How to Grow and Care for Monstera Plants
Luckily, these Instagram-worthy plants are pretty low-maintenance.
We probably don't need to tell you that Monstera plants have become wildly popular, taking up a prominent role in both indoor gardening and home decor. One species in particular, Monstera deliciosa (also called the Swiss cheese plant)—is by far the most recognizable of the Monstera genus, and it's likely the one you've seen gracing your Instagram feed countless times. However, there are more than 50 different species of Monstera plants, and it's worth getting to know more about the entire family. Below, find out everything you need to know about how to grow and care for Monstera plants, according to plant and gardening experts.
Related:5 Types of House Plants Every Home Should Have
Kristen Natoli is the chief nursery specialist at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers.
Marc Hachadourian is the director of glasshouse horticulture and senior curator of orchids at The New York Botanical Garden.
Monstera plants are native to tropical regions of Central and South America. Because Monstera deliciosa is the most popular of the genus, much of the information out there about Monstera plant care is tailored to that species. However, most Monstera plants will have similar growing needs, and luckily, they're considered an easy-care houseplant.
Related:16 Low-Maintenance Houseplants Most Likely to Survive All Year Long
To understand the type of light that's best for Monstera plants, it helps to consider their origins. "Monstera is typically an understory plant which means it is adapted to growing in the shade of other tropical trees," Kristen Natoli, chief nursery specialist at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, says.
Keeping this in mind can help explain why most Monstera plants prefer filtered indirect light over full direct sunlight. "Many monstera species will grow in medium to low light conditions but can get leggy," Marc Hachadourian, director of glasshouse horticulture and senior curator of orchids at The New York Botanical Garden, says. "Some varieties can take nearly full sun conditions indoors if they are acclimated to it slowly. Some of the heavily variegated foliage types can burn in strong sunlight so take special care with these forms."
Monstera plants prefer a well-drained organic soil. "The plants have coarse root systems and prefer some air around their roots appreciating good drainage," Hachadourian says. "This can be achieved by adding charcoal, bark, and/or perlite to the potting mix to encourage the best root systems for your plants." Heavy, wet soil, on the other hand, can cause damage and prevent plants from rooting well in their containers, he adds.
Monsteras prefer balance when it comes to water conditions. Don't let plants dry out completely before watering, but don't let them get too soggy or wet either—as this can lead to root rot, Hachadourian explains. "It is best to wait for the top 1/4- to 1/3-inch of the soil to feel dry before watering to ensure that the plant is not overwatered," he says. "Don’t wait until the plant droops before watering as this type of water stress can cause leaves to yellow and fall."
Temperature and humidity
Hachadourian offers a simple way to think about the ideal temperature and humidity conditions for Monstera: "If you are comfortable, they are comfortable," he says. While Monstera plants can thrive in a variety of temperatures, they prefer temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. "The warmer and more humid, the better and faster the plants will grow," Hachadourian says. "Temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit will slow the plants down, but temperatures above 85 Fahrenheit can really stress plants—especially in strong sunlight."
For humidity, Monstera plants prefer moderate to high humidity levels—above 50 percent—which "mimics their tropical origins and helps maintain the best growth and leaves," Hachadourian adds. Too low of humidity can lead to brown leaves and pest problems, he adds.
To help keep humidity levels up, Natoli says to "mist leaves and any exposed roots daily and consider raising the pot above a water tray or saucer filled with water to provide additional humidity." However, she warns not to let the bottom of the pot sit in water, as the roots may get too wet and rot.
Like many plants, Monsteras can benefit from the addition of fertilizer. "Fertilizing the plants regularly will help the plants grow their best and produce the foliage they are prized for," Hachadourian says.
Natoli says any typical houseplant fertilizer can be used on Monsteras, though she recommends diluting it to 50 percent strength and applying it about once per month. Hachadourian recommends slowing the use of fertilizer in northern latitudes during winter when growth naturally slows.
Types of Monstera
As stated above, the most recognizable and popular species in the Monstera genus is the Monstera deliciosa, but there are several other species that deserve attention, too.
Monstera deliciosa: This popular Monstera is most recognizable for its leaves full of holes (called fenestrations), which are responsible for its common name, Swiss cheese plant or split-leaf philodendron. "It will develop large rounded leaves on a slowly climbing or creeping stem and appreciates some support for it to climb on, producing long cord-like roots from the stem," Hachadourian says.
Monstera deliciosa var borsigiana ‘albo-variegata’: This variegated species is highly coveted for its large white bands that contrast with the green foliage. "Each leaf has its own unique pattern and it should be kept out of strong sunlight as it burns more easily than the solid green forms," Hachadourian says.
Monstera deliciosa ‘Thai Constellation’: "This is a newer cultivar with splashed and speckled and variegated foliage that has become popular during the recent surge in interest in collecting tropical aroids as houseplants," Hachadourian says. "This selection discovered in Thailand has taken the houseplant collectors world by storm a few years back as one of the more sought-out forms of Monstera by collectors."
Monstera adansonii: This easy and fast growing monstera has smaller leaves and vining stems. "It will happily cascade from a hanging basket or on a moss pole with some training," Hachadourian says. "This vigorous monstera is popular because of the large holes in the foliage and ease of growth and propagation."
Pruning Monstera plants can help encourage new growth, while also helping to keep your plant from growing too big and becoming unruly. If you want to encourage new growth, it's best to prune in the spring. If you want to cut back on growth, you'll need to prune regularly, as the plant will continue to grow back.
Monstera sap can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, mouth, and digestive tract, so make sure to wear gloves when pruning or wash your hands thoroughly after handling the plant.
Monsteras are great candidates for propagation. You can propagate through multiple different methods, including water propagation, soil propagation, air layering, and root division. Using stem cuttings is the easiest and most common way to propagate Monstera. Start by cutting a piece of the plant below the node, choosing a section that has at least one healthy leaf. From there, you can place that cutting in a clear glass of water until it roots—changing out the water at least once a week—or plant it directly into soil.
To help prevent pests, make sure Monstera plants are in their desired conditions. However, Monstera can still be victim to common houseplant pests, including thrips, scale, spider mites, and fungus gnats. Learn how to get rid of common houseplant pests here.
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