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Air plants, as the name suggests, are plants that are grown without soil. They belong to epiphytes, which count around six hundred different species.
They are stunning house plants, and gardeners consider growing them a bit of a challenge because of the specific conditions they require.
Air plants live in forests and deserts of Central and South America, and they lack a typical root system, thus growing one in indoor conditions is tricky, especially when it comes to air plant fertilizer, as they do not soak up the nutrients through the leaves.
Luckily for you, I have all of the tips on air plant care, especially about proper air plant fertilizer that allows it to bloom.
How to fertilize Air Plants
Firstly, let’s talk about some basic requirements an air plant fertilizer should satisfy, as you can easily damage the plant by not providing specific care.
In general, you don’t have to fertilize air plants frequently and growing conditions are far more important than nutrients from fertilizer.
Once you learn how much light air plants require, and other basics of air plant care, you can start with feeding.
I will talk about proper air plant care and air plant care tips later – now let’s just focus on the fertilizers.
The first thing you should know is that since air plants do not have a traditional root system, you cannot use granules or fertilizer spikes to boost the blooming.
Air plants will get nutrients through misting or watering, so only a liquid fertilizer can do the trick.
When it comes to nutrients, air plants need only phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium, so they are considered low-maintenance plants.
I will talk more about nutrients and air plant care throughout the article, so now let’s check out some of the best fertilizers for air plants.
QUICK OVERVIEW: Best Fertilizer for Air Plants
Miracle-Gro Indoor Fertilizer
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Scotts Mist (Orchid Fertilizer)
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Bromeliad Tillandsia Food
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1. Earthworm Technologies TeaDrops
Orchids and bromeliads are the most common air plants, so if you own either one of them, my first recommendation is Earthworm Technologies TeaDrops Organic Orchid+Bromeliad+Air Plant Fertilizer.
As said, taking care of an air plant can be quite easy, especially when it comes to feeding, as they do not require soil and a lot of nutrients.
However, if you want the air plant to start producing pups and more flowers, you should include a fertilizer.
Plants from the bromeliad family will be quite grateful for those daily misting and minerals added to their food.
Let’s check out the specs of this fertilizer.
- Manufacturer: Earthworm Technologies
- Item weight: 6 ounces
- Package dimensions: 3 x 3 x 4 inches
So, how can this fertilizer help your air plant?
Well, air plants thrive with more frequent watering, as well as in direct sunlight.
Spot with a lot of bright light will help the plants to thrive.
Slowly, the plant will start to produce pups, and then the fertilizer steps.
This Earthworm Technologies one comes in the form of granules stored in tea pockets.
Since the small packages cannot be added to the soil, you have to place them directly into the water. You can even use tap water for preparing the food.
One packaging should be placed in one gallon of fresh water. The water will change the color as more nutrients leave the packaging.
During the air plant watering, the minerals are delivered.
Also, you can soak the plant in water with previously added food or by regular misting.
When it comes to NPK, it contains 2% of each mineral. Since air plants do not need a lot of it, this ratio is more than good. There is enough nitrogen and phosphorus to promote the bloom of the plant.
Moreover, the product contains humic acid, as well as fulvic acid, and plenty of food microbes.
These microbes are quite good for plants that are growing in the soil, so the same plant food can be used on other plants as well.
- Designed for air plants, especially orchids and bromeliads
- Great NPK, as well as 70 other nutrients
- Ease to dose and use
- It can cause burns on leaf tips
2. Bromeliad Tillandsia Food
In case you prefer tillandsia xerographica out of all air plants, try the Grow More 5118 Bromeliad Tillandsia Food 17-8-22.
Fertilizing tillandsia is similar to fertilizing any other air plant.
This species requires the same conditions as most air plants, so the focus should be on misting, watering, direct sunlight, and good air circulation, rather than on minerals.
Also, when using plant food, make sure that you are using diluted fertilizer, as the tillandsia air plant is quite sensitive to amounts of nitrogen present in the food.
Let’s see how this particular product could help your tillandsia xerographica to bloom.
- Manufacturer: Grow More
- Item weight: 1.25 pounds
- Package dimensions: 6 x 6 x 4 inches
This food has the optimal NPK ratio not only for tillandsia air plants but for air plants in general.
The amount of nitrogen is 17%, while the amount of potassium is the highest – 22%.
As you may already know, nitrogen plays a role in producing rich foliage. It promotes the green color of the leaves, while potassium should ensure proper cellular function.
This function is quite important, especially for air plants, since they do not have roots, and soak up minerals through leaves.
One thing you should also pay attention to is the origin of nitrogen in food.
If urea is the source, avoid the fertilizer as it needs bacteria from the soil to convert to nitrogen and the air plant will eventually die. In this case, it is ammoniacal and nitrate nitrogen.
The NPK is suitable for other species too such as bromeliad.
As soon as your air plant starts producing pups, implement the food.
