Houseplants are becoming ever more popular in today’s world, and if you’re interested in the more unusual plants, you may have noticed that many of these have aerial roots.
Aerial roots are relatively uncommon and can make plants very interesting.
In this article, I will show you 10 houseplants that have aerial roots as well as answer everything you need to know about them:
1. Monstera Deliciosa
Many Monsteras develop aerial roots as a means of climbing trees to reach the light in their natural environments. These roots help the plant to hold onto things and take in moisture from the air, but they aren’t crucial to the plant’s growth if it doesn’t require additional support.
You can remove Montsera’s aerial roots if you choose to, as long as they aren’t holding the plant upright.
However, if you want your Monstera to grow past a certain height, it will need aerial roots to support itself.
These plants are climbers and will not be able to climb without their aerial roots.
2. Pothos (Epipremnum Aureum)
Another climber, Pothos plants also tend to have aerial roots. These cling to trunks or other vertical surfaces, pulling the plant upward, but they tend to be less obtrusive than on Monsteras.
They also help to absorb moisture and nutrients which will make your plant healthier.
Again, if you remove the aerial roots, your plant will not be able to climb, although it should still survive.
It may end up growing on top of itself, however, which makes it harder for it to photosynthesize effectively.
It is okay to remove roots that stick out at odd angles if they cannot be trained to the vertical support, but in general, your Pothos needs these roots.
If you wish to remove the aerial roots from your Pothos, make sure you have sterile shears, and be aware that more will grow.
It’s better to train the roots to grow up something, as this will shape your Pothos nicely and maximize its chances of growing well.
Philodendrons also grow aerial roots, although these tend to be less crucial for the plant’s growth. It is normal for a plant to develop some, and like the Monstera, it mostly uses them to climb.
You can cut off the roots if you would like to. Water the plant a few days before doing so, and sterilize the blade that you are going to cut the roots with.
Alternatively, weave the roots into the moss pole (or other support) to encourage them to grow against its surface.
This often makes them appear tidier.
4. Orchid (Orchidaceae)
Orchids grow aerial roots too, and this is again to support them, although they are not climbing plants in the same way. They will not get very tall, but they often do live on tree trunks, and need to cling tightly if they are to hold their position.
An orchid may produce aerial roots in all directions, but it’s best not to cut them off. Orchids are delicate plants and may die if they become stressed by constantly cutting.
Their aerial roots are crucial, as their subterranean roots tend to be less developed, and may struggle to support the plant.
Furthermore, the aerial roots of orchids may help with photosynthesis.
Instead of removing them, train the roots onto a nearby surface so that they grow neatly instead.
5. Spider Plants (Chlorophytum Comosum)
The aerial roots of spider plants serve a somewhat different purpose; they are designed to help baby spider plants get a good start in life.
The plant will produce a long stem, covered in roots, and stretch this out until it finds soil.
The roots will then grow into the soil, planting the baby spider plants (also called plantlets or spiderettes) at the same time.
This gives the babies a good start in life, but the adult spider plant doesn’t need its aerial roots to survive.
If you would rather, it’s okay to simply cut these off when they form.
6. Common Ivy (Hedera Helix)
Ivy is a well-known plant that uses aerial roots to cling to trees.
Its roots use glue and conformity to fix the ivy tightly to the nearest surfaces, meaning that it can climb entire trees without risk of falling.
If you remove the aerial roots of ivy, it will no longer be able to cling to vertical surfaces, and will sprawl across the floor instead. This may even kill the plant if it cannot develop new aerial roots and climb another surface.
Don’t remove the roots unless you want the plant to fall over.
7. Rubber Tree (Hevea Brasiliensis)
The Rubber Tree also produces aerial roots to give itself more support as it climbs, but it is less dependent on these roots than many others.
Most rubber trees will produce some aerial roots, but the somewhat tougher stems will support the plant until it reaches a reasonable height.
You can therefore cut off the roots using sterile tools, but be aware that if you want your plant to climb, it needs these roots.
Don’t remove them if they are supporting it, or the plant will slump or fall.
8. Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera)
You might be surprised to learn that a Christmas Cactus can develop aerial roots. These serve the same purpose of clinging to a host, and searching for nutrients and water.
