Monstera aerial roots | What to do with them?

If your beloved Monstera deliciosa houseplant suddenly starts sprouting dead-looking brown growths, it can be easy to worry. Is your plant in trouble? Nope, it’s probably just Monstera aerial roots!

Let’s go into what aerial roots are, their function, and if you should leave them on your plant or not.

What are Monstera aerial roots?

Like many other Aroids (plants from the family Araceae), Monstera deliciosa is naturally a climbing plant. It uses taller trees and other supports in order to make its way towards the higher and more well-lit areas of the forest.

Wild specimens of Monstera deliciosa, in their natural habitat of tropical forests in Central America, can have aerial roots that are over 30 meters (100 ft.). These can hang all the way down from the highest parts of the plant to the soil. But what are these woody, brownish or green, worm-like appendages that sprout from the stem actually for?

Monstera aerial roots tend to sprout from the plant’s nodes just like leaves or normal roots, although they don’t always. They can be up to a centimeter (0.4″ in thickness.) Aerial roots on Monstera have two basic functions:

  • Providing nutrients and water. The aerial roots that hang down and make contact with the forest floor convert into normal roots underground. These are known as aerial-subterranean roots (Hinchee, 1981). They absorb water and nutrients and transport them all the way up to be distributed throughout the plant.
  • Anchoring. Without some way to support the plant while it reaches for the skies, it would obviously just fall off the tree or rock it grows on. Aerial roots help clasp onto the surface to keep the Monstera in place in a non-parasitic manner.

Aerial roots are really not uncommon in plants and Monstera deliciosa isn’t the only houseplant that grows them. There are other aroids that do. Succulents might grow aerial roots as well, especially if they’re neglected or tilting too much to one side, but these are not meant for climbing. Another excellent example is the amazing Banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis).

Did you know? Aerial-subterranean roots can branch out after they’ve reached the soil, just like normal roots. It’s not as common, though, and mostly happens if their growth tip has been damaged.

Hinchee, 1981.
Monstera deliciosa growing among other tropical plants in greenhouse setting.

Aerial roots vs. soil roots

As discussed above, there is some overlap between Monstera aerial roots and soil roots in terms of function. After all, some aerial roots do make contact with the soil and perform the same function as underground roots.

This being said, there is actually a significant difference between aerial roots and normal roots on a cellular level. Eskov et al. (2016) found that the growth of aerial roots is more similar to that of leaves, stems and fruits than that of soil roots in Monstera deliciosa.

Did you know? In the wild, a mature Monstera deliciosa can end up relying entirely on its aerial roots. It can lose its connection with the soil roots and the spot it sprouted from. This makes it a hemiepiphyte: a plant that spends part of its life cycle as an epiphyte (a plant that doesn’t grow in soil but on rocks or other plants in a non-parasitic manner).

Monstera deliciosa houseplant | What to do with Monstera aerial roots

What do aerial roots look like?

An aerial root on your Monstera deliciosa houseplant isn’t too difficult to recognize. It can start out green, but unlike normal roots, will eventually become covered in a brown, woody layer.

Monstera aerial roots can grow quite thick in the wild, but in the home, they tend to stay thin. They can grow pretty long and stick out in all directions as your plant looks for support.

If lots of aerial roots are appearing, it might be helpful to affix your Monstera deliciosa to a moss pole (also called a plant totem). This will give the roots a place to attach to. These are climbing plants, after all, and they’ll grow better this way. It also reduces the chances of branches breaking at a later stage!

Variegated Monstera deliciosa houseplant in pink planter with arrow pointing to aerial root.

Should I remove aerial roots from my Monstera?

Monstera aerial roots can be an alarming sight for new plant enthusiasts who don’t know what they are. Some also consider them an eyesore that clashes with the lush green color of the rest of their Monstera.

But should you remove aerial roots from your Monstera? Nah, there’s no real reason to do so. Even if the plant is against a wall, it won’t damage the structure of your home like something like ivy can. The only real reason to cut off air roots, therefore, is aesthetic. I always leave them on my plants. If I disliked aerial roots, I’d simply choose another plant species that’s not a hemiepiphyte! I find them charming.

That being said, you can totally remove them with a clean knife if you prefer. It won’t hurt your Monstera, as the aerial roots they tend to grow in the home appear to mainly have a support function.

Some do argue that if you cut off your Monstera’s aerial roots, it won’t grow past a certain leaf size. I haven’t found any scientific studies backing this up, though, but we all know that in the houseplant hobby a lot is based on observation by hobbyists.

