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Monstera tends to be touted as one of the fastest-growing plants, so it can be worrying when yours is refusing to put out any new leaves.
If you provide your Monstera with optimal conditions then it has the potential to grow a new leaf every month. This sounds all well and good but realistically, few of us are going to be growing our Monstera in optimal conditions. A new leaf every three months might be more realistic. Monstera species also don’t tend to grow when it gets too cold, so don’t be too worried if you don’t see much movement (if any) over the winter months.
Here are the ten reasons your Monstera might not be growing:
- It’s not getting enough light
- It needs cleaning
- It’s too cold
- It has pests
- It’s in too big of a pot
- It’s rootbound
- It’s overwatered
- It’s underwatered
- It needs fertilising
- It needs higher humidity
1 – Your Monstera needs more light
Monstera have gotten an unwanted and undeserved reputation for being low-light plants. Whilst they won’t die in low light, they also won’t grow.
Move your Monstera so it gets more light. You can generally see an improvement in a few days – if my Monstera is sluggish in summer I put it outside (in the shade – they do burn) and usually I’ll get new growth in a day or too. it really makes the biggest difference.
There are other benefits to giving your Monstera more light too – the increased energy available makes it better able to fight of pests and diseases, and new growth will be bigger and more fenestrated.
2 – Your Monstera needs cleaning
This is essentially the same issue as not enough light – a dusty Monstera in the brightest light still can photosynthesise. The dust blocks the stomata so the plant can’t photosynthesise – the necessary gas exchanges require open stomata.
A thick layer of dust can prevent the stomata from ever opening, so the plant will never be able to photosynthesise. No photosynthesis = no growth.
On a similar subject, ANYTHING on the leaf can cause the stomata to close and photosythesis to cease. Therefore we need to keep the leaves free from any leaf-shining ingredients (make sure any insecticidal soaps or neem oil is well diluted so it doesn’t cling to the leaf).
Even misting a plant makes the stomata close and the plant stop photosynthesising.
Monstera leaves get dusty quickly, so weekly cleanings are probably best. It sounds like a pain, but it’d also reduce the risk of thrips, so I think it’s worth it.
Makeup-erasing cloths are SO GOOD for getting off dust and you can use them dry – there’s a link to them on my resources page.
3 – Your Monstera is too cold
Monstera are one of the more cold-tolerant tropical house plants, but even they have their limits.
Temperatures below 18oC will probably put a stop to any growth, but mine survived in about 10oC, so you don’t need to worry about them in winter, but you do need to keep them clean so they can make use of any available light.
Make sure that you water them with room-temperature water. Cold water will shock them, which we don’t want to do in their already fragile state.
Cold damage usually looks like this (although I suspect this is a victim of overwatering too):
If you spot it on your Monstera you’ll need to move it somewhere warmer. Bathrooms are often the coldest room in the house, so keep a close eye on any bathroom plants in winter.
4 – Your Monstera has pests
Monstera are actually quite good at living with pests – it can be a while before they sustain damage, and unless you let them get overrun, it rarely kills them.
However, a Monstera fighting off pests is likely using all its available energy on winning the battle. It won’t have reserves to be kicking out new growth, especially since pests like thrips LOVE new growth, and will likely decimate any that ventures out.
Ridding Monstera of pests is a pain, and takes ages, but it is necessary if you want new growth. Spraying the plant every four days with diluted soap should do it, but you may need to continue for a couple of months.
If you want a quicker solution, predatory mites might be a better option. You can hang little bags of bugs on your plants and they’ll eat them (some of the mites are smaller than their prey – it’s impressive stuff).
5 – Your Monstera is in too big of a pot
It’s pretty common for house plant owners to be told to put their plant in a smaller pot because too big of a pot can lead to overwatering.
This is solid advice – the soil is holding way more water than the plant can use, and as oxygen levels deplete in the soil, bacteria thrive that cause root rot.
