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Oh the infamous Monstera deliciosa, also known as the Swiss Cheese Plant, has a super distinctive silhouette with heart-shaped, glossy leaves and a voluminous look.
In this beginner guide of how to grow a Monstera Deliciosa you will learn about this popular housplant which has been a favorite for generations of plant lovers, including;
- how to care for a Monstera Deliciosa,
- how to propagate a monstera,
- common pests of the monstera,
- common diseases of the monstera,
- and frequently asked questions.
We’re serious when we say that it’s almost a plant-and-forget kind of grower.
But when it comes to the growing the Monstera, it’s important to keep a few care tips in mind…check out our pointers for the Swiss Cheese Plant below!
HOW TO GROW A MONSTERA DELICIOSA, A BEGINNER CARE GUIDE
Monstera deliciosa (monstera) is a climbing vine that can be grown in its natural form on a stake or pole.
It is widely available as a popular houseplant at many garden centers and grown as a cluster of multiple vines to create a full shrub-like appearance.
Monstera has dark green leathery foliage with deep lobing, capable of growing up to 36” wide.
Fenestrations (natural holes) form at the leaf mid rib, and radiate out, increasing as leaf size progresses, giving the plant a ‘swiss cheese look’.
Popular cultivars include ‘variegata’, ‘albo variegata’, and ‘Thai constellation’.
Two different species of Monstera are cultivated as houseplants – Monstera deliciosa and Monstera adansonii.
Monstera adansonii is distinguished from M. deliciosa by having longer, tapering leaves, as well as having completely enclosed leaf holes.
Monstera deliciosa leaf holes eventually grow towards the edge and open up as they mature.
You can see the difference in the two species in the photos below.
General care for both are the similar so I will be referring to Monstera deliciosa or Monstera going forward in this post. When there are care difference I will point those out.
|Monstera Deliciosa Specs|
|Scientific Name: Monstera deliciosa|
|Common Names: monstera, ceriman, windowleaf, cut-leaf|
philodendron, swiss-cheese plant, split-leaf philodendron
|Relatives: Numerous species including Monstera lechleriana, M. friedrichsthalii, M. dissecta, and M. pertusa (all|
ornamental houseplants). Numerous Philodendron species
including the common landscape plant P. bipinnatifidum.
|Origin: Monstera is indigenous to the hot, humid, tropical|
forests of Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Panama.
|Distribution: Monstera is grown in tropical and warm|
subtropical areas of the world and in protected culture in
|History: Monstera was introduced to England in 1752,|
Singapore in 1877, and India in 1878. The fruit was introduced to the US in 1874.
|Importance: The plant is grown more for its ornamental|
value both in the landscape and as a containerized plant.
How to Care for Monstera
The Monstera doesn’t require a lot of upkeep, but if you want it to grow above and beyond, bright indirect light and a regular watering schedule is important.
How Much Light Does A Monstera Need
Monsteras prefer lots and lots of bright, indirect light. And while they will survive in lower light areas, in my experience, the brighter, the better growth – as long as you ensure the light is indirect!
Direct sunlight isn’t good for Monsteras, and exposure to that may result in burned or scorched leaves.
Not sure of the difference between direct and indirect light?
If you place your hand between your Monstera and the light and you feel the heat of the sun on your skin, or if the shadow your hand casts has sharp, hard edges, your plant is in direct light, which is just too extreme for Monsteras. If the shadow is soft, that placement has indirect light, and your Monstera are going to be happy there.
I like to place my plants near bright, south-facing windows.
I never place them up against the window, where the tough sun’s rays will fall directly on their foliage, but rather, I keep the plant about 3-4 feet back.
This enables access to bright light but protects the plants from the full-strength of the sun.
When considering the best light for Monsteras, it’s helpful to remember how they grow out in wild.
Monstera’s are vines that start on the forest’s understory and hold close trees and rocks as they plan to climb upward to seek out sunlight.
With this in mind, it’s understandable that their growth is directly tied to the quantity and kind of sun exposure.
Low-light is suitable for these plants, but more light is usually better as they flourish, grow and spread out.
One more quick thing to notice is that Monsteras absorb light through their leaves. A Monstera with tons of dust or build-up on the leaves won’t be ready to photosynthesize as well as a clean plant. For this reason, regular wiping and dusting of your Monstera leaves ensures no particles are hindering this process.
How Much Water Does A Monstera Need
If you’re not sure when to water your Swiss Cheese Plant, check the surrounding soil with your finger, down to about 1 or 2 inches. If the soil is dry here, it’s time to water your tree.
