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Variegated Monstera are easy to care for – you can treat them just as you would a regular green Monstera with a couple of differences:
- They burn more easily – or rather, their white parts do – so they need more protection from the sun
- They tend to be more prone to root rot
I can’t find any science-based evidence as to why they’re more likely to get root rot, but there is a TONNE of anecdotal evidence, so it’s definitely worth mentioning.
It seems to be Thai Constellations that are getting root rot (rather than Monstera Albo), but don’t let that put you off getting one. I have one, and whilst I have had some root issues, I’ve found that they tend to re-root quickly.
How much light do I need for variegated Monstera?
Okay, so we’re looking for balance here.
Variegated Monstera grow more slowly than green ones. There may be multiple factors at play here – growth rates on plants vary for a tonne of genetic reasons – but the main one is that they don’t have as much chlorophyll. The more white your plant has one it, the slower it will grow.
Normally, I’d encourage you to put your plant in as bright a light as possible to help it grow super quickly.
With variegated Monstera (or variegated anything) you need to be away that direct sun on the bright part of the leaves can lead to burning.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t build up a tolerance like you can with green plants – you can.
My Thai Constellation is in a bright, south-facing window. It’s not even a window – it’s patio doors. That thing is in full sun. I’ve had no burning. So whilst the white parts are far more likely to get burned, it’s not inevitable.
Interestingly*, I’ve found that the white parts of variegated plants burn easily under grow lights (I use the Mars Hydro 1000) but green plants aren’t bothered. and yet if you shift a load of plants into bright sunlight from a dark area, they’ll all get a little crispy.
*I FIND IT INTERESTING, OK?
When it comes to building up a tolerance for sunlight, I have a specific way of doing it which is a bit easier than shifting a plant closer to a window. That method is fine, but not always feasible unless you’re happy to have plants all over the floor.
Instead, I start my plants off in a north-facing window (or east, depending in what you have available) and leave them there for about a month. Then they get moved to a west-facing window, then eventually a south-facing one.
This works in my house BUT you do need to keep some things in mind. In my old house, the south-facing window was facing my neighbours, so my west window was brighter. Also, don’t be moving your plants during heat waves and burn them to a crisp. If you’re worried, put up a sheer curtain.
Lastly, remember that if you do burn your monstera, it’s actually no big deal. Unless you’ve scorched the roots it’ll grow back fine. I have an article on treating sunburned Monstera here.
How often should I water variegated Monstera?
I wish I could give you a standard answer, but there are so many variables that affect how quickly soil dries out that it would disingenuous to do so. Sorry.
When it comes to watering, you can treat your variegated Monstera exactly like you’d treat a green one. Here are the instructions:
- Only water when the substrate is dry
Monstera in general are fairly tolerant to being overwatered – certainly more tolerant that many other plant species.
That being said, variegated Monstera are less tolerant of it than the green ones. They’re not EXTREMELY likely to get root rot, it’s just something you need to be more aware of than with a normal Monstera.
I keep my Thai Constellation in water, so root rot isn’t an issue (the java moss in the jar keeps the water well oxygenated). A great option if you’re lazy like I am.
Ignore all the ‘water when the top 2cm of the soil is dry’ advice. You need to stick a finger as far into the soil as possible (or use a moisture metre) to see if it’s wet at the bottom.
Make a habit of picking the pot up before and after you water, and after a while, you’ll be able to gauge whether you need to water just by feeling the weight of the pot.
- Check the soil more regularly when it’s warm/sunny
Plants grow a LOT faster when it’s sunny, because not only are they actively growing and using more water, but it’s evaporating out of the soil too. A plant that needs watering every week in summer may only need water every couple of months in winter.
- Don’t worry too much about water quality
My general rule of thumb here is that if you can drink your tap water, your Monstera will probably be fine with it. Don’t worry about finding filtered or distilled water because Monstera don’t really appreciate it.
Those of you with aquariums, listen up. Monstera grow extremely well in aquariums, so I highly recommend you use the water you remove during water changes to water your plants. They love it.
Should I mist variegated Monstera?
We don’t mist our house plants. They don’t like it.
Variegated Monstera will grow much better in rooms with high humidity. Ideally, we’re looking around 70%, though mine is in 55% and she’s fine.
Giving your variegated Monstera high humidity is a great way to keep the leaves healthy – especially the white parts. Higher humidity allows the plant to photosynthesise more effectively than if you kept it in low humidity AND dry air can suck moisture out of the leaves and cause brown spots.
Not only do the white parts brown quicker, but they stick out like a sore thumb.
What type of pot should I put my variegated Monstera in?
I like to keep my variegated Monstera in clear pots. This is purely down to their slightly higher chance of getting root rot than their green friends AND the fact that you’re likely to be shelling out three figures for them.
Monstera have pretty thick, strong roots, so they’re not too fussed if you want to keep pulling them up to check the roots but there are a couple of reasons I’d rather have a clear pot:
- I can forget about my plants for weeks at a time. If I see the roots in a clear pot, I can immediately see if there’s an issue, without having to actually make the decision to go and look
- It’s not a big, messy furore to check the roots.
