If you’re living in a high-rise apartment or a fair-sized studio, you probably have a couple of potted plants at home – perhaps tucked in the corner next to your couch or TV console. It makes perfect sense as plants enliven the space without doing too much. But the idea of watering them consistently and having to care for them make home gardening a chore than a hobby. It gets worse when every single houseplant you buy starts to die as soon as you bring it home.
We have good news: There’s a relatively new kind of plant in the market that thrives only on air – no soil or daily watering is needed. “The air plant one of the easiest plants to grow at home because there’s almost zero effort in taking care of them. Plus, they look really pretty too when you put them together nicely,” shares plant artist, Ronnie Khoo.
Unlike succulents and micro-plants in terrariums and small pots, air plants are fuss-free and grow well in the humid Malaysian weather. It absorbs moisture from the surroundings and makes a pretty centrepiece on the dining table or the bedside drawer.
“Taking care of plants is an activity that develops personal growth. After doing it for a while, the hobby develops into a passion or a skill – and it changes you internally as a person, in many good ways,” explains the founder of Ohsum Mossum who was one of three nature warriors selected in the Strongbow’s “Refreshing by Nature” campaign.
Khoo explains all you need to know about air plants and how to grow them successfully.
This year, we see the rising trend of air plants. Why is it so popular right now?
Air plants originate from South and Central America, so they are not native to Malaysia although there are many growers cultivating them locally. Unlike most plants, air plants do not require soil — making them fascinating and versatile to decorate with. The unique character also makes them fairly exotic at the same time.
How easy can it get when it comes to growing air plants in Malaysia?
Since air plants are not native to Malaysia they do require some special considerations for their care. Most importantly they need to dry fast after watering; otherwise, they may be affected by moisture damage. When you have the right amount of light and ventilation, they can be easy plants to keep at home.
How you do plant them?
They can be grown in terrariums or a simple glass bowl. You can be as creative as you want as long as there are sufficient ventilation and natural lighting in the space.
What are the more popular species and how accessible are they?
Air plants crossbreed easily and they are one of the most varied of plant types. Examples of popular common ones are ionantha, caput medusae, bulbosa, funckiana, schiedeana and more. A popular larger type is xerographica. Air plants grow quite slowly which is a reason why larger air plants are comparatively pricier than other plants.
How large can they grow?
Depending on the types and hybrids, some air plants can grow to the width of a person’s shoulders or larger but they take quite a while to get that huge. Larger ones are really rare.
What are the important steps in caring for air plants?
Depending on the species, some types can survive indoors while others do better outdoors. You should observe their condition after a few weeks to see if they are okay in their location. They are best in a bright spot of non-direct sunlight, within one meter of an open window if indoors. The best way to water air plants is to soak them weekly in a bowl of filtered water for between 30 minutes to a few hours, the longer the time, the more moisture the plant can absorb. Shake off excess water after watering and allow the plant to completely dry in under four hours, this is very important to avoid moisture damage. You can also spritz the plants although it is not as effective for absorption. Remember to make sure that the plant dries up fast after watering.
Any advice for starters who are keen to green their homes with air plants or even indoor greens and an edible garden?
Look out for light, lighting is the most important factor when keeping plants indoors, without sufficient light the plant will be starved. Use the internet, there is a wealth of plant care knowledge shared online. And remember experience is gained from success and failure, just keep exploring and stay curious.