What do you do with aerial roots on Monstera?

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Aerial roots aren’t something I devote a lot of time thinking about, but it’s an oft-asked question on Google, so I thought I’d be a good plant blogger and clear up any queries.

TL;DR: chop off aerial roots if you want – it won’t harm your plant. But there’s also no problem with leaving them where they are.

This article doesn’t really cover monstera care, but I do have a separate article on that here.

Or find the quick guide on my Plant Index linked above. They’re alphabetical. Took me bloody ages to rearrange them, because I’m an idiot that made them in whatever order I wanted.

What are the aerial roots on monstera deliciosa for?

Aerial roots, also sometimes referred to as prop roots, are grown with the intention of supporting the plant.

I suppose ‘intention’ isn’t really the right word because plants don’t really have intentions, but that’s why they have them. It takes a lot of energy for plants to support themselves, so why bother?

Instead, they grow aerial roots that attach to other trees and then use those trees to support themselves and climb towards the forest canopy.

Genius.

monstera leaf

How are aerial roots different to underground roots?

They’re for climbing, and maybe absorbing a bit of moisture. Underground roots…aren’t. There are actually several different kinds of roots that I’ll cover at the end.

Underground roots, broadly speaking, take up moisture and nutrition from the soil to help your plant grow and photosynthesise efficiently.

The aerial roots on monstera deliciosa don’t help much in this area, although some specific types of aerial roots (found on plants that live in marshes) take in oxygen.

monstera leaf

Can I leave the aerial roots on my monstera?

Yes! Why is this such a common question? If they’re not doing any harm, leave them.

And by harm, I mean poking someone in the eye, or just generally getting in the way. Monstera’s aerial roots won’t do damage to your brickwork like ivy can, but it can damage the paint.

If I owned my house I’d have aerial roots EVERYWHERE because they look cool af. You can always tuck them back in the pot to keep them out of the way.

If you see aerial roots on spider plants LEAVE THEM. They’re most likely propagative roots and will produce babies.

monstera leaf

Why should I cut the aerial roots off my monstera?

You shouldn’t, you big meanie. Unless, like I mentioned above, they’re getting in the way, or trying to climb up your dining table etc.

Your plant wouldn’t go to the trouble of growing them if it didn’t want them.

This is really just a personal preference to be honest. The purpose of aerial roots on monstera is to help it climb up towards the light in the rainforest – a bit of a non-issue in the average house, you’ll agree.

You probably won’t harm your plant if you cut off the aerial roots – the biggest threat to it is you accidentally stabbing it with your shears, or giving it a disease through non-sanitised equipment.

But yeah, chop away.

monstera leaf

What do aerial roots look like?

Er, kind of like sticks. Here are the aerial roots on my Monstera deliciosa:

See, they look like sticks. Younger ones look greener, but I assume they harden off as they get older. This monstera has had a hard life.

My Thai constellation is yet to grow an aerial root, but my Peru, currently growing a very long vine for reasons best know to himself, has some:

It’s that weird white nub thing.

Can I grow a new plant from aerial roots?

No.

Well, probably not. There is talk online of some plants that can be propagated from their aerial roots but the chances of success are slim to none, so if that’s the reason you’re cutting off your plant’s aerial roots, you’re wasting your time.

Take a leaf-cutting (which may include an aerial root if you like) with a node and put it in water.

If you want to have a go at propagating an aerial root, young ones are more likely to root than old ones, but there’s no guarantee. If it does grow, chances are there was a leaf node all along.

I’ve scoured the internet trying to find out if you can grow a new plant from an aerial root alone, and whilst a lot of people say you can, I suspect there’s a cheeky node hiding there somewhere.

I think that the reason it’s advisable to include an aerial root on a cutting is that you’re guaranteed to have a node.

If you snip off a length of aerial root and submerge it in water, it’ll probably just rot. But it is a good indicator that you’ve got a node.

I’m currently propagating a Rhapidaphora tetrasperma and a P. golden dragon, and both have grown roots from what I assumed were aerial roots on the stem (although they were just stubs or bumps). So maybe roots are a bit like stem cells, and can turn into whatever kind of root is required?

Still, if an aerial root is brown and woody, it will probably just rot if you try to root it in soil of water.

Update: whilst the aerial roots themselves don’t magically turn into ‘proper’ roots, I have had roots emerge from the aerial roots, but only if they’re very young. So there you go.

monstera leaf

Should I put my Monstera’s aerial roots in water?

I personally wouldn’t since it’s likely that they’ll probably just rot.

Having said that some people have had success growing Monstera really quickly above fish tanks, with the aerial roots trailing in the water.

