If you’ve noticed one of your favorite houseplants growing what seem to be arms and legs up and down its body, you may have sprouted aerial roots on your Monstera.
Monstera plants are native to the tropical rainforests of Central and South America where they grow in the lush vegetation on the forest floor. But they don’t remain there for long. These impressive plants send out aerial roots along the stem and vines that help them cling to trees and reach for the sky.
And the same thing can happen in your home, as your Monstera’s aerial roots are used to help it grip on to something for it to climb higher and higher as it grows.
So keep reading to find out everything you could need to know about these aerial roots on your Monstera, including what they do, how to grow even more of them – and what to do with them if they’re getting a bit out of control for your liking.
Why do Monsteras have aerial roots?
Aerial roots on your Monstera plant are specially developed roots that serve two purposes. They absorb water and nutrients strengthening Monstera in the wild, and they function as tools for climbing trees and other rough surfaces.
1. Aerial roots absorb moisture and nutrients
The roots along the stems of your Monstera plants absorb both moisture and nutrients from rainwater as it passes over the roots. They are also able to absorb moisture and nutrients directly from humid air.
Aerial roots also contain pores that make it possible for air exchange bringing life-giving oxygen to the plant and helping to keep your Monstera plant thriving.
Monsteras grown as houseplants generally do not need to absorb moisture and nutrients from the air as they get the moisture and nutrients they need from the soil. This is why it is so important to provide them with the best Monstera soil that drains well and provides plenty of aeration for the roots.
Best soil for Monsteras
Specially designed soil for your Monstera. Light and well-draining, making it perfect for avoiding root rot, while being packed with just the right nutrients to keep your plant happy.
Watering and fertilizing your Monstera plants regularly also helps reduce their need to rely on their aerial roots to absorb moisture and nutrients from the air.
2. Aerial roots anchor plants to other trees
Many tropical plants, like Monsteras, start out on the forest floor, but they cannot reach maturity in the low light under the canopy of huge rainforest trees. They need more light to mature and develop the characteristic fenestrations and variegations they are known for.
For Monsteras to get the light they need, these plants climb other trees to reach the canopy where there is more light. Aerial roots allow the plant to hold onto the rough surface of trees so they can climb. These aerial roots anchor the vine to the bark of trees as it grows upward.
In the wild, Monstera plants grow to a height of 20 to 30 feet and amass considerable weight. Without aerial roots to anchor them to trees and support the weight of the vines, it wouldn’t be possible for a Monstera to climb.
In the home or office, Monstera plants need aerial roots to grow up moss poles or totems so that they will mature and display their impressive lacy and holey foliage.
Are Monstera aerial roots bad?
Monstera aerial roots aren’t bad. In fact, they’re completely normal given that these plants need aerial roots to climb in the wild. When grown as houseplants, Monsteras use aerial roots for climbing moss poles, as well as, to a lesser degree, to absorb moisture and nutrients from the air.
Sometimes the aerial roots even grow downward to the soil to provide additional support for the plant and to gain access to water and nutrients.
Aerial roots on your Monstera plant are very natural and do not mean there is anything wrong with your plant. They are simply an adaptation that allows the Monstera plant to live and thrive in its natural environment in tropical areas.
While some Monstera lovers embrace the exotic nature of aerial roots, others find them displeasing. But rest assured, your Monstera plant is just doing what nature intended and doesn’t know it doesn’t need all those aerial roots to survive in your home.
How to grow Monstera aerial roots
Aerial roots grow naturally on many tropical plants, including Monsteras. If you provide your Monstera plant with the growing conditions it needs to thrive, it will grow aerial roots. Monstera plants grow aerial roots when they are healthy.
1. Adequate light
Monsteras are sometimes mistakenly referred to as low-light plants. Although they will survive in low light conditions, they do not generally thrive in low light. They enjoy bright light from a sunny window but will suffer in the direct rays of the afternoon sun too.
