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If a lot of aerial roots form on the vivid orchid, then the question arises of whether to cut them off or not. However, the graceful plant is an epiphyte, which means that these aerial roots are also needed to thrive. However, these rarely look beautiful when countless roots are already sticking out of the bucket. How to proceed here is explained in the following article

aerial roots

Importance for the orchid

With many orchids, roots form above the soil in the pot, which then protrude over the edge. This is usually not a pretty sight and for the hobby gardener the question often arises as to whether the aerial roots may be removed or not. But the roots are of particular importance for the high-maintenance plant, because they are supposed to absorb nutrients and water from the air. The structure of the cells in the roots is similar to that of a sponge, which not only absorbs water from the air but also stores it.

Not all orchids have aerial roots, it depends on the species. Above all the Phalaenopsis orchids form a large number of aerial roots. However, above-ground roots can also form if there is no supply from the roots in the ground and too few nutrients and water are supplied here. Then the care should be reconsidered so that no further roots form in the air.

The aerial roots often look very different:

  • striving upwards
  • striving downwards
  • striving to the side
  • formed into loops
  • intertwined

Of course, this is often not a pretty picture when the aerial roots grow almost larger than the actual plant. But the orchids can also exist with these roots without soil and usually grow on trees or bushes in nature. In addition to absorbing water and nutrients, these roots also provide support. In this way, the plant can cling to twigs and branches and thus has a high stability.

remove aerial roots?

Orchid experts still disagree as to whether or not it is harmful to the plant to remove or at least reduce the aerial roots. Older plants are often equipped with a large number of aerial roots, which can then also disturb the eye of the beholder. In very extreme cases, the strands hang down so far that they are already spreading over the window sill. But in one case the experts agree that unhealthy and dead aerial roots can definitely be removed or shortened. To find out which strands are still healthy, the procedure is as follows.

  • Spray aerial roots with water
  • diseased or dead roots no longer turn green
  • these can be removed without hesitation
  • healthy strands should also be removed, just thin them out slightly
  • never prune excessively
  • Thinning may only refer to a few strands

If too many healthy aerial roots are removed from an orchid, the result can be that the plant cannot cope and dies because the nutrient supply is no longer given.


If you want to remove various aerial roots on a plant, even if this is not recommended, then you have to be very careful. Above all, the cutting tool is important so that the graceful and care-intensive orchid is not damaged. This should therefore be very sharp so that there are no frayed edges on the remaining pieces of root. This is where bacteria and fungi can get into the plant more easily and damage it as a whole. The tool should also be disinfected before cutting. Pure alcohol from the pharmacy can be used for this. Once the cutting tool, which can be scissors or a small knife, has been prepared, the actual cutting process begins.

The procedure is then as follows:

  • Only carry out during the resting phase of the orchid
  • otherwise the flowers will suffer
  • Avoid silvery green or creamy white roots
  • remove dried, hollow or brown strands at the base
  • if live roots are to be removed, thin out only slightly
  • Do not completely cut back strands that are still alive
  • cut roughly in the middle
  • do not make a radical cut

After the cut has been made, all cuts, including the already dead roots, should be sprinkled with carbon powder. This avoids a wound into which bacteria or fungi could otherwise penetrate unhindered and damage the entire plant.


It is better to repot the entire plant into a larger container than to cut the aerial roots if they interfere with viewing the orchid. Because if many aerial roots form at once, the plant is signaling that it is suffering from a lack of nutrients and water and that the pot may have become too small. Then action should be taken and the orchid should be given a larger pot.

This should be done as follows:

  • repot outside of the flowering and growing season
  • Carefully remove the plant from the old container
  • Submerge root ball with aerial roots in water
  • so the outer roots become supple
  • remove any noticeable dead or diseased strands
  • Use sharp, disinfected scissors for this
  • create drainage in the new pot
  • to do this, put expanded clay on the drain hole
  • partially fill in new soil for orchids
  • Put the plant with the aerial roots in the pot

Then the remaining, new soil is filled into the pot over the aerial roots. So they can now pull the nutrients and water out of the soil. Ideally, the flexible roots are inserted with a twisting motion and the soil is gradually filled in. In order for the soil to be evenly distributed between the roots, the pot is repeatedly tapped lightly on the surface, for example a table.

Without pot

Grow an orchid without a pot

Especially the orchids, which have already formed many aerial roots, are ideal for cultivating them without a pot. This not only looks pretty, but also gives the plant the opportunity to develop as naturally as possible.

This is done as follows:

  • Carefully remove the orchid from the container
  • remove withered and diseased aerial roots here as well
  • use a beautiful, durable decorative branch
  • Spread moss on this as a base
  • Ideally, this should still be damp
  • then tie the orchid
  • use nylon stockings for this
  • Cut it into strips two to three centimeters wide

The branch with the orchid is then hung in a room with high humidity. A bright bathroom, for example, is ideal. But any other room can also be used. If there is little humidity here, the air can also be treated with an electric humidifier in the immediate vicinity of the plant. Spraying the roots with water several times also helps to provide the plant with sufficient moisture. The roots wrap around the branch over time, allowing the plant to support itself. In this way, the orchid with the aerial roots on the branch becomes a total work of art in which the roots are no longer disturbing when viewed.

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