Monstera deliciosa goes by the name ‘Swiss cheese plant’ for its big gaps and splits in the leaves. It’s also known as the ‘Elephant Ear Plant’ and the ‘Fruit Salad Plant.’
Yet, no matter what you call it, it’s inarguably one of the most popular indoor plant species to ever exist! It’s become almost a fashion icon thanks to its ability to convert any space into a thriving tropical oasis in an instant!
Scroll down to find out everything there is to know about the monstera plant and how to keep yours happy.
Easily recognizable thanks to their oversized leaves, monstera plants, also called ‘split leaf philodendrons’ are native to many regions of Central America, especially the rain forests in Panama and Mexico.
In their natural habitat, these jungle dwellers tend to grow in the shade of taller trees. As they mature, they reach upwards and head toward the canopy of foliage overhead.
While this may be difficult to replicate indoors, you can still provide your monsteras with a similar growing environment.
One way you can allow your plants to ascend vertically and climb to their heart’s content is by placing moss sticks, wooden boards, a trellis, or stakes in the pot. These will do a fantastic job of providing the plant with a stable surface to help guide it as it grows and climbs upward.
Let’s start by talking a bit about the name. ‘Deliciosa’ is Spanish for delicious, and it gets this name because, in its natural habitat, the plant bears fruit that resembles a pineapple.
‘Fenestration’ refers to the development of ridges, holes, and gaps found on mature monstera leaves.
There are dozens of known recognized monstera varieties. Yet, the two most common houseplants belonging to this tropical split-leaf philodendron are Monstera deliciosa and Monstera deliciosa variegata.
While almost all monsteras have those unique-shaped slits in their broad leaves, the monstera Deliciosa Fenestration is the most recognizable.
Experts believe these holes help maximize the amount of sunflecks captured by the plant as it grows on the forest floor.
As a result, this unique characteristic allows the plant to increase the spread of the leaves, while decreasing the overall leaf mass that the stem has to support.
Yet, as houseplants, young monsteras start out having fully formed heart-shaped green leaves. Then, they’ll usually begin to fenestrate or show holes when they’re about three feet tall.
The variegated monstera deliciosa cultivar is super rare and highly coveted. It also features those renowned holes in the leaves like the monstera deliciosa fenestration cultivars.
Yet, the main difference is that the variegated variety has yellow, cream, or pure white coloring that gives the foliage a mottled look. This phenomenon is due to a lack of green pigmentation in many of the plant cells, which appear as multi-colored specks or patterns in the variegation.
The leaves are also not as broad or large as other monsteras. They’re also more challenging to find and more expensive than their fenestration counterparts.
Because they’re native to the tropics, monsteras can be a bit tough to care for in colder climates. Nevertheless, with some know-how and a lot of care and attention, these easy-going plants will do just fine almost anywhere you place them.
The most impressive part is that monsteras are great at expressing their emotions. If they’re happy, their leaves will appear glossy, bright green, and have an upright growth pattern.
Plus, they’ll continue to produce new leaves during their growing season.
Therefore, to help you keep your monsteras happy and thriving, check out our in-depth care guide below.
Since monsteras are familiar with tropical weather, they don’t mind a bit of sun. Yet, avoid letting them sit in the heat for too long or the leaves will begin to dry up and wilt.
Yet, the alternative of keeping them in low-lit conditions can be just as problematic.
While these hardy plants can tolerate low light conditions, you might notice some leggy growth, which is an obvious sign that the plant isn’t getting enough light. As a result, it’ll start growing long stems with fewer and fewer leaves.
To ensure your monsteras are getting the right amount of light, place them somewhere with plenty of medium to bright light, but it has to be indirect for the most part.
An excellent place for them would be near an east or north-facing window. They’re known to get more of that soft, pleasant morning light as opposed to west and south-facing windows that receive more of the harsh, glaring afternoon sun.
This way, they can spend anywhere from 6–8 hours enjoying their bright, indirect light without any worries.
Wherever you place your monsteras, always rotate the pot regularly. This boosts the leaves’ ability to photosynthesize and ensures even growth on all sides of the plant.
