While they can be unsightly, monstera aerial roots are completely normal and a natural part of this tropical aroid’s growing habit. So what are aerial roots exactly? And what should you do with them? Here’s everything you need to know about aerial roots on your monstera!
What Are Aerial Roots?
Simply put, aerial roots are roots that grow above the ground. There are lots of different kinds of aerial roots with many different functions, but for the purposes of this article we will focus on the type of aerial roots that monsteras grow.
Monstera deliciosa are epiphytes with a climbing growth habit and in their native environment you will see them growing up large trees and plants. Monstera aerial roots are brown and woody and grow from the nodes along the monstera’s stem. These aerial roots absorb moisture and nutrients from the air and debris around them, and also help them climb by affixing their stems to other plants.
Definition – Epiphyte
An epiphyte is a plant that grows on the surface of another plant, and derives much of its nutrients and moisture from the air, rain, or debris accumulating around it. Epiphytes are not parasitic to their host plants.
Aerial Roots vs. Soil Roots
While they perform many of the same functions (absorb nutrients and moisture, provide support, etc.) aerial roots and roots that grow in the soil are not one-in-the-same. In fact, aerial roots are a type of adventitious root, meaning they grow from nonroot tissue like the plant stem and leaf tissues. Some aerial roots can even photosynthesize thanks to the presence of chlorophyll, which soil roots have no need for.
Can I Remove Aerial Roots?
This is the golden question and likely the reason you are here reading this article, and the answer is – yes…kind of. When grown indoors aerial roots don’t serve much of a purpose most of the time and a monstera’s aerial roots can get long and out of hand quickly. So trimming them back or cutting them off entirely ultimately will not harm the plant.
That being said, many growers choose to leave the aerial roots intact and provide their monsteras with a support to climb – like a moss pole or trellis. Providing your monstera with something to climb, which mimicks its natural growing conditions, will result in larger leaves and more vigorous growth. You can also simply tuck the roots back into the pot of your plant as well if you wish – or just leave them and let them do their thing. Grower’s choice!
In the wild, monstera aerial roots can grow up to 30 meters long (over 100 feet)!
How to Remove Aerial Roots
Removing aerial roots from a monstera is easy – you can simply cut them off! However, before you go and grab your closest pair of scissors, you need to ensure that whatever tool you use is properly cleaned to prevent introducing any harmful bacteria to your plant. I like to give my scissors or pruning shears a good wash with dish soap and then use an alcohol wipe to carefully disinfect the blade.
Can I use aerial roots for propagation?
Unfortunately, aerial roots by themselves cannot be used to propagate a plant. For Monstera deliciosa specifically, a stem cutting containing at least one node is required in order to propagate. If your stem cutting already has aerial roots growing from the node(s) this is perfectly fine. Just leave them and eventually new roots will also sprout from these nodes!
Should I put my monstera’s aerial roots in water?
As an epiphyte, the monstera’s aerial roots are not designed to be submerged in water 24/7 and keeping them underwater may present an opportunity for them to rot. For that reason, it is generally not recommended to place your monstera’s aerial roots in water.
Should I plant my monstera’s aerial roots in soil?
Aerial roots are not the same as soil roots and are designed to aborb nutrients and moisture from the air, not from the soil. For that reason, it is best not to plant your monstera’s aerial roots, as they will not function like regular underground roots and planting them in soil can increase the risk of rotting.
What if my monstera doesn’t have aerial roots?
If your monstera doesn’t have aerial roots that’s ok! It is likely just a young plant, and it will begin to develop aerial roots as it matures.