Aerial Roots

Aerial roots, as the name suggests, are roots that are exposed to the air. They are adventitious, and grow from the plants stem.
Several plants will grow aerial roots, (and you probably have a few in your home) – Monstera, Ficus, Pothos, Philodendrons, Orchids, and some Cactus varieties.

What role do they play?

Aerial roots have 2 main purposes – Stability & Water/Nutrient absorption.

Stability – Climbing plants use aerial roots to latch on to rocks or trees, to prevent them toppling over as they grow, and to help them reach the upper parts of the canopy in search of more light.

A Rhaphidophora tetrasperma uses its aerial roots as climbing support.

Water/nutrient absorption – Like normal subterranean roots, aerial roots also absorb water & nutrients from rain, and from the surfaces they’re attached to.

How do I manage aerial roots indoors?

Not all plants that produce aerial roots will sprout them indoors, and this is usually due to a lack of humidity, and doesn’t indicate a problem with your plant.
Aerial roots do not perform the same functions as they would outdoors, so they’re mainly useful for support in climbing totem poles.
Aerial roots may look funny and out of place, but they are completely normal.

Here are a few options for managing aerial roots indoors:
1) Leave them to grow – mist them if you like (but it’s not necessary)
2) Place them back into the pot. This will allow them to grow feeder roots, and help with additional water/nutrient absorption.
3) Trim or remove them. Always use clean shears and cut them off as close to the stem as possible. You can use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol as a disinfectant.

Can I put them in water?

There’s a new trend online showing aerial roots being placed in water to help ‘accelerate’ plant growth.
These roots are meant to be in the air, and while they do absorb moisture from the atmosphere/rain, placing them directly in water will most likely lead to root rot.
However, some plant hobbyists have claimed it has encouraged faster plant growth, so try this at your own risk.

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