When I’m at a show with my air plants and succulents, one of the most frequent comments I hear is the person telling their friend “hey! Those are the plants that don’t need any water!” Which I suppose explains in part all the people that claim they have a black thumb – there is indeed a lot of bad information out there, whether it be on the internet or via a well-meaning friend.
To put it another way, please take a look at my adorable youngest child, Charlie:
He’s super cute. Oh, and hey, isn’t it true he can survive on Gogurt and Ritz crackers?
That is technically true, but will he thrive on a diet of yogurt smoothies and buttery crackers? Probably not. So while air plants and succulents can handle periods where they don’t get a lot of water, it’s not something you’d want to promote all the time. One of the reasons I love them so much is that it’s okay if I forget to water them once in a while, I just try not to forget about it constantly. And when I have forgotten about it, fertilizing is one way I can assuage my guilt. (Any other guilt fertilizers out there?)
Fertilizing Air Plants
In the case of Air Plants, fertilizing really does go a long way. They aren’t getting nutrients from the soil, nor can they can get it from their environment, really, because we’re talking about indoor specimens here. So fertilizing these guys really does make a difference in their health. I recommend fertilizing once a month, and I do this just by adding a teeny-tiny amount of fertilizer to the bowl of water I soak them in. I don’t really measure it out, just know that a little bit goes a long way. I like to use Miracle Gro’s Succulent Fertilizer because it comes in a convenient pump form (affiliate link).
The fertilizer will also help promote blooming – your air plant needs nutrients to form their beautiful, colorful bloom stalks. Air plants will bloom when they are fully matured. After this point they’ll enter a very slow period of decline, but in the process it will be making a whole bunch of baby air plant pups, so fertilizing will also help support the latter part of its life.
I would say the jury is out on fertilizing succulents. For mixed arrangements, where you have a bunch of succulent types squeezed in together, I wouldn’t use fertilizer because you really want that growth to stay compact. The potting soil should have sufficient nutrients to support the growth that will occur. For single species, like my Aloe, I tend to guilt fertilize these when I forget to water them. Like I feel the need to give them a little something extra to make up for my forgetful watering habits. I mean, that’s probably doing my conscious more good than the plant, but I’m not worried about growth really so it’s fine either way. For those of you with better emotional relationships with your plants, I’d recommend fertilizing your indoor plants at least once a year when they are actively growing (ie: not during a dormant phase).