Like many people, you probably bought your air plant hoping it would bloom. Like…now. You water it, it’s in a breezy location, it gets bright filtered light. So bloom already!
But air plants, like all of mother nature, are not so easy to control.
Most greenhouses and nurseries force their plants to bloom using chemicals. And, from speaking to these nurseries, they are often a bit secretive about the exact routine they follow. When you bring these plants home, however, the bloom may sometimes abort and wilt, as the settings in the plant’s new environment do not match the original greenhouse environment.
Some private owners have had luck putting their dry air plant in a bag with an apple. Keep this apple bag in the shade for 7-10 days and it may trigger a bloom. As the apple ripens, it produces ethylene gas which triggers bromeliads to bloom (an air plant is part of the Bromeliad family). And, in fact, the nurseries and greenhouses likely use a gaseous, liquid, and/or crystal form of ethylene to cause their blooms.
If you have more patience, you can research your specific air plant species. Some are triggered to bloom by the season and can be encouraged by certain temperatures or light modifications. Some can be encouraged with fertilizer.
It takes a bit of trial and error.
Personally, I think it’s a win-win situation. If your air plant blooms, you get to enjoy the magnificent display of colors. And if it does not, that just means it continues growing to produce an even larger bloom down the road. I’ll take those odds any day!