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I’ve written extensively on aerial roots in the past, but sometimes these things need a whole article ESPECIALLY when the topic is subject to healthy dose of scaremongering.
You can 100% plant aerial roots back into the soil. Sure, they can rot, but if they’re actively growing, they should be more than happy to root into the soil and continue their life as a subterranean root.
What’s the best thing to do with aerial roots?
There’s no ‘best’ thing to do with aerial roots.
A lot of people baulk at the idea of cutting them off, but realistically, they don’t actually need them inside. The purpose of aerial roots is to attach to a treetrunk and help the plant climb. If the plant isn’t gonna climb, it doesn’t need aerial roots. Chop ’em off if you don’t like the way they look.
If you do want to grow the plant massively, spend the time developing the aerial roots, and maintaining a moss pole, then leave the aerial roots as they are. It will definitely speed up growth, because the plant basically develops a secondary root system within the moss pole.
A third option, that hovers somewhere between ‘lop ’em off’ and ‘nurture them until they become fluffy snakes’ is the option to just direct them back into the soil.
Can aerial roots turn into soil roots
Yes, but we’re still not quite sure how. There’s a link between aerial roots switching to subterranean roots, and the production of raphide crystals in the plant (in that submerged aerial roots have fewer raphide crystals present than aerial roots.
We’re not quite sure if fewer raphides turn the plant into a subterranean root, or the turning of the aerial root into a subterranean root causes raphide production to slow, but there is a link there.
Not that it matters for our purposes. All that matters is that aerial roots can be planted, and they’ll develop into a proper root system if they’re submerged in soil.
Ok, I get that this plant does NOT look aesthetically pleasing, BUT it is a process. She had thrips for a LONG time and I’ve only just been able to shake them. So I’m hoping that by rooting her aerial roots I can speed up growth and she’ll explode this year and stop looking so…old.
How to stop aerial roots from rotting in soil
I just want to start off by saying that aerial roots rotting isn’t that big of a deal compared to rot in the ‘real’ roots, simply because you can see the rot as it travels up the root, and then just…chop off the root.
Whereas regular root rot happens underground and can affect the leaves before you’ve even noticed there was anything wrong.
That being said, aerial roots are no more likely to rot than underground roots. In fact, their chance of rotting is slightly lower, purely because they’re higher up in the pot where it tends to be dryer.
You don’t need to so anything specific to keep aerial roots from rotting – if anything you need to be more worried about the drying out.
What I advise is that you don’t plant the aerial roots until you can get a couple of inches submerged in the soil.
For starters, it means that they’ll be less likely to dry out. The top inch of soil dries out quite quickly, so you ideally want them a bit deeper than that. If you’re a bit of an underwaterer try to get into the habit of spraying the top of the soil every day for a couple of weeks to give the roots chance to take.
Secondly, that bit of extra length will help them anchor better. If they’re constantly popping out of place, you can damage the new roots as they form, so they won’t grow properly.
Does planting aerial roots help the plant grow?
The plant community is a bit divided on this, but I definitely think that it does. You’re increasing the size of the root system, which should encourage more growth.
One of the great things about planting aerial roots (especially super long ones) is that you can increase the turgor pressure in stems that are far away from the soil.
By planting the aerial root, you’re giving water and nutrients a direct route to the node, rather than having it pass by all the other leaves/nodes/aerial roots on its way. This can more evenly distribute moisture around your plant and stop it from drooping or having curled leaves.
Can you support a Monstera with just its aerial roots?
Yes, you can and it can look INCREDIBLE. However, to do this, you’ll need a few things:
- A big ass pot
Which is fine if you have the room but, er, not if you don’t. Also, Monster have this thing about filling a pot with roots before growing leaves, so I would suggest you plant a few roots before supporting it, even if that means it’s really root bound for a bit.
When you repot Monstera, I highly recommend waiting until it actually needs it, and is actively circling the pot. If you repot too quickly it can take them an AGE to recover and they go all droopy and sad and pretend they’re gonna keel over.
- High humidity
Not misting – actual high humidity. This will make a massive difference to the speed at which your aerial roots will grow.
Aerial roots definitely do grow in lower humidity, but it’s very random. I have a Monstera with a load of stubby aerial roots and one really long one. For no discernable reason.
- A good feeding/watering regime
I mean, just general good care. Water when the soil is basically dry, and feed every six weeks. this will encourage steady growth, and plants LOVE consistency.
Unfortunately, consistency doesn’t mean ‘water every week’. If only. Rather it means ‘water me when the soil is 85% dry, but how long that takes will depend on the weather, temperature, humidity, and a whole host of other factors I won’t tell you about. Good luck.
Planting the aerial roots is my preferred method for both dealing with aerial roots and keeping my Monstera upright. All of the structural support with none of the moss pole maintenance.