However, as long as your cactus has a good root system, it should not need these aerial roots to survive.
You can ignore them, as they are usually small and thin, or trim them off if you prefer. This will not hurt the plant.
If you notice that your plant is producing a lot of aerial roots, try watering it a little more often. It might be producing these roots because it is not getting enough to drink, and is seeking moisture elsewhere.
Damper sand/soil should help to stop this from happening.
Yucca plants can also produce aerial roots, although this is rarer than for many plants. They do not really need them for support, as they already have thick stems.
These roots usually develop because the plant is trying to absorb additional moisture from the air.
Watering your Yucca plant a little more should help with this, and it is fine to use sterile shears to cut off the aerial roots if you don’t like them.
You may even be able to propagate these roots if you dip them in rooting hormone and bury them in soil.
If you don’t want to remove them, leaving them in place is also fine.
Some Anthuriums will produce aerial roots at times, as they are also natural climbers, although they can also grow happily on the ground.
If you want your Anthurium to grow tall, allow its aerial roots to attach themselves to a surface. If not, it is fine to remove them, and the plant will not be harmed.
I have a great article about Anthuriums, which finally settles the debate on whether they are indoor or outdoor plants.
Why Do Plants Grow Aerial Roots?
In general, plants grow aerial roots to hold themselves upright, as a climbing aid. Some aerial roots are capable of absorbing moisture and nutrients, and a few plants that live in marshy areas will use aerial roots to access oxygen, since their subterranean roots are submerged.
Are Aerial Roots Bad?
No, aerial roots are not bad. They help plants in a variety of ways, and are usually only evolved because they are helpful. However, they can look a little messy, and some people prefer to remove them for this reason.
Can You Plant Aerial Roots?
On its own, an aerial root will rarely grow, even if you give it water and light. It usually needs leaves or at least a piece of stem to produce a new plant. However, some aerial roots that are part of cuttings can be planted and may grow.
Do Aerial Roots Turn Into Soil Roots?
The aerial roots of some plants can develop into subterranean roots if kept in the right conditions, but in many cases, this won’t work. It really depends on the individual plant if it’s feasible, but often, burying aerial roots will cause rotting.
Can You Cut Off Aerial Roots?
You can usually cut off aerial roots that aren’t supporting a plant, but be aware that they will likely grow back. Doing so also damages the plant, opening up wounds that could become affected by diseases. Use sterile shears and do not cut roots unnecessarily.
Will Aerial Roots Grow Back?
Yes, aerial roots will almost always grow back, although not in the same place. The plant produces them as a natural part of its growth, and will replace ones that you have cut off. This is particularly true if the plant needs them for support or to absorb more nutrients.
Should You Cover Aerial Roots?
There is no advantage to covering aerial roots; they are better off exposed to the air. Unlike subterranean roots, they have developed to cope with being drier, and they do not mind sunlight. You don’t need to cover them up and doing so could affect the plant’s growth.
How Do You Water Aerial Roots?
You don’t need to water aerial roots as long as you are watering the subterranean roots properly. However, if you would like to give them a drink, try misting them lightly with a plant sprayer. They may absorb some of this moisture.
Should You Put Aerial Roots In Water?
No, you should not put aerial roots in water. They have evolved to exist in the air. Misting them won’t harm them (and may help them), but they may rot if they are constantly kept wet. If your plant is depending upon them for oxygen, keeping them wet could harm the plant.
How To Grow Aerial Roots
You can encourage the growth of aerial roots by lightly misting them and keeping the air warm. Aerial roots are usually seen on plants that come from warm climates, so warmth and moisture will encourage root growth. Little else is needed.
Types Of Aerial Roots
There are several kinds of aerial roots, such as: stranglers roots, haustorial roots, propagative roots, and pneumatophores.
Strangler roots constrict around other plants, haustorial roots are parasitic, propagative roots create babies and pneumatophores are intended to absorb oxygen.
Many houseplants produce aerial roots, and in general, it’s best to leave them on the plant, as they are usually beneficial to the plant’s growth.
Removing one or two if they are growing in inconvenient or unattractive ways is unlikely to be harmful, but don’t remove all of them unless you need to.
If you do find that roots need to be removed, always use sharp, sterile blades.