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Aerial Roots: What Are They and What Should You Do With Them?

Plants are weird and wonderful things that come with lots of unexpected features. For a new houseplant owner, one thing might be a bit of a shock – the presence of aerial roots. In this article, we will cover what aerial roots are, if your plant needs them, and what you should do with them.

What Are Aerial Roots?

Plants that trail or climb will often grow aerial roots. These are just roots that grow in the air, above the soil. They tend to be adventitious, growing from non-root tissues. Many common houseplants like monsteras, pothos, orchids, and philodendrons will produce them.

Are They Helpful for Your Plants?

Yes, they are! Aerial roots are there for a reason and provide many benefits to your indoor plants. Here are some examples:

  • They help find extra nutrients and water for the plant. They do this by finding other areas of soil to grow down into or simply absorbing humidity from the air.
  • They allow climbing plants to secure their vines along a surface. In houseplants, this is likely to be a moss pole or any other structure you provide a climbing plant. Some plants – like pothos – will either trail or climb, but will often be healthier and put out larger leaves when provided with a surface to climb up.
  • They can strengthen plants by giving them additional support. Along with the regular root system, these roots can find their way down into the soil and anchor the plant.

What Should You Do With Them?

Aerial roots are incredibly beneficial for your houseplants. Generally, you shouldn’t remove them. The only real reason to remove them is if they’ve grown out of control and are taking up too much space. Unnecessarily removing aerial roots creates open wounds on the plant, leaving them much more susceptible to pests and diseases. Here are some things to do with them:

  • Mist humidity-loving plants with a focus on their aerial roots. They’ll soak up the extra moisture from the air.
  • When repotting your plants, tuck any longer aerial roots into the soil. Don’t, however, use the presence of these roots as a reason for repotting your plants; they are not an indicator that a plant is rootbound or ready to be repotted.
  • If you do choose to trim them off, make sure to use a sharp and sterilised tool. This will help prevent the spread of diseases in the open wounds left behind. Click here for some information on keeping your tools clean and disinfecting them.
Updated on January 9, 2024

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