Did you know? Some Monstera deliciosa enthusiasts tend to trail their plants’ aerial roots into the soil so they can act as aerial-subterranean roots. I haven’t tried this myself, so I can’t comment on whether this works. It sounds unlikely, though.

How to remove aerial roots

All you have to do to remove a Monstera aerial root is to just cut it off and toss it. There is one important thing to keep in mind, though. As with any cutting or clipping you do on any houseplant, your tools should be clean. With dirty tools, you run a small risk of introducing fungus or bacterial infections.

Give the knife or pruning shears you use a nice spray with some alcohol and you’re good to go. But remember: Monstera deliciosa is simply a type of plant that grows aerial roots. If you cut one off, it’ll just sprout another one in a different spot. This especially applies to mature plants.

Can you use aerial roots for propagation?

If you only have an aerial root, then no, unfortunately that’s not possible. For successful propagation, you’ll need a piece of Monstera stem that has at least one node. Ideally it should also have a leaf or two.

If there’s an aerial root growing out of the node on your Monstera cutting, that’s absolutely fine. The cutting can sprout roots from this spot and thereby provide you with a whole new Monster deliciosa houseplant.

Did you know? You can read all about the ins and outs of multiplying Monstera in the full Monstera propagation guide.

Monstera deliciosa houseplant cutting growing in water

Monstera aerial roots in water

I’ve seen some sources recommend that you place a container of water in your Monster deliciosa’s planter and trail its aerial roots in there. This is supposedly because aerial roots can absorb moisture, which is true. However, placing them in water 24/7 probably won’t do much more than make them rot and possibly endanger your plant.

What you can do, however, is regularly spray your Monstera’s aerial roots. Again, there’s no scientific proof that this makes any big difference, but it definitely won’t do harm. And of course, make sure the air humidity is not too low, as these tropical plants like things moist.


If you have any more questions about Monstera aerial roots or if you want to share your own experiences with these amazing tropical houseplants, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below! 🌿

Sources

Eskov, A. K., Zhukovskaya, N. V., Bystrova, E. I., Orlova, Y. V., Antipina, V. A., & Ivanov, V. B. (2016). Growth of aerial roots with an extensive elongation zone by the example of a hemiepiphyte Monstera deliciosa. Russian journal of plant physiology63(6), 822-834.

Hinchee, M. A. (1981). Morphogenesis of aerial and subterranean roots of Monstera deliciosa. Botanical Gazette142(3), 347-359.

22 thoughts on “Monstera aerial roots | What to do with them?”

  1. Hello,
    I am propagating a monstera with the areal root in water. There are many long roots coming out from the areal roots. Was it ok to leave the areal root in water? One of the three leaves is turning yellow, the other two look healthy. What should I do?

    Reply
  2. Hi, I have just repot my monsters which was 4 years old. It was having lot of aerial roots which weee just went down to pot and soil was almost finished in pot. To give it more soil, I thought to clean its aerial roots and repot it with its main roots. It’s been 2-3 weeks it’s reported with more soil and cleaned roots. How to ensure that it is going to gain life again. It’s leave does not look solid to me . It is winter here I am assuming winter is bit of dormant session for it. Please let’s know if anyone has any tip on this. Thanks

    Reply
    • Hello! Does it look a bit droopy? I think that’s normal, since you probably broke some hair roots and all that while you were repotting. Plants don’t like change, even if it’s for the better; it may need a while to recover. And yes, during winter, a plant can become less active, meaning it might need a little more time. Just provide normal Monstera care and plenty of light and the plant should hopefully bounce back. Good luck 🙂

      Reply
    • Hey! Monstera aerial roots do have a velamen radicum, as mentioned for example here. That being said, they definitely don’t seem to use their aerial roots for water absorption to the same level that orchids do.

      Reply
  3. I have an Albo ‘wet stick’ with very long aerial roots. When I got it in December, the aerial roots were in a soil, husk, leca, perlite mix. I put it in a ziploc to help with moisture, a leaf sprouted very quickly, then stopped (about a centimeter now). It hasn’t grown for several months. I think the leaf may have touched the plastic.

    Any tips?

    Reply
    • Also, would it help to trim the aerial roots? there are two that are about 20cm (9 inches) each. Does that take away energy from producing leaves?

      Reply
    • Hey!
      To reply to your second comment first, I’d personally refrain from cutting the aerial roots just because another cut is another risk of rot. As for the leaf, where’s the temperature at? Light all good? It is still winter, so it might show more signs of life once things warm up. Have you used rooting powder?

