How to Remove Air Plants from Trees

How to Remove Air Plants from Trees?

Air Plants, also known as Ball Moss, is a very popular form of house plant. They are interesting as they do not grow in soil, but rather cultivate by clinging onto the bark of trees and absorbing nutrients through the air via their leaves.

Sadly, these houseplants can be quite harmful to your trees if they are out in the wild. Although they do not absorb nutrients from the trees, the weight of a large population of air plants can kill a tree’s branches.

You can remove these plants through manual picking and pruning, or by using a high-pressure spray of water to blast them off of the tree. If you’d like to learn more about these plants, and how to remove them, go ahead and keep reading.

Annoying Air Plants

What Are Air Plants?

As we said earlier, air plants are also known as ball moss, but they are not actually moss. These plants are closely related to pineapples and Spanish moss, and its true name is Tillandsia.

These little plants cling to other plants and thrive upon their surface without taking any nutrients from their host. That means that this plant is classified as an epiphyte, rather than a parasite.

The parts of the air plant which are used to grip onto its host are known as “holdfasts”. These act as the “roots” of the air plant and help it to anchor itself to whatever plant it is growing on.

Since these are not real roots, they are more akin to leave or stems, they do not absorb any nutrients or water. Instead, they absorb all that they need directly from the air around them. 

Due to this particular way of gaining nutrients, this interesting class of plant has earned the moniker of “air plant”.

Air plants enjoy growing on trees because their favored conditions for growth include having low-light and air movement, as well as having quite high humidity.

The canopy of many shady trees makes for perfect conditions for air plants to thrive. Oaks and other large, shade offering trees do not have much foliage on their branches near their trunk, leaving a lot of free real estate for air plants to thrive.

What are the Effects of Air Plants on my Tree?

It is true that air plants do not sap any nutrients at all from the tree that they are attached to, but that does not mean that they are totally harmless.

If a tree’s branches are already weak, then a large infestation of air plants may result in the death of that branch. This can be due to the weight of the air plants, as well as the fact that the sheer number of air plants is choking out the tree.

The larger the ball of an air plant gets, the tighter the grip of its holdfasts becomes, and this can result in the tree’s branch suffering from reduced circulation. Water and other essential nutrients may not be able to reach the branch’s outer extremities, which will slowly cause it to die.

Aside from these ill effects, if an air plant infestation reaches a certain point of growth, then new buds of the tree will have difficulty growing.

Thankfully, healthy trees should not suffer any ill effects aside from their appearance becoming a bit unsightly. 

Though trees that are already relatively weak will need to be treated with special care, as the weakening caused by air plants can make the tree weaker against attacks from other diseases or deadly insects.

How do I Get Rid of Air Plants on my Tree?

To start, fully remove any of the tufts of air plants that you are able to reach safely. Save those that are out of your reach for later, but make sure to get any that you are able to get to manually before moving onto the next step.

After removing them, seal them up in a plastic bag to ensure that their seeds will not spread further, and throw them in the garbage.

You can then get the rest of the air plants that you are unable to reach by means of spraying them with water. If the pressure of the water is high enough, and the air plants are not too tightly attached to the tree, then shooting them with a strong burst should knock them loose.

Ensure that you do not use hot water when spraying down the tree, because this can bring harm to your tree that you do not want.

Another way of removing air plants is by treating the tree with fungicides which contain copper. This method will not immediately treat your issue, but it will cause the ball moss to die and fall off of your tree over the course of about a year.

Make sure to follow the instructions of the fungicide when choosing this method of removal.


Air plants may be a pretty sight for some, but for others they are a nuisance and detract from the beauty of a tree. Not only that but for weaker trees they may prove detrimental to the tree’s health. 

With these simple steps, you will be able to remove the air plants and ensure that your tree returns to its natural beauty and healthy state.

For any of these removal steps, safety is first and foremost the most important thing. So make sure to take every precaution necessary when beginning the removal of air plants from your tree.