Difference Between Air Plants and Succulents

Difference Between Air Plants and Succulents

Air plants and succulents are both great choices for indoor decoration, but they have several distinct differences.

Air plants do not need to be planted in soil to survive, while succulents do. Air plants usually have thin and spiky tendrils while succulents have thick, fleshy leaves that hold their water stores.

If you want to know more about the differences between air plants and succulents, just keep reading.

What are air plants?

Air plants are a small plant family belonging to the genus Tillandsia. They are called air plants because they gather the nutrients and water they need to survive from the air around them. Their thin roots wrap around anything that will allow them to remain stable, and they use their leaves to soak the nutrients and water from the air. In nature, air plants live on tree branches as it gives them access to free-flowing air. They can also be found on cliffs, house beams, walls, and even on electrical wires. Their ability to hang precariously on any structure makes them great decorative plants.

An example of the air plant species is the Tillandsia tectorum, which has hairy trichomes on its leaves that make the plant look like a snowball. It is one of the more expensive air plants and it will look great in your sunroom or patio.

Another kind of air plant is the Tillandsia aeranthos bergeri, which is a low maintenance plant with pink and blue flowers that has prickly patterns. It is also called the mad pupper.

The Tillandsia cyanea is also called the pink quill plant. Interestingly, it can grow in both air and soil.

The Tillandsia ionantha has purple and silver flowers and is one of the most popular species of air plants. Before it produces any offset, it turns into a pretty red shade.

What are succulents?

Succulents are closer to common soil-based plants compared to air plants. They also gather the nutrients and water they need from the soil through their roots. They are called succulents because of their ability to absorb and store water in their bodies and leaves. This water that they store can be used when droughts come and there is little to no rain. They can then use the water in their bodies to survive until the next rain comes.

In nature, succulents live in arid deserts, so they really are built to be drought-tolerant and can stand high temperatures brought about by the sun.

There are many varieties of succulents and they come in all shapes and sizes. The smaller ones make for great indoor plants because they are low-maintenance and only need very basic plant care to keep alive. This is why they make great plants for beginners.

One of the most popular succulents is the jade plant. It is also called the money plant because it was believed to bring good financial luck to whoever it was given to. It resembles a tree with egg-shaped leaves.

Another popular succulent is the aloe vera. This plant is recognized by multiple cultures as a medicinal plant because of its many health benefits. Its leaves can produce a gel that is used even in modern beauty products.

The Aeonium is a succulent that has spoon-shaped leaves and comes in different colors. In the summer, they can produce white, yellow, pink, and red flowers.

How do you grow an air plant?

Just like their name implies, air plants grow above ground, usually on the branches of other plants or trees. If you are trying to grow your own air plant, you should know how to water it. It is actually not as complicated as you would think. You simply take your air plant and soak it in water for half an hour once a week. After soaking, suspend it upside down so that the crown can be completely dry. If the plant is dry, place it anywhere you want it to grow such as inside a bowl, hanging from the ceiling, atop a pillar, or a sculpture. Just make sure that wherever you put it, it gets enough light and moisture. Do not place the plant inside a closed container.

How do you grow a succulent?

To grow a succulent, place cactus or succulent soil in a well-draining pot. Succulents need airy soil to lessen the risk of overwatering. You need to soak all of the soil in its pot with water so all of the roots can be reached. But the excess water should not remain in the soil, as it can lead to root rot as well as make the plant susceptible to fungal problems and pests. Most succulents love the sun, so make sure you place the plant in an area that has plenty of sunlight for a few hours a day. Water your succulent once every two weeks or whenever the top inch of soil is dry to the touch.


Air plants and succulents are not the same. Air plants come from their own genus, Tillandsia. Air plants collect nutrients and water from the air around them. It uses the trichomes to catch tiny particles in the air which it will then absorb. In a house setting, you water your air plant by soaking it in water for 30 minutes once a week, after which you can place it back to whatever vessel you plan on displaying it in.

Succulents are closer to traditional plants because they also need to be planted in soil in order to survive. They use their roots to absorb nutrients and water from the soil. They have the ability to store water in their bodies and leaves for long periods of time, which makes them able to survive long periods without water.

No matter their differences, air plants, and succulents are both beautiful and make great additions to any indoor or outdoor garden.

Image: istockphoto.com / brebca