When you do water your Monstera, allow the water to drain completely from the holes at the bottom of your pot.
You should also reduce watering through the winter, when it gets less sunlight, to prevent overwatering.
We also recommend misting your Monstera to keep the humidity up. After all, it’s a rainforest native and does love that little bit of extra moisture!
Can Monster Grow Outdoors?
You can grow a Monstera outdoors in zones 10a-12b, Monstera is native to Mexico and Panama, but is found globally in tropic and subtropical regions.
It lends itself to indoor cultivation and is one of the world’s most common houseplants.
Potting a Mostera
Picking the right pot for your Monstera nearly always comes falls back on personal taste. there’s no perfect planter composition, but there are some things to think about when choosing one.
There are several differing types of pots currently on the market. terra cotta, glazed ceramic, plastic, and concrete are a couple of options.
There also are non-traditional planters just like the ones made out of recycled mugs or dishes. These can all work well for a Monstera as long as they’re the proper size and have proper drainage.
For folks that live in drier areas, plastic or glazed ceramic pot could be a sensible investment. Monsteras like moisture and humidity (not an excessive amount of , though!), and these sorts of planters can help to keep the plant adequately moist.
On the flip side, a terra cotta pot are often great for heavy-handed waterers because terra cotta actually wicks away the surplus water from the soil, an equivalent goes for concrete.
Here are my current favorite pots that would be great options for a monstera plant.
- Ceramic Planter with Drainage Holes, set of 3
- Rustic Stoneware Plant Pot
- Modern Chic Planter with Honeycomb Pattern
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Drainage is way more important than the material you choose. Most planters from nurseries and garden stores will have small holes drilled into the bottom for excess water to empty out. There are often one or several; the quantity doesn’t necessarily matter, as long as the pot drains well when the plant gets watered.
Found a pot you’re keen on that doesn’t have a drainage hole? Drill one yourself! Use an everyday drill bit for plastic and metal pots, a masonry bit for unglazed ceramic, and a tile or glass drill for glazed ceramic. But be careful! an excessive amount of pressure could crack a pot, so be sure to use the right precautions.
When choosing a pot for transplanting, try to not go up over one size. Your new pot should only be 2-3″ wider than the old pot your Monstera is in. The larger the plant, the larger this difference in size may be. Try to not go much larger than one size up, though.
Choosing too large of a pot keeps your Monsteras soil retaining more moisture than it should.
This will easily end in overwatering because the top portion of the soil will feel dry despite the plant not being ready for an additional watering.
Overwatering, done often enough, can cause the plant’s roots developing root rot by encouraging fungus within the soil.
Repotting A Monstera
Repot plants only when roots have reached the bottom and side of the pot, and incrementally increase in pot size. Monstera are much more tolerant of being pot bound than over potted.
If you do want to repot your Monstera, select a container that’s about twice the size of your plant’s shipped container and ensure it has drainage holes.
Use organic soil mix and place your plant in its pot. As it grows, you may need to use a small wooden stake to provide extra support since the Monstera tends to grow pretty full and lush.
How to Propagate a Monstera
Monstera can be propagated from stem cuttings, layering, and cane cutting.
An ideal stem cutting is taken 3-5” below a node, with as many aerial roots present as possible.
Propagation by seed is possible but uncommon as seedlings are slow growing initially and require warm, humid temperatures which are difficult to replicate on a large scale.
Read an in depth guide to propagating monstera here.
Common Pests Of The Monstera
Mealybugs feed by sucking plant sap, which can result in yellowing, stunted growth, and in severe cases plant death.
For management, isolate or discard infested plants. Mealybug can be treated with an insecticidal soap that is registered for houseplant use. Insects can be crushed and removed by hand or wiped off using a Q-tip.
One of the first signs of a spider mite infestation is the presence of webbing that the mites will use to bridge gaps between plant parts.
Mites can be washed off with water or insecticidal soap. Special attention should be paid to the underside of leaves when controlling spider mites.
Soft scale species including brown soft scale and hemispherical scale are very common on house plants.
Symptoms include stunted growth, yellowing, and honeydew leading to sooty mold.
For management, quarantine or discard heavily infested plants. Scale can be treated with horticultural oil or a spray that is registered for houseplant use.
Aphids are small (less than 1/8” long), soft-bodied, pear-shaped insects with long legs and antennae. The color can vary from white, yellow, green, red, brown and black.
