Air plants grow on trees, but they don’t take nutrients from their host. Instead, they extract nutrients directly from the surrounding air. You can harvest air plants from trees and grow them separately.
Here’s a step by guide to easily harvest air plants from trees:
- Select the air plant to be harvested.
- Collect the tools.
- Harvest the air plant from the tree.
- Care for the harvested air plant.
- Heal the wound on the tree branch.
Let’s look at each step to understand the whole process in detail. Moreover, we’ll discuss where you can find air plants easily, other ways to remove them, whether pulling them away saves the tree, and whether air plants can survive after separating from the host tree.
1. Select the Air Plant To Be Harvested
If you’re harvesting air plants from trees to grow them separately, you must select the right plant first. Not every air plant is suitable for harvesting. It would be best to consider a few factors while choosing the air plant for harvesting.
- Air plants should neither be very young nor too grown-up to comfortably readjust themselves to a new environment.
- The plant should be easy to remove from the tree without causing too much harm to both the host tree and the plant.
- It should be at a reachable height to avoid risks in harvesting.
- The air plant must not be poisonous. Do good research before selecting an indoor air plant.
- Select the plant based on your preferences. Green ones need more moisture and light, whereas silver ones can grow in less light and water conditions.
- You can harvest the small pups without hurting the whole plant when pups reach half or one-third the size of the mother plant. These pups grow out around the mother plant and can thrive separately as a new one.
The whole process of harvesting air plants from trees depends on the type and size of the plant and the conditions around it. You can readjust timings and strategies if you harvest the air plants from your garden trees. However, if you’re walking in the woods searching for air plants, choose the easy ones.
2. Collect the Tools
After selecting the air plant, you need to gather the tools to remove it safely from the tree. The list of tools will depend on the conditions in which the plant is grown. Here’s a tentative list of items to have before harvesting air plants in the woods or your garden.
- Garden gloves
- Carry bag
The list may vary depending on your technique to remove the air plant from the tree. If you use the water pressure technique, you’ll need to add water supplying equipment to the list. On the other hand, if you’re harvesting the air plant and the tree branch, you need to have an ax.
Although the plant does not take nutrients from the host tree, it grips the tree with its roots to keep it from falling. You’ll need a plucker to snatch the plant out. Please don’t exert extra force while plucking, as it can injure the plant beyond repair.
If the roots are deep, you can cut them off with scissors or a knife. Don’t worry too much about harming the plant, since it doesn’t conventionally use its roots. Instead, roots only serve to keep the plant stable in one place.
If the chosen plant is at a height, you’ll need a ladder to reach out to it. Moreover, while plucking the plant out, if there’s any wound left on the tree, you should help the tree heal its wound quickly by shaping up the injury with a knife or covering it to protect against insects.
3. Harvest the Air Plant From the Tree
When you have gathered all the tools and understood their function, you can start the real work of harvesting the plant. You can reap the air plant in several ways. However, I am discussing the three most straightforward ways below to help you out.
Manually Pluck Air Plants From the Tree
One way to harvest air plants is to pluck them from the host tree manually. For that matter, you’ll need the items listed above in the tools list. After selecting the plant and gathering all the necessary tools, follow the steps to harvest the air plant carefully:
- Wear gloves on your hands to protect against thorns and insects.
- Set up the ladder if the plant is hanging on a tall tree.
- Pluck the roots one by one with the plucker.
- Cut the deep roots and separate the plant from the tree.
- Don’t harm the foliage part and ball shape at the bottom of the plant.
- Keep the plant in a zip lock bag or any ordinary carry bag.
- Get back on the ground safely with your air plant.
Manually picking the air plant is the best way to remove them from the host plant without causing much harm to the tree and the air plant. However, not everywhere is it possible to reach the plant safely. In that case, you’ll need to find other ways to harvest it.
You should choose the method of harvesting based on your preferences and conditions. For example, if you intend to cause the least harm to the plant and the tree, choose manual plucking.