2. Proper soil
Like many other tropical plants, Monsteras need lightweight soil that drains well to keep them happy. You can buy aroid or Monstera soil at your plant center. Aroid soil contains peat moss, bark or pine fines, potting soil, and perlite or a similar combination.
Avoid using all-purpose potting soil for your Monsteras as this potting mix is too dense and leads to soggy soil. This, in turn, can lead to your Monstera leaves turning brown.
3. Sufficient watering
Monsteras like humidity and moisture but suffer in wet soil. Soil that remains wet for too long chokes out the oxygen to the roots leading to root rot.
In terms of how often to water your Monstera, do this when the top 2 to 3 inches of soil feels dry to the touch but the soil in the bottom of the pot is still slightly moist.
Always water until water runs through the soil and empty the saucer or catch basin once it has finished dripping. This prevents the soil from soaking up standing water and becoming soggy.
4. Appropriate amount of nutrients
Monsteras are not heavy feeders, but they do need adequate nutrients to grow. Give them fertilizer every two weeks during periods of active growth, generally from spring until fall. Withhold fertilizer during the winter to give the plants a rest.
Use a balanced fertilizer designed for houseplants following the manufacturer’s application rate. Some prefer to water Monsteras once a week with a solution mixed to ¼ to ½ strength.
Best fertilizer for Monsteras
A great fertilizer with the perfect balance for your Monstera. Simply dissolve in water and feed your plant to watch it thrive.
What’s the difference between aerial roots on a Monstera and underground roots?
Aerial roots on a Monstera form along its stem and vines. Although they sometimes grow long enough to enter the soil where they will also grow feeder roots, aerial roots remain exposed to the air. However, underground roots, or feeder roots, serve to anchor the plant in the soil and to provide it with water and nutrients.
As such, each type of root serves a somewhat different purpose, although they are both capable of transporting moisture and nutrients.
The most obvious difference between aerial roots on a Monstera and underground roots is that aerial roots are visible above ground and cling to rough surfaces, like the bark of trees in the rainforest, to support the vine as it climbs upward to reach the light. The primary use of aerial roots in Monsteras grown as houseplants though is for climbing.
At the same time, underground roots also prevent the plant from toppling or being damaged by the wind and rain and thus also hold the Monstera plant in place, just from under the soil rather than being exposed to the air.
In terms of appearance, underground roots are thinner than aerial roots. Aerial roots are thick and sometimes nubby. They start out white and change to brown as they age.
On the other hand, healthy underground roots are white or light tan. Discolored or dark brown underground roots can be signs of root rot in your Monstera plant.
When grown inside as a houseplant, the underground roots grow rather slowly, but will eventually fill the pot and may become root bound. Root bound Monsteras will show slowed or stunted growth and need to be repotted in a larger pot to allow the roots to grow and absorb moisture and nutrients from the soil.
What do Monstera aerial roots look like?
Aerial roots vary in appearance, but most begin as a small white nub along the vine. As the aerial roots grow, they turn brown and may appear dead. Some aerial roots remain an inch or two long with a blunt end, while others may stretch and grow well outside the shape of the plant.
Some aerial roots grow aggressively and will even grow downward and enter the soil.
Aerial roots are typically thick and may grow to a diameter of half an inch, although most aerial roots on potted Monsteras grown in the home remain smaller.
Monstera node vs aerial root: what’s the difference?
The main difference between a Monstera node and an aerial root is that the node contains the cells necessary for growth. This means that it’s the area on the stem or vine where any new growth appears. An aerial root, on the other hand, is the root that forms along the stem and vines of a plant.
Cellular activity in the node area is great for allowing new plant parts to sprout and grow. Foliage, lateral vines and aerial roots all sprout from a node.
While an aerial root always grows at a plant node, not all plant nodes produce aerial roots. Sometimes the plant node produces leaves or lateral branches and sometimes the nodes produce aerial roots.
The section of the stem between nodes is called the internode. Internodes do not produce foliage or roots and as you can’t propagate a Monstera without a node, an internode cannot be used to propagate a new Monstera plant. Only plant nodes are capable of producing new plant parts.
