The Monstera deliciosa commonly referred to as the ‘Swiss Cheese Plant’ or ‘Split-Leaf Philodendron’ is a tropical, vining plant native to the forests of Central and South America. The name means ‘delicious monster’ because of the delicious fruit and giant, lobed leaves it produces.
The Monstera deliciosa fruit resembles an ear of corn, but is said to taste like a cross between a pineapple, coconut and banana. They will only produce fruits when they are grown outdoors in consistently warm, humid environments and have enough space to grow large enough to be able to produce the large fruits.
In its natural environment, the Monstera deliciosa is a hemiepiphyte, meaning it starts its life out as an epiphyte living on a host tree and eventually sets out long roots to the ground allowing it to survive on its own without the host tree.
Although the Monstera deliciosa generally only grows 6-8 feet tall when kept indoors as a houseplant, they can grow up to 70 feet tall when grown outdoors. They produce aerial roots along their stems that the plant uses to grab onto structures to support its massive growth.
A majority of the weight that is put on the stems of the Monstera is from their large leaves that can grow up to a foot wide. These leaves start out looking like many other heart shaped leaves, but then develop lobes and holes as the leaves mature in a process called fenestration. This is what gives the Monstera deliciosa its nickname ‘Swiss Cheese Plant’.
Monsteras like bright light most of the day for optimal growth. It may be necessary to rotate your plant every other watering to allow for even growth if grown indoors. If a Monstera is placed in too much shade, the bottom leaves can get shaded out by the top leaves, causing them to yellow and die. The plant can also become leggy as it stretches for sunlight. It may be necessary to place the plant on an elevated plant stand or piece of furniture to allow the plant more light.
Variegated Monsteras that have a lack of pigment in their leaves giving them a white color need to be placed closer to sunlight because the plant is not able to photosynthesize as easily without pigment.
If you live in a warmer climate with heavy sunshine, ensure your Monstera is not right up against a window during the summer months because the combination of heat and sunshine can burn the leaves or cause photo-oxidative bleaching. Pull the plant back a couple of feet during these months.
Monstera deliciosas like their soil to be consistently moist for optimal root health. Dry roots are not able to take up soil nutrients properly, which will eventually lead to the plant becoming nutrient deficient. Dry soils also cause the Monstera’s leaves to droop and develop dry, brown edges.
If the leaves on your Monstera are drooping and browning on the edges even when the soil is consistently moist, it could be from a lack of humidity. Place a humidifier near your plant and let it run for a majority of the day.
Using a moisture meter can help in determining how much moisture is in the soil, especially for larger pots. Most meters have a moisture gauge with ‘dry’, ‘moist’ and ‘wet’ levels. Water your Monstera only when the meter reads between ‘dry’ and ‘moist’.
These levels may fluctuate seasonally and are dependent on the temperature and the amount of sunlight the plant is getting. The less sunlight the plant receives, the less water it absorbs.
If you notice a large amount of water running out the drainage holes in the pot or the soil is drying out quickly, it may be time to repot your plant into fresh soil that is more water absorbent.
The aerial roots that a Monstera deliciosa grows can be trained to a thick post if grown indoors or a tree or other large support structure if grown outdoors.
When training a Monstera to a post, the thickness of the post is important. Ensure the post is at least 2” in diameter to be able to support the weight of the plant as it grows. There are stackable posts on the market that you can increase as the plant’s height increases. To affix the Monstera stems to the support post. Use a product that will not damage the plant such as Velcro adjustable support tape.
If growing the plant outdoors, ensure the plant is acclimated to outdoor conditions first. To do so, slowly acclimate the plant by placing it outdoors in the shade and slowly allowing it more and more sunlight over a two week period. Avoid placing the plant in direct sunlight until fully acclimated. This plant prefers dappled sunlight, so growing it under a large tree that provides significant shade cover is ideal.
We recommend you repot your plant into fresh soil every couple of years, even if you are placing the plant back into the same pot. For suggestions on how to repot your Monstera deliciosa, checkout our blog called How to Repot Your Plants Without Making a Mess. Since Monstera deliciosas have such large growth, the biggest obstacle you will face is supporting the foliage without damaging it in the repotting process. It may be easier for you to lay the plant down horizontally if repotting alone or have one person support the top while the other does the repotting work.
Always check the health of the plant’s roots when repotting. Roots should be firm to the touch and white to cream colored. Any mushy or black roots should be cut off to prevent the spread of rot to the rest of the root system.
Gently loosen the root ball before placing it in the pot. This will allow the roots a better chance at taking hold of the fresh soil.
Fertilize Monstera deliciosas with a well balanced, slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote ‘Flower & Vegetable’ once every six months in the spring and fall. This fertilizer has an N-P-K (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) ratio of 14-14-14.
Avoid using water soluble or liquid fertilizers with a high nitrogen ratio as they allow the plant to take up all the nutrients at once opposed to slowly throughout the year. These fertilizers can also cause thin, leggy growth and nitrogen burns on the leaf tips if overused.
Moving with a Monstera
It can be a challenge trying to move such a large plant like the Monstera deliciosa from one home to another without damaging the beautiful foliage. The easiest way to do so is to wrap butcher paper around the plant, holding the stems and leaves in an upright position so they don’t get crushed. An added layer of plastic wrap may be necessary to keep the paper in place for long distance moves.
If you have any more questions about how to care for your Monstera deliciosa, we will be happy to assist you in a virtual telehealth appointment with one of our Plant Specialists. Please click on one of the options below to book an appointment.