Are orchid roots supposed to be exposed, is the first thought of any inexperienced orchid grower whenever the plant produces aerial roots or the ground roots come out of the potting medium.Are Orchid Roots Supposed To Be

If the roots are aerial, then it is natural for them to be exposed to air, but the ground roots should stay under. We have prepared this guide to explore details on this topic.

Are Orchid Roots Supposed To Be Exposed or Not?

Yes, the orchid roots of orchids should be exposed to air, while the potted roots should stay within the potting medium. The plant will benefit if these orchid roots types stay where they are supposed to and perform their respective functions.

Thousands of orchid species have aerial roots, so you can see them on epiphytes, lithophytes, and some other orchids. They emerge from the stem and droop down. Some can also form from the junction of leaves.

The aerial roots then wrap around the structure the orchid is being grown on. To elaborate further, the exposed roots of epiphytes, like Phalaenopsis orchids, encircle the trunk or tree bark in the wild. It is a defense mechanism of orchid tendrils in which these roots ensure the plant stays stable on the tree.

Aerial roots are common in indoor gardening too. They should also be exposed to air indoors. Sometimes, the potted roots come outside the potting medium too. Ground roots growing outside the pot are generally a good sign. It means the orchid and its roots are healthy.

But potted roots shouldn’t be exposed to surroundings, and that is why you should repot the orchid to a bigger container and ensure these roots get tucked inside. If you are wondering what to do with orchid air roots, you should leave the air roots and let them perform their function. Inexperienced gardeners usually cut or tie them. It is not recommended because these roots can help the orchid plant grow.

What Is the Role of Exposed Orchid Air Roots?

The role of exposed orchid air roots are to absorb water and nutrients, just like regular ground roots. They have velamen, which traps any atmospheric moisture and minerals. In addition, these roots also act as an anchorage and a site of gaseous exchange, ensuring the orchid continues growing.

– Water Absorption

The primary function of aerial roots is to absorb water from the surroundings. We know there is moisture in the air, which we call humidity levels. The exposed roots have velamen, which traps moisture. Orchids then uptake the water and use it to grow; this way, it will have the right amount of humidity to keep thriving.

– Nutrient Uptake

The hanging roots also absorb the minerals from the surroundings. In the wild, these roots uptake the minerals from dust and rainwater. It is less likely to happen in indoor gardening as no dust or rainwater falls on the naked roots. On the other hand, you can mist fertilizer spray on them for quick growth and the proper way to see it develop.

– Anchorage

Above-ground roots also support the orchids in maintaining their shape and position. In the wild, they wrap themselves on the tree trunk and ensure the plant stays safe and does not fall off. They do the same if you mount the orchid on the wall and tree, and they would give it the right type of stability.

– Gas Exchange

Orchid aerial roots have pneumatodes that are responsible for gaseous exchanges. These processes reduce the orchids’ oxidative stress and allow them to grow quickly. This function also ensures all cellular activities take place smoothly. That is why maintaining the health of hanging roots is crucial.

How To Take Care of Orchid’s Exposed Roots?

To take care of the orchid’s exposed roots, ensure they don’t stay dry for long. You should also protect them from sun rays and maintain humidity levels around them. Furthermore, trimming, untangling, repotting, and keeping a check on insects are also other critical care measures.

– Don’t Let Them Stay Dry for Long

Hanging roots are exposed to heat and environmental stresses. As this happens, you will see how and the way they dry out quicker than ground roots. Therefore, you should check them regularly by softly touching or brushing your fingers.Dry Roots in Orchids

However, you should prioritize potted roots more before watering. You should check the potting mix even if the exposed roots have gone dry. If it has moisture, then hold on to the watering. It is because misting the hanging roots when the growing mix is still wet can invite fungal diseases like root rot if the amount of water is excessive and rich.

You can mist them when the potting medium dries out with exposed roots. We recommend you use a humidity gauge when you do this. It is because inexperienced gardeners usually spray lots of water, increasing humidity levels around the naked roots. These levels should be near 50 percent.

This is the key reason to be aware of, when you are misting, and the humidity reaches 50 percent, stop immediately and let the moisture level go down. The chances of fungal diseases will increase if you don’t follow our suggestion.

– Provide Protection From Direct Sunlight

Growing orchids with hanging roots need extra attention, especially regarding the sun. You should never expose them to direct sun rays because they can cause sunburn or scorching. In this condition, you will see big discoloring spots all over the roots and the other orchid parts.

