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There’s a lot of conflicting information about this because whilst it’s possible to keep Monstera deliciosa in low light, they grow much bigger and faster in bright light.
You’ll struggle to get those big, fenestrated leaves if you keep your Monstera in anything less than bright light. Medium or low light will result in leggy growth and droopy leaves, and you’ll be more at risk from root rot and pests.
How much light do Monstera deliciosa need?
My general rule of thumb is to give your Monstera as much light as possible. There are caveats of course – if you live somewhere super hot and dry then it may be too bright – and you need to acclimate your plant if you plan to increase the light dramatically.
I live in the UK and my Monsteras sit right beside a big (floor-to-ceiling) south-facing window.
They get less light in winter (because the days are shorter), but they manage ok in the same spot.
How much light do Monstera deliciosa get in the wild?
*Technically* they don’t get particularly bright light until they reach maturity.
Monstera deliciosa seedlings are skototropic, which means that unlike the vast majority of seedlings, they grow towards the shade, ot the light. This ensures they find a tree to climb in a timely manner (i.e. before they get crushed underfoot).
As they mature, they grow upwards, with the aim of getting more light, because the more light they have, the more they can photosynthesize, and the bigger they can grow.
It’s the climbing pattern that leads to the holes in the leaves – they allow light to penetrate to the lower leaves as they grow – no upward trajectory/increased light means no fenestrations.
But remember that medium light below the canopy of a rainforest is probably pretty similar to bright/indirect light levels in most homes. Light levels are considerably higher outside than inside.
How many hours of light do Monstera deliciosa need?
Monstera deliciosa’s natural habitat is in Central America, so they’ve evolved to have a minimum of eleven hours of daylight and a maximum of around fourteen.
Ideally, we want to emulate that, but realistically, anything from 8-16 hours of light is fine.
Personally, I find that longer, weaker hours are better than short blasts of bright light, so an exposed north-facing window might be better than a south-facing window blocked by a tree for half the day.
How to give your Monstera deliciosa bright, indirect light
Bright indirect light is an umbrella term for diffused light and dappled light.
In the wild, Monstera would be in bright, direct light, but the light is filtered by the leaves of the rainforest canopy. You can get the same effect by putting a Monstera right in a bright window but covering the window with a sheer curtain OR pulling it away from the window and blocking the light with another plant.
Here in Yorkshire, even bright, direct light is usually indirect because it’s so cloudy.
It’s almost impossible to give your Monstera consistent bright, indirect light, because the sun moves all day – at some point the light is either going to be direct, or medium – I’d pick bright.
If you’re not sure whether the light is direct or indirect, look at the shadows last by your plant – if they’re sharp, then the light is direct, if they’re fuzzy at the edges but you can still easily tell what’s casting the shadow, it’s indirect.
I’ve made one of these diagrams to show you perfectly great places to put Monstera, but it’s difficult to show the effects the position of the sun has. The first light ‘type’ indicates the light the plant will have most of the time, so the plant behind and to the left of the sofa would get mostly medium light, but also a bit of bright indirect.
The one by the window will get a lot of direct light, but it is dependent on the position of the window.
If this was a north-facing window, a Monstera would be totally fine in any of these positions, but a succulent wouldn’t. Monstera can live in north, south, east or west-facing windows – climate is more important than position.
Can Monstera deliciosa live in direct light?
Yes, absolutely. Monstera are a fairly invasive species and do well in very exposed environments.
That being said, it depends entirely on where you live. Here in the UK, it’s unlikely to ever be too bright for a Monstera unless it’s a particularly savage heatwave. As long as we acclimate the plant, we’d be hard-pushed to put it in a spot that’s got too much direct light unless it’s outside against a west-facing wall.
Also, Monstera have no regard for their physical appearance. They grow wild in hot countries, completely unfazed by the fact that nearly every leaf is burned to a crisp. If you want to keep your Monstera in bright light AND looking good, you need to make sure you keep on top of keeping it hydrated and giving it decent humidity levels.
Can Monstera deliciosa live in low light?
I have a whole article dedicated to keeping Monstera in low light.
So many home decor websites recommend Monstera as low-light plants, and whilst they can survive, you won’t get the best out of them. They won’t grow as big, their growth pattern will be wild, and they’ll be a magnet for pests and diseases.
Do all Monstera deliciosa need a lot of light?
Monstera have been kept as houseplants since the 1800s, and they’ve been bred a LOT. As such there are some specimens that seem to do fine in lower levels of light. That’s why you sometimes see Facebook posts of people keeping thriving Monstera in windowless bathrooms.
Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a Monstera that can thrive in those conditions, and most will struggle.
I can say that with confidence because if labs could guarantee a Monstera will do well in low light, it’d be a great selling point, and we’d know about it.