What do you do with aerial roots on Monstera?
Aerial roots on a Monstera plant are perfectly normal and don’t really need any specific care. However, you can trim them (or remove them completely) if you find them unattractive. That said, doing this will make it impossible for your Monstera to climb.
To be more specific: If you have staked a Monstera so are growing your Monstera plant on a moss pole and expect it to climb, it needs aerial roots to cling to the pole.
Monstera roots also benefit from misting as they are able to absorb moisture for the plant. Misting the aerial roots reduces the need for watering your Monstera plant and helps to keep it healthy.
Misting aerial roots also keeps them from drying out. If the aerial roots dry out excessively, they may not be able to cling to your moss pole.
Should I cover Monstera aerial roots?
Sometimes, aerial roots grow downward until they reach the soil. In the wild, Monsteras do this to gain access to water and nutrients as well as to provide additional support for the increased weight of a climbing vine.
Monstera plants grown as houseplants typically do not need the additional support and receive all the water they need from you.
If your Monstera produces aerial roots that grow towards the soil, you can cover them with soil when they extend to the surface of the soil if you really want to. In fact, this can be good for the plant. This is because covering the aerial roots with soil allows them to produce additional underground roots that will provide support for the growing plant and provide it with more water and nutrients too.
Whether you cover the aerial roots that grow towards the ground is up to you. Unless you are growing a huge Monstera plant, it isn’t likely to affect its health.
Should I put Monstera aerial roots in water?
If you are propagating your Monstera plants from cuttings, you will need to cut the stem about 0.5 inches below a leaf node. If the stem has aerial roots attached, they can be submerged in the water, too, but don’t expect a cutting with only aerial roots to grow.
Aerial roots generally produce new roots when they are in water for a few weeks, but they need a leaf or two to produce a new plant.
Should I point my Monstera’s aerial roots into the soil?
It isn’t strictly necessary to point your Monstera’s aerial roots into the soil, although you can if you want to. For giant Monstera plants, pointing the aerial roots to the soil and covering them with soil when they reach the surface may actually be beneficial for the plant.
Many Monstera plants produce aerial roots that grow downward towards the soil. In nature, they automatically reach for the soil to gain more water and nutrients to support healthy plant growth.
It’s for this reason that helping your Monstera’s aerial roots grow towards the soil will make it easier for your Monstera plant to get the water and nutrients it needs, while also providing additional support for the weight of the growing vines, too.
Otherwise, whether you point the aerial roots into the soil or choose to let them grow on their own is a matter of personal preference.
Can you grow Monstera from aerial roots?
While aerial roots will produce additional roots during propagation in either water or soil, they need a stem with leaves, too. The leaves perform photosynthesis to give the new plant the energy it needs to grow.
Aerial roots by themselves will not sprout roots and leaves to form a new Monstera plant. As such, you cannot propagate a Monstera plant from aerial roots alone, as you always need a node as well.
Why does my Monstera have so many aerial roots?
Aerial roots are normal in Monstera plants. Your plant may produce an abundance of aerial roots because it is healthy and growing rapidly, or it may produce more roots than others simply because it is its nature.
Too many aerial roots are not a cause for concern and do not signal your Monstera plant is unhealthy. If you find them unsightly, go ahead and prune them off the vine.
Otherwise, consider bountiful aerial roots a sign your Monstera plant is healthy and growing as it should.
What color should Monstera aerial roots be?
Aerial roots generally look like tiny white nubs along the vine when they first begin to grow. But they grow quickly and change from white to brown as they grow.
Large aerial roots may be the thickness of a pencil and look brown and lifeless. The color and size of aerial roots changes as they mature.
Where do I cut Monstera aerial roots?
You can cut Monstera aerial roots wherever you want along the root, as it will not make a difference to the health of your plant. Just be careful not to cut into the stem or vine when removing aerial roots as this can damage the plant itself.
Ultimately, where you cut them depends on your overall goal. You can either trim or prune the aerial roots on your plants or you can cut them off completely.