Harvest the Air Plant Along With the Tree Branch
If the plant has made a firm grip on the tree branch and you can afford to cut the tree branch without causing severe harm to the tree, you can take a piece of the stem, including the air plant.
Here is a guide on how to harvest air plant along with the tree branch:
- Mark the portion of the branch you wish to cut out.
- Cut the outer stem with an electric tree cutter.
- Cut the inner side of the branch. This time the branch will separate from the tree.
- Paste glue on the cut mark and help the tree heal its wound.
- Take the wood log with an ingrown air plant and decorate it in your home.
Before cutting the tree branch, make sure that the tree can survive without it, and the targeted branch is not the only source of energy for the tree. If you cut down the central trunk or branch, the tree may not survive.
Keeping the air plant attached with a wood log in your home would give an extra aesthetic appeal to the air plant. You can cut the wood log in desired shape and size and hang it indoors or outdoors. The wood log will die out eventually, but the air plant should survive.
Separate the Air Plant with Forceful Water Spray
It’s difficult to harvest air plants grown at an unreachable height. Knocking down the air plant with forceful water spray is another good way of harvesting air plants from tall trees. However, if you don’t do it properly, you can harm the air plant.
Follow the given procedure to harvest air plant with water spray without killing it:
- Connect the pressure hose to the water supply.
- Aim at the bottom of the air plant and try to remove it with water pressure.
- Don’t aim in the center of the plant. Instead, go around the bottom ball of the plant and loosen its grip from the tree.
- Collect the plant when it’s knocked down.
This technique is best for air plants with a rigid base and muscular build. Don’t use this method on delicate plants. Moreover, you can reach any height with enough water pressure. Check the water pressure before targeting the plant. If the pressure is too high, lessen it. Otherwise, the plant will disintegrate, and you won’t be able to replant it.
You might not be able to use this technique in the woods or remote places. However, your garden, farms, and backyards are perfect places to harvest air plants with forceful water spray. Don’t target the baby plants. Let them gather some strength before facing the water gun.
4. Care for the Harvested Air Plant
Although the air plant doesn’t take nutrients from the tree, it needs care and a proper growing environment. After snatching the air plant away from its original place, you should provide it with the necessities to help it accommodate in the new domain to thrive.
There are two stages of plant care after separating it from the tree. Those stages include immediate care after harvesting and later care for planting it at another place. It would help to know the primary care so that you don’t unknowingly kill the plant before it reaches your home.
In immediate care, you should moisten the plant just after harvesting and then store it in a breathable environment until it reaches its next home. Your storage bag/box will depend on the size of the plant. Please don’t keep the air plant in an unbreathable place for too long to avoid damaging it.
Later, when the plant has reached its new home, you should take care of it by providing light and water weekly. Air plants are almost unkillable. They don’t crave attention. However, being a living thing, they do require timely care. Don’t forget why you harvested them in the first place.
5. Heal the Wound on the Tree Branch
In the steps listed above, we’ve discussed that you should help the tree heal its wound after harvesting the air plant. In the harvesting process, the host tree gets hurt, so it’s only right for you to pay him a little care back.
This last step in the harvesting process is entirely optional. It may not matter to you if you kill or seriously hurt the host tree for the plant; you will get the air plant anyway. However, if you consider the tree’s health, cover its wound to protect against insects and infections.
The University of Tennessee doesn’t suggest dressing up the tree. Instead, they say that the tree has its system to heal the wounds. You need to help it by shaping the wounded portion with a knife. Alternatively, covering it for a couple of days with a cotton bandage can also help.
Frequently Asked Questions About Air Plants
Air plants are a wonder to the human mind. Generally, plants grow in a growing medium. However, air plants don’t grow in conventional ways, leaving thousands of questions in our minds. Here are some frequently asked questions on air plants to solve your queries.
What Are Some Easy Places To Find Air Plants?