Most Monstera (in fact, most houseplants) will struggle in low light. Even those that do best in medium light, like Calathea and ferns, are pretty demanding when it comes to their other requirements, like humidity and water quality.
In general, plants that need a lot of light (and receive it) are a lot easier to care for than plants that need lower light levels.
Benefits/disadvantages of keeping Monstera deliciosa in bright light
|Benefits of keeping|
in bright light
|Disadvantages of keeping|
in bright light
|They grow faster||They’ll dry out quickly|
|They grow bigger, more fenestrated leaves||They might burn in a heatwave|
|They’re more resistant to pests||They can get BIG|
|They’re less likely to get root rot||Humidity levels are likely to be lower|
Signs that your Monstera deliciosa needs more light
If you suspect that your Monstera isn’t getting enough light, move it before it displays these symptoms (if you can). Not because it’s harmful to your Monstera (Monstera are extremely resilient plants) but because the only way to remedy leggy, etiolated growth is to chop and prop, which is quite extreme.
Also, you’re way more likely to get pests, because pests love stressed plants.
So, here are the signs that your Monstera isn’t getting enough light:
There are a couple of different ways that Monstera can have leggy growth:
- There are long lengths of stem between leaves – this is called a long internodal space.
- The petioles (the bit that attaches the leaf to the stem) get very long and thin.
Low light causes leggy growth because the plant stretches towards a light source. This results in plants looking top-heavy and droopy, and can eventually snap under the weight of the leaves.
There are some different Monstera forms, and some are naturally leggier than others BUT it seems to vary a LOT from plant to plant.
For example, you can take two cuttings from one plant, and one might have naturally longer internodal spacing than the other.
There are also large and small form Monstera, and large forms have shorter internodal spacing.
Droopy Monstera are very common, and unfortunately, they’re a plant with big leaves that have a tendency to droop for no real reason.
However, a lack of light can result in droopy leaves for two main reasons:
- Etiolated (stretched) petioles aren’t strong enough to hold up the leaves, so the petiole bends, resulting in a droopy leaf
- The Monstera has no energy, so it has an overall droopy look
Droopy leaves can also be caused by root rot, which in turn can be a result of low light.
A Monstera having small leaves isn’t necessarily a sign that there’s anything wrong, however, if you want bigger leaves, you’ll need to increase the light.
Monstera grow big, fenestrated leaves as a direct response to high light levels – if the light isn’t bright enough, they don’t need big, hole-y leaves…so they don’t grow them.
A common issue people have when buying Monstera is that the new leaves come in smaller. That’s simply because it’s getting lower light than it did at the growers. It doesn’t mean it’s unhappy – just that it doesn’t need to grow leaves that big anymore.
No fenestrations in the leaves
See above. Monstera only start growing holes in the leaves when they need them, and they only need them when the light is bright.
There’s a rumour (I don’t know if it’s true, but I don’t think it is) that small-form Monstera deliciosa are crawlers, and therefore won’t ever produce fenestrated leaves. In my experience, all Monstera do a lot better and are more likely to produce leaves with holes in them if they’re climbing something.
More light = faster growth.
So a Monstera growing in low light will grow slower than one in bright light.
However, just because your Monstera is in bright light doesn’t automatically mean it’ll grow quickly.
There is a very, very wide range of speeds when it comes to Monstera growth.
In my experience, smaller Monstera grow WAY quicker than mature ones, but it may just be that it’s maxed out with the amount of light it gets in Yorkshire.
I have a large-form green Monstera and a Thai Con (all TCs are large-form) next to each other and the Thai grows much faster. The only difference between them is that the stem of the TC is much thinner than the green one, so I’m pretty sure it’s younger. It could just be genetics.
Light and genetics both play a key role in the speed of Monstera growth.
Monstera leaves should be a fairly bright, deep green. The exception to this is the light green of newly-unfurling leaves.
If the leaves are all looking a bit pale and sickly, this could be an issue with low light. It could also be a pest or root issue, but whatever, the problem, increasing the light can only help.
Marks on the leaves
Brown or black marks on the leaves can have a myriad of causes, and whilst they’re unlikely to be exclusively caused by low light, they tend to be indicative of issues that are less likely to surface if you keep your plant in bright light.
Things like root rot and pests won’t be solved by putting your Monstera in brighter light, but they will aid your plant’s recovery.
The only exception to this is sunburn BUT sunburn is often caused by lack of acclimation – Monstera can take quite a lot of light as long as they’re acclimated properly.
Soil takes ages to dry
You want to aim to water your Monstera every week or two – if it takes several weeks for your soil to dry out, that’s a sign that it’s not getting enough light. If you find that putting your Monstera in a brighter spot means you have to water waaay too often, then you can cover the soil with moss or something to help keep the moisture in.
