Aerial roots are a part of monstera care that you may not know about until you actually get a monstera plant and start noticing a bunch of brown, stemlike protrusions growing from the stalks opposite from where a leaf connects onto the main plant.
As a monstera plant grows, these aerial roots can get a bit unruly! Aerial roots can make larger monsteras look messy and cluttered, especially if they don’t have anything to climb. Aerial roots on younger monsteras may only be a few inches long, but they can reach several feet long on more mature plants.
Let’s talk about the best way to care for monstera aerial roots, how to keep them healthy, and how to prevent them from taking over your monstera’s pot!
Why Do Monstera Grow Aerial Roots?
In the wild, monsteras are climbing plants and typically climb up trees, boulders, or even cliffs. Climbing, vining plants like these use aerial roots to affix to other surfaces.
Even potted monsteras naturally want to climb, and as your indoor monstera grows, you may notice it either growing wide and looking very messy with aerial roots hanging out all over the place, or you might see it try to climb nearby surfaces such as walls or furniture.
Monstera roots also aid the plant in absorbing moisture from the air and surfaces they adhere to, though the underground roots are primarily responsible for water and nutrient uptake. Pretty neat, right?
If you don’t like how the aerial roots look, you can actually prune them off and it won’t hurt the plant per se; however, removing the aerial roots may prevent your plant from growing larger leaves. If you want your plant to stay small and manageable, that might be fine. But if you want a massive, striking monstera that commands attention in your space, you may want to leave the aerial roots intact.
Note: If you do decide to remove your monstera’s aerial roots, make sure you use sharp, sterilized shears so you don’t accidentally infect your plant with harmful bacteria or fungus!
How to Care for Monstera Aerial Roots
If you decide to keep your monstera’s aerial roots, it’s best to keep them healthy, because this will benefit the overall health of the plant. If you want your monstera to climb, you’ll also need to train the aerial roots and make sure they’re strong enough to support the plant as it grows up your moss pole or trellis.
How to Encourage Monstera Aerial Roots
The best way to encourage your monstera plant to grow strong and healthy aerial roots is to take good care of the plant overall.
Make sure you cover the basics here.
Provide your monstera with lots of bright, indirect sunlight, either from a bright window or a grow light that you leave on for at least 8 hours per day. Avoid direct sunlight as this can cause leaf scorch!
Pot your monstera in a pot with drainage holes and a peaty potting mix that drains well. (Try our Premium Monstera Potting Mix for the ideal combo of drainage, water retention, nutritional balance, and proper pH levels.)
Water your monstera when the top 2-3 inches of soil feel dry or when a moisture meter reads 3-4. (We strongly recommend using a meter because it gives you a more accurate idea of what’s going on inside the root ball and not just in the top few inches of soil! We love this one, which not only measures water content but also light and soil pH!)
Finally, you’ll want to fertilize your monstera regularly so it has all the nutrients it needs to grow those big leaves and healthy underground and aerial roots. We suggest using a liquid fertilizer with a 5-2-3 NPK ratio for the ideal nutrient balance for monsteras. Monstera Plant Food was specifically created for monstera plants and is gentle enough to use with each watering so you don’t have to remember a fertilization schedule!
Prevent Aerial Roots From Drying Out or Shriveling
Some monstera owners worry when their plant’s aerial roots start to look dry, but it’s normal for mature aerial roots to turn brown and woody.
Overall, make sure you’re watering your monstera properly and providing enough humidity, and you’ll be fine! If your leaves start showing signs of underwatering or dryness, make sure to fix the problem. Those are the best indicators of your plant’s overall health.
Should You Put Monstera Aerial Roots in Water?
There’s a lot of talk about this online, and many monstera owners claim that putting monstera aerial roots in water will cause the plant to rapidly grow a bunch of new leaves.
Some people may have seen success with this, but there are a lot of variables to think about here, such as the plant’s other growing conditions, the type of water used, etc.
Aerial roots evolved to live in the air, not to be submerged in water. Yes, they do absorb some moisture, but they’re mostly meant to grab onto things like little hands, not sit in water.
Misting Monstera Aerial Roots
Should you mist your monstera roots? Not necessarily! Make sure to provide your plant with enough overall humidity, and your aerial roots should stay fairly supple when they’re young. However, if you’re training the roots to climb a moss pole, it might help to give the aerial roots and the pole a little extra misting.
How to Train Monstera Aerial Roots
Luckily, monsteras are great climbers and won’t need a lot of encouragement to climb something, especially if the aerial roots are still young and pliable. Woodier, mature aerial roots might need a little more coaxing, but it can be done without too much trouble.
Monstera aerial roots will naturally affix to surfaces like furniture or walls. After all, they evolved to attach to trees in the wild! You can harness their natural preferences by providing a wooden plank for them to grab onto in lieu of a wall (and using a little tape or string to help them along), but we understand that this isn’t the most aesthetically appealing option.