Once upon a time I’d have recommended keeping variegated Monstera in terracotta pots, but actually, unless you’re a chronic overwaterer, I’ve found that it can slow their growth. Monstera like a lot of airflow to their roots, and whilst green Monstera aren’t fussed about substrate AT ALL, variegated Monstera definitely benefit from an airier mix.
What type of soil is best for variegated Monstera?
As I say, they like an airy mix. When I say they ‘like’ it, obviously they don’t give a shit, BUT they don’t get root rot as easily with an airy soil mix. If you want to go a store-bought mix then go ahead, but get some orchid bark as well and make mix of two parts potting mix and one part orchid bark.
What about keeping variegated Monstera in water?
I prefer to keep my Thai Constellation in water due to the propensity for root rot – the airy soil needs watering more often and I tend to forget so its easier this way.
The same rules apply though – Thai constellations are more prone to root rot, so we need to keep the soil aerated. Your options are an air stone, changing the water regularly, or adding java moss, which is my preferred way. I haven’t changed the water in months, and it’s perfectly clear. There’s also a bit of duckweed in there because duck weed tends to just…show up.
If you want to keep a variegated Monstera in water, it’s a pretty easy process – they tend to take the transition well.
- Clean off the roots. Soak them in water and brush with a soft toothbrush if necessary. I’m terrible at this (I have no patience) and mine was fine
- Prepare your vessel. I used aquarium water, but tap water with a drop of de-chlorinator is fine. Add a handful of java moss (it’ll grow, so don’t worry if it only seems like a bit)
- Put plant in vessel. Done.
- Keep a close eye on the roots. You should see growth in a week. If it looks like it’s struggling, change the water or add an airstone. You can also soak the water in hydrogen peroxide to get rid of any bacteria
How to propagate variegated Monstera
I have a whole post on propagating Monstera, and you can follow exactly the same process EXCEPT for that I usually recommend soil propagating Monstera because it’s easy (since you don’t need to transition the plants back to soil like you do with water propagating).
I wouldn’t soil prop variegated Monstera, not because it won’t work (it likely will), but because they take a little longer to root and they’re a LOT more expensive. i don’t think it’s worth the risk.
Instead, I like to root, then cut, then stick in soil.
How to root variegated Monstera
How you do root before cutting? I hear you cry.
Get a glass:
Stick an aerial root in it.
Bear in mind, I haven’t actually been consciously propping this, I just have various aerial roots in various stages of rooting, so all these photos were taken on the same day.
After a couple of weeks, the once brown aerial root will start to grow:
Just because it’s brown and dry doesn’t mean it can’t start to grow and go all white and fuzzy.
And then it’ll start to branch:
So I put all the aerial roots back into the water which is why this one has such developed roots – you could definitely put this in soil but also, obvs you don’t need to wait until they’re this developed.
The idea is that we have a root system before we’ve taken any cuttings. Just gives the plant a bit of a head start.
Then we cut:
Now we take the actual cutting. I’m not going to do that, because, er, I have no desire for two Thais (I’d rather have one big one) but I can demonstrate where I’d cut:
As you can see, my Thai has a TONNE of nodes, so I’m not that bothered, since I’m always gonna have at least one node on any piece I cut. I chose the spot I did because I’ll have the well-rooted aerial root (I’ve circled it) but I’ve also got the aerial root on the right-hand side, above the cut line.
I’m pretty sure that’s from a different node, but they’re very close together so it doesn’t matter.
Note: I’d definitely use a very sharp knife to cut this. The stem is THICK.
Plant in soil
It’s a bit easier transitioning a rooted cutting to soil, rather than growing roots from scratch, but you still need to make sure the soil stays evenly moist (but not too wet) and stays aerated.
Humidity is key to making this process easy. If you don’t have a humidifier or terrarium, wrap the whole plant in a big, clear, garbage bag, and tie the top, so it has it’s own grow tent. Blow air into it if you like. The humidity will keep the leaves healthy and stop the soil drying out as quickly.
Rather than watering the soil with a watering can, I like to start with evenly damp soil – water it thoroughly then squeeze out the excess with your hands. Then plant the plant and wrap it in the bag. Then mist the soil (not the plant) every day so it stays moist but doesn’t get too wet.
If you want to just stick a cutting in soil and hope, then it will probably root just fine. Monstera are chill, even the variegated ones. But if you’re a chronic overthinker that loves a project, try my way.
Why is my variegated Monstera turning brown?
There are a number of reasons why your variegated Monstera is turning brown, and there isn’t really a way to tell the reason without an in-depth interview about your care regime – it’s all just trial and error until you get a feeling for your plant.
- Too much sun
- Too low humidity
- Pests – probably thrips. I highly recommend you make washing your variegated Monstera down with insecticidal soap every week, whether it has thrips or not. Prevention is better than cure!
- Root rot
- Too cold
- In a draught
- Physical damage
- Too much fertiliser
How do I make my Monstera more variegated?
