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There is no guarantee that you can preserve the variegation on a variegated Monstera unless you buy a Thai Constellation.
There are things you can try, but chimeric variegation is the result of a genetic mishap. Your Monstera doesn’t have any strong feelings about it (it can’t see how pretty it looks – it has no eyes!) so once the decide they’re going to pursue the all-green route…there’s actually not a lot you can do about it.
How to preserve variegation in Monstera deliciosa
If you’re new to houseplants and Monstera, then I highly recommend that you buy a Thai constellation, especially if you’re on a budget. They’re much cheaper and don’t revert.
Buy a cultivar that doesn’t revert
There’s a bit of snobbery around Thai Constellation – some people don’t consider them to be ‘proper’ variegated Monstera because they’re man-made. In my opinion, it’s a bit like the lab-grown diamond debate – you’re getting essentially the same product without any of the downsides.
Thai Constellations are created by tissue culture, and can be grown in their thousands. Monstera deliciosa albo can’t be reliably cloned (which is basically what tissue culture is) – their variegation is very ad-hoc, so whilst you can clone the plants, they’re not guaranteed to be variegated.
The benefits of Thai Constellation over Monstera deliciosa albo are:
- They’re cheaper – prices go up and down, but you can get a small plant for under £100
- They don’t revert
- They’re all large-form, so they’re genetically predisposed to grow massive leaves with a lot of holes
There are however downsides:
- The variegation is creamy rather than white, though good light will make it whiter
- Thai Constellations have a weird predisposition for root rot. There was a theory that they were all infected with a pathogen, but that proved to be false. They’re just…prone to root rot.
Look after your variegated Monstera well
Let’s assume you already have a Monstera albo and you want to preserve the variegation as much as you can.
First off, there are no guarantees.
Being variegated doesn’t give the Monstera any advantage – it’s actually a hindrance since it reduces the amount of chlorophyll in the leaves (because the white parts don’t have any) which reduces the plant’s ability to photosynthesize.
All you can do is care for the plant as well as you can. Ensure it has great light, humidity, a healthy root system, and you’re feeding it well.
Staking it up will also make it feel more at home. Monstera climb trees in wild so giving it something to climb will encourage larger leaves and faster growth. This sense of achievement won’t hurt the chances of variegation. Will it help? It’s basically impossible to tell.
These articles will help you give your Monstera the help it needs:
Cut back to variegated growth when necessary
Every now and again your Monstera may produce a non-variegated leaf.
Some people like to cut back to the last node that produced a variegated leaf as soon as all-green leaves start emerging. Others recommend waiting until you’ve seen four non-variegated leaves in a row.
It all depends on the variegation on the stem. If the stem isn’t variegated, cut it back to a point where the stem was variegated.
If the stem is all green, you’ve got a Monstera with sport variegation, and every leaf you have is going to be a mystery until it unfurls.
Can variegation return on reverted Monstera?
There is a LOT of information online about the chances of you being able to convince a reverted Monstera to produce variegated leaves again. What there isn’t a lot of is actual research. Information about houseplants tends to come from hobbyists like me, and there’s no real incentive for big labs to research reverted Monstera deliciosa.
The people who hold the money in the houseplant business are sellers, and there’s no financial incentive for them to research reverted Monstera – it’s better for them to sell us new ones.
In short, we don’t really know. Variegation can return, but it’s just as likely to disappear forever.
Does light affect Monstera variegation?
Good light won’t necessarily cause a reverted variegated Monstera to produce variegated leaves again.
However, keeping your variegated Monstera in good light will make it less likely to produce all-green leaves. It’s prevention rather than cure.
Good light gives the plant more energy because it can photosynthesize more effectively. As well discouraging reversion it helps the plant fight off disease better, and grow bigger and faster.
Pruning to encourage variegation
As I mentioned earlier, pruning Monstera back to the last variegated leaf can encourage it to produce a variegated leaf. Again, it’s not guaranteed, but if you combine it with high light volume, you could get lucky.
How to preserve existing variegation
One of the battles we have with variegated Monstera – both Thai Constellation and Monstera albo – is keeping the white parts white. The lack of chlorophyll shortens the lifespan of the white part of the leaf and they can brown pretty quickly.
If your variegated Monstera starts producing all-white leaves, it’s prudent to chop it back to the last green node to see if you can get a balance back. All-white leaves brown quickly.
High light volume
High light volume is necessary to keep the white parts of variegated Monstera white, but high light intensity can burn the leaves, as the white parts are more delicate. Chlorophyll protects the leaf from UV damage, so the white parts are more sensitive to sun.
To achieve high light volume but low light intensity, you need to keep your Monstera in bright, indirect light for long hours – preferably around 14 hours a day.
Here in the UK my Thai sits right in a south-facing window and her white parts last really well. She’s currently getting a little crispy because the days are shorter, but in summer I don’t have an issue with browning.
For grow light users, a powerful grow light (like a Mars Hydro) a few feet away from the plant is ideal. Be sure to acclimate it over a couple of weeks so it doesn’t burn.
Humidity can also help with keeping the white parts plump BUT it can be a bit of a double-edged sword because too much humidity whilst the leaf is unfurling can result in browning because moisture can get trapped.
Additives such as silica
Silica is an additive you can add to your water. It strengthens the cell walls of plants and gives them extra protection from bright light and pests.
It’s not something I’ve tried (purely because I already have so much stuff) but every houseplant Facebook group is full of people singing silica’s praises. Silica Gold is recommended a lot.
I mentioned that my Thai is currently sporting a couple of crispy tips, and I think it’s due to the shorter nights and low temperatures. Though winter isn’t shocking to me, it is to a tropical plant that’s used to growing year-round.
There isn’t really a lot you can do to stop minor shocks causing browning on variegated leaves. The only course of action is to try to keep everything as consistent as possible. I could add heat mats and grow lights, but I’m happy to just accept a couple of brown tips.
Try to minimise shock as much as you can – don’t disturb the roots when repotting, try not to move it around too much – and you should be ok.
That’s it for this article! I hope you found it interesting, though I appreciate that it’s annoying that there’s no concrete way of preserving/reviving variegation – especially when variegated Monstera are so expensive.
Before you go, you might find these articles useful:
- How to tell if your Monstera is variegated
- Planet Houseplant’s Monstera Guide
- Grow lights for Monstera