Easy places to find air plants include garden trees, farms, woods, and jungles. Air plants can grow anywhere as they survive on air. However, they are natives of tropical zones, so locating them in excess in a tropical rainforest is not surprising.
Air plants generally grow on big trees like oak and maple. However, they can grow anywhere if they get enough light and moisture from the air. If you’re hunting for them, go to places that encounter the least human attention. Be safe while hunting.
If you don’t want to harvest naturally occurring air plants, they’re easily found in nurseries. Some nurseries specialize in air plant collection. They hunt, propagate and harvest air plants for you and have all types of air plants on demand.
Not all air plants need to be harvested from nature. There are ways to propagate air plants with pups around them. Hence, don’t leave it unaddressed if you see an opportunity to propagate the plant. That way, you’ll get the all-new air plant without going through the hard work of harvesting.
How Long Does an Air Plant Live?
Air plants can survive for about 2 to 5 years, depending on the variety and living conditions. If you harvested the plant from a tree when it was six months old, subtract the plant age from its expected life to predict how long it will live under your care.
The life of an air plant hugely depends on its environment. If the plant doesn’t get proper conditions for survival, it will die before living its age. To properly care for the plant and help it live its life to the fullest, research the plant variety and its survival preferences.
Do Air Plants Bloom?
Some air plants bloom at their last stage of life. If an air plant reaches the blooming stage, it’s an indication that the plant has lived its life and soon will die. However, not all air plants will bloom.
Does Removing the Air Plant Save the Tree?
Although air plants cling to the tree branches, they do not extract nutrients from their host. So, the air plant does not directly harm the tree. However, it affects the plant in several other ways and sometimes causes the tree or branch to die.
Removing the air plant can save the tree if the plant roots suffocate the tree. Air plants grip the tree. Over time, when the plant grows big and grips the tree more tightly, the branch tissues get damaged, and channels of water and nutrients are restricted.
You can read the article to understand more about the tree and air plant relation: Will Air Plants Kill a Tree? The Science Explained
Alternative Ways To Remove Air Plants From Trees
We have discussed three ways of air plant harvesting. There are several other ways to remove the air plant from the tree. Before proceeding with the air plant removal, your agenda should be clear about what you want to do with the plant and the tree.
If you remove the air plant to plant it at another place, the aforementioned methods may help you. However, if you remove the air plant to save the tree, there are several other ways to get rid of it.
Here are some alternative ways to remove air plants:
There are many herbicides available in the market that kill plants growing in unwanted places. You can use the herbicides to kill the plant on trees. Make sure that you don’t kill the tree branch. Pour the liquid carefully on the plant.
Cut the Plant Away With Knife
You can directly cut the plant and throw it away. In the harvesting method of manual plucking mentioned above, the aim was to save the plant from growing in another place. Thus the plant needs to be harvested with care. However, if you want to remove the plant, you can do it in any way.
Suffocate the Plant
You can remove the air plant by compelling it to die. If you deprive the plant of its necessities, it will pass automatically, and you can remove the dried plant easily later on.
To suffocate the plant, you can cover it with a plastic wrap for a couple of weeks or deprive it of light and sunlight. When the plant doesn’t have access to air, water, and light, it will suffocate and die.
Put Salt in the Plant Cavity
Another efficient way to kill a plant is to pour salt around its roots or water it with saline water. Continued build-up of excess salt and its absorption into the plant will compel it to die. This will enable you to come back at a later stage to remove the dead plant from the tree.
Can Air Plants Survive After Separating From Host Trees?
Air plants can survive after separating from the host tree, since it is independent of its host. It doesn’t take its livelihood from the host plant. Instead, it extracts the moisture and nutrients directly from the air. However, the plant should get all its survival needs in a new environment.
Air plants grow on trees without depending on them. Being almost unkillable, they are an excellent option for those who can’t take intense care of their plants. You can harvest an air plant from trees by manually plucking it or knocking it down with water force.