Variegation is largely determined by genetics, so there’s only so much you can do. HOWEVER, variegation is a mutation that is detrimental to the plant. It’s aesthetically pleasing to us, but it can cause issues to the plant because all that white space can’t photosynthesise.
Therefore, logic suggests that the better we meet the plant’s needs, the more likely it is to continue producing variegated leaves.
Please remember that plants don't care about looking cool - they only care about growing. If they have enough leaves to keep growing well, they do not care that the white parts are browning. In the plants eyes, the more light the better. The new leaves will be adapted to the sun, but the old ones will burn You need to balance giving the plant enough light for it to be happy to continue producing variegated leaves, but not so much that those leaves immediately burn.
Light is regularly touted as being the best way to increase the level of variegation in Monstera, but whilst it’s important, light alone won’t help that much. We also need to keep the roots healthy with enough water, we need to keep micronutrient levels up with fertiliser, and we need to keep all of the above-ground plant happy with a tonne of humidity. Humidity and light play the biggest role – don’t increase one without the other, because you’ll end up with either fried leaves rot.
What’s the best fertiliser for variegated Monstera?
Monstera are pretty chill when it comes to fertiliser, and will probably be happy with most things you can find at the garden centre.
However, with variegated Monstera, I like to exercise a bit more caution. Again, the plant doesn’t care how it looks, so it won’t matter from a growing perspective, but I’ve found that using more natural fertilisers is less likely to result in brown marks on the leaves.
It’s difficult to ascertain if the marks are definitely from fertiliser, but I’ve found that consistent application of worm castings and aquarium water result in faster growth and more ‘perfect’ leaves.
Look at this last one:
If you’d prefer something you can water in, fish or seaweed emulsion is a good option.
How to make variegated Monstera grow faster
Variegated monstera grow more slowly than their green counterparts because their leaves don’t contain as much chlorophyll. There are still a few things you can try to get them to grow more quickly though:
- Increase the amount of light they get – I know I keep wanging on about this but it WORKS.
- Increase the humidity – game-changer. Read this article if you don’t believe me.
- Up your watering game – check how dry the soil is every couple of days, and as soon as the soil is dry throughout (like a 2 on the moisture metre) water it thoroughly. Alternate between bottom and top watering so you can get the benefits of both.
- Fertilise regularly but gently. Monthly is great.
- Grow it up a pole – evidence suggests that growing a plant up a pole can trick it into growing bigger and faster
- Don’t let it get too cold – tropical plants can go into situational dormancy if they feel a bit of a chill. They don’t have to be extra warm, just move them into rooms that you occupy a lot (such as the living room) in the winter.
How to tell if a Monstera is variegated
If you’re looking at spending a lot of money on a variegated Monstera, you need to be sure that the whole plant is variegated, not just a random leaf.
Check the stem – it should be green and white striped:
Plants with sport variegation are pretty common. Sport variegation is a random anomaly – you may see a Monstera with a single variegated leaf and think that you’ve won the jackpot, but there’s a high chance that it may have been a one-off.
I don’t have a Monstera with sport variegation, but I do have this Florida green with a single Florida beauty leaf.
It’s not surprising that we see sport Florida greens, as there as a couple of different ways it can be variegated (you can also get Florida ghosts, which are white when the new leaves emerge and then gradually fade to green). It’s probably a common anomaly.
I don’t know if variegated Monstera occur because they’re a common occurrence naturally, or because we have so many Monstera that it just seems like a lot of them are variegated.
By the way, variegated Monstera are not rare. The reason they’re so expensive is that they’re in high demand and nurseries want to keep it that way so they only sell a certain number at once – they don’t want to flood the market and bankrupt themselves.
Can you make a Monstera variegated?
No. At least, not in any real way. Similarly, if you get a sport plant there isn’t really anything you can do to keep the variegation – it might crop up again, it might not.
There are various chemicals that can be used to make Monstera look variegated, but honestly, I don’t really know anything about them. We can safety assume that if they were that good, they’d be readily available to buy – that stuff would sell out.
Is Monstera variegation stable?
If you want a Monstera with stable variegation, then opt for a Thai constellation rather than an Albo. Thais have been genetically altered in a lab so the variegation is stable – Albos are more natural, but they can lose their variegation if they don’t get the care they need (the jury’s out on how much we can influence this, but the consensus is that it’s basically down to light and humidity again).
Thai constellations used to be a lot cheaper than Albos, but they’re pretty evenly matched at the moment, with Thais being a wee bit cheaper. I got mine in 2020 (pre-pandemic) for £89.99, and the prices have skyrocketed since then. They change so much that there’s no point me giving you a guide price here.
A lot of people claim that they don’t see the fuss about variegated Monstera, but I definitely see the appeal. They look a bit different and more exotic, and just…pretty cool!
They are expensive and I think they’re a great purchase for people looking to get into buying pricier plants but not quite sure what they’re doing yet. They’re pretty tough to kill (just keep an eye on the roots) and pretty easy to chop, prop and sell so you can potentially make your money back in the future.