Air Root Pruning Info: Should I Trim Air Roots On Plants

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By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

Adventitious roots, commonly known as air roots, are aerial roots that grow along the stems and vines of tropical plants. The roots help plants climb in search of sunlight while the terrestrial roots remain firmly anchored to the ground. In the warm, humid environment of the jungle, aerial roots absorb moisture and nutrients from the air. Some have chlorophyll and are able to photosynthesize.

A common question, “Should I trim air roots,” is often pondered on. When it comes to air root pruning, experts have mixed opinions. Primarily, it depends on the type of plant. Read on to learn more about pruning air roots on a few commonly grown plants.

Trimming Air Roots on Orchids

Aerial roots on orchids are vital to the plant because they absorb moisture and carbon dioxide that help the orchid grow and produce healthy roots, leaves and flowers. This is true even if the roots look dead. The best option is to leave the air roots alone.

If aerial roots are extensive, it may be a sign your orchid is overgrown and needs a larger pot. At this time, you can bury lower aerial roots in the new pot. Be careful not to force the roots because they may snap.

How to Trim Air Roots on Philodendron

Air roots on indoor philodendrons aren’t really necessary and you can snip them if you find them unsightly. Removing these roots won’t kill your plant.

Water the plant well a few days ahead. Mix a small amount of water-soluble fertilizer into the water—no more than a teaspoon per three cups of water.

Use a sharp tool and be sure to sterilize the blade with rubbing alcohol or a solution of nine parts water to one part bleach before you begin.

Alternatively, coil the vines and press them into the potting mix (or the ground if you live in a warm environment and your philodendron is growing outdoors). If your philodendron is growing on a moss stick, you can try to pin them to the stick.

Pruning Air Roots on Dwarf Schlefflera

Dwarf schlefflera, often grown as bonsai, is another common plant that frequently develops air roots, but most growers think the roots should be encouraged. However, it’s okay to prune a few small, unwanted roots to promote the growth of healthier, larger aerial roots.

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