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Monstera deliciosa is probably the most popular houseplant you can buy, and for good reason.
They’re easy to care for, look amazing, and for a tropical plant, don’t need that tropical of an environment.
Fun fact: it was actually the first plant profiled by the International Aroid Society.
The history, geography, and biology of Monstera Deliciosa
The first record we have of Monstera being kept as houseplants is in the 1600s when a French king decided he liked them very much. They’ve gone up and down in popularity ever since.
Where do Monstera Deliciosa come from?
They’re native to Central America, specifically Mexico and Guatemala, though they’ve since been introduced into Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.
They’ve also been introduced into various other countries, such as Bangladesh and Korea.
Alternative names for Monstera Deliciosa
There’s quite the list:
- Cheese plant
- Custard plant
- Fruit salad plant
- Mexican breadfruit
- Monstera borsigiana
- Monstra deliciosa var. borsigiana
- Monstera deliciosa var. sierrana
- Monstera lenneana
- Philodendron anatomicum
- Philodendron fenestratum
- Philodendron pertusum
- Split-leaf Philodendron
- Swiss cheese plant
- Tornelia fragrant
What type of plant is a Monstera deliciosa?
They’re a member of the Monstera genus, which is part of the tribe Monsteraceae, and the aroid family.
Like most aroids, their leaves, aerial roots, and fruit contain calcium oxalate crystals, so Monstera deliciosa are toxic to eat. They're actually used to make medicine and poison.
They are NOT a Philodendron – they’re in the same family, but a different genus and as such, can’t be hybridized.
Monstera deliciosa are hemiepiphytes, which means they begin life with their roots in the ground, but as they mature they grow more like epiphytes. They also produce edible fruit, unlike most other aroids.
Prior to being used ornamentally, they were used for their fruit and their aerial roots, which could be woven into baskets or used to make rope.
Whilst the fruit is delicious, they’re difficult to grow commercially. Not all Monstera will produce fruit, they need to be a couple of years old (at least) to produce fruit AND once the fruit is formed it can take years to ripen.
So instead of growing them for fruit and rope, they’re now grown and sold as houseplants.
Monstera deliciosa flowers look like this:
They can flower when grown as houseplants, but it requires awesome care and/or conditions.
How many different types of Monstera are there?
However, within the species, there are also several different cultivars of Monstera deliciosa, such as Monstera Thai Constellation, and Monstera deliciosa aurea. The number of Monstera cultivars increases all the time, as new cultivars are developed.
Are Monstera Deliciosa expensive?
Prices change a lot, but the regular green varieties aren’t particularly expensive anymore. The variegated varieties still command a high price though.
Monstera deliciosa are incredibly common but are often labelled as rare as a marketing gimmick (like many other houseplants). There are rare cultivars, but the regular green ones are sold in garden centres, plant shops, and even supermarkets.
Plants similar to Monstera Deliciosa
Rhaphidophora tetrasperma looks so similar that its nickname is Mini Monstera. Incidentally, there is a real Monstera species called Monstera minima, but it’s incredibly rare and not in cultivation (like many Monstera species).
There are several other Monstera deliciosa lookalikes, including Epipremnum pinnatum, Golden Pothos, and Amydrium Medium Silver.
Basic care for Monstera deliciosa
Basic care is quite easy, as they’re quite adaptable to different conditions within our homes.
Larger specimens tend to be easier to care for than baby Monstera, as the roots are more established.
Monstera Deliciosa watering requirements
Water them when the soil is pretty much dry – they’re pretty chill though, and will tolerate a bit of drought and even a bit of overwatering. I usually water mine every week in summer, making sure to water the soil thoroughly until water comes out of the drainage holes.
Monstera are happy to be watered with tap water – there’s no need to give them distilled water, but rainwater is a great option. They’re happy to be bottom watered, though it’s not necessary, and you can put them in the shower if that’s easier.
Monstera Deliciosa light requirements
The best tip I can give you is to give your Monstera a lot of light. They can burn, so acclimate it if you need to, but it will be happiest in your brightest spot UNLESS there’s a literal heatwave.
They’re invasive in many hot countries and they do VERY well in pretty exposed places.