Grow more food is in form of crystals, so it has to be dissolved in water before use.
You don’t have to add the crystals each time you water air plants – once a month is more than enough, so this one Grow more packaging should last you through the growing season.
Furthermore, the tillandsia air plants can also be soaked in the water with food, instead of using a spray bottle for feeding.
Both methods are just as good, so follow the progress of your tillandsia air plants to check which suits them better.
In no time, they will start to bloom!
- Great NPK value for most plants
- Promotes riches foliage and flowering
- Lasts for long periods
- Careful with the dosing, as the nitrogen could cause burns
3. Scotts Mist (Orchid Fertilizer)
As you may probably know by now I am a big fan of Miracle-Gro plant food and their other gardening products, so I had to include Scotts 100195 Miracle-Gro Plant food mist (orchid fertilizer).
Miracle-Gro is one of the best companies when it comes to fertilizers – they have formulations for different types, including air plants.
Also, they have created plant foods that will boost the growth of the plant in different conditions.
Now, let’s talk about this specific one.
- Manufacturer: Scotts
- Item weight: 1.21 pounds
- Package dimensions: 3 x 3 x 3 inches
An air plant (when growing in natural habitat, surrounded by trees) has a parent plant.
It isn’t a typical host plant, as it does not damage the parent plant – mostly, the mother plant is there for support, but it also receives some minerals in this way. Air circulation plays a major role here.
As not many nutrients are delivered in this way, the air plant learned to survive in a low-nutrient environment.
Miracle-Gro company has a quite good understanding of how different air plants live in the natural habitat, thus create products that help gardeners imitate those living and growing conditions.
This food was designed mostly for orchids, but you can use it on other species too to help the plant develop bloom.
The NPK is 0.02 -0.02-0.02 – the ratio of nutrients that the plant will most likely receive when growing in the forest.
Orchids respond the best to the given formulation of the plant food, but other types of air plants could benefit from it as well.
With this amount of minerals, the food will promote blooming and richer foliage, improving the look and health of your indoor garden.
Don’t forget – this fertilizer should be used diluted.
Even though it is not as strong, the orchid is quite sensitive, so diluting is advised to prevent the burns caused by nitrogen.
Instead of diluting the food, I would sometimes previously generously mist and water air plants, to provide enough moisture, then spray them with fertilizer directly from the bottle.
- Great food for orchids
- Can be used directly from the bottle
- Less effective on other air plants
4. Miracle-Gro Indoor Fertilizer
As I mentioned, Miracle-Gro offers different types of plant food, so I wanted to conclude the one that will not only fit your air plant, but different species you have in your garden as well.
Therefore I had to conclude Miracle-Gro Indoor Plan Food, 8 oz., Instantly Feeds All Indoor Houseplants Including Edibles.
This one is classified as all-purpose plant food, which means that the ratio of main minerals is the same.
As such, it can be used on all plants, but it is less effective for some and more for others, depending on the species.
New air plants will benefit more from well-balanced food, as they need all minerals to properly develop.
- Manufacturer: Miracle-Gro
- Item weight: 1.37 pounds
- Package dimensions: 4 x 5 x 18 inches
Firstly, let’s answer the most important question for any food – what is NPK?
In this case, it is 1-1-1, so all the most important minerals are present in 1%.
Besides these, the food contains dozen of micronutrients, which will also benefit your air plant.
For a minute I would like to focus on the source of nitrogen in the food.
As mentioned, the source of each mineral is of utmost importance, as delivery in the soil (in this case in the leaves) depends on it.
For air plants, it is recommended to avoid food with urea nitrogen, since the plant is grown without soil, thus there are no bacteria that will participate in the conversion of nitrogen the air plants will later absorb.
One thing you will notice is that this product does contain urea nitrogen – so you might start to wonder whether it will work on your air plant or not?
The answer is yes! Urea nitrogen is present in 50%, which is a lot, but since there are other sources of this element, air plants won’t have any problem with growing rich foliage.
I have even tried it on my bromeliads, as I already had a bottle of the food, and didn’t notice any bad effects. The plant continued to bloom just as if I used food for air plants.
Of course, the key is to still provide enough moisture. This means both frequent watering and humid air in the room in which you are keeping the plant.
Firstly, water air plants generously (I recommend soaking them, instead of misting them).
You could dilute the food in water in which you are soaking the air plants, but you can also apply it directly from the spray bottle after the watering.
I would recommend trying both methods and seeing which one fits your air plant better.
- Well-balanced plant food
- Can be used directly from the bottle
- Easy to use
- It contains urea nitrogen
5. Opulent Copper
The last great article on the list is Opulent Copper | 16 fl. oz. | Actively Protects Plant | Makes up to 50 gallons | Boosts Plant Defense Naturally | Liquid Copper Fertilizer | Mobile Copper | Micronutrient.
I have already talked about copper in plant food many times, and both the good and bad sides of this element.
Copper has a major role in activating certain enzymes, thus promoting many functions in plants.
