The now-iconic Monstera deliciosa plant, also known as a split-leaf philodendron, is one of the most coveted house plants for the design savvy. Not only is this climbing, fruit-bearing evergreen easy to find and relatively low-maintenance, but it’s also one of those plants that can effectively transform the vibe of a room from tiresome to tropical just by sitting in the corner.
How to care for a Monstera plant
If you’ve decided it’s time to bring in some vibrant new plant life to add some dynamic interest to your space, and are curious about how to care for the “Swiss cheese” leafed Monstera, we’ve got you covered with all the key tips you’ll need.
Before you go bringing one home, though, there is one caveat that could be important if you’re a pet owner—philodendron plants are toxic when ingested by cats and dogs, so keep it out of reach if you do have pets that are particularly curious or tend to munch on on your greens.
1. Water and humidity
Monstera deliciosa is a native species to tropical areas of Central and Latin America, and it does best when watering and humidity levels reflect its natural growing environment. While it’s important to keep this plant well-watered, you’ll want to be sure not to overdo it which can lead to all kinds of problems from root rot, to leaf damage, to insect infestations.
Poke your finger into the soil, and if it has dried down at least 2 inches, you can go ahead and give it a good drink. Always drain any excess water that’s collected in the planter dish below so that it’s not left sitting in it, which can be a main cause of root rot. If your house is very dry, consider misting the leaves occasionally, or running a humidifier, especially if you’re noticing brown spots developing on the sides or tips of the leaves.
Any dramatic changes in the leaves could reflect a need to adapt your watering schedule. If the plant is looking soggy and wilted with yellow and brown patches on the leaves, this is a sign that it is receiving too much moisture (especially if the soil is damp as you notice this), and if leaves are turning brown or crispy along the edges or withering, this could be a sign of insufficient watering.
If your plant is situated in a very bright, hot spot, you’ll need to water more often than you would in situations where there would be less evaporation. You may also notice the need to reduce watering during the fall/winter months when its growth slows down significantly.
2. Soil and fertilizer
Monstera enjoy rich, well-aerated soil, so using a general potting soil mixed with perlite and/or peat is a good choice. It doesn’t like heavy, damp, compacted soil, so if you notice it getting dense, gently mix in a bit of compost and perlite to help lighten it up while also providing some additional nutrients.
You’ll only need to fertilize during the growing season, from spring to fall, and should use a 20-20-20 ratio liquid fertilizer which can be added when you water it every few weeks. Don’t fertilize your house plants during the winter season, as they need to have a chance to slow their growth and enjoy a restful dormant period.
3. Light and heat
These broad-leafed tropicals thrive best in bright, indirect sunlight, though they will also manage in lower light situations. If you place them in south or west-facing exposures, be sure to filter the light (i.e., with a sheer curtain) or set them away from the direct stream of sun so that they don’t burn. In order for the Monstera to develop the characteristic Swiss cheese fenestrations on the leaves, they will need to have access to a lot of light, so the leaves of those that are kept in more moderately lit situations may not split.
In order to flourish, a plant needs to be able to photosynthesize properly, so be sure to dust or wipe off the broad leaves regularly with a damp cloth so that your plant is able to use the light that it is exposed to most effectively. This will also help to keep your plant healthy and robust, allowing it to better fight off diseases and pests.
While Monstera can grow outdoors year round in USA Hardiness Zones 10-12, in more temperate zones, it needs to stay indoors to live within its comfort range of 65-75 degrees. It does make for a good patio plant during warmer seasons if placed in indirect light, just be sure to bring it in when temperatures fall.
4. Potting, pruning, and propagating
A healthy Monstera will grow approximately one to two feet/year, and since it’s a climber, it helps to keep it near something it can scale, or to add a wooden stake or a small trellis directly into the pot. You’ll notice that it will send out spindly, woody arial roots, and while it’s normal for them to become wild and unruly, you can either prune them back or wrap them into a coil and tuck them neatly into the pot.
Since this isn’t a fast-growing plant, repotting every two years should be plenty, and if you decide you would like your plant to remain at the size it’s currently at, keep it in the same pot, and simply replace the top portion of soil with fresh, nutrient-rich potting soil, and focus on pruning the leaves as you wish.
If you do choose to repot and give your plant more room to grow, it’s best to do it in the spring time before the growing season kicks into high gear. Turn the old pot on its side, and gently slide out the plant. Carefully turn the plant while shaking off the old soil or loosening it from the roots with your fingers. Cut away any mushy or damaged roots.
Place in a larger size with a soil mixed with perlite, and tuck in the arial roots as best you can. And here’s a great guide outlining how to propagate your Monstera, which is a great way to increase your collection of greens while also keeping the original plant size under control.
Place it on the floor in an oversized wicker basket near a stack of your favorite books books, perch it on a plant stand to fill up an otherwise empty or uninspired corner, or set it on a shelf in a vibrant, colorful planter—no matter how you slice it, the Swiss cheese plant is an easy to manage, photo-worthy show stopper that you’ll be able to enjoy for years to come with this bit of basic know-how.1
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