Ficus Techniques : 28

Why are roots growing up in the air?

by Jerry Meislik

Carl Rosner, accomplished bonsai grower, fine artist and tropical and indoor bonsai lover writes about his Ficus microcarpa.

"I have a Ficus retusa, which I have had since 2001. It grows like crazy, and I repotted it April 22, 2009. I now find roots growing through the soil, and I have had to direct them back into the soil as they seem to want to grow over the edge of the pot. Should I just cut them off where they come through the soil, or is this tree telling me it is time to repot again???"


Photo 1. Soil surface with new whitish roots crawling across the soil surface and even into the air.


Photo 2. Another view of the young, new roots edging towards the pot's rim.


Ficus do have some incredible powers! They can drop roots from their branches and or trunks to form aerial roots that will reach down to the soil surface, eventually forming secondary pillar roots that can look like accessory trunks.

Another interesting property of figs is the growth of roots out of the soil and then growing into the air or across the surface of the soil. These new roots can anchor themselves back into the soil or if the atmosphere is dry they will dry up and die.

My experience is that these roots form on injured roots, as occurs after transplanting a bonsai. From these injured roots new roots will form and if the atmospheric humidity remains high they will grow up and even out of the soil. Ultimately they will seek to go downward and root themselves back into the soil or if the humidity drops they will shrivel and die.

In any case, these roots can be cut off without any repercussions to the plant.

Carl, sends another three photos to illustrate new root growth from a removed surface root.

Photo 3. A crossing root moves over the base of this F. salicaria.


Photo 4. Crossing root is removed.


Photo 5. New pink roots growing out of edges of the cut. Some growing up and some down to the soil.


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