This Is What You Do With Aerial Roots When Repotting Monstera

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

I’m a big fan of aerial roots on Monstera deliciosa because they’re a great way to support them without having to use a moss pole.

Most of my plants have moss poles because they don’t grow the super-long aerial roots that Monstera do, so it’s not an option.

When you’re repotting other plants, just try not to snap their aerial roots and you’re golden. With Monstera, you can manipulate (physically, not emotionally) their aerial roots to help you out and keep them looking *a bit* tidier.

As you can see, I let the one in the picture below do his own thing for too long, and now we have this looped situation. I could chop it, but I like wild roots.

If you look just above where the aerial root reaches the soil, another aerial root has popped out of the soil for reasons best known to itself.

If you're in the market for one, I have a complete guide to Monstera deliciosa here.

Direct them into the soil

When I repot my Monstera, I try to angle the plant so that as many of its aerial roots are directed into the soil as possible.

Over time, they’ll start to grow as subterranean roots, and create a larger root system and stability for the plant.

Sometimes, I slightly tilt the root ball so that there’s less distance between an aerial root and the pot. They tend to be attracted to moisture so will likely carry on in that direction. However, there are always outliers, like this fool:

It looks like he’s trying to climb up the wall, but I actually moved the plant closer to the wall to keep it upright so that the aerial root at the front stays in the soil. Once that’s rooted, it’ll help keep the stem straight.

Is it ok to bury the aerial roots?

Yes. There are rumours that they can rot, but…roots can rot. It’s always a risk, but in my experience, it doesn’t happen unless you’re overwatering.

Monster aerial roots often grow down into the ground in the wild – both to anchor them and to provide extra moisture.

Basically, if your subterranean roots are ok, your aerial roots will be too. You can take it out and check it- they're pretty sturdy so they don't mind if you're gentle - and the end will go slightly lighter/brighter in colour. 

You can’t really tell in mine because it’s a new root, but it’s really obvious if your aerial root is pretty, er, barky.

Aerial roots are pretty easy to snap, but also kind of malleable. They often have a brown casing that you can snap, revealing the green root inside.

You scrape all the brown off, but it’s a protective layer so I don’t recommend it unless it’s necessary.

Over time, you can direct the root towards the soil.

I just wiggle them every now and again to loosen them up, but you can also tie them to the stem loosely with ribbon or something (something wide that won’t damage either the stem or the root) and gradually tighten it over time until the root is where you want it.

Attach them to a moss pole

Attaching aerial roots to moss poles can be a bit tedious, but it’s best to do it when you’re repotting your Monstera because you can arrange everything so it’s how you like it.

Make sure that you’ve picked the right moss pole for you.

I like Kratiste poles because they don’t need any maintenance and the roots attach by themselves.

A lot of people like coir poles because they’re cheap, but the aerial roots only attach if they’re damp (or you have VERY high humidity, like 70%+) and they’re basically impossible to keep damp because they’re…just naturally dry. It’s like trying to keep sand wet.

don’t do what they do in this pic and a) obstruct the node with a tie and b) use string

Moss poles are pretty cheap (though only if you’re making a few) but you need to keep them watered.

You can always physically attach the plant to the moss pole by tying the stem to it using plant ties – don’t tie the aerial roots or the leaf petioles to the pole because you can easily damage them.

If you keep the moss pole damp (or use a Kratiste one) then over time they'll start to attach to the pole themselves.

Also, don’t use string like in the photo above because it can damage the stem if it’s too tight.

Leave them to their own devices

Monstera aerial roots don’t need any intervention from you – they can look after themselves.

They often don’t grow if your Monstera is feeling a little short on resources (light, humidity etc) BUT I discovered if you fertilise your Monstera often (like, every other time you water it) and give it a tonne of light, they grow like weeds.

In whatever direction they like.

no idea where he’s going

The aerial root above is growing away from the window – it could be an example of reverse phototropism, so he’s looking for shade which would indicate a tree he can attach to. Over time, I’ll direct it back into the pot. There are some little Hoyas around the base that are attached to it with their tendrils, which is cute af.

In the photo above you can see where I’ve snapped the outer casing of the aerial root.

Cut them off

If there are some aerial roots that are surplus to requirement, you can cut them off. The primary function of an aerial root is to help the plant climb, and if it isn’t doing that then you could argue you’re doing the plant a favour by chopping it off.

If you feel bad for doing so, you can make up for it by encouraging an aerial root to grow somewhere else, that your Monstera can use it help it climb. You can air layer a node in a more desirable position and direct that aeria root where you need it when it’s big enough.

Final thoughts

This is definitely a case of do as I say, not as I do.

To get the best-looking Monstera, it’s best to sort out the aerial roots when you are repotting.

I prefer to just ram a moss pole into the soil when the mood strikes and then complain about it falling over all the time.

It’s much better to take the Monstera out of the pot, add in the soil, the moss pole, and then the plant, and then work out where you want the aerial roots to go.

Get them directed into the soil if you can, or as close to the moss pole as you can. The closer they are to the moss pole, the more likely they are to attach.

If they're too far away they can't sense it, so will grow wherever they like. 

There is no right or wrong way to do this. All plants are different, and Monstera, in particular,* can be encouraged to grow in a certain direction, but ultimately will do whatever they like.

Don’t worry if you snap an aerial root – they, unlike leaves, can grow back.

*Philodendron Golden dragon grows however it wants and cannot be tamed. Don’t even bother. Mine goes through stages of growing aerial roots and attaching nicely, and then randomly detaches and grows along the back of the couch. He is FERAL.

Caroline Cocker

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

Leave a comment