Can My Air Plants Live in Water?

Display of air plants in cat shaped pots.

Air plants, also known as Tillandsia, are unique plants that don’t require soil to grow. They’ve become very popular in recent years and are now often seen decorating homes and offices.

Unlike other plants, which take nourishment from the soil, air plants absorb nutrients and moisture through their leaves. 

One question that often comes up, though, is whether air plants can live in water.

Air plants cannot live solely in water. They can tolerate brief immersions or misting with water. But, they primarily obtain nutrients and moisture from the air through their trichomes, and they need proper air circulation to thrive. 

Leaving them submerged in water for extended periods of time can be harmful to their health.

In this post, we’ll dive deeper into air plants and water, and what you should know when it comes to understanding their watering needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Air plants don’t require soil to grow, but they still need air circulation to survive.
  • While air plants can absorb moisture through their leaves, they are not aquatic plants and should not be submerged in water for extended periods of time.
  • To properly care for air plants, it’s important to understand their unique needs and how to properly water them.

Can Air Plants Live in Water? 

Air plants can absorb moisture through their leaves, but they’re not aquatic plants and are not meant to live in water. They still need air circulation to survive and thrive. 

So while you can mist them or soak them briefly in water to give them a boost, you can’t keep them indefinitely in water. 

Understanding Air Plants

Air plants are a unique species of plants that can grow without soil. 

Personally, I love air plants. They’re weird and different, and easy to display almost anywhere.

They’re native to the tropical regions of the Americas, where they grow on trees, rocks, and other surfaces.

Air plants are epiphytic, which means they grow on other plants or objects. But, they’re not parasitic.  In other words, they don’t draw nutrients from their companion plant. Instead, they absorb nutrients and moisture from the air. 

Air plants displayed on a coat rack.

In recent years, these odd-looking plants have gained in popularity. Not only are they low maintenance, but you can display them in creative ways, including mounted on rocks and driftwood, or placed inside terrariums.

There are over 500 species of air plants, and they come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. 

To learn more about air plant care, take a look at my beginner’s guide. 

Air Plants and Water

Air plants are known for their ability to absorb nutrients and moisture from the air. However, they can also survive in water for short periods of time. 

Let’s further explore the relationship between air plants and water.

Type of Water

Almost any type of water will work with air plants, even dirty water. Feel free to pop them into fish tanks, ponds, rainwater, tap water, or even leftover cooking water, if unsalted.

One caveat – don’t use distilled water. Distilled water has no nutrients or minerals for your air plants. And, of course, don’t use water with any type of chemicals or soap in it, including tap water that’s filtered through a water-softening system.

Submerging Air Plants

Submerging air plants in water is a great way to provide them with moisture. 

To do this, simply fill a bowl or sink with water and place your air plants inside. Fully submerge the plants in an upside-down position. This allows them to absorb the water they need, without overly soaking their base.

How Long Can I Leave My Air Plants in Water?

Ideally, you should only leave your air plants in water for 30 minutes to an hour at most. 

While air plants can survive in water for short periods of time, it’s important not to leave them submerged for too long. 

Leaving them in water for longer than this can cause damage to the plant and even lead to rot.

What Happens if Air Plants Are Left Too Long in Water?

If air plants are left in water for too long, they can begin to rot. This is because air plants need air circulation to survive, and being submerged in water for too long can prevent this. 

If you notice that your air plants are beginning to turn brown or black, or the base of the plant becomes mushy, this may be a sign of rot setting in. Remove them from the water immediately.

This happened to me once. I was soaking my air plants and forgot about them. On some, the root area became very soft. Luckily, they survived.

Image of base of air plant with roots.

How to Properly Water Air Plants

Watering air plants can be a bit tricky, as they don’t absorb water through their roots like other plants. Instead, they absorb water through their leaves. Here are some best practices when watering air plants.


One common method for watering air plants is soaking. To do this, you’ll need a container large enough to hold your air plants and some water. 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Fill your container with water. Use room temperature water if possible. I’ll leave my water sitting out for a few hours.
  2. Submerge your air plants upside down in the water. Make sure they’re completely submerged.
  3. Let them soak for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Remove the plants and shake off any excess water.


Another method for watering air plants is misting. To do this, you’ll need a spray bottle filled with water. 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Hold your air plant in one hand.
  2. Spray it with water using the spray bottle in your other hand.
  3. Be sure to spray all parts of the air plant, including the leaves and base.
  4. Allow the plant to dry completely before placing it back in its display.

How Often to Water Air Plants

How often you water your air plants will depend on several factors, including;

  • the humidity in your home
  • the amount of light they receive
  • the size of the plant

In general, you should water your air plants once a week, but you may need to adjust this based on your specific situation.

Remember, overwatering your air plants can be just as harmful as underwatering them. Be sure to monitor your air plants closely and adjust your watering schedule as needed.

Preventing Rot in Air Plants

Air plants are a great addition to your home or office. They’re low maintenance and easy to care for. However, it’s important to ensure that your air plants are healthy and free from harm to prevent any issues with rot or dehydration.

Even though air plants don’t grow in soil, they still have roots. One of the most common issues with air plants is root rot. 

Root rot occurs when a plant is exposed to excess moisture, which can cause the roots to rot and eventually kill the plant.

It’s vital your plants don’t remain in water too long and, once removed, they’re allowed to dry thoroughly before being placed back in their display. 

Air plant sitting in a pot.

This is especially important when placing them in a more enclosed environment, such as a terrarium or even sitting in a plant pot. 

Placing your plant back inside before it’s fully dry can create too much humidity inside the container. This can lead to moisture problems.

After watering, always gently shake your air plant before placing it upside down to dry on a flat surface. In general, let them dry for several hours before placing them back in their holder. 

I usually let my air plants dry overnight. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, air plants are a great addition to any space. By following these tips you can ensure that your plants stay alive and thrive.

  • Air plants absorb nutrients and moisture through their leaves.
  • They need air circulation to survive.
  • You can water air plants by soaking or misting them.
  • Air plants must dry thoroughly before being placed back in their display. 

If you found this article on whether air plants can live in water helpful, feel free to share it.


Hi! My name is Angela Carr. I started this site to share my love for plants and gardening. My aim is to provide my readers with easy tips and tricks on plant care, fun facts, and encouragement for the new plant owner or anyone questioning the colour of their thumb!

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