underwater, but in actuality the air plant absorbs moisture from the air to survive.

Air plants, also called tillandsia, prefer a bright but indirect, filtered light. They are a part of the Bromeliaceae or Bromeliad species and have been labeled Epiphytes, as they do not need soil to grow. They thrive well in warmer subtropical climates, which gives you an idea of the best sunlight conditions.

 A little direct light may be beneficial and bring out more color in your plants. Too much sunlight will deplete the moisture in your plants and make them burn and eventually die if they are left in the sun for too long. A great deal of natural light encourages flowering. If kept in low light conditions, they may survive, but they will not grow very fast or flower.

Key Factors That Influence How Much Light Your Air Plant Requires

Three primary factors affect the amount of light your air plant can handle.

Species

Xeric species are desert air plants that can resist much more sunlight. They generally have short silver hairs covering their leaves, protecting them against direct sunlight. Xeric species are the ideal option if you prefer a place that receives direct sun.

Airplant hanging.
They grow better under filtered light.

● Mesic forest air plants, however, receive only the sunlight that has been filtered through a tropical canopy. As a result, mesic-air plants tend to have smooth, broad leaves that trap as much sunlight as possible. As a result, they grow better under filtered light.

Humidity

Humidity in your environment may also dictate how much natural light air plants can manage. If your air plants live in a damper environment, they will be able to withstand a little more sunlight since they will not dry out so quickly.

When temperatures are warmer and conditions drier, your air plants are more prone to sunburn. However, if temperatures or moderate humidity are high and your air plants stay well-watered, they will be far more resistant to direct sunlight.

If you put your air plant where it will receive a lot of light, you should plan for misting more frequently – twice a week or even a day. A sunny bathroom is an excellent choice for an air plant because the humidity of your shower will take care of most plant misting for you.

Season

When determining how much light your air plant can absorb, keep seasonal changes in mind. Beware of direct sunlight and intense summer sun, magnified by windows, terrarium glass, etc. Move your air plant terrarium to a different window or farther from a light source in the summertime months.

A glass hexagonal terrarium.
Move your air plant terrarium to a different window or farther from a light source in the summertime months.

In the growing season (April to October), plants in the air thrive under sunlight but can be burned if exposed to strong direct sunlight. However, they are happy under more direct sunlight for the rest of the year.

Outdoor Sunlight Requirements

Keep your plants away from direct sunlight. Remember, in nature, many species of air plants like to grow up in the sheltered canopy and shaded trees. However, they will do their best if you can place them in a bright place away from the sun’s rays.

Please make sure they are in an area that the sun will not directly strike for more than an hour a day or where they are entirely shaded from the direct sunlight. Beneath a tree or on your porch or Lanai should work just fine.

Air plant on outdoor.
They will do their best if you can place them in a bright place away from the sun’s rays.

Some Tillandsia may take more sun than others according to the species of the plant and its environment. If your plant has more slender, wispier leaves, it probably won’t do too well in full sun. Thicker and fuller leaves may better retain moisture so that this kind of air plant may better tolerate some direct sunlight for parts of the day.

If you live in a state of the south or desert areas where the sun is extreme, you need to be very careful with the exposure of your air plants to direct sunlight. Be especially careful in the regions that lack moisture, like the desert, because your plants will damage and wither from direct sunlight even faster.

Tillandsias love spending the summer outside, but make sure you put them in place with filtered sunlight. Direct sunlight in the hot summer months can “fry” them. And be sure to bring the plants indoors before the first autumn frost.

Indoor Light Requirements

Air plants are small in size, making them perfect options to decorate small spaces and apartments. If you keep them inside, we recommend keeping them next to the windows. However, windows must be shaded, either from a tree or any other type of protection against the direct sun.

Filtered light, or perhaps only the mild morning sun, is perfect for your indoor air plants because they are inclined to get a little “fried” in direct sunlight. Pay particular attention when planting in a terrarium, as light amplification may burn your plants.

As air plants benefit from indirect sunlight, their ideal location is to receive many hours of soft morning light and bright light throughout the day. A window facing eastward is acceptable. If you place them at the south or west window, be sure to maintain a certain distance to avoid direct exposure to the sun for their optimal growth. For example, putting one to three feet from a window facing east or west or one or two feet from an artificial light source.

A Airplant in glass terrarium.
Windows must be shaded, either from a tree or any other type of protection against the direct sun.

Rooms with windows facing north also work well, as long as the plant is located near the window, and the window is not blocked by trees or a complex of neighboring apartments. Western daylight tends to arrive late in the day and can be very hot and intense. If you keep them appropriately watered, they can tolerate warm, more direct sunlight and more prolonged exposure. Avoid poorly illuminated areas.

Exceptions

Air plants have silvery or whitish reflections, some of which are more visible on the underside of the leaf. The radiance is very visible; on others, not that much. The silver luster or fuzz is known as trichomes.

The silver appearance of any Tillandsia is due to the high density of trichomes, which means that it is adaptable to dry conditions and can reflect sunlight. Conversely, plants that look greener (mesic tillandsias) have fewer trichomes, are adapted to shade, and require more frequent watering.

The air plants of the silver-leaf variety can withstand more direct sunlight. These air plants usually have thicker and fuller leaves. Some Tillandsia xeric species like Xerographica can survive well in direct sunlight for short periods due to trichomes.

Trichomes offer a flurried look at an air plant’s surface, making it absorb nutrients and water more effectively. It also makes it possible for the air plant to manage direct sunlight better. Another variety that is also capable of withstanding periods of full sun is the Orthophytum. They take full sunshine and do not require a lot of water.

The trichomes serve as sunscreens protecting the leaves from the sun’s rays. More trichomes mean that the plant will be able to withstand more sun. So give the silver-colored plants as much light as you can.

It is important to remember that they will not tolerate the full summer sun, but the winter sun is fine. Also, remember that you may need to water more frequently when exposed to direct sunlight.

Artificial Light for Air Plants

Although air plants can withstand short periods of darkness, they require good lighting to produce their best. Placing your plant in an office or basement where it will get no natural sunlight is possible. Nevertheless, there are some specific rules to follow to ensure the success of your air plant.

Grow lights can provide extra light to air plants – or as the sole light source. Fluorescent or full-spectrum LEDs are the perfect artificial light for air plants, specialized for growing plants.

Standard filament lamps do not emit the quality of light required for photosynthesis.

Position your Tillandsia not more than 3 feet from the light source. If artificial light is their primary source of light, plan to keep it on for approximately 12 hours per day to provide adequate light. You can use an automatic timer to have them receive the proper amount.

Signs of Excessive Sunlight

Signs of sunburn include:

  • Brown spots,
  • Dried patches occur inside the growth.
  • The unhealthy splotchy appearance of the outer leaves 
Dying airplant
Air plants do not grow well in full sunlight.

Once you notice these signs, remove the plant right away from its current location. Next, carefully pull out the outer leaves that are completely damaged. If they do not detach easily, use a pair of scissors to cut the damaged areas. Finally, give the plant a good soak before finding it a new place, better off away from the sun.

Bottom Line

Air plants do not grow well in full sunlight, but they require a few hours of bright and indirect sunlight per day. The quantity of the sun also depends on the type of air plant and the climatic condition. In addition, you can use artificial lamps to grow them. If you keep them appropriately watered, they may take more direct sun for a more extended time.

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