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I did a post on corking, which is when the stem of your Monstera (a lot of plants do it actually) gets brown calluses on it to help strengthen the stem.
There is, however, another reason your stem might go brown and it’s way more of a big deal.
By the way, it's highly unlikely that you'll see stem rot before you get a LOT of issues with the leaves, but misdiagnoses happen so here we are.
Stem rot is…not great.
But we *should* be able to save your plant.
How to identify stem rot
Stem rot will start at the bottom of your plant and work its way up. It looks dark brown in colour and can look a bit wet. The stem might also be mushy.
If you have a lot of black/brown marks on the leaves – often starting from the tip of the leaf and spreading up towards the petiole – then you probably have stem rot.
Is stem rot different to root rot?
No – it’s root rot that verrrry far progressed.
Root rot occurs because the environment around the leaves is conducive to the reproduction of a lot of bacteria – if the environment around the leaf was great for bacteria you’d get leaf rot.
Root rot doesn’t stop unless you stop it (or you adjusted your care in time and were very lucky). It’ll just move up the plant.
Can you reverse stem rot?
No. Once plant matter is rotten, you can’t reverse it.
We’re at the damage limitation stage.
There’s no saving the roots either, so it’s time for the old chop-n-prop.
(If you’ve heard of chop and prop but have no idea what it means, it’s just a lazy way of saying ‘taking cuttings and propagating them’.)
How to save a Monstera with stem rot
Chop n prop, boys, chop n prop (said in the voice of the lead penguin from Madagascar)
1 – Take cuttings
When your plant has rotted to the point that it’s got stem rot, then it can be difficult to see how far the rot has traveled. For this reason, I’d advise you to take as many cuttings as you can.
Remember that you can only take cuttings from the stem.
Monstera leaves with no node will not propagate.
They will produce roots, but no more leaves – they’re called zombie leaves, and they do last a while, so can be a nice decor piece for a few months.
(Though if your Monstera has stem rot the leaves probably aren't in great condition either)
And if someone tells you they had a leaf that propagated just nod along, but even if it SEEMED like it didn’t have a node, there will have been enough node cells to produce a new plant.
Cut the stem into as many pieces as you can – generally, you get one leaf per node, so cut in the gaps between the leaves. It’s actually easier if your plant is leggy, because there’s more internodal spacing but in general if there’s a leaf and an inch or so of stem you’ll probably have a node.
2 – Root cuttings
Now we need to root the cuttings.
I would root them all in separate containers to minimise the spread of rot. I would also rinse the roots in a hydrogen peroxide solution to get rid of any remaining bacteria.
This is great for people that are impatient – not because it’s quicker but because you can see the roots without damaging the plant’s developing roots.
I have an article here about propagating house plants in water, and another on rooting cuttings quickly, but the general advise it to keep them in a warm, humid, bright environment, and keep the water aerated.
You can either change the water every few days, add an air pump or add oxygenating aquatic plants like java moss.
I wouldn’t recommend rooting cuttings in soil if your Monstera has stem rot, unless you’re 100% sure where you went wrong. Monstera can root in soil well but water or moss might be a better option for a stressed plant.
Moss is traditionally used for propagating wet sticks, but it can work with cuttings with leaves too. Just dampen some moss and pack it around the node. You can put it in a pot or container like normal, or you could wrap the moss and node in plastic wrap. This can help keep the moss moist.
Make sure the moss stays damp but not wringing wet – I find spraying it with a spray bottle is easiest.
If the node doesn’t have leaves, you can put the whole thing in a clear box to keep the humidity in, and put it on a warm windowsill (or under a grow light). This tends to be the fastest way to rode cuttings.
3 – Pot up cuttings
Once the cuttings have roots you can pot them up. It doesn’t matter that much how long the roots are – cuttings can live indefinitely in any of these media, so don’t worry about waiting too long. In general, I wait until the initial roots have grown roots – so there are little branches and forks in the root system and it’s more of a network than a load of strands. That’s usually when the roots are a couple of inches long.
How ensure your Monstera doesn’t get stem rot (again)
The most common reason that Monstera get stem rot is that people overwater. I saw an article on a well known home decor website the other day that said that the author switched to self-watering pots because she didn’t want to have to remember to water her plants EVERY DAY.
Very, very few indoor plants need to be watered every day, and if it’s that big of a deal for you, switch it over to semi-hydroponics.
I have a whole article on how to water a Monstera, but the tl;dr is water it when the soil is basically dry.
Use the correct pot
The material the pot is made out of is up to you – I like to use a plastic nursery pot and a pretty outer pot, but I tend to underwater. If you’re more like to overwater, terracotta might suit you better.
However, the size of the pot is less negotiable. Go for as small as pot as you can, and increase it over time as the root ball grows.
You can 100% plant all your cuttings together BUT once your Monstera is all grown up it will become freaking MASSIVE. Do what you like, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I would recommend potting them all separately, but two together should be ok. Their roots tend to sort of merge together, so it can be difficult to separate them in the future without damaging the roots.
I should confess at this point that I have a pot with multiple Monstera cuttings in it after I chopped and propped after a thrips outbreak.
I’ve resigned myself to the fact it’ll probably need its own room when it grows up.
Use the correct soil
Again, tailor it to you. If you tend to overwater, either make your own soil from scratch or mix house plant potting mix with orchid bark – 50:50 is great to start with.
Have a good watering regime
Check the soil frequently, but only water it when the soil is dry. I like to use a moisture meter, but I appreciate a lot of people say they don’t work.
Put your Monstera in a good spot
Keeping your Monstera in low light is a great way to really speed up the rotting process, because not only can the Monstera make any energy to fight of infection, but the soil can’t dry out quickly either.
Move your Monstera into the brightest light you can, and it will grow quickly. It may burn initially, but the roots will still be growing. This is obviously quite an extreme step, but Monstera can build up a higher tolerance to bright light over time, and the extra energy will help them produce new growth faster (though the old growth will end up looking shocking – just chop it off).
Stem rot is basically very advanced root rot, and can be treated in the same way. Rooting multiple cuttings is less risky than just attempting to reroot the whole plant because it can be difficult to see how far the rot has spread.