Monsteras aren’t necessarily known for their aerial roots. Instead, many people purchase them for the splits in their leaves, called fenestrations. This is why so many new Monstera owners can be alarmed if they see something strange emerging from their Monstera‘s stem. At first, aerial roots can look like a new leaf is emerging. However, they’ll keep growing and extending out from the plant, bewildering many owners. Oftentimes, aerial roots do not exactly grow straight down into the pot and instead may grow sideways. This can end up looking unsightly which is why the “How To Make Aerial Roots Less Messy” section will prove valuable. Aerial roots are present on all types of Monstera from the smaller Adansonii to the largest Deliciosa.
Aerial roots are an adaptation used to help the Monstera survive better in its natural habitat. Monsteras are native to the tropical regions of central and south America where they can be found attached and climbing large trees or spread out across an open field.
What Are Monstera Aerial Roots?
The strange growth is called an aerial root and is one of many types of roots that grow from your Monstera plant. At first an aerial route will be a small yellow bump that grows from a node on your Monstera. A node is defined as the area in which a leaf emerges from, and it is usually thicker than the rest of the stem. This small bump will extend and stay a whitish yellow color if it is young. Over time this aerial root will turn a darker brown color and become woody and strong. Aerial roots are also sometimes referred to as adventitious roots. These are roots that emerge from anywhere on the plant other than the normal root system.
Aerial roots are seen on many different tropical plant and tree species like orchids, ficus, philodendrons, anthuriums, Pothos, spider plants, mangroves, and certain vines such as common ivy. In many of these species, aerial roots can have a slightly different purpose. For example, on pothos, the aerial roots are used to climb. However, on spider plants, the aerial roots are used to help baby plants get a good start in life.
Suggested Read: Check out our step-by-step monstera propagation guide.
The Purpose of Aerial Roots
Aerial roots are used by the Monstera in the same way we use ropes to tie a tent down in a storm. They are extra strong, anchoring threads that make sure the plant sticks where it likes. They provide a very strong hold for the plant to stay securely where it chooses to be. Their main purpose is to anchor a plant into the soil better. They also assist climbing aroids such as your Monstera to latch onto the bark of trees and allow the plant to climb higher and reach more sunlight. In giant mature Monsteras found in the wild, the aerial roots completely wrap around the trunk of huge jungle trees like the rungs of a ladder as they slowly reach higher. Another function of aerial roots is their ability to take in moisture from the air and provide an additional way for the plant to stay hydrated.
If your plant doesn’t seem to have any aerial roots yet, don’t worry. Younger plants will not produce aerial roots right away since they are too small and are reserving their energy to create a larger plant first. They are often simply just not tall enough to warrant the plant feeling like it should create aerial roots. Once the plant reaches 1-2 years old, it will focus much more on the mature plant attributes like aerial roots and fenestrations.
Giving Your Monstera the Conditions It Needs
In your home, if you find that your Monstera seems to be endlessly stretching, reaching and producing lots of aerial roots, it could be that it needs more light! Ensure that your plant receives bright, indirect light. The best type of light will be from a few feet away from a south or west-facing window. With more light, your Monstera will grow more compact and will have less of a desire to climb. The leaves will also grow larger and you’ll notice more splits. These splits let light onto the smaller, shorter leaves below.
Also, make sure that the soil of your Monstera does not dry out too much. If the plant desires extra water, it could be sending out aerial roots to locate it. Monsteras need the top inch or so to dry out before needing another soaking. If the entire pot is allowed to dry out and stay dry for a longer period of time, your Monstera will definitely go searching for more moisture.
Types of Monstera Roots & Their Jobs
The Monstera Deliciosa has three types of roots: aerial roots, aerial subterranean roots, and lateral subterranean roots. These three types of roots all function uniquely but share the similar purpose of always making sure they bring the plant water and nutrients. Monsteras have large, thick roots that come together to make a pretty large root system compared to other plants that have smaller, more spindly roots. Here are the three types of roots on your Monstera:
These are the roots only exposed to the air. They are outside of the soil and are growing from the stem of the plant. They capture any moisture in the air and also anchor and help the plant to climb. Since the environment outside of soil is very dry, the exterior of the aerial roots are hard and wood-like.
These are aerial roots that have entered the soil. They change to adapt to the conditions under the soil and to better take in the water and nutrients available. They usually become fuzzy and more sponge-like as the wetter environment under the soil does not require them to be woody or hardened off.
