Aerial roots are a commonly observed phenomenon when nurturing succulents, but discovering roots in unexpected places can be quite surprising for those encountering them for the first time. Have you ever been puzzled by these questions: What are aerial roots? Why are they growing on my succulent? What should I do if my succulent develops aerial roots? Our blog post will cover all these inquiries.
Understanding Aerial Roots
Aerial roots are something that extend from the stems of your plants. They are primarily triggered by changes in the succulent's root system or environment. These roots act as signals, indicating potential issues with the root system or the surrounding conditions, prompting us to inspect them promptly. Typically white or pink, they may seemingly appear suddenly but will gradually turn brown, desiccate, and naturally detach over time. Aerial roots signify that your succulent might face some challenges, but it's not necessarily a negative indication. Next, let's delve into the reasons behind the development of aerial roots in succulent plants.
Why on aerial roots my succulent?
You might have been withholding water from your succulent for an extended period to enhance its vibrant color. During the dormancy period of succulents, especially in winter or summer, many gardeners also withhold water from the succulents. Prolonged lack of watering causes the soil to dry out, preventing the roots from absorbing moisture. As the succulent faces dehydration from the dry soil, it responds by growing aerial roots to absorb water from the surrounding air.
2. Excessive Moisture
Were you aware that succulents can develop aerial roots even in high-humidity environments? This might seem contradictory to the previous point, which stressed soil dryness, but here, we focus on increased air humidity. In spring and summer, the temperature and humidity generally increase, which provides succulents with a warm and humid growing environment. But when the air humidity is greater than the soil moisture, succulents tend to produce aerial roots. However, this demonstrates a positive aspect, highlighting the strong vitality of your succulent. And it's a good sign for reminding you to pay attention to ventilation and watering.
3. Root Issues
When your succulent struggles to adequately absorb or transport water and nutrients, it tends to develop aerial roots at healthy stem regions as an alternative to its original root system. Densely packed succulent plantings, soil compaction with poor soil aeration, inadequate environmental ventilation, and similar factors hinder the root system's respiration, prompting succulents to sprout numerous aerial roots along their stems. Root issues are frequently mistaken for dehydration. If aerial roots persist even after watering, it's highly probable that the plant's root system is compromised. This could be due to root rot or impaired respiration. Further examination, potentially involving uprooting the plant, is necessary to pinpoint the specific issue.
4. Repotting Period
During the repotting phase, some potted succulents may develop aerial roots when new roots haven't yet emerged. In this case, the main root system might not efficiently absorb water, prompting the growth of aerial roots to aid in absorption. This scenario bears a resemblance to the third reason mentioned above. However, following the repotting phase, as new roots emerge, these aerial roots typically regress gradually, and there's usually no cause for concern.
5. Woody Stem
If your succulent has been growing for several years, its stem gradually becomes woody from the bottom upward, eventually becoming a succulent tree. This transformation leads to an inactivated root system, slowing down the succulent's water absorption and transportation. Consequently, the upper healthy growth areas may not receive nutrients as efficiently from the root system. As a result, the plant might develop aerial roots to assist in transporting and supplementing water and nutrients.
How to Treat Aerial Roots?
Aerial roots can easily make people feel confused and panicked. But the good news is, with a little care, it is usually quite easy to put things right again. If you dislike their appearance or if they become excessively abundant and unsightly, you can carefully trim them with scissors or simply pluck them off using tweezers. If you don't find them aesthetically bothersome, there's no need to worry about them and do anything at all. As long as you adequately meet the needs of your succulent, these aerial roots will naturally shed over time. Meeting those needs requires a case-by-case analysis based on specific issues.
First of all, if your succulent lacks water, it's the easiest issue to resolve by simply watering it. However, be cautious not to overwater, as it could harm the succulent. Direct the water into the soil, avoiding the leaves. Employing methods such as bottom soaking is advisable. Water once every seven to ten days during summer. Generally, succulents shouldn't be watered during winter, but if the soil is completely dry and the succulent seems extremely thirsty, then water it lightly. But please pay more attention to providing enough sunlight. 6-hour sun on windowsill can be good.
Second, if your living environment is excessively humid or experiences frequent rainy days, it's advisable to relocate your succulents to a well-ventilated area. This ensures that humidity remains within an optimal range, and it's essential to regularly monitor both the air humidity and the condition of your succulents.
Third, if there's something wrong with the root system, repotting your succulent becomes necessary. Take it out of the old pot, inspect the roots' condition, and trim or prune them to encourage new growth. In severe cases of root decay, you might need to behead the succulent, retaining the healthy portions for propagation. You may wonder: how to propagate succulents by beheading.
Fourth, if the growing environment lacks aeration, you need to identify what's hindering your succulent's respiration. When your succulents are crowdedly planted within one pot, you should transplant some succulents, providing them with more space to thrive. In case of soil compaction, repot the succulents using well-draining soil mix. If room ventilation is poor, relocate them to a windowsill or outdoors. Addressing specific issues is key to resolving the problem.
Fifth, if your succulent is still in the repotting period or has become an aged stump over the years, you can opt for a hands-off approach but just ensuring proper ventilation, slightly moist soil, and temperatures between 59 to 77F. Alternatively, you can behead the succulent tree for stem propagation by cutting off the woody, aged stem until you see green tissue.
The growth of aerial roots in succulents isn't entirely detrimental; to some extent, it signifies healthy plant growth. In fact, it can benefit succulent propagation and structural support. Therefore, there's no necessity for excessive worry; it simply demands a tad more attention than usual. Aerial roots serve as reminders for us to analyze the causes, troubleshoot the issues, and promptly provide a more suitable growth environment for succulents to thrive better.