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Orchids Care: Should you cut off the aerial roots when repotting?

If the windowsill orchids suddenly form too many aerial roots that protrude above the edge of the pot, then the question arises: should they be cut off or is it better not to remove them? Especially in January and February, this question about orchid care is very topical. Because now the exotics are repotted. In this article we will tell you what needs to be considered.

Orchids care: Remove the aerial roots or leave them?

Repot or cut off orchid with aerial roots

All orchid owners quickly notice that their orchids form numerous aerial roots. These are grayish to light green in color and often stick out over the edge of the flower pot. Sometimes these roots look like they have dried out.

For many people, this raises the question of how you should deal with it. It is very topical, especially in winter. Because in January, the flowering period of most houseplants comes to an end, and then there is an opportunity to repot the orchids. Should you perhaps also shorten the aerial roots in the process? Or even remove them completely?

What is the function of the aerial roots?

Orchids care when repotting remove aerial roots or not

The aerial roots fulfill important functions. Similar to how the underground roots of other plants absorb nutrients and moisture through the soil, aerial roots can do this through the air. Therefore, under no circumstances should they be shortened or removed, as this will have a negative effect on the plant. It will produce fewer flowers, grow slower and may even die.

Aerial roots are especially important for houseplants. These roots function similarly to those found in nature and are therefore much less likely to rot. Therefore, the “normal” root balls are often covered with special substrate for orchids. Therefore, you can not immediately see when the orchid strongly roots the tub. Then again and again it happens that the root balls rot. In this case, the aerial roots can save the plant, because they still work well.

Why do some orchids form a lot of aerial roots?

How much aerial roots an orchid forms depends first of all on the species and then on the variety. Some orchids form very many aerial roots and others very few.

Orchid care: redirect instead of cut off

For those who are bothered by the sight, at least some aerial roots can be redirected into the container. This is best done when repotting. The root balls are planted in a non-transparent pot with substrate. This pot is then placed in a transparent decorative pot. The aerial roots are directed down into the transparent pot. However, if you choose this option, you should make sure that the aerial roots are not in water. The decorative pot should be completely dry, that is, without standing watering.

When does it make sense to remove the aerial roots?

Repot orchids cut off aerial roots or not

In some cases, however, it may be necessary to cut off the aerial roots after all. This is necessary when they have dried. In this case, you can shorten them or remove them completely. This is best done when repotting . Water, or even better, immerse the orchid in the water until it becomes full. Then it is much easier to remove the roots.

Orchids care: do you need to water the aerial roots?

No, you do not need to water the aerial roots. They take the moisture from the air. The problem arises when the air is very dry. Therefore, the exotics feel best when the humidity is above 40%. Misting the aerial roots occasionally can help with dry air. Alternatively, you can fill the decorative pot with river stones and then moisten them regularly. They will gradually release moisture.

Ensure optimal light conditions

Optimally, aerial roots should be a silvery color when dry and turn bright green when you moisten them. Indirect light is perfect for the orchid. Choose a sunny spot in the room. Direct sunlight, however, can burn the delicate roots. Unlike the root balls, they are not protected by the substrate and can be damaged. In this case, they become brittle and turn brown or black. In this case, pruning is also advisable if you still want to save the plant.

Repot orchids: January and February is the right time.

Cut or not cut aerial roots in orchids


If the aerial roots are too long or the root balls have completely rooted through the substrate, then you should repot the orchid. The best time to do this is after the end of the flowering period or, alternatively, just before the flowering period. For most varieties, that means January to February.

First, carefully loosen the root balls from the substrate and remove them from the pot. Check them for rot and pests. The root balls should be silver and moist to the touch. If some roots feel soggy, soft or brittle, if they are black or brown, cut them off. If the roots are completely gray, then they are too dry.