Why Do Pothos Grow Aerial Roots?

There are a few large green aerial roots with a brown color that sprouted from the nodes that are on the pothos stems.

You’re likely to be asking yourself: “are aerial roots a sign that something is off with my pothos”?

“Do they serve any useful function”? Find out why the aerial roots are sprouting in your pothos.

Aerial roots will develop on your pothos when you allow the stems to spill onto the container, wall or any other plant. They are trying to stick to the wall to provide support. It could grow because of the absence of light, nutritional deficiency, or watering issues.

What Are Aerial Roots?

The name implies that aerial roots develop in the air, not in the soil. They typically develop on plant parts that are higher than the soil, like the shoots, stems, and so on.

They are also called air roots. The aerial roots of tough vine plants such as pothos act as anchors.

This means that they assist the vines attach to structures such as walls, rocks and trellises as well as other plants to provide support.

In the majority of cases they are also referred to as breathing roots, which means they assist in the extraction and absorb gases, nutrients and moisture from the air that surrounds them.

Air roots are the most prevalent on epiphytes, plants that are cultivated on other plants.

They include species of plants such as epiphytic orchids, pothos rubber trees, philodendrons and monstera, to mention some.

Pothos hanging near triangle wall piece

What Are The Functions of Aerial Roots?

Aerial roots are used for a variety of functions that differ from plant to plant. However, their primary purpose is usually centered around support and adaptive survival.

Aerials Roots Helps Nourish the Plant

In addition, aerial roots serve similar functions to underground roots. In this instance they aid the plant to draw in nutrients.

They typically absorb nutrients that are dissolved in dew, rainwater, or mist, which fall on the roots or flow through the structure of the host tree.

This is especially evident in epiphytic orchids, such as the ones that are found in many plants. They suspend their aerial roots up in the air, which allows them to receive additional nutrients from the water that drips from the leaves that are above the plant.

Aerial Roots Help Stabilize Plants

Similar to normal roots that develop in soil The aerial roots are designed to increase the stability of parents plants.

This is especially applicable to epiphytes and vining plants that must be anchored to support structures for growth and stability.

Particularly, these air roots assist plants attach itself to rocks, trellis, other plants walls, and other types of structures.

This is how the aerial roots act as anchors aiding vining plants such as pothos climb walls and host trees..

The advantages of this are numerous . For instance the vines plant will be able to catch more sunlight from an elevated location.

Rubber trees are plants that grow aerial roots that add strength to the soil roots. In the end, these trees are massive and require all the support for their roots they can get.

Aerials Roots Helps Absorb Moisture

Aerial roots aid plants such as monstera, pothos, and orchids absorb water (along with the dissolved minerals and other nutrients).

They may absorb water directly from air surrounding them. They can also absorb water from rainwater, which is flowing over host trees and even water that drips off the foliage over the plant.

Aerial Roots Help Plants ‘Breathe’

Aerial roots be crucial in helping species adapt to life in swamps, marshes and ravines, coastal swamps and other wetland.

Their roots in the ground are sunk into muddy water or soil which is deficient or lacks oxygen.

Since they are unable to take in oxygen through their roots on the ground, they require aerial roots to complete the job.

In other words, they serve the role that allows air to exchange. The aerial roots of pothos are well-equipped for this, particularly when they are potted in a mix that is not well-drained.

Aerial Roots can help with Propagation

Apart from providing anchoring support, absorption of nutrients and breathing aerial roots can also be quite valuable in the process of propagation.

It’s a crucial function they play in plants such as pothos. Cuttings that have aerial roots increases their longevity dramatically.

This is because aerial roots are extremely likely to continue to grow in soil or in water. This is why they make the process of propagation easier, more practical and faster.

They aid the plant in absorbing the essential nutrients, moisture and minerals it requires to develop new stems, roots, offsets, and leaves.

Identifying and Evaluating Causative Factors

Pothos is a tough vine that is epiphytes in its native environments in South Pacific areas like the Solomon Islands.

In the same way the pothos naturally release the stems nodes with air, primarily to climb and anchor to other plants to provide structural support. They also aid in getting nutrients as well as water.

The roots of pothos that are aerial usually appear as fleshy, thick nubs. It is common to see one air root that protrudes from nodes and interodes on the vine stems.

While harmless the aerial roots can be unattractive to the eye.

It is important to remember that there’s plenty of debate about the causes in the aerial root system on pothos.

It is interesting to note that they could be found on certain pothos plants, but not on other pothos.

In that regard Here are some important causal factors to be aware of:

High Humidity

While it is native to humid rainforests, pothos is very tolerant of all kinds of moisture.

It is evident that high humidity appears to encourage the development of the aerial root on the longer stems that grow from pothos.

Pothos appear to grow more aerial roots to benefit from the moist conditions. They’re trying to extract as much moisture from the air as they can.

If the pothos is kept in a greenhouse, bathroom or terrarium, that is likely the reason it’s growing its aerial roots.

Inappropriate Lighting

Alongside high humidity, light levels are another reason that aids in the development in aerial root growth on pothos.

It could represent an adaptive reaction to try to get higher up, where it will likely receive more light.

Naturally, other signs of light deficiency include growth that is leggy or floppy growth, as well as stretching growth.

In reality, the majority of aerial roots of pothos grow on stems that have longer internodes. The leaves can be stunted, appear to turn yellow or lose their variegations.

Slow or unbalanced growth is another indicator that your pothos isn’t receiving enough sunlight.

