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Pothos Aerial Roots: Are They Normal Or Harmful?

Pothos Aerial Roots: Are They Normal Or Harmful?

Pothos aerial roots divide houseplant owners into two – some people like how they look and leave them alone, while others hate their appearance and want to remove them – but what is the best option, and does this type of root actually do anything?

Aerial roots are completely natural for pothos plants to grow. In an indoor setting, these aerial roots don’t provide as much function as they would in the wild (absorbing nutrients and moisture), but they can still be beneficial if you want your pothos to climb.

Still unsure about aerial roots? No problem, let’s jump into the facts and what options you have to deal with them if you choose.

What Are Aerial Roots On A Pothos?

Pothos plants are epiphytes, which means they naturally grow on other plants in the wild. More specifically, pothos is native to jungle areas in southeastern Asia where it’s commonly found growing underneath the jungle canopy on the surface of trees and other large plants.

As epiphytes, pothos plants grow aerial roots which provide both support by fixing onto other surfaces and also nutrients by being adapted to absorbing nutrients and moisture from the air and surroundings.

These aerial roots are often referred to as ‘air roots’ and can be seen on a wide variety of houseplants such as the anthurium and monster; but are they important?

Are Aerial Roots Important For Your Pothos?

In the wild pothos definitely make use of their aerial roots, but in a houseplant setting, they are not particularly useful.

This is for 3 main reasons:

  • Nutrients and moisture are provided by watering the soil and using a nutrient-dense soil mix (or fertilizer).
  • The aerial roots are not able to absorb moisture or nutrients from other surfaces around the house anyway. In the wild, this would usually be in the form of rainwater dripping down the surface of a tree or plant, which doesn’t exactly translate well to a houseplant setting.
  • Pothos are potted which means they aren’t growing on other surfaces like they would in the wild. You can also train your pothos to climb quite easily without relying on aerial roots, although they can help the process.

If the aerial roots aren’t important then what can you do with them?

What You Can Do With Aerial Roots On A Pothos: 3 Easy Options

1. Remove Them

Aerial roots can be removed without causing damage to your pothos, and this is a popular option amongst people who don’t like the aesthetic of this type of root. To do this, use a pruning tool and cut as close to the stem as possible taking care not to cut the stem itself.

Aerial roots usually grow back pretty quickly, but it’s not like you’ll have to chop them every week; it’s more like one every couple of months to keep them away. It can be even longer over the winter, and in my case I usually notice aerial roots growing a maximum of one inch over the winter and that’s it.

2. Leave Them Alone

My personal choice is to simply leave the aerial roots alone, although in my case my golden pothos has only grown a handful of aerial roots and they are still quite small in size (photo below for reference), so I’m a bit biased here.

A pothos aerial root next to a brass container and ornament
An aerial root on my golden pothos (around 2 inches in length)

If you don’t mind how aerial roots look on your pothos then simply leave them alone.

3. Let Them Aid In Climbing

Aerial roots are useful for teaching your pothos to climb, which is a behavior that the plant exhibits in the wild. More specifically, the aerial roots attach to various surfaces to provide structural support.

Here are the most common ways you can train your pothos to climb:

  • Moss Pole – Arguably the most popular option, moss poles can be placed directly into the soil and act as a central pillar for the pothos to grow around. Moss poles are great at absorbing moisture when watered properly which can work in harmony with aerial roots.
  • Trellis – Another popular option, a trellis is great for covering larger surface areas and is usually attached to a wall.
  • Wall – Pothos can also be trained to climb on walls using command strip hooks or something similar.

In most cases, aerial roots are not essential as you will attach the vines using plant hoops, ties, or command strips; but if you allow aerial roots to grow you can actually remove the ties after a while (this only works for trellis and moss poles).

Using a moss pole is the only unique method in that the aerial roots will actually absorb moisture from it if it is kept moist.

What Factors Affect Aerial Roots Growth?

Aerial root growth is determined by the overall growth of the pothos itself, there aren’t any specific things that will cause aerial roots to grow more than other roots or vines.

Overall growth is determined by lots of factors, but here are the main factors responsible for growth:

  • Temperature
  • Sunlight
  • Humidity
  • Watering
  • Fertilizer And Soil Quality

How To Tell The Difference Between New Growth And Aerial Roots?

This one is easy – aerial roots are brown in appearance and grow off the side of the main vine.

New growth occurs both off the main vine and also at the end of the main vine and should be green in color. The image below shows a new vine growing at the end of the golden pothos, and it should be very easy to tell the difference between this and the photo of the aerial root used earlier.

New vine growth on a golden pothos
New vine growth on my golden pothos

FAQs

Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions we get about pothos aerial roots.

If you have any other questions then please let us know in the comments below!

Can You Use Aerial Roots For Propagating Pothos?

Aerial roots are not used for propagation, and instead, you should use a healthy stem with multiple leaves and cut just below the node.

Afterwards, remove the bottom leaf and place the cutting either into water or soil to let new roots form.

Can You Leave Aerial Roots In Water?

Again, aerial roots should not be used for propagation, and in this case, should not be left in water either.

If you take an aerial root and place it into water it will simply die. Aerial roots are designed to grow in the air (hence the name), not submerged in water.

What you should do instead is take a cutting like before and propagate it in water instead.

Can You Put The Aerial Roots Directly Into The Soil?

Similarly to water, you should not put the aerial roots into soil as this can suffocate the roots.

The only time you could consider doing this is if you are using a substrate like LECA which has lots of spaces of air where the aerial roots could potentially absorb moisture and grow. Otherwise, placing the roots into a regular potting soil mix will suffocate the roots and kill them.

Do Other Types Of Plants Grow Aerial Roots?

Lots of other plants grow aerial roots.

The most popular types of houseplants that grow aerial roots include monstera and anthuriums.