Monstera Aerial Roots: 7 Things to Know About Them

Monstera aerial roots are a fascinating and often misunderstood part of this popular houseplant. As monsteras mature and climb, aerial roots emerge from the stem to provide extra support and absorb more moisture and nutrients. While aerial roots are completely normal and healthy, they can sometimes look unwieldy or prompt concerns about the plant’s welfare. Read on to learn more about what aerial roots are, what they do, and how to care for them.

What Are Aerial Roots?

Aerial roots are roots that form along the vine or stems of certain plants. They emerge from the stem above the level of the soil and are exposed to the air rather than growing into the ground.

Aerial roots serve several important functions for the monstera plant:

  • Structural support – As monsteras grow and climb upwards, aerial roots help anchor the heavy stems and leaves to whatever surface the plant is climbing. This provides stability and prevents breakage.
  • Nutrient absorption – In their native jungle habitat, monsteras rely on aerial roots to absorb moisture and nutrients from the humid air and debris surrounding them. The aerial roots have a spongy tissue that soaks up any available nutrients.
  • Photosynthesis – The green aerial roots contain chlorophyll and can photosynthesize when exposed to light. This provides extra energy to the plant.
  • Vine growth – Some of the aerial roots grow sideways and downward, eventually reaching the soil. Once buried, they help stimulate new vine/stem growth.

Aerial roots are completely normal and healthy structures for monsteras and certain other epiphytic plants adapted to tropical environments. Don’t be alarmed if you notice them emerging!

When Do They Emerge?

Monstera aerial roots typically begin to emerge once the plant is mature and has reached the vining stage, usually after 1-3 years of growth. This is the stage where the plant starts rapidly climbing or trailing across supports.

The factors that influence aerial root growth include:

  • Maturity – Young monsteras focus energy on establishing roots in the soil. Mature plants have excess energy to form aerial roots.
  • Light exposure – Getting adequate sunlight encourages more vigorous growth and aerial root formation.
  • Humidity – High humidity provides a moist environment for aerial roots to absorb water and nutrients from the air. Low humidity may inhibit their growth.
  • Season – Most new growth occurs in the spring and summer months when conditions are ideal. Fewer aerial roots may emerge in winter.
  • Stability – As stems lengthen and leaves grow larger, aerial roots emerge to provide more structural support.

So in summary, a rapidly growing, mature monstera with adequate lighting and humidity in the right season is prime for aerial root formation.

Are Aerial Roots Harmful to My Plant?

Monstera aerial roots are completely natural and not harmful to the plant. In fact, they are a sign of good health and maturity!

Unlike root rot or other root diseases, aerial roots will never damage or kill your monstera. Their emergence means the plant is thriving enough to allocate resources into extra root growth.

So there is no need to prune or remove healthy green aerial roots. Doing so can actually stress the plant and remove beneficial structures.

The only exception is pruning any dead or rotting aerial roots to prevent disease spread. But healthy green or white roots can be left alone. Just let your monstera do its thing!

What Do They Look Like?

Monstera aerial roots vary in color and texture as they grow:

  • New roots – When first emerging from the stem, new roots are thin, short and green in color. They may have a somewhat glossy appearance.
  • Mature roots – As aerial roots age, they become thicker, longer, and ropy or woody in texture. They transition to a white or tan color. Older roots may start to form green side roots.
  • Green vs white – Young green aerial roots actively absorb moisture and nutrients. Older white roots act more as support structures.
  • Velamen – Some aerial roots may have a white powdery outer layer called velamen. This spongy tissue soaks up water.
  • Heading down – Often the roots will start growing sideways and downward as they mature, searching for a path to the soil.

So in summary, it’s completely normal for monstera aerial roots to change in color, texture, size and direction as they develop!

Where Do They Emerge From?

Monstera aerial roots can sprout from a few key areas:

  • Node joints – The most common place to see aerial roots is protruding from the nodes where leaves connect to stems. Look for small brown scales opening up to allow new root growth.
  • Petioles – They also frequently emerge from the sides of petioles (the stalk attaching each leaf to stem).
  • Stems – Directly out of the main vine or stems is another common spot for aerial root growth. They tend to favor thicker, older stems.
  • Leaf notches – Occasionally aerial roots may sprout from within leaf notches, although this is less common.

The main triggers for where aerial roots form are plant maturity, light exposure, and the need for structural support. Areas undergoing rapid new growth are most likely to produce them.

Are They Beneficial or Problematic?

Monstera aerial roots are highly beneficial structures, and generally not problematic for the plant or owner. Here’s an overview:

Benefits of Aerial Roots:

  • Critical for structural support as plant grows
  • Absorb extra moisture & nutrients
  • Produce energy via photosynthesis
  • Support new vine/stem growth when buried
  • Indicator of plant health and maturity
  • Natural part of plant’s development

Potential Problems:

  • Visually unappealing to some people
  • Need humidity to thrive
  • Can lift paint or plaques if attached
  • Dust and debris can accumulate on them
  • Occasionally damaged during handling

Overall, the benefits far outweigh any potential problems! With the right care, aerial roots will do great things for your monstera.

How to Care For Them

Caring for monstera aerial roots takes just a bit of attention to their key needs:

  • Light – Bright, indirect light helps the roots photosynthesize and grow stronger. Avoid direct sun which can burn them.
  • Water – Keep humidity around aerial roots above 50% if possible. Occasionally mist or water them by hand to supplement rainfall. Take care not to overwater.
  • Air circulation – Good airflow prevents disease and allows aerial roots to dry adequately between waterings.
  • Nutrients – Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly during spring and summer to provide nutrition.
  • Support – Gently tie or train aerial roots to supports as needed. Avoid excess handling and damage.
  • Cleaning – Use a damp cloth to gently dust off and clean aerial roots when they accumulate debris.

Meeting these basic care needs will ensure your monstera aerial roots thrive!

7 Common Questions about Monstera Aerial Roots

  1. Why are the aerial roots growing so long? Mature monsteras produce very long aerial roots to better anchor themselves as they grow upwards and outwards. The increasing weight of the stems and leaves necessitates extra structural support from long, ropy aerial roots. This is completely normal!
  2. Should I cut off the aerial roots? No! Cutting off healthy aerial roots can actually stress the plant and remove beneficial structures. Leave them be unless they are dead or rotting.
  3. What happens if the roots are exposed to light? Aerial roots can photosynthesize when exposed to bright, indirect light. This provides extra energy for the plant. However, direct hot sun can burn and damage them.
  4. Why are some aerial roots turning brown? As aerial roots age, they transition from green to white or tan in color. Some brown tips or discoloration can also occur if the plant is dehydrated or the roots get damaged. Remove any rotting roots.
  5. Do I need to mist or water the aerial roots? In nature, rain and humidity keep aerial roots moist. Indoors, moderate humidity and occasional misting or watering by hand helps supplement moisture. Take care not to overwater.
  6. Should I prune away new aerial roots? No! New green aerial roots should not be pruned or cut off, as they provide benefits to the plant. Only remove dead or diseased roots if necessary.
  7. Is it okay if the roots stick to things? Aerial roots will naturally attach themselves to surfaces. This is fine unless it starts lifting up wall paint or decor. Gently redirect to other supports if needed.


Monstera aerial roots are an amazing adaptation that allows these tropical vines to thrive both in their natural habitat and indoors. While sometimes misunderstood, aerial roots are completely normal and beneficial structures that help provide moisture, nutrients, energy, and support to the plant as it matures. Caring for them takes just a bit of attention to their light, water, air circulation, and other basic needs. With the right care, your monstera aerial roots will astonish you with their size, strength, and uniqueness!