Friday, August 5, 2011

Monstera Deliciosa

The first thing I’m going to tell (warn) you about this plant is that it grows huge. Eventually. If you don’t have the space for one, don’t bother taking one home. And if you like collecting plants, this is not one that you should have too many of unless you are fortunate enough to have oodles of space to spare - or you intend on building your own tropical rainforest in your living room. I personally don’t have a lot of room to spare for large plants but I did make an exception and treated myself to one, and only one, Monstera Deliciosa. And although I have no concrete proof because I haven’t paid much attention or been taking many photos since its arrival, I swear my plant has grown considerably since I bought it. I honestly don’t remember it being so big and taking up so much space. I’m beginning to suspect that every time I turn my back my Monstera pops out a few new leaves and grows a little taller. So be forewarned; these plants get very big. They will keep growing and growing until they end up taking over the house.

Commonly-referred to as Swiss Cheese plant because of the deeply incised and perforated leaves that develop on the adult plants (young plants have heart shaped leaves with no perforations), Monstera Deliciosa grows naturally in the tropical jungles of Central America from Mexico to Panama. The plant, which can reach a height of 2.4 m (8 ft), is extremely decorative with glossy leaves that can grow up to 1 m (3 ft) long and 60 cm (2 ft) wide. Spiky flowers enclosed in a cream-coloured spathe followed by edible fruit that smells like pineapple are produced by mature plants. Flowers and fruit may appear simultaneously at any time during the year, but this seldom happens in houseplants. In its native surroundings, the plant attaches itself to the trunk and branches of a tree with the aerial roots that the stems are furnished with and climbs high into the forest canopy where there is more light available.

Which brings us to how much light this plant needs.

Monstera Deliciosa is an accommodating plant that can tolerate a broad spectrum of light, although it’s recommended that you offer protection against the strong rays of the summer’s midday sun in southern locations. Bright, filtered sunshine is the preference; early morning eastern or late afternoon western sun is ideal. During the winter time, the plant will handle direct sunshine very well, mainly the morning sun. Although some sunshine is greatly appreciated, Monstera Deliciosa will also adapt easily to a shady location. This is an example of an indoor plant that, once you spend time researching about its needs, will leave you with a headache and a lot of confusion. The advice on how much light to offer this plant varies from source to source, so take it all with a grain of salt (including the advice here) and let your plant lead the way. If your Monstera Deliciosa is growing happily where you’ve placed it – regardless of whether or not any sunshine is involved – it’s in the right location. One indication that light may be too low is mature leaves that are too small and do not eventually split.

Like all aroids, Monstera Deliciosa is susceptible to rot from over-watering, so be careful with the watering can. Use a fast-draining, airy medium and keep it evenly moist but not soggy during the active growing season from spring to early fall. In the winter, reduce watering but do not allow the soil to dry completely. Over-watering will lead to yellowing of leaves and under-watering will lead to dry, brown leaf tips and margins. (Bear in mind that these symptoms can be caused by other things as well.) On a positive note, these are really tough plants that won’t keel over easily, even if your watering habits are a little less than desirable. As long as the watering blunders are infrequent, the plant will survive them.

This is an excellent choice for the hydroculture system. Wash the roots free of soil and pot up in the clay medium. Conversion is rapid and fairly painless. A leaf or two may be lost during the process but the plant handles the transition remarkably well. Once the plant settles into its new growing style, succulent water roots will develop within 3 – 4 weeks, possibly a little longer.

Humidity does not necessarily seem to be a factor (the plant tolerates dry air well) but reasonable levels between 40 – 50 percent are preferable to the rock-bottom ones of 20 - 30 that can occur in the midst of winter while the heating system is working overtime. The plant will handle temperatures between 15ºC (59ºF) – 24ºC (75ºF) easily and will most likely endure slightly cooler levels for a short period, although I would not expose it to temperatures below 13ºC (55ºF).

Monstera Deliciosa will benefit from a shower a few times a year if you can manage to get it into the bathtub (or outside, weather permitting). If the plant is too heavy to lug around, wipe the top and bottom of the leaves with a damp cloth or sponge. Remember to be very gentle; over-cleaning can remove important cells and prove more damaging than beneficial. Regular grooming will keep the leaves shiny, help the plant breathe better and aid in keeping pests at bay.

From spring to early fall, if the plant is healthy and growing in ideal conditions, feed every 2 – 4 weeks with a liquid fertilizer that has been diluted to ½ strength. Do not feed during the winter or if the plant is in poor health. You can cut back the plant in spring if you want to maintain a particular size, although trying to keep it small (or reasonably-sized) is seldom possible.

Monstera Deliciosa is a beautiful plant that will definitely grace any room it occupies, but it’s important to recognize that it requires a large space in which to grow to its full potential. Simply put, if you were to compare it to a dog, it would be a Saint Bernard or possibly a Mastiff, both of which are cute and small when they’re puppies, then grow into monstrous-sized droolers that take over the house. Monstera Deliciosa is no different. Even if you take home a small, seemingly harmless specimen to begin with (and even though it doesn’t drool like a dog, unless guttation counts), it will eventually get very big and take over the house. So if you don’t have the room for it, leave it at the pet shop…er…greenhouse.


  1. This is a great article! Thank you so much for your help :)

  2. Very helpful, thank you! My Monstera is fairly new however I've had 3 new leaves pop up. Problem is that they are already showing dark brown spots/tips before even unfurling. Could definitely be overwatering however I've toned down - what would you recommend to reverse this issue? I know you shouldn't allow to dry completely but wondering if this will get it back to a point where new growth is healthy? Any help is appreciated!

    1. There are many reasons this could be happening. Here is a good article for you to take a look at:
      5 Reasons your Houseplant’s Leaves are Turning Brown
      This is a tough plant and if you correct whatever is causing the problem, it will be fine!