Monstera deliciosa, from tropical Central America, has “eyes” or holes that form in the leaves, like those in Swiss cheese, and is the plant is popularly named after the cheese. It has become a somewhat invasive species since its introduction to places like Hawaii and Seychelles, to name a few.
It is an ornamental houseplant, reaching almost 10 feet tall indoors, but attains heights of almost 66 feet in the wild. Its large, glossy, heart-shaped leaves can reach almost 36 inches long and 30 inches wide. The leaves on young plants usually don’t display the characteristic holes until they start growing larger. They usually like growing up tree trunks in the wild.
It typically flowers about 3 years after it is planted. The self-pollinating flowers produce edible fruit up to 10 inches long covered with scales or platelets, looking like an ear of corn. It usually takes longer than a year for the fruit to fully ripen.
These scales fall off when the fruit becomes ripe, releasing a strong aroma, somewhat like a mixture of bananas and pineapples. As the fruit gets riper, it starts becoming yellower, with the aroma strengthening as it gets this happens. The aroma deteriorates once the fruit is fully ripe. However, it rarely flowers when grown indoors.
Monsteras prefer bright to medium indirect or partially shaded lighting conditions and are tolerant of varied lighting conditions. However, the plant becomes floppy and stretches out in low light.
Monsteras are moderately greedy plants, meaning that the soil must be wet but not soggy. This means it has to be watered once every week or more in spring and summer and once fortnightly in winter when growth slows down – don’t over-water.
The plant thrives best in humidity levels of 60 – 80% for proper growth. Regular misting can help maintain humidity levels. High humidity levels should be maintained all the time, particularly in winter so it is recommended to invest in a humidifier to the levels constant. You could also prepare a pebble tray under or near the plant by partially filling a tray of pebbles with water and place your pot on top or near it. Humidity will increase around the plant when the water evaporates.
It is a tropical plant and requires a minimum temperature level of between 55–59°F for steady growth. It can tolerate temperatures as high as 90°F but it will stop growing if temperatures drop below 50°F and can die.
Monsteras can be fed once every fortnight or once monthly during spring and summer with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer – about ½ teaspoon of fertilizer in a gallon of water. Do not feed the plant in winter.
Monsteras thrive in potting mixes that can hold yet also drain well. A soil mix consisting of pine bark, perlite, and peat moss or coco coir is perfect for growing Monsteras.
One indication when you should repot is when you see the leaves drooping or becoming discolored – this is a sign that the plant needs fresh soil. Younger plants need repotting every year, while older plants can be done once in 2 years. There is no specific season/time to do this – it can be done at any time, but the plant will benefit and thrive if repotted in early spring.
Once you’ve repotted the plant in the largest pot (appropriate for your home/office) simply top up with fresh potting mix once a year rather than repotting, as older Monsteras prefer to be pot bound.
Remove dry/dead leaves any time you see them, leaving any major pruning for spring or summer. Avoid bruising by using sharp tools, making sure to clean them before and after pruning. Remove any excess foliage at the base of the plant. Pinching off new growth will help control the plant from spreading too much.
There are two methods to propagate Monsteras. One is by cuttings and the other is air-layering the plant. Cut off a healthy part of the stem from the plant with several leaves and aerial roots on it and divide it further by cutting segments off, with one leaf on each segment. Plant these in pots containing all-purpose soil. Cuttings can also be rooted in water until new growth and roots appear. Transfer the new plant to a pot filled with soil.
To propagate by air-layering, you will need a sharp knife or cutter, toothpicks, soaking wet sphagnum moss, twine or string, and plastic sandwich bags or plastic cling wrap.
Pick out a part of the stem a few inches below any leaf growth and either make a shallow diagonal upward cut in the stem, not cutting through the stem or just scrape away a section of bark (about an inch long) if the section is woody to expose the inner layer of the stem. Insert the toothpick to create a gap, cover well with moss and wrap the cut area with the plastic bag/wrap and tie it off with twine to keep the moisture in.
Wait for the roots to appear and fill the moss, cut the newly rooted section off the parent plant below the roots, remove the plastic, plant it in a pot, and water it normally. Note: Cover the new plant for a few days with a large plastic bag to keep moisture in and allow the roots to set, if the root ball is not big.
Monsteras need a lot of space to grow. Since it is a climber, it will need a trellis or coir pole to help anchor aerial roots. Growing the plant in low lighting conditions will restrict growth if you don’t want it to spread out too much. Rotate the pot once a month to help it grow evenly. Leaves should be wiped to remove dust and to check for pests.
Over-watering will make the leaves develop dark spots and become yellow. Under-watering will make the leaves turn brown.
Mold/fungus might start growing in the pot/soil and the stems will become soft and mushy if the plant is over-watered. The fungus can also attack leaves, particularly if they get wet. Cut off affected leaves to stop them from spreading.
The plant might require more light if holes don’t form. This can be remedied by increasing lighting conditions.
While Monsteras are very resistant to pests, insects like scale and spider mites can still attack plants. Use Neem oil to control any pest infestation.