However, the amount of food should be limited, as it can be toxic.
Since many gardeners still prefer copper-based plant food, I have done my research and found a safe one that will help your air plants to thrive.
- Manufacturer: Opulent Blends
- Item weight: 1.51 pounds
- Package dimensions: 4.5 x 1.88 x 6.25 inches
In most cases, copper is quite immobile once it enters the plant’s tissue. That immobile copper, in combination with moisture from the air or just excess water, can become quite toxic, thus many people avoid plant food that contains this mineral.
However, Opulent Blends have created plant food that contains the mobile form of copper, which won’t cause yellow leaves or burns, even if the plant is exposed to excess water or highly humid air.
The source of copper is the amino acid complex that contains this element.
When it is delivered in such form, air plants can absorb around 80% of it, and with a proper light source and air moisture, the air plants’ flowering is promoted.
So one element in the plant food is doing the work of three nutrients: N, P, and K, thus saving you money, since copper-based one is typically cheaper.
Now, let’s talk about proper use.
This doesn’t plant food specifically designed for air plants.
It can be used on many different plants, among which are some air plants such as Spanish moss or Tillandsia air plants.
Either way, remember to dilute it.
There are some recommendations on the packaging, and 2 teaspoons should be enough for one gallon of water. Because air plants do not require a high amount of minerals, you can even use a smaller amount of plant food for one gallon.
Either soak your air plants or evenly spray the food after watering.
- Suitable for different plants
- Copper is highly mobile and promotes flowering
- Promotes defense from different diseases
- Can be toxic to plants in too high amounts
What to look for when buying fertilizer for air plants?
In this article, my goal was to present you with some choices, in case you are struggling to find the right fertilizer.
In the end, the final decision is up to you, so I would like to mention a few things that you should take into account when choosing a fertilizer for air plants.
1. NPK or formulation
NPK is always the most important, as the improper formulation can severely damage the plant.
As said multiple times, Tillandsia doesn’t have a high demand for nutrients or feedings, and the fertilizer that will suit it the best is the one made from blossoming plants.
Typically, these will have a slightly higher level of nitrogen and potassium. The optimal formulation is 17-8-22.
2. Source of nutrients
After you find the fertilizer which satisfies the NPK value mentioned above, you will have to check for the source of the nitrogen.
Air plants are grown without soil, so nutrients coming from certain sources won’t be delivered to the plant, as they require soil to transform from one product to another.
If the main source of nitrogen is urea, then choose a different fertilizer.
Urea-based fertilizers are suitable only for plants potted in the soil, as they require bacteria to convert nitrogen into a form that roots can absorb.
3. Solubility in water
Always go for water-soluble plant food, as your plants will be fed by soaking in the water or by misting.
You can see on the packaging of each fertilizer how much can be dissolved in the gallon of water, so just follow the instructions to make sure that the mixture is not oversaturated, as this can cause burns and damage the air plant.
What is the best fertilizer for air plants?
When choosing the right food, the thing you need to focus on the most is the NPK value. 17-8-22 is a great formulation! It has the most potassium, thus improving the cellular function of the plant, which is of the utmost importance for these plants. Furthermore, do not forget to check the source of nitrogen. Urea-based food is good for plants growing in soil because bacteria from the potting mix is used to complete the conversion to nitrogen. Your plants are growing without the growing mix, thus there aren’t any bacteria to complete this conversion. In the end, remember to always dilute the food – even liquid ones should be mixed with water before feeding.
Do air plants need fertilizer?
No, these plants can survive without any additional minerals given through feedings. In its natural habitat, an air plant collects nutrients from the plant it lives on. As they do not get a lot of them this way, they do not require it even when grown indoors. When growing a new air plant, the things you should focus on the most are living conditions and mimicking them to the best of your abilities. Firstly, air plants won’t tolerate dry periods. I would recommend collecting rainwater that you can later use for watering or misting. Pond water will do the trick too. As some types of air plants (mesic tillandsia for example) have fewer trichomes to collect the water, make sure that you are evenly misting the plant. Once a month you can add a bit of plant food to the water, but do not overfertilize the air plant, since this will significantly lover its life cycle. Furthermore, make sure that the plant is receiving a lot of natural light. In case the room is not well-light, you can even use artificial light. The light should always be filtered light, so your new air plants won’t mind curtains on windows and a bit of shade.
Can you use Miracle Gro on air plants?
Yes, they have developed multiple formulations that suit different types of plants, so even for air plants, there are many options. I recommend the food used for Orchids, and you can find the affiliate link in this article.
What kind of nutrients do air plants need?
Mostly, they require nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Keep in mind that regular feeding is not needed for these plants to survive. They can even go without out, and sporadic feeding is better than overfertilizing. Also, if they are not grown in proper conditions (in filtered light and high humidity), adding nutrients to irrigation water won’t do much. Create suitable growing conditions first, then start with feeding.