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Monstera have a bit of an annoying habit of growing in exactly the direction you don’t want them to.
Whilst you can’t really predict where they’re going to grow or select the axillary bud you want them to activate, you can prune back any vines that you don’t really like.
If you have a vine that is too leggy, you can prune it back and encourage your Monstera to grow in a more comapct way.
You can’t keep Monster that small without pruning regularly. They’re just naturally big plants. But you can get them to grow with smaller internodal spaces, so they’re better equipped to support themselves.
If you don’t want a moss pole or similar, be sure to direct any aerial roots back into the soil so your Monstera can support itself (as far as possible – you know how they are).
When should you prune Monstera?
I’m going to say something a wee bit controversial here, and that’s…prune when you want.
It’s best practice to prune when your Monstera is actively growing – so the summer months BUT Monstera are pretty hardy, and if your Monstera is happily growing during winter then you’re probably fine to prune it.
Don’t think you have to live with growth you don’t like just because it’s winter.
How to prune a Monstera
I’m normally a kitchen scissors kind of girl, but I highly recommend you get some proper secateurs or a sharp knife for a Monstera. They are tough to prune.
The stems are very thick, and even the thinner ones are prone to rip and you can end up damaging the stem.
Best practice is to prune between the nodes (especially if you’re planning on rooting the bit you’ve chopped off). The node is the weird bit that could look like a lump or a line across the stem, like so:
Also, be sure that you’re chopping the stem, not just the petiole. The stem is the bit with nodes on, and the petiole is just the bit that attaches the leaf to the stem:
Here, the nodes are circled, the stem is running horizontally and the petioles are the vertical bits.
How far back can I prune a Monstera?
You can prune Monstera back as far as you like – chop it all back to the soil for all I care – it won’t be fazed. It’ll come back surprisingly quickly if you’ve got half decent growing conditions.
I sometimes chop my plants right back to the soil if they’re infested with pests, though I recommend keeping a close eye on the new growth because if you still have pests in the house, they tend to gravitate towards new growth.
On the other hand, if you only want to prune off a couple of out-of-place leaves, that’s ok too.
Bear in mind that if you just chop off leaves (and petioles), there’s no guarantee – in fact it’s quite unlikely – that a leaf will grow in its place.
How to get multiple growth points on Monstera
It is possible to get multiple growth points on Monstera. The reason this is desirable is that it’s a great way to get really bushy plant.
That being said, if you have good growing conditions, you can shrink the internodal spacing down so much that a single vine gives the appearance of being super full.
There are usually a couple of axillary buds on every node so that in the event that the growing tip of the plant is damaged, it’s not too big of a deal for the plant to shoot a load of hormones towards a bud and start a new growth point.
What you can do, if you’re up for a challenge, is see if you can convince your Monstera to activate two growth points on a node or two.
Now, there are some people that claim that this impossible. I don’t think it is BUT it is difficult. Monstera naturally grow very quickly, so if you give it enough resources, it’ll grow multiple leaves at once.
Here are the factors you’ll to perfect if you want multiple growth points:
Monstera like a TONNE of light, but they also have a tendency to burn a bit. In an ideal world, they’ll need a LOT of light, but a bit of protection from it. I’d go for either a professional grow light or a very bright windowsill, but with a sheer curtain protecting the plant.
A TONNE of humidity. Preferably 80% and up.
Misting isn’t going to cut it here, and you’ll be hard-pressed to get a room to 80% humidity without ending up with damp and mold. If you’re desperate for multiple growth points (or just curious about activating nodes – no judgment here) then a grow tent would be your best bet. You can hook up fans and lights to really get your conditions perfect.
This other stuff doesn’t matter as much as you might think. In my experience, once the humidity is up to the 80s you don’t need to worry about watering so much, since the soil tends to retain its moisture.
Monsteras are pretty chill with regards to fertilizer and soil type. Don’t neglect to feed your plant by any means, but a house plant fertilizer every month or so will be fine.
