Does Your Tillandsia or Air Plant Look Like It’s Dying? What is Wrong?

by | Jun 18, 2019 | 0 comments

Does your tillandsia or air plant look like it’s dying? What is wrong?

Often it is from over- or under-watering or not have enough sun, etc. Today I want to talk to you about the the fact that after your plant blooms, it is going to die.

Your reaction-What? I actually didn’t kill it, got it to flower, and now you tell me it is going to die?!

Your air plant is dying

Yes…..but the amazing thing about nature is that, as with all plants, they make sure their  “line” will continue on.

A baby tillandsia coming from the dying air plant
A new baby (pup) coming from the mother plant

Making new babies or pups

The air plant will take a long time to die. While it is slowly expiring, it is giving life and nutrition to the new pup (baby tillandsia) that is growing.

As you can see above, this tillandsia bloomed some time ago and has given rise to a new baby or pup. When this plant is about 1/3 the size of its mother, you can remove it. If you don’t remove it, it will become a cluster of plants. It is up to you.

mother air plant dying
It is obvious that the middle plant is dying

The picture above is a plant I purchased. After it bloomed, it created the two on either side of it. As you can see the middle one is not looking good, but the two on either side are starting to turn red, so I think they will be blooming soon.

After they bloom they will send out babies. Eventually the first one will be removed as it becomes brown and dies.

The new plants from the air plant dying
The back side of the picture above showing the two plants originating from the mom plant and roots too.

Making roots

You can see in the picture above that the mother plant has also made roots.

I thought they didn’t have roots…? They are “air” plants, right? The roots can absorb water, but their main job is to anchor the plant to a tree, wire, or branch in its natural habitat.

A cluster of tillandsias
Open space to the left where a plant used to be

The cluster of air plants above came that way. It keeps flowering and making new pups. I didn’t take a picture, but last week I removed a dead plant and you can see the hole where it was.

A spent flower on the tillandsia cluster
A dying flower. Notice the hole where another plant used to be
Flowering tillandsia in the cluster
One of the tillandsia is flowering

Becoming a cluster of plants

The picture below is a cluster of plants, but I bought it as a single plant. After having it for a couple of years in a south window, it flowered more than once and became a cluster of plants. Air plants need plenty of light to bloom and grow well.

You can tell which plant has flowered and is now “passing away”. There are so many plants to cover it up and I am excited that I actually grew this from one plant!

A cluster grown myself from one plant
Plenty of pups taking over
dying mother air plant
This is the dying mother plant

The plant below was a gift from my aunt a few years ago. I need to cut the dying mother plant off, but my sentimentality kicked in. I don’t want to cut off the plant she gave me until I have to.

mother air plant dying
The plant on the left could be cut off at this point
 air plant dying
Another view and you can see it is growing roots

Air Plant Dying in a clump

This mounted tillandsia cluster is at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. As you can see there are dying air plants and some are dead. There are also living, blooming plants in the same clump. The botanical garden lets them grow naturally, the way they would in nature.

air plants dying in a clump
Tillandsia ionantha clump at a botanical garden

Below is a blooming tillandsia in a west window. This was a few years ago and now it has a large baby growing off its base.

Blooming tillandsia in my west window
A blooming tillandsia in my west window

So next time you look at your tillandsia and it doesn’t look as good as it could, it may be a dying air plant. But, at the same time, it is making a baby or two to take its place. Do you have any air plants dying? Now that you know that it is dying because it bloomed and it’s natural, aren’t you happy?

Have a great week, houseplant friends!


The links in this blog post contain affiliate links. If you buy a product through the link, I receive a few cents. Thank you.

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