On Monstera, new growth is most susceptible because the thick, waxy cuticle of older leaves is less hospitable to aphid damage. Aphids produce large amounts of honeydew resulting in severe sooty mold infestations on leaves.
Aphids can be washed off plants with water, insecticidal soap, or a houseplant insecticide. Additionally, there are many biological control products that are available for aphids including parasitic wasps and lady beetles.
Common Diseases of the Monstera
Bacterial leaf spot
Dark brown spots on leaves with a yellow border. Spots tend to be similar in size, and often exhibit a sticky ooze.
Because bacteria are spread by water, dry environmental conditions help slow disease transmission, but may also cause spots to turn reddish brown.
For management, avoid low temperatures, overcrowding plants, and increase airflow to reduce humidity. Chemicals are not recommended to manage bacterial leaf spot.
Anthracnose (Colletoctrichum spp.)
A fungal disease, symptoms start as chlorosis (yellowing) along leaf edges, which progresses to tan and eventually dark brown.
These symptoms can spread inward and kill whole leaves. Cankers, or large lesions on stems, may appear as well. For management, avoid misting and wounding leaves as this increases the spread of the pathogen.
Root & stem rot
Leaves and stems will show noticeable wilt and flagging. Stems can become girdled at soil level by rotting tissue. Affected roots are brown or black with a soft, mushy texture that is easily pulled away from the plant. Correct watering procedures are essential to maintain a healthy root system.
Drought stress can cause damage to root tissue leaving it vulnerable to disease, though overwatering is more often the cause of these issues in houseplants.
For management, use a well-draining potting media, and ensure plants do not sit in standing water. Adhere to a consistent watering schedule.
Monstera is not commonly grown for its fruit in New England, because specimens grown as houseplants do not typically reach the appropriate size or maturity to flower and produce fruit.
Monstera flowers are white and showy with a calla-like spadix. Fruit is typically 12” or more, with a plated green covering that turns beige and fleshy when ripe.
Fruit is poisonous to humans until completely ripe, which takes approximately one year.
Ripe fruit has an edible flesh with a flavor that is described as a cross between jackfruit (Artocrpus heterophyllus) and pineapple (Ananas comosus).
FAQ About Monstera Deliciosa
Is a Monstera Deliciosa the same as a Split-Leaf Philodendron?
No! This stumped me for a while. The first monstera deliciosa plant I bought was actually labeled as a “split leaf philodendron.”
But the monstera deliciosa is part of the same family (Araceae) as philodendron, they are totally different plants. (Even though monstera deliciosa care and philodendron care are very similar.)
The monstera deliciosa belongs to the monstera genus, while philodendron plants belong to the philodendron genus.
But the two plants are often confused for one another when it comes to naming conventions, probably because the monstera deliciosa does have some similarities in appearance with the lacey tree philodendron (philodendron bipinnatifidum), which also has a split-leaf look. Nevertheless, they are totally different plants.
Continue Reading … IS A MONSTERA DELICIOSA THE SAME AS A SPLIT-LEAF PHILODENDRON?
Why are my monstera plant stems and leaves drooping?
Look at the general health and appearance of the plant. Is the color good? Are there any insects or mites feeding on it that steal food from the plant? Is the light source below the plant, causing the leaves to droop? Are there many stems in the pot, with 1 or 2 of them dying off and wilting?
Although they don’t like drought (they will wilt), their roots can rot in constantly wet soil. Rotting roots can’t absorb water, so, again, the leaves will wilt.
Bright light or some direct sun will dry the soil faster. But don’t place it in direct sun without first getting it used to brighter light. Otherwise, the sun can scorch previously shaded leaves. Remove any water in a saucer that isn’t absorbed within 15 minutes. Sitting in water for a long time decreases air circulation in the soil, and aroids need oxygen in the soil.
A big bushy Monstera can do very well in a 10″ pot for years. Overpotting can cause all sorts of problems, so try to keep it somewhat potbound or rootbound. Roots grow strongly when the plants get good light.
Very bright indirect light, morning sun, or filtered sun in summer will rev up their growth, so you’ll have to water and fertilize (with a high nitrogen product) more often. Spring to mid summer is a good time to repot into a 2″ wider pot, if necessary.
Once it’s in a 10″ or 12″ pot, you probably won’t need anything larger. But do fertilize a few times during the growing season for optimum growth. Many plant owners skip the fertilizing part, but that can make a huge difference.
Why do monstera leaves split?
The perforations help to maximize leaf surface area which in turn helps the plant capture sunlight from the forest floor.
The split also allows water from tropical downpours to more easily pass through the leaves reducing damage to the plant.