      Reply
  4. I recently received my single leaf monstera cutting. It arrived with a single node and it was rotten there and on both ends of the stem where it was cut. I sterilized scissors and cut the top and button rot off. I ended up having to cut the single node pretty much completely off because the mushy rot was so far spread. Its not even a nub. It’s completely flush with the little tiny stem cutting. I sprinkled the area with cinnamon. I’m so nervous. Do you think this node has the ability to regenerate? Any information you have would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Hey! Sorry you had such a bad experience there, hope you got your money back! I honestly can’t tell you if it will sprout or not, although as you’re aware, with the node being damaged the outlook is unfortunately not great. The only thing I’d add is to use some rooting powder, assuming you’re not propagating in water. Good luck, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you.

      Reply
  5. Hello! I recently got my first Albo. It was in sphagnum moss which I have never dealt with. I keep all of my plants in semi hydroponics using a mixture of perlite and leca. I removed almost all the moss and put it in damp perlite with leca as it has water roots from the moss. It’s doing fine, but I’m living in fear of it having issues from under or overwatering or getting node rot. There’s so much conflicting information. Any tips on moisture for an Albo with water roots? I figure it needs more than soil roots, but like I said I’m scared of node rot.

    Reply
    • Hey! It sounds like you’ve got things set up well for success to be honest, I don’t see anything in what you describe that puts you at an increased risk of rot or the roots dying off. All you can do now is keep it warm and reasonably moist and wait. I personally tend to lean more towards keeping things a little drier over risking keeping them too wet. Coincidentally, I’m going to be in the same situation soon, as my mom is rooting a Thai Constellation node in water for me but I want to continue in sphagnum and perlite. So let’s hope we’ll both end up successful 🙂

      Reply
  6. Hi! I recently got a really old Monstera, about 40 years old!! The thing is, it’s so big that I can’t barely handle it, and the pot is impossible to manage for me as It is so big and heavy. My question is, would it be possible to repot the mother plant by cutting under a node and re-rooting it in water or moss?
    Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Hey! That’s so exciting. So you mean you want to chop the plant into two pieces, or am I not understanding correctly? If that’s the case then yes, absolutely. For a big specimen that you want to be careful with, maybe you’ll want to look into air layering. It’s a technique that involves getting the plant to grow roots BEFORE you cut. I have an article about propagating Monstera but I haven’t included air layering in that one (I’ll update the article ASAP!), so you could refer to this guide instead.

      If you have any further questions, feel free to let me know. 🙂

      Reply
  7. My sister gave me a monstera cutting of 4 leaves with lots of roots October 5. I planted the cutting the same day. My monstera now has 2 nodes and 1 and 1/2 leaf the 2nd leaf hasn’t unfurled. The leaf that it came from when it unfurled it looked burnt at the ends, (Why). I named him Malik. The leaf that’s growing from the burnt tip leaf looks really good. And another leaf has a brown tip, please tell me Why? The other leaf tips are fine.

    Reply
    • Hi! Unless you’ve been overwatering, this is probably normal. Plants don’t like being moved and propagated, and they can shed leaves or grow damaged leaves as a result. As long as you’ve been providing good Monstera care, I’d just give it some time. See how the next leaves come out, especially in springtime if you’re in the northern hemisphere. 🙂

      Reply
  8. I find that submerging an aerial root in water actually helps new leaves sprout! With just one day of submersion, you may find a new leaf sprouting from the stem that the aerial root is attached to in a couple days 🙂 Give it a try!

    Reply
  9. Hello, thanks for this great article. I recently chopped my monstera when I saw the aerial roots had grown into the soil, I assume it would be ok because it had been a couple of months already. Saved me from propagating in water. Anyway when I went to repot the part I had cut off the mother plant (I couldn’t leave it hanging off the mother plant haha) the aerial roots which I thought were well and truly established in soil, only had about 3-5cms of ‘soil roots’, anyway I went ahead and buried the rest of the aerial roots, have I killed this plant now? Technically it’s only got the 3-5cms of soil roots. I’m panicking now as this type of monstera is prone to root rot apparently. Please help me thank you

    Reply
  10. I keep reading mixed things. I have a variegated monstera that I’m propagating with aerial roots. I sumbermege the aerial roots right! It looks sort of impossible to propagate in water without aerial roots being submerged because of where the aerial roots are?

    Reply
    • You’re right, it’s hard to avoid sometimes. It doesn’t do anything extra but as long as you keep a close eye out for rot it won’t hurt either. You can also just cut them off if you’re worried. Good luck!

      Reply

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