Has your monstera deliciosa (swiss cheese plant) started growing green roots from its stem? You’ve got yourself some aerial roots. Here’s what you need to know about this unique feature.
There are many reasons why the humble monstera deliciosa is such a popular choice of houseplant. Besides looking great (there’s something incredibly satisfying about the way their leaves split), the swiss cheese plant – as it’s also known – is pretty easy to care for.
However, that doesn’t mean the swiss cheese plant doesn’t have its quirks. One such quirk which often confuses new houseplant owners is the plant’s ability to grow aerial roots.
While this extra growth is a completely normal and healthy part of a monstera’s growth pattern, it can be hard to know how to handle these new additions to your plant if you’ve never seen them before – especially when they start to grow longer and more unruly.
So, to help you get to know your plant’s aerial roots – and learn more about how to take care of them – we’ve put together this deep dive into everything you need to know.
What are aerial roots? And why do they exist?
Aerial roots are exactly what they sound like – roots that grow above the soil level.
They start off as small green shoots that emerge from a swiss cheese plant’s nodes (the areas where growth appears from a plant’s stem), and become tougher and browner as they grow longer. They can also reach pretty impressive lengths if left to their own devices.
While the appearance of aerial roots can be confusing, they make a lot more sense when you find out what they do.
“As with many members of the Aracea family, the swiss cheese plant is a climber and these aerial roots serve a couple of purposes in the wild – hanging loose to the ground to suck up nutrients and moisture and transport it where needed further up the plant (clever, hey!) and to stabilise the plant as it grows and climbs,” explains Jo Lambell, founder of the online plant shop Beards & Daisies.
“In your home, the appearance of aerial roots usually only means one thing – your plant is looking for support as it grows bigger.”
Aerial roots also have the ability to suck moisture from the air – but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get away from watering your monstera anytime soon.
How should you care for aerial roots?
Aerial roots are just an addition to the main plant and therefore need very little specific care – but there are definitely things you can do to manage them.
For example, if you’re a fan of the aerial root look but want to tidy up your plant’s appearance, you can give them something to hold onto. The most common option is a moss pole – which you’ll find in most good plant shops and garden centres.
To ‘train’ the aerial roots to grow around the pole, all you need to do is keep the pole moist (to stimulate what they’d be searching for in the wild), and the roots will grow around it.
Can you remove a plant’s aerial roots?
If you’re not a big fan of how your plant’s aerial roots look (they can get pretty overbearing at times), it’s totally OK to remove them.
“You can safely remove your plant’s aerial roots without damaging it,” explains Lambell. “Just cut close to the stem with a clean knife to remove.”
Remember that the monstera plant uses its aerial roots to climb and grow taller, so removing them may make your plant less stable.
Can submerging a plant’s aerial roots in water boost its growth rate?
You might have seen some houseplant blogs suggest that submerging a plant’s aerial roots in water can make it grow faster due to the increased moisture they can absorb, but Lambell recommends against taking this step.
“We don’t recommend submerging the roots in water as this will only encourage rot,” she explains. “It’s the same reason why we don’t recommend trying to get them to grow into the soil – they’re there to help stabilise your plant above ground.”
What does it mean when an aerial root shrivels at the end?
As an extension of the main plant, the health of your monstera’s aerial roots can be a key indicator of the plant’s overall health.
“If you notice any unhealthy changes to the aerial roots, such as shrivelling or discolouring, it could be a sign your plant is thirsty,” Lambell explains. “Keep your swiss cheese plant happy with regular watering and misting.”
New to plant parenthood? Check out Stylist’s guide to buying, styling and caring for plants to get started.
You can find out more about the most common houseplant problems by checking out our range of plant care content, too.
As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.