Why won't my air plant bloom?

by William Hagaman

Short answer:

  1. It’s not old enough yet.

  2. It’s not getting enough light in combination with water and nutrients.

Is my plant old enough yet?

The most common air plants reach maturity within one year. (Larger plants within 2-3 years). Chances are you bought a plant that was either mature or reaching maturity. 

ALL mature tillandsia bloom. I promise. Nature made them that way, so don’t doubt it. If you keep your plant healthy, giving it the proper light, water, and nutrients, it will bloom.  

So, what can I do to encourage blooming?

Increase the amount of light your plant is getting.

Air plants love bright filtered light. What do I mean by filtered? Think of a bright summer day where you are under an umbrella or a shady tree. The light is bright but it’s not hitting you.

One to three hours of direct sun in the morning or evening hours is fine and great for encouraging blooming. Direct midday sunlight, when the sun is almost directly overhead, will fry nearly all air plants and if they survive, they’ll be badly scarred.

Air plants don’t easily bloom indoors, but they can under the right conditions. Find a window facing the south, east, or west which gets direct morning or evening sunlight. If you are really dedicated to this bloom, move your plant around your house to catch as much morning and evening light as you can. The best option is to move your plants outdoors—weather permitting. Find a bright area outside with filtered light, were you monitor how much water they are getting. Once your plant starts to bloom you can bring it back inside to enjoy the process.

If the outdoors is not an option, you can try a grow light. We place a few tillandsia next to our Aerogarden where we grow herbs hydroponically. Some of the LED grow light spills onto our tillandsia. It’s working well in conjunction with the natural light from the windows in the room.

*If you increase the light, make sure you don’t forget to water!*

You may even need to increase the frequency of watering. Plants will dry out more with more light. Makes sense, right? We mist our plants thoroughly 2-3 times a week. Some species will require more, some less. As a rule-of-thumb the smoother the leaves the more water they need.

What about the nutrients?

Fertilizing is great for any plant, it’s not necessary, but the plants will be healthier—you know this. If you are looking for that bloom, fertilizing will help a lot. Blooming takes a lot of energy and your air plants will only start when they are strong enough. We recommend fertilizing two times a month, replacing 2 of its normal scheduled watering. Alternatively, you can fertilize one or two days after a normal watering. Make sure you have fertilizer that is made or diluted for tillandsia. We sell fertilizer in the Supplies section of our site.

How can I tell it’s blooming?

The blooms will vary between different species. Some dramatic and colorful, like the aeranthos stricta, others spikey with multiple deep blue flowers like the bulbosa. The structure of the bloom includes the stem, stock, bract, and flower. Known together as the inflorescence. Many times, you can tell the blooming process is about to begin when the plant begins to turn a brighter color. For example, a pink, red, or purple. This is known as blushing. Watch the center of the leaves of the plant for an inflorescence to begin.   

Tillandsia Bulbosa Air Plant BloomingTillandsia Streptophyla Air Plant BloomingTillandsia Tenufolia Air Plant BloomingTillandsia Ionantha Air Plant Blooming

Is there any way to force an air plant to bloom?

Yup, professional growers and tillandsia enthusiasts do it all the time. There are three ways. The first might blow your mind. Put your mature, healthy air plant into a plastic bag with a slice of ripe apple for 48 hours and then remove it from the bag! The gas (ethylene) from the apple will “force” the blooming process. Allow 6-14 weeks for the bloom to begin to show. The second method is the one we use quite often. We use a mixture of Florel and water. Florel can be purchased online or at a most nurseries. If you have just one plant or a few plants, we have an easy-to-use blooming kit.  You can find this under the Supplies section of our site with the listing title “Tillandsia Bloom Stimulator”.

I hope I have answered some of your blooming questions! If you have any other questions, please email us at info@theartizanway.com

Will