Before we talk about how to care for a monstera, one of the hottest newcomers on the houseplant scene, let’s discuss a little about this fabulous plant. The Monstera deliciosa is also known as the swiss cheese plant or hurricane plant. Some people still call them split-leaf philodendrons as well, although they’re no longer classified as a philodendron.
Call them whatever you want, but there’s no denying the statement that this plant makes. Monsteras are everywhere; I’ve even seen them in clothing prints and on pillows and wall art!
They lend a classy, tropical vibe to any space thanks to their large, beautiful green leaves.
The most striking feature of this plant is that its larger, more mature leaves are full of holes! This is where it gets its nickname, “swiss cheese plant.”
Where Monstera Deliciosa Comes From
The monstera plant is a tropical vine native to the tropical rain forests of Mexico and Central America. In the wild, they actually produce flowers and edible fruit that’s said to taste similar to pineapple! (Hence the deliciosa part of the scientific name.)
A relative of the philodendron and pothos, a monstera loves to climb up trees and can grow quite large, even indoors.
The leaves of a monstera look like large palm leaves, except they have holes! Newer, smaller leaves are heart-shaped and born whole, then holes appear as the leaf grows and matures. This is called fenestration, and over thousands of years, it has helped this plant adapt to its environment.
Why Do Monstera Plants Have Holes?
There are plenty of theories out there, but no one knows for sure.
The holes may allow monstera plants to withstand heavy rain forest rains without sustaining damage to the leaves, or the holes might help them resist high winds from tropical storms. (This is where they get the nickname of hurricane plant.)
The most likely explanation is that holes in the leaves allow more of the rain forest’s limited sunlight and water to reach the rest of the plant since plants that grow below the thick canopy must develop adaptations to get more of both.
Whatever the reason, we’re glad they develop these holes, because they’re beautiful!
How to Care for a Monstera Plant
These plants are easily manageable, but they aren’t as laid back as, say, a snake plant. There are a few tricks to keeping them healthy and beautiful.
Plant your monstera in well-draining indoor potting soil with a little extra peat moss mixed in. Use a pot with drainage holes and enough depth to add a stake, trellis, or moss-covered stick that the plant can climb.
They can also grow outdoors in the shade in moderate to warm environments, but they’ll need something to climb like a fence or trellis.
Monsteras can survive in low light, but they’ll grow much better and develop large, robust leaves in bright, indirect sunlight. Place a few feet away from south-, west-, or east-facing windows.
Monstera plants don’t like to be too wet or too dry, so go somewhere in between. Keep an eye on the soil and water when the top 1 to 2 inches of soil gets dry. Don’t soak the soil, and don’t get the leaves wet. They don’t need a lot of water. (Using a moisture meter like this one helps you know exactly how thirsty your plant is and when it needs a drink.)
Again, these plants don’t like to be over-watered, but they love humidity! If you live in a dry climate, try placing the pot on a pebble tray or setting up a humidifier nearby.
Monstera plants don’t need to be fertilized often, but adding fertilizer to your water during the spring and summer can encourage it to grow! I like to add a little Indoor Plant Food liquid fertilizer to my watering can each week. Give it a break during the winter and just stick to plain water.
This thing can GROW, so pruning is important to make sure it doesn’t take over your house. Pruning can also be used to “shape” the direction of growth. Only repot every two years or so, and cut back new growth when you don’t want the plant to get any bigger. (Make sure to use clean, sharp pruning shears like these when making your cuts.)
It’s also very important to keep monstera’s leaves clean and pores clear so the plant can carry out photosynthesis unimpeded. Every week or so, use a clean, damp cloth to gently clean any dust off the leaves. Or try our Houseplant Leaf Shine, which not only cleans and shine your plant’s leaves but also protects it from insects, bacteria, and fungus!
What’s wrong with my monstera plant?
The biggest problem people have with monstera plants is leaves that don’t develop holes. This is often an issue having to do with light. If the leaves start to yellow, it’s probably getting too much light. If the mature leaves don’t develop holes, it’s probably not getting enough.
You can also trim older, smaller leaves around the bottom of the plant to encourage it to grow larger, hole-ier leaves.
Is monstera toxic?
Monstera deliciosa is toxic to pets and humans, but don’t worry, it’s not fatal. Ingestion will only cause mouth and stomach irritation, and at worst, vomiting. Still, keep away from pets and children.
How to Propagate a Monstera Plant
If you want more monsteras, good news! These plants propagate very well, as long as you cut in the right place!
The best time to do this is in the spring or summer when monsteras tend to grow the most. There are generally two methods for propagation: cutting and air layering.
Propagation with cuttings:
To take a cutting, cut off a leaf just below a node (the area where a leaf meets a stem). If you can find a node with an aerial root on it, all the better! Cut just below the node so that the node is on the piece you cut off. Make sure to use clean, sharp shears like these so you don’t spread bacteria that could harm your plant.
Place the cutting in a jar of filtered water (or you can leave tap water out overnight so the chlorine can evaporate). Every few days, change the water and give the roots a gentle rinse. You should start seeing some new roots in a month or so. When you start seeing roots, it’s time to transfer your monstera into the soil.
Air layering method:
A good air layering method encourages new roots to grow before you take a cutting so you can plant it directly in soil instead of keeping it in a jar of water.
To air layer, find a node with an aerial root growing just below it. Cut a small notch just below the root, and wrap that notch, the root, and the node in a thick layer of sphagnum moss, then wrap the whole bundle in plastic wrap. Use string or twist ties to secure the moss and plastic.
You’ll want to keep the moss moist, so water the moss with a spray bottle every day or so until new aerial roots start poking out of the moss (this might take a few months). Then you can cut the stem under the node and pot the cutting in soil.
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Make a statement!
Try one of these large, beautiful plants to bring life and big personality to any room! These are more of an intermediate houseplant, but you might find them pleasantly easy to care for and a lot of fun to raise!
To learn more about how to care for a monstera: