Aerial roots on a monstera can look monstrous with dead-like brownish appendages that can scare the hell out of you, especially if you’re new and clueless about monsteras.
Has your Monstera deliciosa become a clown in your home? I doubt it; it’s probably aerial roots.
When it comes to Monstera aerial roots, there are mixed opinions on how to look after them. So, is putting Monstera aerial roots in water recommended? Yes and No! Sounds confusing, isn’t it?
Well, this post will help you understand monstera roots (aerial, water and soil). Afterwards, we will tell you all the good and bad of putting aerial roots in water.
But first things first, can monstera grow roots in water? Find out.
3 Types of Roots Your Monstera Plant Can Have
A monstera plant can have three kinds of roots—soil, aerial, and water- each with unique functions.
Soil roots are the obvious roots on your plant. They are thicker and more robust, and their core function is to absorb water and nutrients from the soil and support the plant.
Soil roots ensure a strong foundation and stability for the plant.
Aerial roots are fundamental to the survival of monsteras, particularly in the wild. These are feeder roots and differ slightly from soil roots.
Their main function is to absorb nutrients and water from the picket they cling to.
They also absorb moisture from the air, anchor the plant as they clasp onto vertical surfaces, and serve as structural support to prevent your plant from falling.
Thankfully, aerial roots are not parasitic, so you don’t have to worry about harming the moss pole or whatever they attach to. Compared to soil roots, aerial roots are more adaptable to dry conditions.
Water roots are delicate and very thin. While this post is about aerial roots in water, water roots, as the name suggests, can survive in water.
These roots develop during water propagation or when the monstera plant grows hydroponically.
Next, let’s see why monstera plants need aerial roots and whether putting Monstera aerial roots in water is do-or-die.
Why Does Your Monstera Plant Grow Aerial Roots?
Like all Aroids (plants in the Araceae genus), a monstera is a natural climbing plant that depends on taller trees and other vertical surfaces to find its way toward the more lit parts of its environment.
In their natural habitat in the tropics, wild species of monstera plants tower above 30 metres (approximately 100 ft.).
But then, why would these green or brownish, woody and worm-like growths dangle down to the soil, and what are the roots for?
As mentioned, Monstera aerial roots sprout from the stem’s nodes like flowers, leaves and normal roots. The two main functions are:
- Providing water and nutrients
- Anchoring the plant as it reaches for the skies. They are non-parasitic and keep the monstera plant in place
While it’s natural for monsteras to grow aerial roots, it could signal stress if they are too many, particularly due to a lack of nutrients and water.
Excessive growth happens as the roots try to reach out for more resources.
How Do Monstera Aerial Roots Look Like?
You must know by now that aerial roots are anchoring roots meaning once they have a climbing surface like a moss pole, they become visible and grow longer as they anchor on the stake.
Otherwise, they can become thinner and inconspicuous. So, can you notice them on your Monstera? Yes. Aerial roots begin as dark or greenish knobs on a monstera stem node.
Unlike normal roots, they grow on the opposite side, with droopy leaves. Aerial roots often hang around the plant as it looks for support.
With time, these roots grow longer, brownish and cable-shaped woody layers which some people find unsightly. These unique features make the plant easy to recognize.
If you notice numerous aerial roots shooting from all directions, then know it might help to affix your Monstera to a moss pole (plant totem).
Remember that monsteras are climbing plants, and supporting the roots helps them grow better. It also minimizes the chances of breakage later in the plant’s lifecycle.
Comparison of Aerial Roots and Normal Soil Roots
Soil roots and aerial roots of monstera plants are closely related regarding functionality. Of course, sometimes aerial roots come in contact with the soil and support the plant just like underground roots.
But I have to put this to bed right now; the difference between Monstera deliciosa aerial roots and normal soil roots is massive.
According to Eskov, the growth of aerial roots on a monstera is more like that of stems, leaves, and fruits than those of soil roots.
Did you know that out in the wild, an aged monstera can become fully dependent on its aerial roots? I bet now you know.
