Aerial Roots: What Are They

  • Editor: Alex
  • Time to read: 3 min.

Plants have many types of roots but one of the those seen more frequently on houseplants is the Aerial root. So what roots are described as aerial roots? And can aerial roots be planted to propagate new plants?

We’ll hopefully answer those questions below, so keep reading on.

Aerial roots on Plants

As the name implies, aerial roots can best be described as roots growing just above the plant’s ground level. That is; they are roots that starts growing on the parts of the plants that aren’t underground, unlike the normal roots which grow underground. Aerial roots help plants with woody vines to attach themselves to structures that support their growth like walls, rocks, etc.

Some aerial roots help to absorb nutrients and moisture like their conventional counterparts. Aerial roots also help plants living in bogs and marshes to be able to breathe since their normal underground roots are unable to absorb any gas to aid in their survival.

Aerial roots are not always necessary for survival, so removing them won’t cause any harm. In other instances, the aerial roots help to keep the plants stable. They also help them breathe and give them nutrients. So it’s better not to tamper with them, if that’s the case.

Can Aerial Roots be Planted?

The spider plant is a typical example of a plant with aerial roots that is often grown in a hanging basket. They produce plantlets which dangle from individual stems that reach away from the host plant itself. Each of the individual plantlets have a lot of aerial roots.


Can Aerial Roots be Planted?


If you want to grow another plant (propagate), you could cut off any of the plantlets, preserve them in water if required and then replant them, with the aerial roots beneath the soil levels.

The Orchid plant is another example of a houseplant that has aerial roots to aid in its function. While in their typical habitat, they climb trees and grow aerial roots which flow downwards to act as support and source of nutrients. These plants can also be propagated by chopping off a piece of the stem before the aerial roots. It then just needs to be placed in a pot to allow it grow on its own.

There is also a category of plant called epiphytes and these plants laatch onto other plants for their survival. They possess aerial roots but cannot be planted on the ground directly. They are great for getting nutrients from water, air and any surrounding debris.

A classic example is the epiphytic orchid.

If the aerial roots of these types of plants are greenish, it means they have adequate water and nutrients but if they have a grey colour, then you know it is time to water them.

Can New Plants be grown from Aerial Roots?

The short answer is No.

While it has been frequently tested, they have very little chance of success when propagating is done this way. So there’s a high chance that if you are trying to get budding new plants from youe existing aerial rooted plants, then it won’t be happening.

If you do want to give it a go, then using a leaf with an aerial root will have a better chance if put straight into water.

You might however have some nodes appear if you try it, as small roots have been known to emerge from the aerial roots submerged in water.

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