In addition, such roots also become dehydrated faster than expected. Therefore, always keep your orchids in those spots where indirect light falls. You can use a light measuring instrument near the roots to determine the light is suitability.

– Balance Humidity Levels

Orchids grown in both high and low-humid areas have weaker roots. Therefore, keeping the moisture level above 40 and below 70 percent is crucial. As mentioned above, use a humidity gauge to know the moisture levels near the hanging roots.Orchids Humidity Levels

If the humidity is low near the hanging roots, you should be mindful that you sufficiently mist it the right way. You must also put the orchid on a humidity tray if the amount of humidity is low in the location where you have set it, or you can place a humidifier.

If the humidity is more than 70 percent near the naked roots, you must be aware that you should keep distance between the pots. You should also use a dehumidifier so that it would function to lower it, and lastly, ensure that it is the proper amount of ventilation.

– Trim When They Get Sick

We suggest orchid growers regularly inspect the plant and cut unhealthy orchid roots. Chances are such roots might be infected and can cause disease spread. Furthermore, sick roots are of no use and, therefore, should be trimmed immediately.

In addition, prune the overly grown roots that would start to look hanging. They are difficult to handle, so trimming them becomes crucial, for this you must also, removing a few will make no difference if the orchid has many roots.

Moreover, cut dead orchid roots too. Just like sick ones, they are of no benefit. But how to tell if orchid roots are dead? The answer is by observing and touching them. If a root looks brown and feels mushy, it is dead, be mindful how a healthy root looks white to green and feels firm when you handle it.

But for the sake of other roots’ health, sterilize the pruning shears with rubbing alcohol first. When removing a sick root, find the top discoloration spot and cut an inch above it. In other cases, prune the root from where it is emerging.

– Untangle Roots When They Cluster

A problem with hanging roots is that they keep tangling. When they cluster, the air circulation will get impacted, which can lead to other issues like unsuitable humidity. You will also need help repotting such an orchid. In addition, tangled roots cannot perform their water and mineral absorption role, which can slow down the orchid’s growth.Untangling Orchid Roots

Therefore, ensure the roots don’t cluster up. You can untangle them with your fingers if the roots are thick. But if they are thin, then use chopsticks. Carefully grab a root and then unknot it slowly. Remember that since thin roots are delicate, using any force will cause them to break off, so this is why you must b cautious.

– Avoid Excessive Handling

You should not disturb the air roots without any reason because they are soft and sensitive. In short, handling them rough can damage them. If this happens, the plant will spend energy making such roots healthy. As a result, blooming and other growth will slow down.

– Keep Checking For Pests

A critical “orchid care” point we recommend to everyone is checking for pests. Although roots are not insects’ primary target, some still like to feast on them. So, getting rid of them quickly will prevent any significant damage.Pests in Orchids

Mealybug is a common orchid pest that likes to eat the hanging roots. It has a silver-waxy appearance, which makes it distinctive from others. In addition, you can see spider mites and scale insects feeding on naked roots. When you spot them, use organic repellents like neem oil or spray commercial insecticides.

– Consider Repotting When the Roots Require More Space

If the ground roots keep rising and exposing themselves to the air, you should re-plant the orchid plant into a bigger pot. If you are wondering how to repot an orchid with air roots, you must get a suitable orchid pot and sterilizing it with rubbing alcohol. Then, you must gadd a top-quality growing mix to the new pot.

Trim the unnecessary aerial roots and leaves, so you should now unpot the plant and remove the growing mix from the ground roots. Soak the roots and trim dead ones, and now you must sterilize the aerial roots using a three percent hydrogen peroxide solution. Put the orchid in the new pot, and now, the potted and hanging roots will start growing smoothly, which will help the orchids bloom radiant flowers.


The orchids will stay healthy when they remain in their suitable places, but sill, you should take care of exposed roots by following these things:

  • Water the hanging roots whenever they and the potting medium get dry.
  • An orchid plant’s aerial roots should be exposed to surroundings while the ground roots should stay under the potting medium. Ensure light and humidity stays ideal near them.
  • Trim the sick, discolored, and dead roots with sterilized pruning shear, and protect from pests, as they love to eat epiphytic roots.
  • Re-plant when you think the pot cannot handle the orchid with exposed roots.

The naked roots will stay healthy when you do these things, ultimately making the orchids happy. Remember- a happy orchid blooms the heaviest flowers. So, pay attention to the roots in the open, and take care of them properly!

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