How often does my plant need to be repotted?
For larger floor plants, we suggest repotting every 18-24 months. Typically you want to choose a potting vessel 2”- 4” larger in diameter to allow for growth.
I prefer terra cotta pots because they wick moisture away from the roots and that can help prevent root rot. These are some affordable ones that I recommend on amazon.
Don’t choose a pot much larger than the previous as this could drown the plants roots.
If you prefer to maintain the current size of your plant, repot into the same vessel, providing new soil and trimming away some roots and foliage. Spring or summer is the ideal time to repot as the plant is at its strongest.
Why won’t my leaves split?
Also known as “fenestrations,” the lack of splits and holes in the leaf of a Monstera can be caused by many different factors, but generally it means the plant isn’t settled in an ideal environment.
The main reason why monstera leaves don’t split is because they need more light.
Plants use sunlight to make energy (i.e., eat) and they need that energy to support healthy leaf growth. Producing those big, beautiful, fenestrated leaves takes a LOT of energy!
Without sufficient light, your monstera can still survive and even grow, but the new leaves will be smaller and lack those incredible holes and slits.
There are leafless brown growths coming off of my Monstera. Is that normal?
Yes! These are aerial roots and they are totally normal. In nature, these are what helps give support to the plant and allow it to climb and reach more light.
The roots will not damage walls or surfaces, and you can always prune them if they get unruly.
Help! How can I tell if my Monstera is over or under watered?
Most often yellowing occurs due to over or underwatering. If you see a combination of yellow and brown on the same leaf, it is typically due to overwatering.
If fully yellow leaves, along with some brown crispy spots on additional leaves occur then it could be underwatering. Check in with the soil to determine if it matches your diagnosis.
Why does my monstera have brown spots?
Monstera leaves can get brown spots for a number of reasons.
One of the most common is root rot. These spots tend to be dark brown and show up on the lower leaves first. This means that your plant is over-watered and the roots are beginning to rot.
Another common reason is dryness. Make sure to water your monstera when the top inch or two of soil is dry. Add water to the soil until it starts to run out the drainage holes. (Your pot DOES have drainage holes, right?)
How often should I water my monstera?
This depends on how much light your monstera gets, how well the pot drains, and the temperature of your home.
You should water when the top inch or two of soil is dry to the touch, which should happen every 7-10 days. If you’re waiting longer than that for the soil to dry out, your plant might need more light or a pot with better drainage. Use a moisture meter like this one to know exactly how thirsty your monstera is.
How often should I fertilize my plant?
In general, house plants will thrive when they are fertilized spring through fall. Fertilize once a month with an organic houseplant fertilizer, following the package instructions for dilution and administration.
My monstera is huge! How do I prune it?
Monsteras are known for being huge! They can grow up to 10 feet indoors, which is taller than the average ceiling.
If your monstera is turning into a monster, you can do a few things.
First, you can prune it to make it smaller. Monsteras respond well to pruning and then you can propagate the cuttings! Be sure to use sharp pruning shears like these when making your cuts.
If your monstera is growing too much horizontally, you can also separate it into two or more plants.
Lastly, you can cut is up and propagate it into more monstera plants (which you can read more about here).
Remember, plants are expensive and once rooted baby plants can be sold or given as gifts!
How much light does my monstera need?
Monsteras like bright, indirect sunlight, which usually means being near an east- or south-facing window. Put them in the brightest light you can find where the light doesn’t actually hit the leaves, because this can cause sunburn.
As a rule of thumb, your monstera should never cast a shadow.
Why are my monstera’s leaves turning yellow?
Yellow leaves can mean a few different things: that your monstera is getting too much water and not enough light or that it needs nutrients.
If you notice yellowing leaves, make sure you are ONLY watering when the top few inches of soil are dry and that this happens every 7-10 days. If it takes longer, give your plant more light and check your drainage.
If your light and water situation seems to be okay, try fertilizing your monstera with Indoor Plant Food to give it the nutrients it needs to support beautiful, healthy green leaves.
My apartment has terrible light. Can I still grow a monstera?
You can, but your monstera won’t be as healthy or grow as fast without sufficient light. It might also have trouble producing fenestrated leaves.
However, if your lighting is less than ideal, you can always supplement with a grow light. These are great for darker homes and in the winter when the daylight hours are shorter.
My favorite way to do this is to get a grow light bulb and put it in a pretty light fixture for an aesthetically pleasing light solution. Here’s my favorite grow light bulb for monsteras.