Pothos is a fantastic houseplant for beginner gardeners. It can tolerate low-light conditions and insufficient air circulation, looking great no matter how forgetful or neglectful you are.
Yet, due to your inexperience, you might be alerted if you see some roots growing out of the stem, spreading on top of the soil, or hanging in the air. So, is your pothos dying?
Read this article to learn what to do with aerial roots on pothos and why they grow on your plant.
According to their name, aerial roots emerge and develop above rather than under the ground like terrestrial roots.
They can grow from the nodes on stems or from the plant’s shoots, and they can be beige, cream, brown, or silver gray.
These develop for several reasons on your houseplants, and in the case of pothos, their primary purpose is to anchor this vining plant.
Although aerial roots have an unusual look, they’re actually good for your plant. Here are some of their benefits.
Aerial roots grow on vining plants and epiphytes to help provide them with more support. They attach the plant to several structures like trellises, hooks, trees, rocks, or walls to keep the plant supported while growing.
The plant receives more light by attaching the aerial roots to another structure for support. As a result, the plant will grow better.
If your plant is growing in poor soil conditions, aerial roots will help provide the plant with more nutrition. They serve as breathing roots to provide the plant with moisture and nutrients to stay in good shape.
In this case, they pretty much function like underground roots. However, they get the nutrients dissolved in rainwater or dew.
They can also get the extra nutrients that run down on host plants, trees, or structures.
When a plant is growing in boggy or waterlogged soil, aerial roots can help this plant survive.
The terrestrial roots will have little or no access to oxygen in boggy soil. These root formations are crucial to help some plants adapt to living in less-than-perfect conditions, including marshes, swamps, wetlands, and coastal areas.
When it’s time to propagate your plant, aerial roots can boost your new cuttings’ chance of survival.
These roots survive in water or air, so they won’t die. Instead, they will continue to absorb water, oxygen, and nutrients, helping the new cutting grow into a new plant.
Pothos plants naturally grow aerial roots in their natural habitat for climbing and anchoring themselves to other stiffer plants for support. These roots also help the plant absorb water and nutrients that run down on bigger trees and plants.
As a houseplant, your pothos will grow aerial roots because of several factors.
This plant thrives in humid conditions, so in high humidity, pothos will grow aerial roots to absorb more moisture. So, you’re likely to see these fleshy aerial roots if you’re keeping your plant in the bathroom.
Pothos grows in warm conditions between 70 and 90°F. While cold temperatures can cold-stress your plant and cause it to wither, high temperatures will stunt the plant’s growth.
As a result, it will start to save itself by growing terrestrial and aerial roots.
Overwatering and underwatering your pothos can affect the plant’s growth. In both cases, your pothos will grow aerial roots to stay healthy.
In case of underwatering, pothos will grow aerial roots to absorb moisture from the air. It can better benefit from misting if you keep it as a houseplant, and it will absorb the dew and rainwater when it’s grown in a garden.
This will protect your plant from dying, as too little water will wither the leaves and cause them to fall off the plant. Not receiving enough water can also cause the salts to build up in your pothos.
Pothos will try to survive by growing aerial roots to support its growth.
Because it’s a hardy plant, pothos will grow aerial roots to support its growth when it’s not receiving enough light. By climbing up, the plant can attach itself to taller structures, where it can receive more light.
When the nutrients in the soil aren’t enough, pothos will show loss and distortion of foliage. It will try to grow aerial roots to absorb more nutrients.
This technique, however, is more beneficial if your pothos is growing in a garden, as it can absorb some nutrients from surrounding plants.
Pothos will grow aerial roots to overcome any traumatic incident. For example, if the plant is dealing with a mechanical injury, it will start growing aerial roots to grow better.
Pothos’ aerial roots are fleshy, growing like solid tentacles.
When they first grow, these roots are green, but they develop a tough outer layer and turn brown. If your pothos is underwatered, they can turn gray.
They start out as thick protrusions sprouting from the nodes on the stem. In most cases, they grow upward, but they might grow downward.
Aerial roots will turn brown and become hollow when they die.
Leaving the aerial roots on your pothos won’t harm your plant. However, whether you decide to keep them or cut them away, you need to watch your plant and understand why these roots are growing in the first place.
In most cases, these roots will grow on your pothos because the growing conditions aren’t optimum. They help the plant survive in a less-than-perfect environment, but they can also draw attention to the problems your pothos is suffering from.
Some homeowners actually love the way they look, so they’ll just let them grow. These roots might actually help your pothos grow healthily, but if you’re not satisfied with their looks, you can try one of the following solutions.
Cutting the aerial roots on your pothos won’t harm your plant. However, if you want to remove them, you need to cut them as close to the plant’s stem as possible.
You need to disinfect your pruning shears to ensure that you won’t transform any diseases or infections into your pothos. Use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to clean the shears.
Pruning the dry aerial roots is better for the plant.
You can trim the aerial roots if you don’t want to cut them. This usually works if they’re growing too long, ruining the aesthetics of your indoor space.
Using your sterilized pruning shears, you can cut these roots to the desired length. Of course, they’ll continue to grow, so you’ll need to trim them whenever they go out of control.
Start by trimming the dry or hollow roots. This, as a matter of fact, can promote future foliage growth.
You don’t have to throw away any trimmed roots. These cut aerial roots can help propagate your pothos by growing the cuttings in a new pot.
For the best result, you need to make sure that every stem cutting has at least one node, some aerial roots, and a few leaves growing on the top. Although your cuttings can grow and survive without aerial roots, these roots can improve your plant’s survival chances.
Once you’ve cut the cuttings, plant them in vermiculite, water, or soil.
If you’re growing them in the soil, they should be kept moist. In water, you need to change the water every three days to prevent the growth of algae.
The cuttings thrive in moist conditions and should be kept away from direct sunlight. After three to four weeks, the new cutting will produce enough roots to support the growth of a new plant.
Take the new roots and plant them in sterilized soil. Water your pothos every one to two weeks as this plant doesn’t tolerate soggy soil, and provide your new plant with filtered, indirect sunlight.
It’s important to know that you can’t use aerial roots alone to propagate your pothos. Taking a few aerial roots and growing them in water or soil won’t give you a new plant.
You can leave the aerial roots without trimming them but push them into the soil. The roots will continue to grow under the soil, acting like terrestrial roots.
This solution will work only if the aerial roots are present on the stems’ lower part. If they’re growing at the top of the stem, you can wait until they grow too long, so you can push them into the soil.
Pothos and other epiphytes and vining plants can grow aerial roots for support or to overcome harsh growing conditions.
These roots can grow excessively if your plant isn’t receiving enough water, nutrients, or sunlight. They’re also more likely to develop if you’re keeping your pothos in humid and warm conditions.
Removing them won’t harm your plant. You can cut or trim them, but they’ll grow again if you don’t adjust the surrounding conditions.
You can use them to propagate your pothos by making sure that each new cutting has some aerial roots to support its growth.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.