How to Propagate Air Plant?

Air plants are a very healthy choice for interior decoration. They don't need soil to grow, and they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen during the night. A common myth spread about air plants is that they can't survive indoors, but this is simply untrue. Air plant enthusiasts say that air plants need the same type of care as other indoor plants, so here's some tips on how to keep your air plant alive.

Air plants, also known as Tillandsias, are drought-resistant plants that are relatively easy to grow and make remarkable house plants. With just a single air plant, you can easily multiply your collection. The most important thing you need to do is know when your air plant is ready to be propagated and act swiftly before it becomes too late. The plant doesn’t need soil to root because it gets its essential nutrients from air and water.

So, how do you propagate air plants? The easiest way to propagate air plants is through pups. You will need to carefully peel back the plant’s leaves or cut them off to access the pups at the base. Ensure you feel the area where your plant connects with the roots system to feel the pups before you start cutting the leaves. Once you have the pups, you can root them in water or soil. You can also propagate air plants by germinating seeds or rooting stem cuttings.

In this blog post, we discuss everything you need to know about propagating an air plant. Read on to learn more.

Propagating Air Plant Using an Offset/Pup

The truth is that there are several ways of propagating air plants, but dividing pups is perhaps the easiest, most effective, and most common propagation technique.

It is highly recommended that you conduct the process of pup separation during the morning or early afternoon hours.

The entire process of separating pups from the mother plant is relatively easy and doesn’t consume a lot of time. All you need is a sharp knife or razor blade, some kind of light, and an excellent place to grow the pups.

Feel the base of the mother plant to ensure there are pups. Pull the leaves up and carefully cut the pup away from the mother plant right at the base. Be careful to avoid damaging the pup or error on cutting more from the mother plant than what is necessary.

Cutting pups from the mother plant is an easy process that almost anyone can perform with ease. Sometimes, the positioning of the pups can allow you to easily snap it off without using a cutting object.

Once you have removed the offset, feel free to grow them just like you would with a full-sized air plant. It is that simple. You can decide to root the pups in potting mix or water.

The most important thing you need to do is keep the pup fully hydrated by placing it in a bowl of water.

An air plant in a pot without soil.
You need to keep the pup fully hydrated by placing it in a bowl of water.

Some people prefer mounting the offset on a growing board using crafting wire and setting it in a relatively bright spot indoors. If you don’t have a good spot indoors, feel free to position your pup outdoors in a relatively shaded area.

However, if you are propagating your air plant during winter, ensure you keep your newly separated offsets indoors so that they don’t suffer frost damage.

When Do Air Plants Start Producing Pups

Air plants will generally start producing offsets after their first blooming cycle. Sometimes, it can take them up to six months to start producing pups. Some varieties take much longer to bloom before they start producing offsets.

Patience is a virtue you will need when it comes to propagating air plants. These succulents tend to do things in their own sweet time, and there is nothing you can do about it other than wait.

The pups serve as a beginning of an entirely new and independent air plant that will eventually mature, bloom, and start producing its own set of pups.

Air plant in a small jar with water.
Plant pups normally grow after the first blooming cycle of an air plant. Sometimes, it can be up to six months.

It is highly recommended you let the pups grow to at least one-third or half of the mother plant size before you cut them off and propagate them separately.

In the wild, the pups usually remain attached to the mother plant until it dies. Once the mother plant dies, the pups develop into a new beautiful plant. Therefore, removing the offsets isn’t necessary if you want to let them grow out naturally.

How Many Pups Does an Air Plant Produce?

The number of pups an air plant produces depends on the plant’s species. However, the typical Tillandsia species usually produce between two to eight pups.

Even the time the offsets are produced will depend on your plant’s species.  Some air plant species start producing pups before their flowering cycle starts, while others will take much longer after blooming before they begin to produce pups.

What Can You Do to Encourage Pup Growth?

Normally, your air plant should start producing pups after the blooming cycle without any problems. The time it takes before your plant starts to bloom may vary, but the fact is that it will bloom at some point and produce pups.

However, some air plant varieties, such as the xerographica, are relatively slow to bloom and produce offsets. Your air plant requires exposure to sufficient light, airflow, and water to flower and produce healthy pups.

image of xerographica plant
This is an example of a xerographica plant

The exact amount of light intensity and exposure your plant will require to produce pups will depend on its variety. You can also use plant fertilizer specially formulated for air plants to encourage blooming and subsequent pup production.

But you must keep in mind that fertilizer has to be used in moderation and doesn’t replace proper care and growing conditions.

What Happens If I Don’t Separate the Offsets?

In the natural habitat, the pups are usually attached to the mother plant until it dies. You can also take the same route if you don’t want to separate the pups and cultivate them into new plants.

There is no harm in failing to separate the pups, and it only gives you a large ball of plants which is relatively rare.

So, if you want something unique for your garden or indoor plant collection, just leave the pups attached to the mother plant and see what will happen.

How can You Make Your Air Plant Flower?

So far, you already understand that flowering is the recipe for pup production. So, if you can get your air plant to flower sooner, you can be sure of pup production.

As long as your plant is healthy and you take good care of it, flowering shouldn’t be a problem. But there are still a few things you can do to accelerate the process.

The most critical thing you need to do is ensure your air plant is getting enough sunlight. Position it on a north-facing window or in a good spot where it gets partial shade. If you notice that isn’t helping much, consider transferring your plant into a brighter spot.

A seedling planted.
To make your air plant flower faster, you need to provide enough sunlight to accelerate the process

Water your plant regularly using a combined method to ensure it is absorbing enough water needed for growth and flowering. Consider soaking your air plant in water for at least 30 minutes per week if you stay in a humid area.

Water it more often if you notice it is drying out quickly, especially during the hot summer months.

Lastly, fertilize your air plant at least once a month during the active growing season. Fertilization will promote faster growth and keep your plant well-fed for healthy blooming. Just ensure you use an air plant-specific fertilizer or bromeliad fertilizer.

Propagation through Germinating Seeds

You can also propagate air plants through seed germination, although it takes a lot of time to achieve desired results.

Collect seeds from your existing flower plant after the flowering season. Soak the seeds in a bowl of water for between three and four weeks until they start to swell and grow in size. That is an indication that they are starting to germinate.

You don’t need to cover the seeds nor expose them to direct sunlight while they are soaked. If your plant doesn’t produce seeds during the flowering season, consider purchasing the seeds from your local nursery.

seed germination process
One way to also help your air plant propagate is through seed germination

Once your seeds have swollen and started showing signs of germination, get them out of the water and place them on a piece of cheesecloth in indirect sunlight. Ensure you spread the cheesecloth in an area that receives plenty of indirect sunlight, such as your patio or porch.

Spritz the seeds with water at least once every week. If the seeds aren’t getting enough water, they will slowly start to wither and curl.

You can also nourish the germinated seedlings with half-strength essential liquid fertilizer. Ensure the liquid fertilizer you use is specially designed for air plants. Use a spray bottle to fertilize the seedlings.

Once the seedlings have grown to about one or two inches, transfer them to their own containers and start taking care of them. Avoid overwatering them, and keep in mind that these succulents grow slowly. Sometimes, it may take up to nine months for the plants to reach their full size.

Final Thoughts

That is it about air plant propagation, and we hope you have learned how to grow your plant collection. The most important thing is to ensure that you are taking good care of your younger air plants and watering them only when necessary. It is now time for you to go out there and start propagating your air plant to increase your collection.

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