Air plant terrarium

At this point, it may surprise some of you to learn that I occasionally grow things not in water. I know what you're thinking - why would anyone ever bother with messy, "ground" stuff? Well fear not, this post involves no soil whatsoever. Today I have for you the story of Pegasus, my adorable air plant.

Adopting an air plant

It all started with an email from our women's group at work. In case you're wondering why my company has a women's group, I work in tech and our industry has some stuff to work on. So I got an email about how the women's art club was sponsoring an event to make air plant terrariums. A chance to de-stress with some colleagues after work while making something pretty. Awesome - gardening - art I can do! So I signed up.

I have actually never grown an air plant before, but they are a recent trend that I find very interesting - especially the ones you put in the back of a bulbasaur. There's also a building at work that has a bunch hanging from the ceiling which is a pretty awesome way to decorate. The part I wasn't sure I understood was the terrarium part. What's with all of the fake plants one puts in a terrarium around the real plant? Or the fake villages? How do fake mushrooms help a plant grow?

Our gathering was led by the fearless Joanna who brought all sorts of things for our terrariums: multiple types of sand, rocks, shells, multi-colored cartoon-ish mushrooms, fake moss (all of which she got at Michael's, in case you're looking for yourself), and of course, some baby air plants (specific species a mystery). We all proceeded to plan and fill our spherical vessels, making sure to choose just the right shell and determine how many mushrooms were "too many" mushrooms for our particular designs.

It was quite a fun and relaxing activity, and it was cool to see the different little worlds that we all created. When it was all put together, you could almost see the fairies that would frolic through our fantastical air plant gardens. I was enchanted.

Caring for an air plant

Joanna sent us off with careful instructions to give our air plants full sun and to water them one to three times a week. To water them, she told us to fully submerge them in a cup of water for an hour and then let them completely dry out before putting them back in their terrarium so they don't rot.

"Worst case", she said, "air plants are pretty cheap to get online."

To which I responded, "Don't worry, I have a green thumb!"

... Too bad my green thumb was a little preoccupied at the time trying to figure out how to pollinate tomatillos. I am sorry to admit that I neglected Pegasus for a couple weeks, during which time, she sat by a rainy window possibly gathering some excess lights from the tomatillos if she was lucky. Maybe the tomatillos transpired enough to lend some moisture to the baby plant because it somehow stayed alive. How do I know? Well, while it was soaking in the cup of water that I did finally submerge it in, I did a lot of research on how to tell if your air plant is dead.

How to tell if your air plant is dead

If your air plant is dying, apparently the leaves will pull away easily with gentle pressure. My leaves were nicely secure, so no worries here.

If your air plant is dead, all of the leaves will easily fall off and the whole plant will be just as fragile as the leaves. My plant is small, but sturdy.

I did some more reading and found that air plants in the winter can sometimes go up to three weeks without needing water. So it turns out Pegasus was just fine. But to be safe, I'll continue soaking her at least once a week. And maybe, if I get lucky, Pegasus will flower one day!


A big thanks to Joanna Ngai for coordinating and leading our lovely air plant event!