The Air Plant Life Cycle

Air plants are beautiful plants that live natively in trees, but they aren’t like other plants. Most plants need dirt, and air plants simply…do not! They get their nutrients from the water they absorb, and any roots they grow are only to help anchor them to their tree.

So what is their life cycle like? Read more to learn!

The Beginning

Air Plant PupEach living thing has a beginning, and air plants are no different. However, there are 2 ways that an air plant can come into existence. One is by seed, which develop when air plant flowers are pollinated. The other way that air plants can begin is by pups, which is when a mother plant clones itself into baby plants! Being grown from seed is slow, but this is one way to get hybrid plants. Pups, on the other hand, can be very tiny and grow into good-sized plants within a few months. These pups can either be separated from the mother, or kept with the mother to form a clump.


Babies will grow and grow until they mature. It’s important to take proper care of air plants in this stage so they don’t rot and fall apart. You don’t want to miss the best part…

Blush and Bloom

When an air plant is mature and ready, it will sometimes blush, turning red or pink through its leaves. Not all air plants turn red, but Tillandsia ionantha types are likely to grow red when it’s about to flower. Eventually, you will see a flower spike, or inflorescence, emerge from the center. Different air plants have different inflorescences, with some being soft and round; others can be spiky and sharp. The flowers can also be different, with varying shapes and colors between species.

Tillandsia hybrid bloom
The bloom of a Tillandsia hybrid
Tillandsia aeranthos bloom
The bloom of a Tillandsia aeranthos

Growing Pups

After the air plant has finished blooming, it will stop growing. But not to worry, because it will be hard at work making pups! Depending on how healthy your plant is, you can have more than one pup. I recently found one of our air plants with 3 pups! Certain plants like Tillandsia aeranthos and Tillandsia funckiana make many pups, easily becoming clusters or clumps! Once any pup is about half the size of its mother, you can use a clean X-acto knife or scalpel to separate it. The pup will grow on to mature, bloom, and have its own pups in the future!

The End

Sadly, all plants will die someday. Sometimes the air plant can live a long life after blooming. Others will turn brown and dry out. Hopefully you will have gotten a few pups along the way to do the process all over again!

Don’t have an air plant? You can shop our air plants and our unique air plant holders!


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