Monsteras feel most comfortable in temperatures that range between 65℉ to 80℉.
One thing people often forget is keeping their monsteras away from drafty airways. These plants may be hardy, but they’re also quite sensitive to sudden changes in temperature.
Thus, it’s better to keep them away from doorways or windows that let in strong drafts of wind, especially when temperatures drop during winter.
Most monstera plants will do just fine in the basic humidity levels of your home. Yet, keep in mind that the higher the humidity, the broader the leaves.
So, you can always encourage leaf growth to increase the plant’s humidity levels. One way to do that is by placing a medium-sized humidifier near the plant.
You can also add a pebble tray underneath the pot. This low-tech, no-fuss addition will do a great job of providing your monstera with the humidity levels it needs to thrive and grow.
As is the case with many tropical plants, monsteras can handle infrequent watering. Before you water the plant, always make sure you assess the level of moisture in the soil first.
Yet, this is something you can’t do just by looking at the base of the plant. The quickest way is to use a soil moisture meter.
All you need to do is gently insert the end of the probe into the soil about four-fifths of the way in. Wait anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds as indicated in the user manual. Then, look at the display to get your reading.
If you’re looking for a low-tech solution, you can poke your finger about an inch into the soil to determine whether it’s wet to the touch or not.
If it feels dry to the touch, add just enough water to cover the soil and the base of the plant. The rule of thumb is that most monsteras need to be watered once a week during the hot months, whereas in the colder months, they’ll only need watering every 10–14 days.
If it’s still moist underneath that top layer, refrain from watering. Instead, it’s better to wait a couple of more days before checking again.
Another thing you should avoid is getting water on the leaves as it makes them susceptible to pests and diseases. If you want to clean the foliage, use a dry clean cloth to remove any dust or debris.
These plants are categorized as ‘epiphytes’ or ‘air plants,’ which means they have aerial roots that are quite hardy and tolerant of most living conditions.
Although, if there’s one thing that monsteras are adamant about, it’s the condition of their growing medium. They only do well when placed in loose, well-draining, well-aerated soil.
You can find soil specifically made for monsteras in gardening stores and online stores.
Or, you can make your own batch of monstera soil at home. All you need are three ingredients: perlite, coconut fibers or activated charcoal, and orchid bark.
You can also mix in some sphagnum moss too for good measure.
Give them a good stir and add them to your container. This combination guarantees that your monsteras will grow in a soil mix that’s rich in minerals and nutrients but can also retain moisture without becoming too soggy.
It also has ideal soil acidity levels of pH 5.5–7, exactly how monsteras like it.
However fertile the soil may be, you still need to replace it once every 2–3 years so that your plants keep getting their fill of fresh, nutrient-rich soil.
Since monsteras are typically slow growers, you can help boost their development in the warmer months by adding some well-balanced, slow-release 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer.
Make a mixture of 1 part fertilizer and 3 parts water. Then, feed your plants once a month until early September.
When applying the fertilizer, always make sure you add it to moist soil. Putting fertilizer on dry soil can damage the base of the plant and even burn the roots.
Like many large household floor plants, we recommend repotting your monstera once every couple of years.
Only repot when the weather is warm, and the plant is in its growing season. Never repot during the winter months when the plant is dormant.
First, get the right-sized pot, and add a bottom layer of drainage at the base of the container like Aeration Stones, pebbles, or rocks.
This layer makes it easier for the roots to access the oxygen stored via the air pockets within the type of drainage medium you’ve chosen.
Think of pruning plants like getting a haircut every few months. It clears the way for new, healthy growth while eliminating any signs of decaying bits.
Pruning monsteras also ensures that the plant looks well-kept, trimmed, and neat.
The most appropriate time to prune your plants is one time per growing season, which starts in early spring and lasts until late summer.
Because monsteras are typically broad-leafed, they tend to become top-heavy, particularly when they start to climb. For this reason, staking has become an invaluable part of their care and maintenance.
The plant’s aerial roots latch onto these climbing structures to help them grow vertically.