So yeah, that’s something to watch out for BUT there’s also something else we have to take into consideration when we’re talking specifically about Monstera, and that is their obsession with growing roots until they feel secure in their pot.
I don’t know why they do it, but they do. If you put Monstera in too big of a pot they can refuse to produce any more leaves until they’ve filled the pot with roots.
My theory is that it’s a preemptive strike against root rot.
Please be aware that there is nothing wrong with your plant (other than that it’s a bit weird for wanting to do this), and when the roots are built up to a satisfactory level then you should expect a LOT of new growth.
Monstera do have pretty strong roots but they can still get root rot if they’re in a massive pot. This is especially the case for Monstera Thai Constellation – they are a little more prone to root rot than green or Albo Monstera.
6 – Your Monstera is rootbound
If the pot isn’t too big it’s too freaking small!
Don’t you just love plants?
It’s rare that a plant stops growing as a direct result of being rootbound – it’s usually not the roots themselves that are the issue, rather it’s the lack of soil.
As the roots grow, they displace the soil. After a while, the amount of soil becomes so little that the plant can’t get enough water and nutrients.
If you don’t want to repot your plant then you can soak it regularly – say weekly – and add in some fertiliser to the water every month or so. You could also trim the roots.
7 – Your Monstera is overwatered
Overwatering causes oxygen depletion in the soil. It both fills in the air pockets in the soil and causes the soil to compress over time (especially if you top water). This oxygen-less environment provides the perfect habit for phytophthora – the bacteria which cause root rot.
I have a full article on how to save your Monstera from overwatering here, but the general idea is to get it out of the soil, clean off the roots (hydrogen peroxide is a good shout here), remove anything squishy, repot it in well-draining soil, and don’t over water it again.
8 – Your Monstera is underwatered
I know, I know, plants just have the one symptom. I’ve written an article on how to tell if your Monstera is underwatered or overwatered BUT the way you can generally tell is to check the soil. If it’s wet, you’ve probably overwatered, and if it’s dry, you’ve probably underwatered.
I know it’s not foolproof but it works pretty well.
You can also check the roots – if they’re dry and shriveled but quite difficult to snap then you’ve probably underwatered. If they’re brown and mushy and fall apart easily you’ve probably overwatered.
If you’re Monstera look underwatered but you’ve been watering it, then you may have an issue with your soil. I have an article here on how to stop your soil from drying out so quickly.
9 – Your Monstera needs fertilising
Monstera are quite hungry plants but they dont’ tend to show it in their leaves – they just refuse to grow.
Fertilising a plant that has root issues can cause root damage, so make sure you’ve exhausted all other possibilities before fertilising. If you’re worried about damaging the roots and I’ve just made you paranoid, then you can repot using fresh soil – that should give the plant some added nutrition without risking root burn.
10 – Your Monstera needs higher humidity
Humidity is one of those things that doesn’t typically stop Monstera growing. Increasing the humidity into the 80s definitely has a massive impact on growth but lower humidity doesn’t really do much.
Unless your humidity is super low.
If the ambient humidity around your Monstera is 20% or lower, then the dry air will probably be preventing it from photosynthesising properly.
The same thing can happen in hot weather – the plant closes its stomata because it doesn’t want to lose moisture through its stomata. When the air is super dry, the plant closes its stomata to preserve moisture.
This is one of the few times I would recommend getting a humidifier for a Monstera. Not because it desperately needs it, but because it will probably benefit you too.
The great thing about buying stuff for plants is that you can recoup your losses by selling cuttings of your new fast-growing plants.
Monstera can be such an easy care plant that we sometimes forget that there’s a difference between a plant having what it needs to stay alive, and having what it needs to grow and thrive.
Typically, giving your Monstera more light will help with a lot of the other issues, which is why it’s my first suggestion. A lot of issues like pests and overwatering can be aided by brighter light.
Just be sure to water it more often if it needs it!