It is recommended to move your pothos into an area with a lot of light in which they can enjoy indirect or filtered natural light. As time passes, the plant will prosper and gain its variety.

Too High Temperatures

Pothos thrives best when it is in optimal temperatures that range from 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (21-32degC). Temperatures lower than 70degF (21degC) are likely to stress your plant.

The pothos in your garden will express displeasure when temperatures fall lower than 55°F (12degC) by wiping, drooping and dropping leaves.

However the exposure to temperatures that exceed 90degF (32degC) can hinder the development that your plants will experience.

In addition, stress that is caused by extreme temperatures and heat can trigger pothos to grow new roots that are both aerial and terrestrial.

This can be observed when the pothos is exposed to a humid and hot environment. The extreme heat appears to be very beneficial for the growth of aerial roots. (Source: University of Florida)

Water Supply Problems

A lot or not enough water is at the top of the list of things that could impact the pothos. The overwatering can be particularly dangerous, as it can suffocate the roots and leading to root decay.

If your roots are damaged, the pothos is likely to react by creating more aerial roots to make up for the loss of roots below the surface of the soil.

As long as your pothos is on soil that is wet, greater damage can cause.

In addition to sprouting additional air roots, pothos that have been overwatered will exhibit indications of browning, yellowing and dropping.

The leaves can be brittle, black and then disappear. Insufficient water however can stress your plant , causing slow growth.

Additionally, it causes roots to be unable to absorb water minerals, nutrients, and other elements which can affect the health of your plant. It can also trigger or increase the negative effects of salt accumulation from fertilizers.

The negative effects of submerging don’t only strain your pothos.

They can also encourage your plant to grow aerial roots in order to obtain more nutrients and water above the soil.

Nutrients are In Short Supply

The majority of problems that affect the pothos plant result from temperatures, watering, or light issues.

Sometimes, your pothos could develop aerial roots and show indications of unhealthy growth because of the lack of nutrients.

A deficiency in nitrogen, for example is evident in the form of the leaves turning yellow and loss of variegation and the distortion of stems and leaves.

In terms about distortions, appearance of new aerial roots could be an induced growth. Pothos is trying to discover ways to obtain more nutrients.

A deficiency in molybdenum, zinc, calcium and manganese can cause stems to become loose and distorted. They also cause stems to become slimy.

The roots of the aerial will likely appear in conjunction with thin leaves and the interveinal yellowing of the new growth.

Traumatic Incidents

If you’re really keen you’ll see that aerial roots usually originate from places that have been damaged or injured.

It could be because of physical or cold injuries or any other trauma-related incident. These roots on the aerial are, by themselves, not harmful to the pothos.

However, the roots that are aerial could be a sign of stress, or indicate that your pothos may have suffered injuries or damage over the last few days or weeks.

Perhaps the roots were damaged by fertilizer that is too high. Perhaps you’ve accidentally smashed the stems.

How Do You Get Rid Of Aerial Roots On Pothos?

As I’ve said numerous times, aerial roots aren’t necessarily detrimental to your plant. However they can look ugly and can affect the aesthetic value of your house plant.

There are solutions to deal with these issues.

Put them into the soil

The nodes should be buried to contain the roots. This is the simplest and most likely method to eliminate roots that grow in the air (if they’re not looking nice over in the dirt).

These roots will not only continue to develop and expand, but they’ll also fulfill the same purpose as normal roots, i.e. they’ll begin to absorb nutrients and water out of the soil.

Trim Off the Aerial Roots

If you notice the roots of an aerial plant that are ugly in your pothos it’s great and wonderful. Use a sterilized pair cutting shears, scissors, or a sharp knife, and trim the roots away.

This won’t hurt the pothos, but it could actually encourage healthier, more lush development of the foliage.

Be sure to cut your aerial roots in the closest place to where you can. Don’t be shocked if the aerial roots grow back after you cut them, however.

Therefore, it’s ideal to correct the issue which is causing them to expand in the first place , by giving them indirect, bright light and avoiding exposure to high or hot temperatures, and ensuring that you water your pothos in a timely manner.


It is not necessary to dispose of the roots that you cut out of your pothos. They could serve a useful function in propagation.

  1. Take a few stems and ensure that each one is at least a root node and aerial roots, and 3-4 leaves on top.
  2. Sterilize the cutting instrument each time you cut the stems in order to stop the transmission of pathogens.
  3. Pothos is toxic (has an ingredient known as calcium Oxalate) So, make sure that you handle it with a pair of gloves. Also, clean your hands after handling the pothos.
  4. The stem cuttings should be rooted in soil (you could use vermiculite in place) or in water. The soil must be evenly moist. Keep them away from direct sunlight. It takes about 3-4 weeks for propagated pothos cuttings to grow enough roots in the water.
  5. When new roots have sprouted and your pothos is planted, you can plant it in a clean, sterilized pothos.

Can You Propagate Pothos From Aerial Roots?

You can’t grow pothos by aerial roots alone. It is helpful to root a stem cutting that has a node, leaves, as well as an aerial roots in soil or water.

Aerial roots, by their own right, lack the special cells and genetics required to create a new plant.

Why Are Pothos Aerial Roots Drying Out?

The roots of your pothos could dry out due to the extreme humidity deficiency exposure to direct sunlight, cold injuries, hot drafts and submerging.

It is possible to correct this issue by misting the roots with a humidifier, or placing your plant in an uninspiring tray of water with pebbles.



Went from a bad gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)