Rat Tail Cactus Aerial Roots | 4 Forgotten Facts For You |

You could spot your rat tail cactus aerial roots when they lack something. It could be water on most occasions.

Apart from that they form aerial roots to absorb water from the air particularly if the plant is in a humid environment. 

Aerial roots do not form in the soil just as the name defines. You could spot them forming above the soil surface directing towards the air.

It could be frequently spotted when those plants are in a humid environment  since they would tend to produce aerial roots and absorb water from the air using those. 

Therefore, it is vital that you water these rat tail cactus properly, so that these cacti would not form aerial roots and look for water.

When they form aerial roots, they want to indicate that you are not fulfilling its water requirement 

In addition to absorbing moisture from the air, sometimes these plants will form aerial roots to stay stable in soil.

So, let’s find out more details as to why the rat tail cactus from aerial roots and whether it is good or bad for the cactus.

Rat Tail Cactus Aerial Roots

Do all cacti grow aerial roots?

Not all the cacti grow aerial roots. There is only certain cactus which would form aerial roots.

Having said that, if you water them properly, they will not make aerial roots too. However, rat tail cactus aerial roots would be soft to the touch and  slender too.

In terms of the colors of the aerial roots, they would start out from colors such as pink to purple. When they mature, colors would turn from pink, purple to white as they tend to fade. Ultimately they would turn brown and shrivel up.

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Are aerial roots bad?

Aerial roots are not bad. They only try to indicate that you are not fulfilling its requirements in  watering.  In addition to that, they would form aerial roots due to etiolation as well.

Once they form more aerial roots, that would give these plants a bushy appearance and it will make the cactus look ugly. 

As aforesaid, aerial roots are a root type which would grow on the stem reaching towards the air while forming above the soil surface.

These succulents would form aerial roots and the reasons to develop the aerial roots are as follows.

Aerial roots could absorb water from the air

This is something which could commonly happen especially if you have grown these plants in high humidity places.

Once they form aerial roots, they can absorb water from the air and not from the soil. However, they cannot absorb water from air as fast as they do from the regular soil.

In addition to that, once those aerial roots get older in age, water absorbing pace would be even less.

The reason for that is, their root hairs tend to drop or could perish once the plant gets older. That makes them slower in absorbing  moisture from the air.

Nutrient from air

In addition to water and moisture, they could also absorb the nutrients from the air too. Having said that, it is very rare that they can absorb the essential and usable nutrients from the air as they cannot absorb them in the form of gas.

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The only possible way of absorbing the nutrients would be absorbing those from the water soluble forms. However, those will also be in very insignificant quantities.

Rat Tail Cactus Aerial Roots 2 1

Structural support

They could further provide some structural support for these plants too. consider that your plant is running out of adequate sunlight.

As a result of that, they tend to stretch out and bend towards a direction where they can absorb sunlight. You could call this process Etiolation.

Once these plants become etiolated , it will give an unstable position to the plant.  In this circumstance, aerial roots would be helpful since those would be beneficial in giving a stable position for the plant.

Moreover, rat tail cactus could grow aerial roots due to their natural growth pattern too. As such you need to figure out as to why the rat tail cactus from aerial roots.

Should I cut cactus aerial roots?

You should remove the aerial roots of rat tail cactus as they would make the plant look ugly once those roots get older.

On the other hand, you do not have to worry about them, as  it is kind of attractive to watch them grow  also.

However, if you wish to trim them off, you could use equipment such as trimmers, fingernail clippers etc. for this purpose, however, make sure that they are all clean and sterilized.

If the aerial roots are too old, you could scrape them while using a credit card. This is an easy way to get rid of them as they could fall off very easily.

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Do cactus aerial roots go away?

Cactus aerial roots would go away as the time passes. Having said that, you could also trim them if you do not wish to have them.


As you may understand, aerial roots are not bad, and they only need to indicate that they are lacking something, and you need to fulfill those needs.  It could be due to their natural growth pattern as well. 

However it is vital that you identify first as to why they form aerial roots and then attend to them.

Credit to A World on a Leaf
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About author

I’m Dr. Chamika, As a hobby love talking about plants and showing you that taking care of indoor plants. My website is knowledge I’ve learned over the years and continue to learn about growing succulents. If you’re a succulent lover, then you have come to the correct place.