The term leggy or spindly are slang terms used by experienced gardeners that know the growing symptoms they are describing. For the inexperienced grower, terms like leggy, spindly, straggly, don’t do much good. What does is knowing the exact reason for the thin growth.
The technical term for a leggy Monstera is etiolation. It is normal and it not solely a condition that effects the Monstera plant. The leggy stem that you see is what happens to plants without sunlight to stimulate photosynthesis.
Along with the leggy growth, or etiolation in a Monstera, other signs will be notable.
The leaves are going to be much smaller, most will be paler green, some of the leaves yellow, and if you look at the space between each leaf on the plant, there will be longer internodes.
That is the plant’s response to insufficient light. It needs to seek more sunlight out for chlorophyll production, which in turn, stimulates photosynthesis.
To experience the gorgeous beauty of the Monstera plant, a leggy Monstera should be pruned back and the growing conditions rectified.
Whilst it is easy to say that it needs more light, it is not always just insufficient light that causes leggy growth. Other factors could be at play.
As a guide, remember that if the plant needs to stretch toward a light source, it is struggling to photosynthesize. It will rely on getting sunlight because on its own, that is all it can do to self-heal.
On occasion, you need to step in and sort out other growing conditions that are stunting the plants growth.
Other Factors that Contribute to Etiolation in Monstera Plants
The leaves on Monstera plants can be large. They will attract dust and that can block some of the sunlight. Therefore, even if you do have a plant in the perfect spot to receive indirect sunlight for the majority of the day, it still may not receive adequate light resulting in leggy growth.
If you feel you have the plant in an ideal location (east-facing window, or close to a south facing window), give the leaves a wipe down with a damp cloth, or use chemical-free plant wipes.
A Monstera turning yellow can be caused by clogged pores that block the ability to photosynthesize. To rectify that, cleaning the leaves is the simplest fix.
Always only use a soft damp cloth to clean Monstera leaves. Forget about using any chemical products such as wipes that claim to promote shininess like leaf polish type of thing.
Those usually backfire by clogging the pores, exasperating the problem. Stick with a soft damp cloth and tepid water.
Applying Too Much Fertilizer Stunts Growth Causing Legginess
The problem with a high concentration of nitrogen in the potting mix for Monstera plants is that it promotes an excess of chlorophyll production. That is the green pigment in plants responsible for absorbing sunlight.
The more sunlight the plant receives, the faster photosynthesis happens. That is when you see fast growth.
You would think that would be a good thing. It is not. When you grow a Monstera plant too fast by over feeding it on fertilizer, the result is weak and leggy growth.
When you have so many small leaves crowding together and more fertilizer continuing to be added, all you’ll see is an excess of foliage growth. It is better to grow less leaves on a Monstera plant and then focus on increasing the leaf size to fill the plant out.
With such a lot of small leaves on the plant, extra fertilizer will only encourage new leaves to emerge and those will always be smaller than their full potential.
The other problem, and the one that causes the most trouble on plants is the root development. With excess foliage on top, the roots will not have grown enough to support the plant.
That can be why leggy Monstera plants are the way they are. The roots can’t support the excessive number of leaves.
If anything stunts root growth, the plant will struggle, and grow thin and straggly trying to search for light, even if it won’t make a difference. If you find your Monstera not growing, it’s likely related to stunted root development.
All plants can do to try to aid self-healing is photosynthesizing. They need the sun (or an alternative light source) for that so they are always going to stretch toward a light source until the growing conditions are corrected.
To get the large waxy leaves with the splits (provided the species you are growing does have the fenestrated leaves), they will never split until they are mature enough and a good size.
Small leaves on Monstera plants will not split. Mature and large ones will. That is why new foliage growth at the base of the plant may as well be removed.
If you do feel you’ve fed your plant too much fertilizer, here’s what to do…
The Fix for a Fertilizer Overdose
Flush the soil/potting mix. Every time you dose the plant with any fertilizer, salts accumulate in the soil. They will linger which deteriorates the mix faster than it should.
If you know that you’ve added too much, such as forgetting or not knowing to dilute the fertilizer before applying, either flush the soil by pouring plenty of water through it and allowing it to drain, or repot the plant in a fresh potting mix.
Another cause of leggy stem growth on Monstera plants is…
The Soil Staying Too Moist for Too Long
Overwatering is severely bad for any plant, let alone a Monstera, which absolutely detests sitting in standing water.
If you feel that you’re not overly watering your plant yet the soil is taking too long to dry, it’s likely because of the lack of light hindering photosynthesis. If the plant cannot convert molecules into food for survival, it’ll have no need for water.
Instead, it’ll do what it can to make its own food. If overly moist soil for too long results in the plant being overwatered, the symptoms will be drastically different than just legginess.
You will have the leggy growth combined with the existing leaves on a Monstera wilting and dying possibly, depending on the extent of damage to the roots from sitting in soggy soil for too long.
Light contributes to the time it takes the soil to dry between waterings. Therefore, a lack of light will mean the roots are sitting in soggy soil for longer than they should be.
Those factors above will cause all of a Monstera plant to grow leggy. It may be that none of those is the problem and you’ll know if it is if your plant is leaning to one side.
A Monstera Plant Growing on One Side Only
For the inexperienced, witnessing a monstera leaning to one side can seem like quite the phenomenon. The explanation and the fix are straightforward.
The cause of the leaning behavior is always the same. The plant sitting idle in the same location with light only hitting one side of the plant.
The result of sunlight hitting only one side of the plant continuously is that the other side is in the shade. The shaded part of the plant will not be able to photosynthesize the same as the side that is receiving sufficient light.
One-sided growth is usually phototropism in action.
Phototropism is the plant shooting its growth towards a light source to stimulate photosynthesis. This is a directional response of plant growth when the entire plant is not receiving adequate light.
In most instances, the side of the Monstera nearest the window will grow fine. The sides of the plant will have shoots sparsely spaced and with smaller leaves. Then on the back where the leaves are more or less continually shaded, the growth will be extremely leggy.
Each week when you water the plant, give it a quarter turn. It lets the entire plant get its fair share of sunlight. If using grow lights, make sure they’re overhead lights and positioned to direct light on the center of the plant.
How to Fix a Leggy Monstera Plant
The fix for a leggy Monstera is to cut it back. Prune the plant. There is a limit to what you can cut though -one third.
How much you need to cut your plant back depends on how long it has been receiving inadequate light.
If the entire plant is etiolated, go easy and limit the pruning to the worst one-third of the plant only. If only some of the stems are leggy, snip off all of them.
As an example: if there are 12 stems growing thin with large spaces between the internodes, take off 4 of them. Then, let it recover, and then remove up to another one third of the plant. It doesn’t matter if you prune it back from one side only, such as would be the case if you only have a lopsided Monstera caused by not rotating it.
Start at the base of the plant where the smallest of the leaves are. Those are the newest and will take longer to grow. Focus your efforts on maintaining the oldest leaves, which are the ones nearest the top of the plant.
Going forward, it is normal to prune a couple of leaves from a Monstera every month. The reason being that less is more on a Monstera. You want less leaves so that the ones that are there, get all the nourishment they need to grow bigger.
The bigger the leaves, the larger the surface area there is for sunlight to be absorbed. The lower leaves are never going to get the same amount of light as the leaves at the top will so there is no point in keeping them. They will only grow leggy, ruining the plant’s appearance.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.