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The air plant (Tillandsia) is one of the most interesting species I have ever encountered. It thrives by extracting moisture from the air and clinging onto trees and other structures.
So, anyone who wants to create a hanging garden or spruce up their home without resorting to potting mixes and pots can use these plants.
But given that they rely on moisture from the environment to grow, you must be careful with the amount of humidity to which you expose them.
If you leave them struggling to get this basic need, they appear unsightly and can even die.
This plant thrives in moderate humidity. I will show you how much it needs, what you can do to increase humidity in your home, and the signs that your plant is not too happy with its home. Let’s dive into this:
What Is the Ideal Humidity for An Air Plant?
Did you know that at least 500 species of air plants exist? Of these, very few do well in potted conditions.
Of the rest, mounting is the best way to experience their beauty. But to do so, you must pay attention to three essential air factors. What are they?
1) Air Circulation
You should not leave the air plant in an enclosed spot where it does not have access to airflow. On the same note, the plant is sensitive to drafts.
So, you should keep it away from hot and cold drafts, including those from heating vents and air conditioning systems. Ideally, the plant should be in a roomy area, experiencing the circulation from windows and doors.
You cannot focus on humidity without looking at temperature because these factors are highly correlated.
When temperatures go up, so does humidity because heat increases the rate of transpiration and evaporation. But how high should the temperature be regarding the air plant?
I recommend anything between 50- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperatures go above this range, you need to mist your plant, as I will detail later in this guide.
Ensure the plant is safe from frigid drafts, which can damage it, leaving it black and soggy.
Please note that you cannot save a plant affected by cold, and your only option would be to start all over again. The air plant should be fine if you can keep the temperatures in the 50+ range.
And now we come to the factor that most people think is the most integral to the growth of the air plant
The amount of water vapor in the air. Don’t get me wrong. Yes, humidity is important. But focusing on it alone without paying attention to temperature and airflow will not help your plant much.
Now, how humid should the home be? The best range is anything between 50% and 70%. However, I should add that the humidity range depends on the type of air plant.
Mesic air plants prefer the humidity range between 50% to 70% range. But the xeric types do best in high humidity and will appreciate anything above 65%.
If you can get these factors right, your plant will be a sight to behold in all seasons.
You may also like: 8 air plant problems & how to fix them
How To Find Out What Humidity Your Home Is?
Is your home’s humidity range ideal for the air plant? In most cases, you find that most indoor conditions range between 40% to 60%.
If you are lucky, your level is on the higher side (60%), and if you have a mesic air plant, it should be okay. But, of course, this would not be enough for a xeric plant. How can you tell just how high or low the humidity is in your home?
Using a Hygrometer: If you want the most accurate reading of the humidity in your space, using a hygrometer is the way to go. You can use the electrical hygrometer or go for the resistive electrical hygrometer. Either way, the readings should be good.
But what happens if you don’t have a hygrometer? You can still tell if your air plant is at risk by using the following methods:
1) The Wet and Dry Bulb Temperature Test
Do you have two dry bulb thermometers at home? Then you can measure the humidity range without using a hygrometer.
Place a fan in the room whose humidity you want to check. Then place both dry bulb thermometers at a spot where the blowing air can reach them.
On one of the thermometers, attach a damp (not wet) cotton cloth to the bottom. Leave the fan on for five minutes, then check the difference between the two.
Please read this article on how to arrive at relative humidity based on this test.
2) The Ice Cube Method
Place five ice cubes in a glass of water and set it in the room whose humidity you want to measure. After ten minutes, check the glass.
Condensation on the outside depicts high humidity, while no condensation implies low humidity.
Of these methods, I would advocate for the hygrometer as it is the easiest to use. You can also use the wet and dry bulb thermometer test as it is accurate.
But the ice cube method will not help you arrive at an exact reading and is thus best for a casual assessment.
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How To Increase The Humidity In Your Home
Most homes have humidity ranges between 40% and 60%. But in the colder months, these levels can drop quite low. How can you get them up? Below are some easy tips:
- Add more plants to the home as their transpiration and evaporation rates will increase the water vapor in the room,
- Pour water into an open container and leave it so to allow the evaporating moisture into the air,
- Use your stovetop more to boil water, thereby releasing steam into the air,
- Shower more often to release steam into the home,
- Leave your bathroom and kitchen doors open to allow more wet air to move through the home,
- Vent your dryer towards the house to increase moist air in the home. Also, air your clothes indoors, or
- Add a humidifier to the space to gradually release moist air into the room.
Keep measuring your humidity and tweak it based on the air plant you have at home.
What Are the Signs the Humidity Is Not Ideal for Your Air Plant?
Your air plant will communicate if its growing conditions are not ideal. And we will cover two ways in which it can do so:
Signs of Low Humidity
In most cases, humidity concerns will arise from low levels of water vapor in the air. The signs include:
- Browning on the leaf edges,
- Wilting and drooping,
- Yellowing of the leaves, and
- Drying of the leaves such that they feel and look crispy.
Signs of High Humidity
Did you know that too much humidity can also be an issue? You know it’s time to turn down the humidity when the air plant:
- Has leaves that are damp to the touch and seem clung to each other,
- Starts developing mold on its leaves, or
- Has new leaves which appear damaged from the onset, yet the mature leaves seem fine.
You will need to tweak your indoor humidity levels based on how the air plant reacts.
You may also like: How to care for an air plant over winter
Do Air Plants Like to Be Misted?
To understand whether air plants like misting, we need to go back to how they grow in the wild.
They rely on water from the air to make food and propel their growth. And because they make the most out of the water in the air, a little goes a long way.
Thus, soaking them in water is never a good idea. Instead, misting is the best way to feed these plants with moisture.
How To Mist Your Air Plant
The frequency of misting your plant depends on how humid your home is. If your home’s humidity is above 65%, you can mist the plant about three times a week.
But if the humidity is about 50% to 70%, you should mist it about 4 to 7 times a week. Keep in mind that the schedule will change when the weather gets warmer or colder.
To mist the plant, fill a water bottle with water, then spray the moisture on the plant for about five minutes or until the plant is wet enough.
Can You Keep Air Plants in The Bathroom?
Yes! Air plants thrive in high humidity and will appreciate being in a humid environment like the bathroom.
To be safe, place them away from direct sun, and allow them to soak in the humidity. You are better off mounting them to prevent them from being in direct contact with water for prolonged periods.
Air plants are highly adaptable and will do well in almost any environment.
So, even if you do not live in a hot and wet climate, the plants can still survive.
The only thing to avoid is exposing them to extreme conditions (especially cold drafts), and they will be fine. Happy Gardening!