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The window leaf (Monstera deliciosa) is undoubtedly one of the most popular classics among indoor plants. These representatives of the arum family (Araceae) are very easy to care for and therefore suitable for beginners. Their home is in the tropical rainforests of South and Central America. Over the years, Monsteras form long aerial roots, which they use to cling to trellises. Sometimes these roots can be annoying. But can they be removed just like that? More on that below.

function of aerial roots

In its homeland, the tropical plant climbs the large branches of trees towards the light. Heights of up to 25 meters are not uncommon here. But even in our living rooms, the evergreen climbing plant with its imposing heart-shaped leaves, which are up to 45 centimeters wide, can grow up to three meters and, with good care, even higher. To do this, however, she needs a climbing aid. The roots hanging down from the trunk also play a decisive role here. These are not only responsible for the characteristic appearance of this plant, but also fulfill various functions.

Attachment and stabilization of the plant

Larger and older plants in particular need the aerial roots for better stabilization and for a firmer hold in the tub or pot. Furthermore, an appropriate climbing aid is necessary for the increase in height. The roots then attach themselves to these and can thus absorb moisture from the air. They are particularly suitable for this

  • moss sticks
  • Trunks and branches with bark or
  • trellis

Roots already present in the air can simply be attached to it. If the plant has no way of attaching its aerial roots anywhere, it can quickly happen that the formation of new such roots then takes on an undesirable extent. In addition, these then also adhere to all sorts of objects.

Tip: Care must be taken when handling an aerial root. It can break very quickly, which can damage the plant.

supply of water and nutrients

In the case of a large Monstera in particular, the existing earth roots may no longer be able to completely cover the plant's need for water and nutrients. The window leaf then forms additional aerial roots between the leaf axils. If there are already many aerial roots, they can simply be used to supply the Monstera. For example, a water container can be mounted on the plant pot and the aerial roots can be fed into it.

Notice: An increased formation of the "extra roots" is usually due to an insufficient water and nutrient supply of the Monstera. The lack of climbing aids also accelerates the growth of aerial roots.

Cryptosporella, Monstera deliciosa 4, crop from Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Just cut off aerial roots?

Because of their functions, these roots should not be cut off if possible, even though they may be annoying. Cutting off vital and bulging aerial roots in particular can damage the Monstera. Furthermore, this would only stimulate the formation of new such roots. However, there is one exception here too, damaged and dried up roots should always be carefully removed from the plant. When cutting off the roots, however, a few things should be considered:

  • Use of sharp tools disinfected in alcohol (knives or secateurs)
  • thereby preventing bacteria from entering the cut
  • Apply the cut directly to the shoot axis
  • Cut roots from top to bottom
  • Briefly cover the cut surface with a damp, hot cloth
  • thereby preventing the escape of plant sap
  • then wound covering with rock dust or charcoal ash

Tip: Gloves should be worn during this treatment. It would also be advisable to cover the surface of the soil in the pot. The escaping sap of this arum plant is poisonous and can quickly cause irritation of the mucous membranes.

These roots should only be cut off in emergencies, and then only when they are a few inches long. If possible, you should avoid removing longer roots, because in the end this only damages the entire plant. However, it must be remembered that cutting off these roots alone is of no use if the causes of the increased growth are not eliminated. On the contrary, the growth of such roots would then only be supported and ultimately the Monstera can die.

Simply "redirect" roots

The roots located on the shoot axis can easily be converted into normal earth roots. All you need is enough moisture. In other words, the roots are simply planted in the ground. For this, such roots come into question that are quite long and reach to the surface of the pot. The procedure is as follows:

  • Lift the plant out of the pot
  • Remove soil substrate
  • to do this, carefully rinse the roots
  • Choose a pot one or two sizes larger
  • Spread some fresh soil on the bottom of the pot
  • Insert root ball
  • then carefully steer aerial roots into the pot
  • cover with earth
  • fill in the remaining soil
  • leave pouring edge
  • water vigorously

After only a short time, small, fine hairs will form on the aerial roots of the Monstera and the root will develop into a normal earth root. This additionally stabilizes the window leaf and firmly anchors it in the ground. At the same time, the supply of water and nutrients to the plant can be improved.

Lijealso, Monstera deliciosa, crop from Plantopedia, CC BY 3.0

Tip: Alternatively, one or more aerial roots can also be introduced into an aquarium if it is available. The roots remove unwanted substances such as nitrate and nitrite from the water and use them for their own growth.

eliminate causes

The formation of very long roots outside the ground is primarily due to care errors. These include water and nutrient deficiencies and also the lack of a climbing aid. The following preventative measures can help:

  • regular watering
  • Keep soil moderately moist all year round
  • Wipe leaves regularly with a damp cloth
  • Spray leaves and roots at intervals of 2 to 3 days
  • Use of lime-free, lukewarm water
  • optimal humidity between 50 and 60 percent
  • bright location, no direct sun
  • Temperatures around 20 degrees
  • Use trellis (moss stick, trellis)
  • possibly repotting in fresh soil in March / April
  • Fertilize weekly from March to August
  • Use of liquid fertilizer for green plants

In a suitable location and with optimal care, the excessive formation of long aerial roots hanging down from the trunk can be prevented.

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