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Is My Air Plant Dead? (6 Signs to Look For)

tillandsia (air plant) inside a sea shell

Air plants are known for being extremely low maintenance and easy to care for. They grow without the need for soil or roots, and they only need to be watered every couple of weeks. Despite their ease of care, air plants can still develop health problems and die. How can you tell if an air plant is dying or already dead? There are some key signs you can look out for.

Here are six signs that your air plant might, unfortunately, be dead.

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The 6 Signs to Check if Your Air Plant is Dead

1. Air Plant Is Changing Color

dying air plant
Image By: Mohd_Saifulrizan, Shutterstock

One of the earliest signs that something is wrong with your air plant (or any plant, for that matter) is when they start changing colors. Air plants will start turning brown at the tips. They might also become pale or gray. These are signs that the plant is faltering and could be dying. One of the most likely causes of color change is a lack of water. Air plants still need to be watered even though they don’t have traditional roots. If you do not water your air plant, they will dry out and start to brown before eventually dying.

2. Air Plant Is Falling Apart

Another telltale sign that your air plant is dying is when they start falling apart. Air plants typically grow in compact balls. When these balls start losing their shape and the air plant starts unwinding, it could be a sign that it is dying. This is especially true if you go to pick it up to water it or move it, and the plant starts to break or crumble in your hands. This is a sign that the plant is dead or dying.

3. It Is Shedding Leaves

tillandsia streptophylla air plant shedding leaves
Image Credit: Kaotunshutter, Shutterstock

Similarly, if your air plant starts dropping or shedding leaves, it is a bad sign. Air plants don’t typically shed leaves like other plants, so when their tendrils start to wither and drop, it is a sign that something is wrong. If you notice the first leaves start to wrinkle and fade before they drop you might be able to mitigate the problem by changing its water or light consumption.

4. It Recently Bloomed

Air plants typically only bloom once in their lives. If your air plant recently bloomed, it could mean it is at the end of its lifespan. Some air plants can present blooms for weeks or even months at a time. But when the flower fades and falls away, the air plant is likely dead. If this is the case, there is nothing you can do. The plant has simply completed the course of its life and died of natural causes. You can get new air plants and start over at this point. After the flower is gone, the air plant will slowly start to wither away until it is completely dead. This is natural and nothing to worry about, even though it is inevitable.

5. The Plant Looks or Feels Rotten

purple and green tillandsia air plants
Image Credit: Mauricio Acosta Rojas, Shutterstock

Air plants can rot if they are overwatered. If you overwater your air plant, too much moisture will become trapped and cause it to start to decompose. This is similar to root rot in other plants without roots. If you see any damp parts, soggy portions, or areas of wet brown or black spots, your plant could be rotting. A rotten air plant is often on its way to an untimely death. The rot typically starts at the base near the bulbous part of the plant. If the rot has set in, there is little you can do to stop it or reverse it.

6. A Bad Smell

Lastly, a bad smell could be a sign that your air plant is dying. A bad smell could be caused by a number of things, including rot, decomposition, and a bug infestation. If you walk by your air plant and smell something earthy or something unusual, it could be a sign that something bad is happening out of sight. Check for signs of rot, decomposition, and infestations to see if you can pinpoint the source of the smell. Sometimes, the plant will die and start to break down without you noticing, leading to an unpleasant aroma. If your air plant starts emitting bad smells, it is probably time to throw it away.

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While air plants are very hearty and easy to take care of, they are not invincible or immortal. Eventually, your air plant will die. Sometimes it will die on its own after living a full life, and sometimes environmental factors will hasten their end. These are the signs to look out for if you are worried that your air plant may be dead or dying. If your air plant fails, it is time to move on and get a new one.

Featured Image Credit: Andrew SK, Shutterstock


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