Common Air Plant Problems

Air Plant Is Dying

The most common reason that Air Plants die is from over- or under-watering. Air plants receive moisture from the air through their leaves. The native regions where Tillandsia grows range from humid jungles to dry deserts, depending on the species. Knowing the growing conditions favored by your particular plant will help you gauge the right amount of watering. Silvery-leaved types are often found in dry, desert regions and tolerate being watered less often, but for a longer time. This mimics how natural rain happens in deserts. The green types of Air plants are found in humid jungles sheltered by other tropical plants and receive frequent water in smaller amounts. In a houseplant garden, green Air Plants will appreciate being placed near other plants where the humidity levels are higher.


Under-watering will result in leaves that dramatically curve inward as well as dry edges and brown leaf tips. Plants that are overwatered will have excess moisture beads on their leaves and may start to turn black at the base of the leaves indicating rot.

Air Plant Leaves Turning Yellow

Air Plants that do not receive the correct light levels will begin to lose their color and turn a yellow color. A lack of indirect bright light causes the plant to slow down photosynthesis. The leaves turn yellow from a lack of chlorophyll and eventually stop photosynthesizing. Plants also use less water when not photosynthesizing properly and may begin to show signs of over-watering or crown rot. Moving the plant to an area with brighter light will help it to recover. After a few days, the leaves should return to the proper green shade and be able to use the available water stored in the leaves.

Air Plant Pests

The most common pests for Air Plants are those that thrive in low humidity and high temperatures. Mealybugs and scale insects attack plants that have been weakened. Dry air will stress Air Plants and make them better hosts for these pests. Mealybugs are recognizable by their telltale webbing that looks like cotton on the leaves. They like to burrow at the base of the leaves and suck sap. A scale insect looks like a flat, dark shell attached to the underside of the leaf and causes it to turn yellow and eventually fall apart from the base. 

Air Plant Diseases

Air Plant rot is the most common disease to kill your plant. It can be caused by either over- or under-watering or by growing your plant in too much shade. 


Air Plant Not Blooming

Many varieties of Air Plants bloom only once in their lifetime. Although this may take many years to happen, often the single flower they produce lasts for months before slowly dying. Air Plants tend to reproduce either before the flower appears or just after it dies. Fertilizing with a very diluted, water-soluble feed will help Air Plants to flower and produce pups more regularly. Use a specialized Bromeliad fertilizer or Orchid food once a month during a regular watering session.

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 Author Robbin Small - Published 3-23-2023