Is it the fish poop, the superior humidity or the lighting? There’s probably no way to tell. Feel free to give it a go though.

Should I point my Monstera’s aerial roots into the soil?

Again, for every person that claimed they grew a whole new plant from sticking and aerial root in the soil are ten others that said they just rotted. Aerial roots are designed to be in the air, so that’s where I like to leave them.

Sometimes an aerial root will make its way into the pot. I’d just leave it where it is, since they can provide a bit of stability for the plant.

Other types of roots

Non-botany nerds, you may go now. I just find this stuff kind of interesting.

Food storage roots – you know, carrots, potatoes etc. All roots.

Water storage roots – not to be confused with water-storing rhizomes, which are underground stems, found on plants like ZZ plants. A tree called a Starburst has water storage roots.

Propagative roots – plants that send out runners to make new plants – spider plants, strawberry plants and this one week in my garden I can’t get rid of.

Pneumatophores – an aerial root specialised for the exchange of gases. Fair enough. Mangroves use then to obtain oxygen from the air, since their roots are submerged in the swamp.

Contractile roots – plants like hyacinths use contractile roots to pull the new bulb down to the right level for it to grow, since the new bulb is produced above the old one in the soil.

Buttress roots – large, wide roots put out by trees in tropical forests with nutrient-poor soil. The roots can both stabilise the tree and grab nutrients from the surface.

Parasitic roots – parasitic plants have modified roots which penetrate the host plant and suck up nutrients from it. Who knew plants could be this mean? Parasitic plants are different from epiphytes because epiphytes don’t harm the host plant, they just use it as a place to live.

If you’re interested in all this root stuff, this article is useful.

If you want to buy a monstera of whatever type, I have an article here on how much monstera cost.

There are loads of Etsy shops you can get Monstera from if you live somewhere where they’re super pricy:

There is NO reason to pay more that $40 for a Monstera. NO REASON. Unless it’s a behemoth I suppose.

If you live in the UK, a LOT of garden centres have them – they’re super common, but you can also check out Etsy.

Aaaaand if you just want to know how to keep your monstera alive then have a look here.

30 thoughts on “What do you do with aerial roots on Monstera?”

  1. Hi! Just sharing my experience here – I recently received a monstera cutting that was cut just below an aerial root. I placed it in water for about a month and a half, and the ONLY aerial root grew roots – it grew a whole root system purely from the aerial root. I just potted it, so obviously I had to plant the aerial root. Well see how it goes but I thought this was really interesting,

  2. Nice! It’s weird how on some cuttings you’ll get roots from multiple parts of the node, and on others you’ll only get one. I suppose the plant is trying to establish a root system ASAP.

    I planted the aerial root of my monstera and it’s grown roots pretty well – I hope it sprouts a new plant! An older aerial root just rotted though, so I think the age of the root is a factor.

    Maybe they’re like stem cells and settle into their role as they get older, but when they’re young they can switch up their functions. I’ve recently started passive hydroponics and it’s so interesting seeing the water roots grow and the soil roots shedding.

    Just to be clear to everyone though: if you buy JUST an aerial root (rather than a cutting with an aerial root) it’s highly unlikely to do anything other than shrivel up and die. That may sound obvious to some of you, but there are some unscrupulous sellers out there charging a fortune for a bit of aerial root.

    9I’m not saying it’s impossible that a lone aerial root will grow, but it’s highly unlikely.)

  3. Thank you so much for this very informative post! I get anxious
    Of the thought that I might cut way to short or way longer than what’s expected! But your post gave me confidence to just snip snip! I will definitely let you know after a few weeks of how I did propagating my monestera.

  4. Good luck! Remember that when trying to propagate from an aerial root you’ll need to keep the root attached the plant! A snipped aerial root will usually just rot

  5. My daughter had a monstera on which all the leaves died off. I think she over watered it. She brought it to me because she felt bad about throwing it away!
    I have looked and it has healthy roots, 3 healthy stems and quite a few aerial roots. Do you think it may possibly grow new leaves if I look after it or is it a lost cause?
    Thank you for any help you may be able to give me.
    Loraine

  6. There’s (unfortunately) no way to tell. Some plants will grow new leaves really quickly, others…not so much.

    In my experience, the bigger the root system, the quicker the plant will grow once it’s got leaf buds, it just may take while to grow its first one.

  7. I repotted my monstera in the spring, and gave it something to climb. It’s put out aerial roots for the first time. Some of the roots have made it to the ground and have rooted around the pot. Are those not aerial roots?

  8. They are aerial roots – by rooting in the pot they’re creating a bit more stability for the plant. Sometimes they rot, sometimes they just chill, occasionally they’ll turn into a plantlet.

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