Side note: Monstera aerial roots aren’t as destructive to walls and furniture as, say, ivy, but they can take off paint!
Moss poles are a popular solution, though sometimes it’s a little hard to get your monstera’s aerial roots to attach. The trick here is to keep them very moist with misting and proper watering, and you’ll need to keep the moss pole moist too. Sometimes you need to actually tie your plant to the pole to encourage the roots to attach as they grow. It’s especially hard to get mature, woody aerial roots to attach to a moss pole.
But let’s face it, moss poles can also be pretty ugly and cumbersome. Another great option is to use wood or metal trellises. You might find these easier to use because you can simply wind your plant through it to keep it upright instead of fighting your aerial roots to get them to attach. If your plant is already supported by the trellis, the roots will eventually grab on. Trellises also tend to blend better with your decor and not overpower your plant’s natural beauty and elegance.
We love this minimalist trellis set for monsteras and other vining plants! These trellises are easy to use and will blend in with just about any decor style. They take up less room in the pot than a moss pole, they won’t mold or break down like moss can, and they can support your plant right away without a lot of extra help.
Can I Trim or Cut Aerial Roots?
You absolutely can! Just use clean pruning shears to snip off your monstera’s aerial roots if you don’t like them. Keep in mind that if you trim them, they will callus over and not grow back.
Trimming the aerial roots won’t affect the overall health of the plant, but some people report noticing smaller leaves and slightly slower growth when aerial roots are removed.
Also, be careful not to submerge the cut area in soil until it’s fully scabbed over. This area will be vulnerable to infection and may absorb too much water if it’s covered with soil, so leave it in the open air for now.
Propagating Monstera Aerial Roots
Let’s put this to bed right now: it’s nearly impossible to propagate a monstera plant with just an aerial root. We’re not saying it can’t be done; stranger things have happened, after all, but it’s highly unlikely and ultimately a waste of time.
However, aerial roots can be a good sign that a certain part of your plant would make a viable cutting that would root easily. What you really need for propagation is a node, and aerial roots tend to grow from or near nodes. If you take a cutting with a healthy leaf or two, a node, and a nice aerial root (or a few!), you stand a good chance of producing a strong, healthy monstera propagation that will grow into a well-established plant.
Side note: Aerial roots won’t turn into regular, subterranean roots because that’s a completely different structure. Aerial roots are just a good indication that a particular section of that plant is growing and will probably grow healthy roots.
How to Repot Monstera With Aerial Roots
One of the downsides of keeping your monstera’s aerial roots, whether you train them to grow up a support like a trellis or moss pole or just let them grow wild, is that it makes repotting complicated.
Your monstera will need to be repotted every year or so, so you’re going to need to tackle this at some point. Here are our tips for repotting a monstera with aerial roots.
If you have a support, try to keep the whole thing together when you repot. If you don’t have a trellis or moss pole, try to gather the plant into one neat bundle if possible so you don’t have vines and roots poking out everywhere. You can even try wrapping it in a sheet to keep it under control if you want.
To safely unpot the plant, tip the pot on its side and carefully arrange the leaves, roots, and support so that none of the leaves or stalks will get squished or broken. You might want to consider putting down some soft pillows or blankets for your plant to rest on while you do this. It also helps to have someone else support the plant while you get it out of the pot.
With the pot on its side, gently coax the root ball out by massaging the pot (if it’s a plastic grower’s pot) or by using a trowel or knife to carefully pry the root ball away from the inner walls of the pot and lever it out. Whatever you do, don’t pull on the base of the plant or the support!
Once you’ve unpotted your monstera, prep your new pot by adding some soil to the bottom. Then it’s time to get your plant into the new pot.
If you have a support, make sure to hold it in place while you do this, and gather up as much of the plant as possible so the roots and stalks aren’t flopping around. Wrapping everything in a sheet or tarp works well. Again, a buddy can really help with this as well! Pick up the entire plant, being sure to support the root ball as well as your trellis/moss pole/wood board, and place the root ball in the pot. Keep holding on to the support while you fill in the sides of the root ball with soil.
If you don’t have a support, pick up the plant by the root ball and use an arm to gently support the top of the plant as you lift it and fill in the sides. (We find a cradle-type hold works well for this.)
Most likely, you’ll break a few aerial roots or a stem during this process. The bigger your plant, the more unruly it’ll be to repot. Just prune off any damaged areas and move on.
Once you’ve repotted the plant, get it back on whatever care routine made it happy before, and give it time to adjust!
You Can Do It!
Dealing with aerial roots and a monstera’s natural propensity for climbing is just part of monstera ownership. But it doesn’t have to be difficult! Aerial roots are pretty easy to care for or remove, and they can help you grow a beautiful, climbing monstera that makes a statement in your home, if that’s what you’re going for. Trim or train, it’s up to you!