What Are Adventitious Roots and Did You Know Ferns Have Them? I Didn’t!

by | Sep 7, 2021 | 4 comments

They say you learn something new every day and I’m glad to say that is true and makes life interesting. If we already knew everything, life would be boring. Recently, I was reading about root systems and the word adventitious came up. I read that ferns have them, as do many plants, so I read more to learn what adventitious roots are all about.

What are adventitious roots?

Adventitious roots are roots that do not grow from the radicle. What is a radicle? It is the first thing to emerge from a germinating seed; usually, a root. There is no large root from which fern fronds emerge. Another term for adventitious roots and one you may be more familiar with is a fibrous root system. The roots of a fern often emerge from a rhizome which is not a root but a stem. It is often underground and it does resemble a root.

Footed Ferns

Below is a “footed” fern (Polypodium formosanum) that has its rhizomes above ground. The roots are emerging from the bottom of the rhizome and fronds emergefrom the top. The rhizomes keep creeping along making roots and fronds as they go.  (Learn more about footed ferns here.)

rhizomes of ferns
The green worm fern sends roots out of the bottom of its rhizome
bear's paw fern
This bear’s paw fern rhizome is sending out roots and fronds as it creeps along

Non-creeping ferns

The fern below does not have the ”feet” or rhizomes so the roots grow below the fronds and branch out. As you can see, there is a second plant produced by the first plant from the root system. These ferns also send out stolons that form roots and small plantlets. There is one starting to grow in the bottom right picture. It will reach the surface and may form a new plantlet. So to propagate this plant, you could separate the second plant from the first and pot it up. Or wait for a stolon to appear and make a baby and plant that. Make sure to use a good potting medium for your new plants.

fern stolon
This stolon produced a new baby

Adventitious roots on succulents

Sometimes you can find adventitious roots on succulent stems. See the jade plant below. Usually, their presence means that the plant is under some kind of stress. That could be too little water or the plant has damage. Cut this stem off below the roots and pot it up. First, allow the end to callus over after cutting and before planting it.

adventitious roots
This jade plant is sending out adventitious roots

Orchid Adventitious Roots

Orchids also have adventitious roots which are obvious on this vanda orchid I saw in a tree in Florida. You may be more familiar with the phalaenopsis orchids and their adventitious roots. They are easy to see in the clear plastic pots when you buy them.

I hope you learned something new today. I thought this was an interesting tidbit. Did you know about adventitious roots? Was it a new term to you? Let me know in the comments below.

Have a great week, plant friends!


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  1. Udit Khanna

    Lovely article. The amount of detail you’ve put in the pictures is really helpful. A lot of our customers wonder what those funny furry little things our on our ferns (https://rootbridges.com/collections/ferns). Will share this with them!

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Thanks for your comments. I’m glad I could help.

  2. Rachel Howard

    Thank you for the wonderfully detailed article. I was worried my fern might need a bigger pot because of roots doing their own thing (stretching put of soil over the edge)

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Rachel,
      Thanks. You can pot it up before the “feet” go over the pot if you want to keep them going flat. Once they go over the pot sides, you are definitely stuck with that pot. That has happened to me a couple of times. Lisa


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