Air plants are generally very easy to look after and keep healthy over a long lifespan. However, there are a few elements out there that can prove toxic to these otherwise hardy greens. For example, does copper kill air plants?
Perhaps surprisingly, air plants and copper don’t mix – as plants can die if the metal interferes with its nutrients. Below, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about this complex relationship, and how you can keep your air plants thriving for longer.
Air plants and copper – what are the risks?
While it may not seem too obvious that air plants and copper should ever interact, bringing the two together could cause your greenery serious damage.
If you’ve spent any time on social media looking up ways to present your air plants in your home, you may have come across trends revolving around copper wire. For example, some people choose to support or even hang their air plants with copper – or present them in copper pots.
While this may look stylish, real copper can stunt air plant growth if it gets moist. When it oxidizes, or rusts, copper can prevent air plants from absorbing essential nutrients, leaving it starving and highly deficient.
Copper can cause conditions such as iron chlorosis in some plants, which you’ll typically see when your leaves start to yellow or show signs of burning.
It’s a misconception that copper repels plant roots from growing, period – but, keeping damp copper too close to air plants can result in stubbier root growth. This means your air plant’s roots aren’t going to be able to absorb as many nutrients as it normally might – even though air plants drink in nutrition through their leaves.
Is it worth placing air plants in copper?
While copper is a great choice of material for various plant arrangements, it’s never a good idea to use it around your air plants. Even if you assure yourself that you’ll be careful not to get the metal wet while occasionally watering your plants, all you need is a few rogue droplets to start seriously stunting your greens.
Air plants can be quite sensitive despite the fact that you don’t need to place them in soil. In fact, given that they solely rely on their leaves for nutrition, you can expect their needs to be particularly different to those of your ‘usual suspects’.
My advice would be to look for an alternative storage or presentation solution for your air plants. If you have a stylish terracotta pot, for example, why not consider painting or adorning it in a similar style to copper? This way, you can at least be sure you’re not putting your air greens at risk.
Can I use fake copper?
Of course, an exception to the ‘no copper’ rule is to use a material that looks like the metal, but actually isn’t. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell copper apart from its pretenders, and when you do, it may be too late for your delicate air plants.
That said, be sure to check the pricing of copper before you buy. Real copper isn’t cheap to purchase, whether in pot form or as wire. Real copper should also give off a reddish tinge under the right light.
I’d recommend you run a couple of tests on your supposed copper, too, if you’re really unsure about whether or not it’s the real deal. Try tapping your metal with a fork. Is it high-pitched? Copper sounds tinny and slightly mute when tapped.
Do also test its oxidation. Subject a little copper to water and observe its color. Is it turning a little green? If it’s not oxidizing at all, you don’t have real copper – and you’re probably safe to use it with your air plants.
If you want to use fake copper after testing, you can go back to your favorite Pinterest boards and Insta feeds for more creative presentation ideas. If you really don’t want to risk your air plant’s life, however, there are plenty of other great presentation ideas out there that are safe as well as eye-catching.
What else are air plants sensitive to?
Air plants are particularly sensitive to chemicals, meaning it’s always a good idea to water your specimens with dechlorinated water. The quickest way to do this is to leave a jug of water out for 24 hours.
In that time, any chlorine from the faucet will have dissipated, making it safe for you to give to your air plants. You could also use a standard water filter to speed up the process.
Avoid exposing your air plants to too much sunshine – they tend to fare well up to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, but will suffer in extremes of either cold or heat – so take caution.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to water your air plants carefully. Just because they don’t sit in soil doesn’t mean they don’t need a good drink every now and then!
If your air plant has dried out completely, it’s best to try and soak it for up to 30 minutes. This should allow it time to recover. You’ll know if your air plant is suffering from dehydration when its leaves start to curl.
Otherwise, be careful not to subject your air plant to too much moisture. Most air plants like colder environments that aren’t too humid.
While air plants twined with copper or placed in copper pots may look nice, you’re actually putting your growths at risk! Consider looking for an alternative to the metal that looks similar without the risk, or try looking for an entirely different presentation option.
Air plants are fantastically low maintenance but will still need some care and attention. Be sure to keep them well clear of copper and you’ll have wonderful soil-free beauties for time to come.