In the wild, they used to turn to large trees for support. So, to help mimic that same sense of security, we use stakes, climbing poles, or any other type of structure.
Stakes reduce the risk of the leaves snapping off or the stems flopping due to the heavy weight of the leaves. They also ensure the plant retains its natural shape and continues to grow.
Luckily, monsteras are easy to propagate thanks to their distinct nodes and their aerial roots.
To propagate stem cuttings, find a section of the stem that has at least two nodes from which new growth will develop. It should also have a couple of strong, healthy leaves.
Then, cut the stem about two inches below the lower node using garden shears or a gardening knife.
Next, place them either in water or directly in moist soil.
The good news is that monsteras are pretty resistant to pests and diseases. Yet, if they ever become afflicted with an infection or infestation, here’s what you should do.
Monstera occasionally attracts pests, such as thrips or mealybugs. Luckily, both can be removed with insecticidal soaps or natural pesticides.
Remember that early detection is critical. So, keep an eye out for any pesky pests so you can handle the problem quickly and effectively.
Monsteras are super sensitive to overwatering. If you notice a combination of brown and yellow spots on the same leaf, this is a sure sign of overwatering.
Overwatering doesn’t just cause discolorations on the foliage, it can put the whole plant’s health at risk, mainly by making it defenseless against root rot.
This is when a pathogen, like fungus or mold, affects the roots, causing them to deteriorate and die. While healthy roots are typically white and sturdy, root rot makes them flimsy, soft, and weak.
Other signs of overwatering include soil that gives off a putrid smell and drooping leaves.
Check out some commonly asked questions to boost your knowledge of the stunning monstera plant.
Yes, this plant is mildly toxic to humans and pets if ingested.
The sap contains high levels of calcium oxalate crystals. When consumed, these salt compounds become absorbed into the mouth, throat, and GI tract, causing severe inflammation, pain, and swelling.
The most effective way to manage a growing monstera is to prune it. They’re generally very hardy and adapt quickly to whatever is thrown their way.
So, they can easily handle a good trim every couple of years. Another option is to encourage your plants to grow whichever way you want. Simply add stakes or ties to the pot, gently attach the stems and let your climbing plants do what they do best!
Monsteras will usually start forming splits, or fenestrating, when they reach about three feet tall. Younger, less mature plants will have fully formed leaves with no holes or gaps.
So, if your monstera has matured and you’re still not seeing any slits or holes, this could be caused by several factors. The most obvious is that the plant’s environment isn’t to its liking.
Start by checking the amount of light it’s getting, humidity levels, and the level of moisture in the soil.
It’s completely normal for any monstera to have brown growths. Known as aerial roots, they help the plant climb upward to reach more light, thus enabling it to photosynthesize more efficiently.
Aerial roots also support the plant as a whole by keeping it upright and bolstering it in place.
To ensure your monstera is healthy and happy, pick a porous pot, preferably one made from terra-cotta. It should also be about 2–4 inches larger in diameter than the width of the plant. This should give the roots enough space to spread around freely and absorb as many nutrients and moisture as they can.
A small pot may suffocate the roots and cause them to become root-bound. Consequently, the plant’s growth will come to a grinding halt and, if left unchecked, the plant will start to wilt and eventually die.
Drainage holes are another critical feature.
Some people prefer planters with no drainage because they’re easier to deal with. Plus, they add a more refined aesthetic to the room.
However, experts advise against using them, especially beginners. Having no drainage holes makes it difficult to gauge how much water to add, when to aerate the soil, and prevent root rot.
In other words, drainage holes play a part in making the watering process a bit more straightforward. Then, if you’re choosing a pot with drainage holes, also place a saucer underneath the container to collect the excess water that drains out.
Monstera plants are one of the most beloved and sought-after indoor plants for numerous reasons. The first is that they’re hardy and easy to maintain.
They quickly adapt to various conditions and rarely fall victim to pests or diseases.
This is why they’re often recommended for beginners. Plus, because they add such a tropical charm to any room, expert horticulturists can’t get enough of them either!
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.