8 Tips For Transferring Monstera From Water to Soil

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

There are a couple of reasons you might want to transfer your Monstera from water to soil.

The first and most common is that you’ve rooted a cutting and now you want to put it into soil.

The second is that you transferred your Monstera to hydroponics and now you want to move it back.

This can be a tricky time for your plant because the root system it has is inefficient (no hate! it’s trying its best!).

When a Monstera grows in water, the roots it has are water roots, that are designed to extract oxygen from water.

When you put it in soil, it will need to absorb oxygen from the air, which water roots can do, just very inefficiently.

Over time your Monstera will grow soil roots and will be able to absorb oxygen more efficiently, but those first few weeks in the soil will be tough for it. Luckily there are some things we can do to help.

(Beginner’s guide to Monstera deliciosa here).

1 – Use a very chunky, airy soil mix

I like to recommend that people use a potting mix that suits their watering style, rather than that that suits the plant (within reason).

It makes sense that we use a soil mix our plant likes, sure, but if we’re using a soil mix that requires you to water it every three days and you travel a lot…it’s not going to work.

And we all know how good people are at adapting their habits overnight and how rarely house plants die (insert side eye emoji here).

HOWEVER

When it comes to transferring Monstera from water to soil the chunkier the soil mix, the better.

A tip further down the line is to water frequently, and if you water a dense soil mix frequently you’re going to end up rotting the roots before new ones have a chance to form.

Mix equal parts of orchid bark, coir (or store-bought soil), and perlite for your plant. 

You can always repot it into something denser later if you would prefer. 

Another option is a ratio 1:1 leca and soil.

We want to be watering frequently (at least weekly) so we needs something that dries out quickly.

We also need the roots to have a LOT of access to oxygen, because they’re pretty inefficient at absorbing oxygen from the air, so they need a lot of contact with oxygen to play with.

Water roots can switch to soil roots if they're hardened off properly, but in order to do this they need adequate contact with oxygen.

2 – Water with nutrient water

This is somewhat controversial because a lot of people advise that we don’t use fertilisers on plants until they’re established. However, my own research found that roots grow REALLY QUICKLY in nutrient water (I use the General Hydroponics Flora Series) so it can help establish roots quickly.

This should only be done if the soil is drying out pretty frequently, otherwise, you risk poisoning the plant. I only water with nutrient water every other time I water, just in case.

General Hydroponics 3 step Flora System fertiliser

3 – Water frequently

When you first move your plant from water to soil, its roots will be very inefficient at absorbing oxygen from the air so we need to water frequently to maximise the oxygen it gets before it grows soil roots.

However, we can’t just saturate the soil, because root-rot producing bacteria will thrive in muddy conditions.

Instead, we need to use a chunky soil mix, and water frequently.

Ideally, we want a soil mix that dries out in three/four days. 

Then water, then leave to dry again. 

This should give the root enough oxygen to keep the plant going as it grows a new root system.

4 – Make sure it has good light

If you can, try to increase the light before you make the switch. Acclimate it over time so that it doesn’t burn and get stressed.

Not only will the light give the plant energy to grow new roots and, er, not drop its leaves, but it’ll help the water in the soil evaporate quickly.

We want to be watering frequently, but also not watering before the soil has dried out sufficiently.

5 – Increase the humidity if you can

This doesn’t really help the roots, but it does help preserve the leaves. Plants in low humidity can redirect water to the leaves when it would be better off going towards growing new roots.

A humidifier is ideal, but you could also put it in a terrarium (or Ikea cabinet) if you have one. A large plastic box will also do fine. In fact, plastic boxes are great if you only have bright light and you’re worried about burning because they’ll deflect a lot of the light without reducing it to too low a level.

humidifier for houseplants

6 – Keep it warm

If you’re using the plastic box and sunny window as I suggested above, it’ll be fine.

Room temperature for most of the year is fine, but if you’re transferring your Monstera from water to soil in winter then you might want to invest in a heat mat, or pop it near (but not under – too bright in a lot of cases) a grow light.

7 – Mist the top of the soil frequently

Don’t mist the plant – we need it to be photosynthesising as efficiently as possible. Misting the top of the soil is just great way of keeping the soil moist without overwatering it.

This is especially important if you’re worried that your potting mix is retaining too much water and you’re not in a position to change it.

It’s also great on hot days and the top of the soil is dry but the middle isn’t.

8 – Put it in as small a pot as possible

In the beginning, we want to be watering frequently, but only when the soil is almost dry.

If you put the plant in a big pot, the soil will retain a tonne of water, and you can end up with root rot pretty quickly.

Put the plant in a pot that the roots can only just about fit in – if you don’t have one small enough, fill up some space at the bottom with leca, gravel, or orchid bark.

I don’t currently have a Monstera propping, but I do have Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma which propagates very similarly. I have three cuttings, and they’re still in too big a pot (so I cut fit the cuttings in), despite it only being a three inch pot.

There’s actually a root coming out of the bottom of the pot, but that’s just because I tend to bottom water it, to make sure the substrate is evenly moist. Small pots are better for this because a large pot and a chunky substrate usually mean that the wicking properties aren’t great.

If this was happening on a more established plant I’d take the soil out of the pot and rearrange the root so it’s in the pot, but I’m not going to bother in such new cuttings. The root on the outside will be fine.

Keep this up for a month or so

A month should be long enough for your plants to have produced some soil roots. One of the reasons I like to use a teeny tiny pot is that after a month, you should be able to see them growing round the edge of the soil when you remove the soil from the pot.

You may need to repot fairly quickly, because Monstera roots grow quickly. 

I repot into a slightly denser potting mix, but I only go up a single pot size. 

Then I switch to pretty much exclusively bottom watering to encourage the roots to grow down (it seems to strengthen them, I don't know why).

Once it’s outgrown this pot (again, it shouldn’t take long – maybe a couple of months), I put it into whatever potting mix I like. The roots tend to be pretty strong at this stage and you should get new growth.

You can leave the plant in the pot for longer, and you’ll probably get new growth, but I prefer to build up the roots a bit first.

Final thoughts

I’ve made this seem more complicated than it strictly needs to be. Monstera have pretty strong roots and adapt to substrate changes pretty well.

However, I appreciate that some people like a step-by-step guide that take into account worst-case scenarios, plus the people that just whack their Monstera in soil and hope for the best probably wouldn’t have ended up on this page.

So this is for you, overthinkers the world over. Feel free to reach out here or on Instagram if you have further questions!

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

Leave a comment