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What Causes Aerial Root Growth in Jungle Cacti ?
Aerial root growth on Jungle Cacti is primarily caused by low light situations. The plant is deficient of nutrients primarily light and attempts to reach more light by growing aerial roots and will also exhibit skinny stem growth. Aerial roots will emerge from the skinny stem growth looking as if your Epiphyllum or Hylocereus is attempting to grow a beard. Hylocereus (Dragon Fruit) have a stronger tendency to produce some aerial root growth even in adequate light conditions, but should light levels be low enough Epiphyllums will also. Even Schlumbergera can, but the aerial roots of Schlumbergeras (Christmas Cactus) are typically very small and almost go unnoticed. Another cause is low nutrients (no fertilizer) or not enough food. The soil mix is often completely depleted and lacks nutrients-(no food).
(Above shown as example is aerial root growth on Epiphyllum CV 'DRACULA' placed in very low light for a period of approx. 3 months)
How to Cure Aerial Root Growth From Not Enough Light Given
Its easy to cure aerial growth in Epiphyllums, simply give more light. You will also want to cut off any tips with growth simular to whats pictured above. Should aerial growth be left on the plant after given more light it will typically be deformed and actually stop growing. Aerial roots and skinny growth typically has no aerioles or point where normal growth or blooms can emerge so until the tip returns to wider growth with aerioles no new growth or blooms will emerge from these points. Aerial stem growth not removed can go back to normal growth with wider stems making the narrow point of growth an easy breaking point, easily snapped by only the slightest touch or strong wind. Once the tips are cut off regular stem growth will emerge in a few weeks in the warm growing season, or a few weeks longer in winter time-semi dormancy.
Aerial Root Growth Due to Low or Zero Nutrients Available
Although more rare you might even encounter some aerial growth on Epiphyllums that are in ample light conditions, thats the plant letting you know it needs more nutrients. Its not light its lacking but fertilizer (food). Sending up aerial roots are the Epiphyllum plants way of searching for more food (sending out feelers) since it doesnt have legs to walk around looking for it, all it's able to do is put up some weak aerial growth. Aerial roots on Epiphyllums that are in ample light situations are often much smaller than low light and not as long in general as the example pictured above. In fact in low food (low nutrient)situations, instead of aerial roots you may get only skinny stem growth instead. Often Epiphyllum plants needing fertilizer (food) that are getting ample light will also show very poor stem color (yellow green or grey green stems) even in older stem growth thats closer to the base of the Epiphyllum plant and the stems will often be paper thin in thickness, these are signs of a malnurished Epiphyllum plant. Often its best to repot the Epiphyllum into fresh soil mix and recovery is usually very fast from only a few weeks to a month or so in most cases.
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Dragon Fruit unlike Epiphyllum naturally have some aerial root growth even in ample light and nutrient situations. Why? Thats since Dragon Fruit or as most are Hylocereus species or crosses of Hylocereus have evolved to adapt from there native habitat situations. In the jungle they would have to reach the tops of trees for enough light so they naturally have a tendantcy for aerial roots, some varieties more than others. The growth of Hylocereus (Dragon Fruit) can be very long heavy thick stems so some aerial root growth serves not primarily as a search for nutrients but as a means to anchor it's self. This serves as a way for the Dragon Fruit plant to get closer to more light or extend upwards towards more light. Seldom will you see large aerial growth on Dragon Fruit stems that are hanging downward in ample light where no structure is available, or if they are present aerial roots tend to be much smaller in that senario. When Dragon fruit plants attempt to climb a post, structure, wall etc. they may have many large aerial anchor roots to assist in its climb up towards more light. Dragon Fruit will get smaller hairlike aerial roots just like Epiphyllum in low light situations too. Anchor type aerial roots can get very large though and can span several feet and attach themselves firmly to structures. Anchor aerial roots can be anywhere from 1/8" (.25 cm) up to 3/4" (2 cm) in diameter on average. Pictured below is an example of both types of aerial roots that were produced by the Dragon Fruit plant(s) in order to 1)anchor itself 2) Example of low light aerial roots higher up on stems shown to the left. These are now under an eve and in a low light condition and growth has narrowed. Notice how one of the Dragon Fruit stems even manages a U-turn back towards brighter light.
( Pictured above; Examples of aerial root growth on Dragon Fruit plants )
( Pictured above are a few of the blooming Jungle Cacti we offer on the website in a slideshow for your enjoyment.)
With so many Epiphyllum, Dragon Fruit, Schlumbergera and Rhipsalidopsis varieties, several other types of plants and more added every day heres an easy to use search box for your convienance to find the thousands of Jungle Cacti plant varieties on the Mattslandscape.com website
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