I’ve kept Monstera in everything from potting soil meant for gardens (read: super dense) to water and everything in between (including leca, pon etc etc) and I’m yet to find one that gave a single solitary fuck about the substrate it’s in.
Probs because they’re semi-epiphytic/hard as nails.
Get your light and humidity going and you should be able to activate another growth point on a node. Some people claim that Monstera can only have one leaf per node, but there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that disagrees.
What to do with the pruned parts of the Monstera
Root them and give them away as gifts! Monsteras are one of those plants that everyone can keep alive unless they go down the old overwatering route – I think they’re one of the best plants to give as gifts (unless the recipient lives in a tiny house).
You can also root them and pot them up as new plants.
I would not recommend putting multiple Monstera in one pot. POSSIBLY a couple at a push, but they have thick, vigorous roots that will not be easy to untangle in the event that your Monstera becomes a Monstera and you want to separate them down the line.
Should I prune back aerial roots?
This is entirely up to you. I assure you, the plant doesn’t care. As I mentioned before, I tend to direct my aerial roots down into the soil so I can give my Monstera a bit of shape without having to rely on a moss pole. Those aerial roots are SOLID once they’ve hardened off.
If you do want to chop them off, use secateurs again and make sure you clean them.
Should I prune dead leaves?
This is one of those ‘do as I say, not as I do’ scenarios.
I don’t remove dead leaves, or leaves that have got a bit crispy.
However, that is because I’m lazy/am blind to it.
Different people have different opinions on this, but I think the safest option is to remove any dead leaves and keep a close eye on browning sections.
The argument for keeping partially dead leaves is that the green part can still photosynthesise and therefore provide energy for the plant BUT from my own experience I can tell you that pests LOVE a dead leaf.
(You’d think that’d make me clear them up, but apparently not).
The obvious one here is fungus gnats who like a decaying leaf more than most, BUT I’ve also found that other bugs like to set up shop here too. Thrips like a bit of dead leaf, and I’ve been ambushed by spider mites hiding in a curled-up leaf more than once.
If you’re fastidious about pest prevention, and you don’t want to remove your leaves, then feel free to leave them BUT if you’re a bit, er, lax like I am, it’s best to get shot of them.
Do you need to prune Monstera?
No, absolutely not. If you like the way it’s growing, then pruning won’t offer any benefits. Tropical plants like Monstera don’t grow seasonally in the wild – they grow year-round. It’s not like lavender where not pruning them can shorten their life span.
We prune Monstera purely for aesthetic reasons, or to sometimes if we’ve been hit by sunburn or root rot. Still, even in these cases, as long as you solve the issue, you don’t need to chop off any stricken growth for any reason other than aesthetics (and fear of pest infestations).
Can I prune a leggy Monstera?
If your Monstera has gotten leggy and you, er, wish it wasn’t, you can definitely prune the leggy growth.
As we’ve previously discussed you COULD put the bits you’ve chopped back in with the mother plants to grow a bushy plant, however not only will you end up with a massive root ball in a few months, BUT you’ll just end up with leggy growth again in a few months.
What you can do is chop off any bits you don't like and root them separately (or chuck them/give them away - Monstera are common so don't feel bad. I leave mine on my garden wall for people to take).
If the Monstera is super leggy and the stem is thin and malleable, you can always bury a node in the soil to create another growth point.
Don’t chop it off though, because if you do the roots will just keep growing (they tend to stay as smaller, ‘spare’ roots balls when you just plant a node that’s still attached to the plant).
It’s just an easy way to get another growth point without having to resort to scissors
Then we need to sort out why the Monstera was leggy in the first place.
As we can probably predict, the issue is probably light. Get your Monstera in better light (and bonus points for increasing humidity too) and you’ll notice the internodal spacing getting smaller and the leaves getting better.
If you want to prune your Monstera, go ahead. They’re a pretty robust species and you can prune them right back to the soil if you wish, and they’ll bounce right back.
If you want to grow bushier Monstera then make sure your basic care routine is good, but really concentrate on improving light and humidity.