Why are there roots growing out of the top of my orchid plant? And why do they look dead?
Roots that grow above the surface of an orchid are called aerial roots and are not super attractive (in my opinion). They can look whitish grey and never seem to look super green like the roots that are buried.
It is easy to think they are dead or something is wrong with your orchid but this is just how they look. They are normal and healthy. In nature an orchid tries to grab onto the trees and shrubs around it – this is why they grow that way. Aerial roots also help with photosynthesis and they absorb moisture from the air. This helps the orchid produce healthy leaves, roots and blooms. For this reason they should NOT be cut off.
Note: it’s easy to confuse an aerial root with a spike. Please click on my post titled “Root and Spike difference.”
Burying aerial roots:
A ton of aerial roots is one sign that your orchids need to be repotted. Especially when they are super overgrown as shown in the pictures above. When orchids are this overgrown you should be able to bury some of them when you repot your orchid.
NOTE: You may not be able to bury all of them some of mine are growing in between leaves and those I leave alone. Shown below…
Back to burying the other ones: When you do this you have to be extra careful not to break them off because they can be quite brittle.
When I go to repot and I need to bury aerial roots I soak the entire orchid in a bucket of water for a bit and the roots become a little more malleable so you can bury them. If you just force them then they WILL break off. And even though aerial roots can be ugly they still provide energy and sustenance to the orchid so I like to keep them. Once the roots are little more malleable you can gently guide them down into the pot and cover them with bark or moss. If one or two break then it’s not the end of the world.
Hope that Helps,
Feel free to leave comments or questions here and you can always email me at email@example.com with pictures of your orchid.