Air Plants are part of the Bromeliad family of plants and extract all of the nutrients they need from the atmosphere. Although Air Plants do not use their roots to take up nutrients like other terrestrial plants, they will benefit from fertilizing with either a water-soluble or liquid feed designed for Bromeliads.
Why Fertilize Air Plants
The main reason to fertilize an Air Plant is to encourage blooming and pups, or plantlet production. Watering and providing the correct light levels for Air Plant is enough to keep its color bright and growth consistent. Adding fertilizer to the watering routine will stimulate the Air Plant to begin producing offset pups and eventually a bloom stem. Many varieties of Air Plant will die within months of flowering and setting seeds. Often the flowers are not pollinated in time for seed production, so the only successful method of propagation is by harvesting any pups that are produced. Air Plants can produce pups asexually.
How Often To Fertilize Air Plants
Fertilizing should be done once every month or two as part of the regular watering routine. If you are watering your Air Plants with either rainwater or water from a pond or aquarium, fertilizing is not necessary and will result in over-fertilizing. Over-fertilizing Air Plants will result in the scorching of leaves and will encourage rot to form in either the leaves or roots.
How To Tell If Air Plants Need Fertilizer
Fertilizer helps Air Plants to keep their strong coloring and encourages a flower spike to develop. If Air Plants are not producing pups or look like their color has faded, fertilizing may be in order.
Best Fertilizer For Air Plants
Bromeliad fertilizer will deliver the proper amount of nutrients that Air Plants need. The NPK ratio of a Bromeliad Feed is typically 16-9-25. This formula has ample nitrogen to support healthy leaf growth and high potassium to support a strong root system.
Because Air Plants do not take nutrients in by their roots, the type of nitrogen used in the fertilizer is important. Nitrogen in fish emulsion or sources of urea must be broken down by bacteria in the soil first for a plant to use it. Since Air Plants do not grow in soil, this kind of nitrogen is useless and will cause burning of the Air Plant’s leaves. Also, avoid any fertilizers that contain copper or zinc micronutrients. Bromeliads and Air Plants are sensitive to these additives. An all-purpose houseplant food with a higher nitrogen ratio can be used at one-quarter the label strength if a specialized Bromeliad fertilizer is not available.
Air Plant Fertilizing Tips
Be careful to not overfeed Air Plants and make sure that any fertilizer does not contain copper or zinc micronutrients. Fertilizing Air Plants once every month or two will result in happy plants that regularly produce pup offsets and eventually a flower spike.
- Use a specialized Bromeliad fertilizer in liquid or water-soluble form
- Fertilize during regular watering sessions
- Air Plants naturally begin to die after blooming
- Do not feed with a fish emulsion or urea-based nitrogen formula
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Author Robbin Small - Published 3-21-2023