To prune or trim the aerial roots on your Monstera plant, begin with clean, sterilized clippers or a sharp knife. Cut the root back to the desired length and, as mentioned, where you cut along the aerial root does not matter.
(Find out more on how to prune Monstera to encourage growth here.)
You may, however, wish to remove your Monstera’s aerial roots altogether. This is fine as your plant really doesn’t need aerial roots when it is grown as a houseplant, except to help it cling to your Monstera’s moss pole. As such, simply cut the aerial roots flush with the stem with a pair of clean sterilized cutters and toss the roots in the compost bin.
It’s worth repeating that you should use care not to cut into the stem or vine when removing aerial roots to avoid injuring your houseplant.
Will aerial roots grow back?
Removing or trimming the aerial roots on your Monstera plant is only a temporary solution as they often grow back at the same location. Sometimes cutting the aerial roots spurs the plant to produce more aerial roots at another plant node.
Either way, cutting or removing aerial roots is an ongoing task if you prefer a Monstera plant without aerial roots. However, while the extra work involved may be annoying, this is, overall, a great sign as it means your plant is healthy and growing just as it should.
How do you repot a Monstera with aerial roots?
There is no hard and fast rule to managing aerial roots when repotting your Monstera plant. If the roots are near the bottom of the stem, go ahead and place them under the soil. They will sprout new underground roots to help nourish your Monstera plant.
However, if the aerial roots are in the way or are growing higher up on the plant you can remove them with no damage to your Monstera plant. Here’s how to repot your Monstera plant if it has aerial roots:
- Choose a new plant pot that is 1 to 2 inches larger in diameter than your Monstera’s current pot. This gives the roots room to grow without too much soil that can easily get waterlogged in a large pot.
- Fill the pot about halfway with fresh Monstera soil. You can purchase soil for Monsteras and other aroids at your local home improvement center or plant center. Regular all-purpose soil is too dense for Monsteras.
- Tip your Monstera plant to the side and slide the plant from the pot. Use one hand to hold the pot and the other to gently guide the plant free of the pot.
- Remove excess soil from the roots and inspect them carefully. Healthy roots are white or light tan and flexible. Discolored, brittle or otherwise damaged roots need to be trimmed from the plant before you repot it.
- Place your Monstera plant in the fresh soil spreading the roots out over the soil. This allows the roots to expand and grow freely in the new soil.
- Adjust your Monstera in the new pot so that the crown of the plant (the section where the roots and stems meet) rests at the soil level.
- Backfill around the plant with fresh Monstera soil and firm it down with your hands to secure it.
Propagating Monstera aerial roots in water hack
Although you can’t propagate a Monstera plant with aerial roots alone, you can include them in your cuttings and put them in water to speed the development of new roots.
While some may refer to this as Monstera aerial root propagation it really isn’t any different from propagating any stem cuttings in water.
- Locate a plant node on the stem of the Monstera plant. Plant nodes appear thickened and may have either aerial roots or leaves and/or stems sprouting from them. This is the only section on the Monstera vine that will grow new roots.
- Choose a vine that has at least two leaves above the node. Your cutting will need leaves to perform photosynthesis while it roots.
- Clip the stem about half an inch below the node with a pair of sterilized clippers or a sharp knife.
- Place the cutting in a glass or vase of water. The node and any aerial roots should be below the surface of the water while the foliage must be above the water.
- Put the cutting on a sunny windowsill where it receives bright light.
- Change the water every 3 to 4 days or whenever it becomes cloudy or discolored.
- Pot the new cutting when the new roots are 2 to 3 inches long.
Final thoughts on aerial roots on your Monstera
Monstera plants are known for their dramatic foliage that can be either solid green or variegated, depending on the variety. And this drama continues when it comes to the fact that these tropical plants are notorious for producing aerial roots.
Of course, if you’re really not a fan of aerial roots on a Monstera and think they’re unattractive, then this may not be the ideal plant for you. But keep in mind that you can always remove your Monstera’s aerial roots if you don’t like how they look.