What is that weird stick-looking thing growing out of your Monstera?
It’s an aerial root!
Aerial roots are a natural part of your Monstera. You do not need to cut them off. It is okay to cut them back if they get in the way, as long as you use a clean, sharp blade.
Cutting off your Monstera’s aerial roots will not hurt the main plant. These roots are for climbing, not for taking up nutrients.
Keep reading for more information on what to do with your Monstera’s aerial roots!
What are Aerial Roots?
Monstera plants have two main kinds of roots: underground and aerial. An aerial root does not grow underground. Instead, it is exposed to the air. They are thick and woody.
Aerial roots are usually used by plants to climb or grow up other plants and trees. For example, air plants (Tillandsia) sometimes grow air roots.
These aerial roots are used to attach themselves to trees where they spend their lives soaking up sun and rain for their whole lives. Air plants do not take up water through these air roots; instead, they absorb all their nutrients through their leaves.
Monsteras’ aerial roots function in a similar way.
Function of Monstera’s Aerial Roots
In the wild, Monsteras climb up trees in the jungle to reach more sunlight. Their aerial roots wedge into the cracks in the tree’s bark to support the Monstera’s weight. In this manner, Monsteras can grow up to 10 feet (3 m) tall in the wild!
Air roots will also reach toward the ground to prop the Monstera’s stem up if there are no trees to hold onto.
Your Monstera doesn’t know the difference between the jungle and your home, so it will continue to grow aerial roots for support.
Difference between Aerial roots and Underground roots
Even though they are both called roots, aerial and underground roots are quite different. Let’s look at their differences in function, size, and location.
As we mentioned above, aerial roots are used by the Monstera for structural support and climbing. For that reason, they are thick and tough. Monstera’s aerial roots also absorb some moisture from the air. This comes in handy when they grow tall; water from the soil doesn’t have to be transported quite as far.
On the contrary, Monstera’s underground roots are used primarily to absorb water and nutrients from the soil. Their structure also holds the Monstera in place in the ground.
Aerial roots tend to be much longer than subterranean roots. They grow longer and faster.
Underground roots do not grow as long or as fast. They also split and fork to create more surface area to absorb water and nutrients from the soil.
Both aerial and feeding roots start growing from the Monstera’s node on the stem (the same node from which leaves and new stems grow as well). Aerial roots grow above ground, and feeding roots grow underground.
An aerial root can grow feeder roots from its tip if it reaches down into the soil.
|Aerial Roots||Underground Roots|
|Function||Structure support for the plant to grow / climb up||Absorb water and nutrients from the ground|
|Size||Tends to be longer and grow faster||Doesn’t grow as long or as fast|
|Location||Grow above ground||Grow underground|
Can I cut the aerial roots of my Monstera?
While I would not recommend cutting off all of your Monstera’s aerial roots, it is possible to trim them back without affecting the plant’s health.
In some cases, like if the air root is rotting, it is better to cut it off than let the rot travel up to the main stem.
Perhaps one of its roots has grown too long, or your Monstera has decided to try climbing up your living room wall. Beware—Monstera’s aerial roots will not cause any structural damage to your wall, but they can rip off the paint.
In this case, it makes sense to cut back some of your Monstera’s air roots.
How to trim back aerial roots
You should use a sharp, clean set of pruning shears or scissors to cut the root close to the main stem. Don’t cut so close to the stem that you damage it. Leave a little wiggle room.
Throw out or compost the detached root. It will not grow a new plant since it doesn’t have a node.
Remember that pruning back an aerial root will often prompt more aerial roots to grow back in its place.
What to do with aerial roots
There are lots of things you can do with aerial roots that do not involve cutting them off.
In fact, these options are probably better for your Monstera in the long run:
Wrap them around a moss pole
As natural climbers, Monsteras take to growing up a moss pole very well. Their aerial roots will gravitate to moist support if available, rather than reach toward a wall or the floor.
Tuck them into the soil
Sometimes Monstera’s aerial roots will produce feeder roots when they meet the soil. This is more likely to happen with younger aerial roots with a green growing tip. This produces a very tidy look for your Monstera, and it helps with stability.
Let them run wild!
Aerial roots are a natural part of your Monstera and a very interesting part of plant biology! If you have space, it would be interesting and entertaining to see where the roots want to go.
What to do if aerial root is rotting?
Unfortunately, Monsteras are prone to root rot, and this extends to their air roots as well. If you find that one of your Monstera’s air roots has started to rot, you will need to cut it off. This will prevent the rot from traveling up to the main stem and killing your Monstera.
With a pair of clean, sharp shears, cut off the aerial root parts where you can see it rotting.
Check the cut. Is there more rot traveling up inside the root? If so, sterilize your shears in rubbing alcohol and make another cut a few inches higher up. Repeat this until only healthy root is left.
It is important to sterilize your shears between every cut when dealing with rot or other infectious diseases. It would be a shame to cut off a diseased portion of your Monstera only to transfer the disease to healthy tissue from the pruning shears.
Also read: How to avoid and treat Root Rot on Monstera?
Can I grow a new Monstera from aerial roots?
No, a new Monstera cannot be grown from an aerial root. Unlike strawberries and spider plants, where burying the runner will produce a new plant, Monsteras do not grow new plants from their roots. The only place where new growth forms on a Monstera is its node.
Also read: Can You Propagate Monstera Without Node?
Should I put my Monstera’s aerial roots in soil?
Yes, you can put your Monstera’s aerial roots in soil, but you need to be careful. Younger roots are better for this, as they are more likely to sprout feeder roots from their tips where they meet the soil. Older air roots are less likely to adapt to the soil, and may rot at the tip.