It can even lose contact with the soil roots and the germination point. As such, it becomes a hemiepiphyte, i.e. a plant that partially lives as an epiphyte (a non-parasitic plant that doesn’t grow in soil but on nearby rocks or other plants).
Why You Should Put Monstera Aerial Roots In Water
It can be tricky to put aerial monsteras roots in water even if you feel like it since these roots often sprout off the main stem and grow facing downwards in every direction.
What’s more surprising is that these roots rarely grow in directions with water meaning they flourish in the air with minimal water (though some water does them well).
However, some people manage to balance mugs of water over these aerial roots in certain conditions, and you might be wondering if you could give it a try as well.
Overall, aerial roots are naturally not designed to be underwater as this could cause damage to the monstera plant.
Submerging aerial roots in water has three practical drawbacks: it causes rot and makes the plant rely on aerial roots instead of subterranean ones. And with dozens of aerial roots developing so first, you’ll soon need more space.
In the end, the plant may not grow sturdy and deeper subterranean roots, thereby compromising the plant’s general health. Let’s explore each of these drawbacks.
What will likely happen when a bunch of aerial roots are forced into a jar full of water? Those roots will enter a state of shock due to a sudden environmental change.
Naturally, aerial roots live and grow suspended in the air, so forcing them into water will have side effects.
Two scenarios are likely to occur:
- The aerial roots might adapt to the new water environment and develop water roots or,
- The root rot across the plant.
Rotting is the greatest risk of putting aerial roots in water. And suppose bad bacteria enter the water or you forget to change the water.
In that case, the next possible occurrence is that the roots will begin to decompose, eventually harming the entire plant.
When you submerge the aerial roots in water, they suffocate due to a lack of oxygen, which is essential for their health.
However, replacing the water every week might help to mitigate all these drawbacks though it would be better to avoid altogether putting aerial roots in water.
Dependency is where your plant turns to the aerial roots for its needs instead of the simple root system beneath the soil. While this might sound good, it brings about several issues.
First, it’s difficult to keep aerial roots well-submerged in water, and failure to do this might cause your plant to suffer from dehydration.
Secondly, monstera plants absorb nutrients and water from the soil simultaneously. Hence, if the underground rooting system is well established and properly supports your Monstera, it can perform its functions efficiently.
Sometimes the water absorbed by the aerial roots carries some nutrients, but these may not be enough to promote good health and plant growth, so your Monstera grows at a snail’s pace.
We all want to see our beloved houseplant get most of its water from its ground roots and not a flood around the aerial ones, right?
Running Out Of Space
Your first aerial root shot out, and you immediately feel like dipping it in the water. Blimey! What will happen when multiple similar roots sprout from the plant’s stem?
Aerial roots are a vital part of your monstera plant, and dozens of aerial roots will continue to grow on the plant as it matures.
Healthy monsteras grow mammoth aerial roots that can be challenging to fit in a jar of water.
If you’re worried about your aerial roots, prune them off; there will be no harm to your plants.
Let’s conclude that to leave Monstera aerial roots in water would is unnatural for your houseplant.
How to Put Monstera Aerial Roots in Water
Hey, it’s not all doom to put Monstera aerial roots in a jar of water. Putting these roots in water can enhance the growth rate of the stem and leaves.
This would promote faster growth of new leaves in no time. For long-term purposes, putting aerial roots in water allows the roots to grow deeper into the soil, ensuring stability and easy absorption of nutrients and water.
If your monstera plant is underwatered, placing its aerial roots in a jar of water can hydrate the plant quickly.
The reverse is also true in that regularly watered plants submerged in water might absorb more than it’s required with this method.
3 easy steps for putting Monstera aerial roots in water
Step 1: Find a suitable container to accommodate the aerial root
Plastic water bottles are ideal since they have an opening that allows you to poke the aerial root into the bottle. Choose long, healthy aerial roots that can comfortably fit the container.
Step 2: Fill the container with clean, cooled water.
Fill the plastic container with water. I recommend using water from the tap for your indoor plants though distilled water can still do.
Step 3: Change the water weekly.
The water in the jar will diminish as the roots absorb it. During this process, expect the roots to become bigger and longer with whitish growths of water roots on the sides.