Lateral – Subterranean Roots
These are the roots that grow from the aerial roots that have entered the soil. A root will have many roots growing out from it like a tree. The lateral-subterranean roots are the roots extending from the main root that entered the soil. These roots are smaller and may not be as fuzzy as the main subterranean roots.
How to Make Aerial Roots Look Less Messy
Here are a few solutions to help your Monstera aerial roots look less messy:
Use a Moss Pole
The best way to hide the many aerial roots that your Monstera produces is by training it up a moss pole. A moss pole is a very sturdy stick covered in moss that serves as a tree trunk for your aroid to climb. The Monstera will grow its aerial roots into the moss pole and slowly climb up it all while burrowing its aerial roots in. Since the once visible aerial roots will now be growing within the moss, they will be much less visible. A moss pole will also make your Monstera feel more secure and as if it is in its natural habitat. It will grow larger leaves with more fenestrations as it believes it is reaching higher levels of light in the rainforest. The best moss poles use natural moss like sphagnum and aren’t packed too tightly around the anchoring center. If the moss on the pole is too compact the aerial roots will not be able to properly latch on and may end up rotting, drying out or receiving too much or not enough moisture. It is very easy to DIY your own moss pole or they can be found online for purchase at a low cost.
Trim the Extras
If you have some unsightly aerial roots or ones that are not able to reach the moss pole, you can always trim these off. However, note that if you do trim these, another aerial root or many may grow back in the same spot you trimmed it. In order to ensure that your Monstera does not become sick after cutting off the aerial root you’ll need to use sterilized scissors or shears when trimming. Also, consider treating the trimmed area with an antifungal such as cinnamon. You can cover the exposed newly cut area with cinnamon. This will ensure that no diseases or funguses can take hold in this fragile exposed tissue and cause your plant to rot away.
Tuck Them In
If some of the aerial roots on your Monstera have grown slightly outside of the pot, you can simply tuck these in and guide them to anchor into the soil. Do this gently to ensure that none of the aerial roots snap off. If an aerial root is newer but looks like it is traveling in the wrong direction you can slowly train it down towards the pot by using a rubber band or a twist tie. Simply wrap the twist tie around one side of the aerial root and one side of the stem of your Monstera to make sure that it grows parallel to the stem and downwards towards the soil. It may take some time before the aerial root corrects itself, but the gentle pressure will ensure the aerial root gets where it needs to go.
Let ‘em Hang and Climb
Make the aerial roots on your Monstera a key feature by placing it higher up on a shelf, table, or by hanging it from the ceiling. The aerial roots will eventually trail straight down to the floor creating a living sculpture. Not only will your plant look beautiful growing upwards, but you’ll also be able to appreciate the beautiful parts growing downwards. If you are not opposed to your wall taking some damage, you could let your Monstera climb up your wall. This is a cheap alternative to using a moss pole. If you do not want your walls to take any damage, you can also use clear wall hooks as the anchors for the aerial roots to grab onto.
Since one of the functions of aerial roots is to take in and provide the plant with extra hydration, consider upping the humidity around them. You can do this in several different ways. You could purchase a humidifier to have running nearby. This will provide the plant with the most consistent humidity. Another option is placing a pebble tray below your plant. A pebble tray is simply a tray of pebbles that you fill with a layer of water. Then, the pot rests above the water on the rocks. As the water evaporates, the humidity around your plant increases and the aerial roots can soak it up. Lastly, if you do not feel like investing in these two options, you could simply mist the aerial roots every so often.
Lastly, consider just admiring the aerial roots on your Monstera in all of their glory. Each Monstera has its own unique set of aerial roots that make an artwork of strong fingers holding it above the soil. They allow the plant to reach for what it needs: more light, more water, and more nutrients. Older mature Monsteras have a huge amount of wild looking aerial roots that bring the rainforest right into your home.
Aerial roots may appear to be a strange, unknown creature escaping from your beautiful Monstera, but don’t fret! They are simply another feature of this gorgeous, unique specimen. In the wild, aerial roots are used to grip onto structures and bring the plant closer to light while also providing more moisture and nutrients. In your home, they still want to do the exact same thing as in the wild, but can only do this to a lesser extent. To make your Monstera as happy as possible, try to mimic the comforts it would seek in the rainforest. Provide a structure for your Monstera to live on, increase the humidity, and make sure that plenty of light is provided. If these requirements are fulfilled, you’ll definitely notice significant changes in the look and wellness of your plant.