If your soil is taking ages to dry but you want to keep your Monstera where it is, consider switching the soil to something that retains less water.
Mushrooms in the soil
Mushrooms in the soil are actually a pretty neutral thing – they’re neither a good or a bad sign. However, they tend not to like a lot of light, so whilst they’re fine to have in plants that don’t like bright light, if they crop up in your Monstera it *might* be a sign that it’s in too low light.
That may seem like a pointless issue to bring up BUT I see a lot of people online claiming that mushrooms in soil are a good thing and leaving it at that.
Whilst I can’t guarantee that low light was the cause of these issues in your plant (because plants have hundreds of ailments and, like, three symptoms), increasing the light to your Monstera is likely to help anyway, so there are no downsides.
Signs that your Monstera deliciosa is getting too much light
Unless you live somewhere that has a LOT of bright, direct light, low humidity, and you tend to underwater, it’s unlikely that your Monstera deliciosa is getting too much light.
However, plants produce molecules that protect them from the sun, called sinapate esters. If they’re not in bright light, they don’t produce them, because they don’t need them. If you increase the light to your Monstera, it’ll need time to build up its UV protection, otherwise it’ll burn.
The first sign that your Monstera is getting too much light is, unfortunately, that the leaves will burn.
Monstera leaves can burn in a few hours, so DON’T put your Monstera outside on a sunny day randomly, because it can do irreparable damage surprisingly quickly.
The other sign your Monstera is getting too much light is that the leaves can bleach a bit in the sun, and you can get brown edges. This isn’t harmful to the plant – they actually prefer to look a bit raggy but have brighter light – but obviously it doesn’t look great.
Sometimes, you have to choose between having a super fenestrated, mature Monstera and having one that looks good.
If you find that your Monstera is drying out super fast, you might want to pull it away from the window a bit.
When you keep Monstera in bright light they go through a LOT more water – they use it to grow, plus it evaporates from the soil quickly.
You can water more, but if you’re busy it can be easier to lower the light levels. You can also try top-dressing the pot with stones to keep the moisture in, OR add more coir or something similarly water-retentive to your potting mix.
How to acclimate your Monstera deliciosa so that it can tolerate more light
I have a whole article on moving your Monstera outside that covers acclimating your Monstera to more light.
The general idea is that you gradually increase light exposure over time. If you’re moving your Monstera from low light to bright light inside, you should be able to acclimate it within a couple of weeks – just move it to slightly brighter spot every day.
The easier way is to move your Monstera on a cloudy or rainy day because the sun isn’t going to be strong enough to burn the leaves. You could also move it to its endgame spot, and protect it with a sheer curtain. Open the curtain for a few hours in the morning, and gradually increase light exposure over time.
How to increase the light your Monstera gets
Maximise existing natural light
- Keep the leaves clean and dust-free
- Keep your windows clean and dust-free
- Put it in a room with white/pale walls
- Try it in different spots – an exposed east-facing window may be better than a west-facing window that’s obscured by trees
Get grow lights
Grow lights and Monstera are not natural friends. Monstera are big, and adding grow lights can be tricky – you’d have to either suspend a grow light from above, shine several on it from the sides, or go all in and get a grow tent.
I wouldn’t recommend relying 100% on grow lights for providing your Monstera with light UNLESS you’re willing to invest in a proper set up. Those cheap Amazon grow lights are ok for supplemental light, but not enough to provide all the light your plant needs.
My preferred Monstera/grow light routine is to use grow lights to effectively lengthen the day. So rather than running it for 16 hours a day, I’d run it for eight – four in the morning and four in the evening, and then let the sun (such as it is in December in the UK) fill in the gaps.
If you have a grow light set up for small plants, like a cabinet or shelving, put your Monstera next to it – sure it’s, not as effective as having a dedicated Monstera grow light set up, but it’s probably the most efficient way of getting light to all your plants without running up a huge bill (in either light purchases or energy).
If you do want a grow light specifically for Monstera, I’d go for either a floor lamp with a grow bulb OR a professional grow light suspended above the plant, rather than attempting to light the whole plant. It’s the closest to the situation it’d be in in the wild.
Ok, I think that covers everything that I have to say on the subject of light and Monstera.
Could it have been encapsulated in the phrase ‘generally, more is better’? Yeah, probably. Getting Monstera good light is like a cheat code. Even if they still refuse to grow you’re reducing the chance of getting other problems.
Before you go, you might find these articles interesting:
- The Ultimate Guide to Monstera Deliciosa
- Monstera Deliciosa Care Guide
- How to Water Monstera Deliciosa
If you have any questions, leave me a comment! Thanks for reading.