Cutting Monstera Roots WON’T Kill The Plant (But There Are Guidelines!)

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

You can trim Monstera deliciosa roots without harming the plant.

In fact, unless you want to live with a plant that’s bigger than you, it’s recommended that you do trim the roots on occasion.

Different plants react differently to having their roots trimmed, but as long as you don’t cut off too many, and you use clean shears, they should recover over time.

Will cutting Monstera roots kill the plant?

No. I recently had to chop off about 85% of my Monstera Thai Constellation’s root system because it had stem rot. They’re grown back rapidly and the leaves show no sign of distress.

Monstera grow vast root systems and every time you repot you have to increase the size of the pot. This can’t go on forever. The pot would end up being the size of small car. Pick a final pot size, and once it hits that, trim the roots when they become unruly.

How to cut Monstera roots safely

  • Use clean instruments
  • If you’re root trimming purely to reduce the volume of roots, don’t remove more than a third of the root ball at once.
  • If you’re trimming to remove root rot, make sure you get rid of all the damaged roots

I use regular kitchen scissors/shears. It doesn’t really matter what you use to cut the roots, as long as it’s sharp. You want to slice through the roots, not crush them. This will reduce the damage done to the roots and speed up recovery.

If you have a VERY rootbound Monstera, you may have no option but to saw the roots off. Monstera roots are thick and merge together into a solid mass. Try to use a sharp kitchen knife, but sometimes a saw is the least damaging option to big, solid root balls.

Monstera recover really well from root surgery, so as long as the plant is healthy, it should recover perfectly well.

Is it ok to cut off aerial roots?

Yes. Monstera (and other plants that grow aerial roots) don’t need their aerial roots to live. Their purpose is to help the plant attach securely to whatever it’s climbing.

That being said, if you want to grow a big, tall Monstera in a relatively small pot, you can do this by developing its aerial root system into a secondary root system that gets moisture and nutrients from a moss pole. I’ll go through how to do this later on.

Can you trim roots in hydroponics?

Yes. I regularly trim the roots in my Aerogarden because I don’t want the roots of the different plants to merge together.

As I mentioned before I recently trimmed the roots of my hydroponic Thai Constellation because of stem rot and they grew back quickly and voraciously.

All the white parts are new growth. The older roots are black or green due to the inevitability of algae (I keep my Monstera in bright light and a clear vase – the perfect habitat for algae!).

When to cut Monstera roots

You don’t need to cut Monstera roots as soon as they start poking through the bottom of the pot. Wait until the plant actually needs repotting. If you trim roots every time they emerge from the drainage holes you’ll end up doing it all the time.

Whilst trimming roots isn’t inherently dangerous to the plant, any wounds are an open door to diseases. The more often you trim the roots, the more vulnerable your plant becomes. Stick to root trims once or twice a year.

Here are some reasons you might want to trim the roots:

When the root ball is too big

You have a plant you love, in a pot you love. The root ball no longer fits in the pot.

You can absolutely increase pot size every time you repot, until you have to have pots made to order because you can’t buy them big enough.

The other option is to remove some of the roots.

How much of the root ball you trim off is up to you. The maximum you can get away with without risking the foliage is about a quarter of the roots.

I tend to cut off a third of the roots and cross my fingers. The plant looks droopy for a couple of weeks and then it’s business as usual.

You can cut off less, but you’ll have to repot more frequently, and that increases the risk of introducing pathogens through the damaged roots.

When the plant is too big

Trimming houseplant roots can inhibit leaf growth BUT there’s a catch. When you trim the roots, the plant may go into shock and stop growing for a couple of weeks. Then you may get a period of several months where you get no new growth at all. Great, you think. The plan worked.

In fact, what’s happening is that the roots are furiously growing to get back to where they were before. You’ll get a reprieve from new growth whilst it’s getting re-established, but then you very well may get a growth spurt.

You can’t rely on root trims to keep plants small- you need to combine root pruning and leaf pruning.

When the roots are damaged

Root rot happens. Monstera deliciosa aren’t particularly prone to it, but the Thai Constellation cultivar is. I actually keep mine in water because it’s the only substrate it doesn’t rot in (plus I like being able to keep an eye on the roots).

Plants can recover from root rot, but you need to cut off all the mushy roots. I usually cut about half an inch into the healthy root to make sure I got all the rot AND to help stimulate the trimmed roots to regrow.

If you have to cut off more than 75% of the roots, it’s a good idea to rehab the plant in water, just so you can keep an eye on the roots and ensure they’re growing back properly.

What happens when you trim the roots?

Plants aren’t equipped to deal with having their roots trimmed. It’s a bit like repotting (or keeping them inside at all for that matter) in that it wouldn’t happen to them in the wild unless something had gone very wrong.

So whilst trimming roots won’t harm the plant in the long term, it will trigger certain responses:

The roots will be stimulated to grow

It makes sense. Plants need their roots, and then their roots are removed, they grow more to try to replace them.

If you’re trimming the roots to get rid of root rot, trimming a little more than you strictly need too can stimulate faster regrowth.

The old foliage might suffer

In the time between the roots trimming and regrowing the plant won’t enough roots to support the leaves it has. It’ll select one or two for senescence (a fancy word for draining leaves of nutrients then dropping them) so that it can focus on root regrowth.

How much existing foliage you lose largely depends on the health and condition of the plant. A perfectly healthy Monstera in good conditions won’t lose any leaves – it may just look droopy for a week or two.

An unhealthy Monstera kept in low light, or suffering with pests, may lose leaves.

It makes sense to wait until your plant is in optimal health before cutting off any roots. I like to do it in spring or summer because plants recover quickest. If you have a healthy plant and you NEED to trim the root in winter, then you can, but make sure that it’s getting good light and doesn’t get too cold.

How to develop a secondary root system on a Monstera

The problem with controlling the size of the root system is that you inevitably inhibit growth. For those of you that want a massive Monstera but only have room for a small pot, you can develop secondary root systems along the stem to provide the plant with moisture and nutrients without taking up much more room.

Add a moss pole

You need a proper moss pole for this, not a coir one (unless you have awesome humidity). Not only will it give physical support to your Monstera, it’ll allow it to grow bigger without having to keep increasing the size of the pot.

Air layering

Another option is to air-layer your Monstera and put the resulting roots in water or their own pot of soil.

It’s a popular option, but personally, over time it becomes a bit of a pain to deal with.

So yeah, trim your houseplant roots if you want. It won’t kill or harm them unless you’re doing it all the time.

I hope you found this useful – feel free to leave any questions in the comment section.

Before you go, you might find these articles interesting:

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

Leave a comment