Now that you know that putting your monstera aerial roots in water can promote your plant’s growth, especially if you need to remember about watering your houseplants, why not place your aerial roots in water and see it flourish into a big, lush plant?
What Happens to Monstera Aerial Roots When Put in Water?
When you put a monstera’s aerial roots in water, they, like all living things, will begin to adapt to the new conditions and evolve into water roots.
New water roots will start forming from the sides of your Monstera aerial root.
These water roots do a terrific job of absorbing moisture from the water. Adding liquid fertilizer to the water will boost the nutritional value of your water.
Conversely, aerial roots constantly submerged in water increase the risk of damage to your plants, as explained above.
Besides the rot, dependency and filling up space, monstera aerial roots in water can indirectly destroy the aerial subterranean roots through overwatering.
When aerial roots remain in the water, the plant depends primarily on them for moisture. This eventually makes the subterranean roots shrink and don’t grow deep into the soil.
In that case, the underground roots will not absorb moisture from the soil when the roots are watered as recommended. The soil stays soggy for longer, resulting in the rotting of the roots.
What Should You Do in Case of Aerial Root Rot?
Let’s assume you already submerged the Monstera’s aerial roots in water, or you overwatered them and then woke up to severe rot.
Usually, rotting aerial roots form spots or lesions and turn black or brownish. They also feel spongy to the touch.
To get rid of the aerial root rot, you must cut off or completely remove the rotting roots. But before then, sterilize the environment to contain the root fungus.
If the rot affects a single aerial root, cut it off before the disease spreads to other parts of the plant. The sterilizing process involves:
- Washing your hands thoroughly
- Opening a door or window to enhance ventilation
- Sterilizing the tools used to cut off the affected part (s). These may include sharp pruning shears. Use boiling water or rubbing alcohol to sanitize them.
- Using the shears, gently remove the spongy growth until you see the firm, healthy tissues.
- Cut the spongy root closer to the stem as you can, and discard it without letting it contact the main plant.
- Finally, apply a fungicide to prevent the possibility of recurrence.
- Allow the affected and surrounding areas to dry completely for a few days. Without watering or misting these areas, the rot should eventually disappear.
Though commonly caused by overwatering of monstera’s aerial roots, the rot can also be due to high humidity, contaminated water, or poor air circulation within the container.
Either way, keep these issues at bay by reducing your watering frequency, washing hands before you handle your monstera plant, and only watering it in the daytime.
Can I propagate Monstera with aerial roots?
No. It’s almost impossible to propagate monsteras using aerial roots. I’m not saying that it can’t happen; but it’s very unlikely because propagation requires a node (that knotted part where leaves grow). After all, new shoots can only grow from their axial bud.
Do aerial roots grow back?
No. Once an aerial root has been cut, it can’t grow back. However, another root may sprout out from the node. Look out for new roots after a while. To reduce the chances of regrowing, cut the aerial roots during early winter or late summer.
How do you train aerial roots?
Luckily, monstera plants are good climbers and don’t require much effort to attach to a stake, especially when they’re still pliable and young.
Like you often have to train vines plants, you’ll have to train your monstera aerial roots to grow properly underneath the soil.
You can use trellises, moss poles, twist ties or chicken wire (you have to wrap gently around the aerial roots) to train your monstera to grow vertically. Then give it a couple of weeks to cling firmly to the support structure.
If you want to tame the aerial roots growing in all directions, train them to grow on a stake. This is what Monstera aerial roots in the wild do; some find a tree or vertical surface that they use to grow upwards.
This makes the monstera plant look more beautiful and easier to mist since when it appears dry, you can spray the pole with water, and the aerial roots take in water as it moves down the moss pole.
Interesting Read: Do Monstera Like to Be Root Bound?
If you feel bad seeing that poor aerial root sticking out of the pot, a few drops of water won’t hurt it per see. But you don’t have to water or mist your aerial roots.
The risk of rotting is a costly price to pay to make the process worth the while. Ultimately, whether or not to put Monstera aerial roots in water is up to you.