Why Is My Air Plant Not Growing? Causes and Tips

Air plants are great for beginners, because they don't need soil or a lot of care. But there are times when one might become less than healthy, and why that happens can be cause for concern.
A airplant in a wood.

Air plants are quite popular among gardeners since they are epiphytic. It means that, unlike most plants, their survival doesn’t depend on soil. Instead, these plants draw nutrients and moisture through their highly modified leaves. Although air plants are quite easy to grow, lack of proper care and maintenance can affect their growth rate immensely. You need to keep a close eye on your plants and act quickly if you realize they aren’t growing as they should. But before you get there, you need to know some of the common causes of air plants not growing.

So, why is my air plant not growing? One thing you need to remember is that air plants are generally slow growers. Some air plant species, such as xeric, can take up to three years to complete the first growth cycle. Other species may take even longer than this, so don’t be concerned if your air plant isn’t growing quickly and everything seems fine. However, you should be worried if your air plant shows signs of stress and is not growing. Common causes of stunted growth include underwatering, lack of enough sunlight, pest infestation, lack of air exchange, or extreme temperature fluctuations.

This article discusses some common causes of air plants not growing and what you can do about it. Read on to find out everything you need to know.

How Fast Do Air Plants Grow?

Before diving into the causes of air plants not growing, let’s look at how fast these plants typically grow.

Generally, air plants are slow growers and may take several years to complete one growth cycle. Therefore, patience is key when growing these plants at home. No amount of care can speed up their growth rate.

For instance, xeric air plants may take up to three years to complete one growth cycle. Other species may take even longer than this.

Most of them typically grow less than one inch within the first two years when grown through seed germination.

Caput medusa air plant exposed to sunlight.
No amount of care can speed up their growth rate.

They only bloom once in their lifetime, but they are not monocarpic. These plants can take up to five years to reach maturity and bloom. They continue producing offsets for many years after blooming.

The only way to speed up their growth rate is to try and mimic the conditions in their natural habitat as much as possible. Mesic air plants generally grow faster in high humidity levels with relatively low light.

You can also boost their growth rate by promoting rooting and fertilization. Be keen on the type of fertilizer you use. Some fertilizers can be too strong for air plants and cause them to burn.

These plants are part of the bromeliad family. They are epiphytic and love to grow without soil, although they can survive in traditional potting mediums.

Common Causes of Air Plants Not Growing

Now that you know how fast these plants typically grow, let’s dive into the causes of air plants not growing.

Reason #1: You Have a Slow Growing Air Plant

As mentioned earlier, there are two main types of air plants – xeric and mesic. These categories separate air plants that originate from two different types of environments.

The xeric air plants are generally slow growers and may take more than five years to reach maturity.

This type of air plant is naturally found in arid areas. They have large trichomes giving them a fuzzy appearance. Trichomes are water absorbing openings on the plants’ leaves.

Xeric air plant in a pot hanging.
Xeric air plants come from a relatively harsh environment, they are adapted to survival.

The relatively large and denser trichomes allow xeric air plants to absorb more water whenever it rains. They also play a critical role in protecting the plant from the adverse effects of direct sunlight.

Therefore, it is safer to conclude that xeric air plants have a relatively slower metabolic process leading to a slower growth rate.

On the other hand, mesic air plants originate from areas that receive plenty of rainfall and are generally humid. These plants have small trichomes and are greener than their xeric counterparts.

Since xeric air plants come from a relatively harsh environment, they are adapted to survival. You must provide them with lots of indirect sunlight at home to aid growth. They also require infrequent watering and a well-draining potting mix.

Reason #2: Your Air Plant Is Underwatered

Underwatering is one of the major causes of air plants not growing. These plants require very little water compared to other houseplants, but they still need some amount of water to survive.

When an air plant is underwatered, its leaves turn yellow and eventually dry out completely. Since these plants are native to areas where it rains frequently, they need some sort of watering routine at home.

A air plant soak in a water.
These plants require very little water compared to other houseplants, but they still need some amount of water to survive.

Soak your air plants in a bowl or sink filled with room temperature water for about 15-20 minutes. Do this once or twice a week, depending on the weather and climate of your home.

Use distilled water since tap water may contain minerals that can harm your plant. You should also mist them with a spray bottle every few days for extra humidity.

Reason #3: Your Air Plant is Overwatered

It can be tricky to determine when your air plant needs watering. If you overwater them, the leaves may become mushy and droop. This can lead to root rot, eventually killing the entire plant if left untreated.

The best way to avoid overwatering is by checking the potting mix regularly. If the soil feels completely dry, you can go ahead and water your air plant.

Finally, ensure the potting mix is well-draining, and never let your air plant sit in standing water. Let the excess water drain away from the roots before returning your plant to its container.

Reason #4: Lack of Enough Light and Air Exchange

Even though these plants are relatively hardy and can survive with neglect, they still need to be taken care of to thrive.

Most of them require lots of bright, indirect light and infrequent watering to thrive. Without proper light exposure, watering, and air exchange, your air plant won’t grow.

These plants require lots of light to grow. Ensure the light is filtered to achieve better results. Avoid exposing them to bright, direct light for more than two hours daily. Overexposure to direct sunlight can lead to irreversible sunburn.

All air plants also require air exchange to thrive. Be sure to ventilate the room where they are positioned at least once a day.

Furthermore, take your plants outdoors for a couple of hours daily to aid their growth. Never leave them under a working air conditioner.

Air plant exposed to sunlight,
Without proper light exposure, watering, and air exchange, your air plant won’t grow.

Watering is another critical aspect that affects their growth rate. Mesic air plants require lots of watering than xeric air plants.

Consider submerging your mesic air plants in water and letting them sit there for one hour during summer and spring. This should be done once every week. For xeric plants, submerge them once every 10/15 days.

However, some air plants don’t need this type of deep watering because they are prone to rot. A good example of such a plant is the Tillandsia tectorum.

You can still water them intensively but less often during winter. The best way to water these plants is to let lots of water run over the plant for a couple of minutes under a sink or shower.

Misting won’t provide them with enough water. But you can consider misting your air plants every two or three days just to keep the leaves hydrated.

Reason #5 Pests and Diseases

Lastly, your air plant may not be growing due to pests or diseases. Air plants can be prone to pests like mealybugs, mites, aphids, and thrips that feed on their juices. As a result, the plant’s growth is inhibited, and it may even die if left untreated for too long.

Air plant hanging.
Inspect your air plants regularly for any signs of disease and treat them immediately.

To keep pests away from your air plant, regularly inspect them for any signs of pests. If you notice any, treat the plant immediately with an insecticidal soap or neem oil solution.

Furthermore, air plants may get infected by various fungi and bacteria that grow in soil or water. These diseases can be tough to spot and may lead to yellowing of leaves, stunted growth, or even death.

To prevent these diseases, you should always use clean water and mix it with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide before watering your air plants.

Also, inspect your air plants regularly for any signs of disease and treat them immediately to save them from further damage.

Final Thoughts

Generally, air plants are very resilient and can survive with minimum care. However, to ensure proper growth and development of your air plant, you must provide it with the right amount of water, light, and air exchange.

You should also watch for pests and diseases that might be wreaking havoc on your beloved air plant.

Now that you know how fast air plants grow and why yours is not growing, it’s time to get creative and have fun with these amazing plants!

Last update on 2024-02-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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