Monstera Deliciosa humidity requirements
Monstera deliciosa don’t have ridiculously high humidity requirements, and they can live and grow quite happily in humidity levels of around 40%. However, increasing the humidity to around 65% can really help the plant produce bigger leaves faster. It can also help with aerial root growth which can help your Monstera climb.
I have found that high humidity combined with lower temperatures can cause mould to grow. It’s not harmful, just a bit gross.
Monstera Deliciosa fertiliser requirements
Monstera deliciosa aren’t too fussy about fertilisers. They will grow more slowly if they’re not fertilised, but it rarely shows on the leaves.
I fertilise my Monstera deliciosa every other time I water it using a hydroponic fertiliser, to ensure it’s getting all the macro and micronutrients it needs. I’ve also had a lot of success growing Monster deliciosa in my aquarium – they seem to appreciate their fertiliser being given little and often.
Repotting Monstera can be a pain, just because they’re so big, and their aerial roots can get in the way. They have a habit of preferring to grow roots over leaves if they’re in too big of a pot, so wait until they’re fairly rootbound before repotting.
Monstera deliciosa soil requirements
Monstera deliciosa aren’t too fussy about the type of soil they’re in. They have thick, strong roots so how you care for them is more important than the potting mix ingredients.
The best soil for Monstera is something with a decent amount of drainage, but that also retains some water. You can make your own from scratch, or mix store-bought houseplant mix with orchid bark or perlite.
I like to make a 50:50 mix of terrarium soil and leca. I find it drains quickly enough that I don’t get root rot, but if I forget to water for a couple of weeks, it’s not a big deal.
Alternatives to growing Monstera in soil:
Monstera deliciosa pot requirements
As I mentioned before, make sure the pot you’re using is only a couple of inches bigger than the root ball of the plant.
Monstera don’t have a predisposition for root rot (unless you have a Monstera Thai Constellation) but you’ll increase the chances of it if you use too big of a pot OR plant it too low in the pot – only the roots should be buried, not the stem.
Pot material is immaterial (lol lol lol) – use what suits you. Terracotta is a good option for overwaterers, but Monstera can also thrive in self-watering pots.
Helping Monstera climb
I personally don’t give my Monsteras anything to climb – I just poke their aerial roots back into the soil and that gives them plenty of support. However, if you struggle to convince your Monstera to grow aerial roots, then I’d recommend you give it some kind of support. Monstera can get top-heavy and snap under their own weight.
Also, they have the growth pattern of a drunken chicken, so get it on a pole asap.
There are various types:
- Coir poles – a perfectly fine budget option but you’ll need to attach the stem to the pole yourself. They’re impossible to keep hydrated so I wouldn’t even bother.
- Moss poles – awesome for growing big leaves quickly but you’ll need to keep the moss damp. The aerial roots will grow into the moss and create a secondary root system.
- Kratiste poles – my favourite option because the aerial roots attach AND you don’t need to water them.
- A plank of wood – you may need to tape the stem to it at first but it should start attaching with aerial roots over time. If the wood is untreated it’ll rot over time
- Bamboo canes – another cheap option, but you may need several otherwise the Monstera will pull it over
- A trellis – this is a popular option, but I find that trellises are a better option for smaller plants.
Check out this article on staking Monstera for the pros and cons of each type.
Monstera troubleshooting guide
Monstera deliciosa are often the first (or only) houseplant people get, and they can do a lot of weird stuff. Sometimes it’s fine and just…something that they do, and sometimes it’s a problem.
It’s important to remember that it’s pretty much impossible to have your Monstera looking perfect.
A certain amount of marks and damage is perfectly normal.
When you see them growing in the wild they often look burnt to a crisp and decidedly leggy, because…they would rather be in 18 hours of direct, burning sunlight, than be in a bit of shade but grow a fraction slower.
Pests common to Monstera deliciosa
Monstera deliciosa are a bit of a double-edged sword when it comes to pests. On one hand, pests need to get to quite high volumes before they do significant damage, which is great. However, it can be a nightmare to reduce Monstera pest levels down to zero.
- Thrips – thrips and Monstera are BFFs. Nothing with break them apart – I have a whole article on how to get thrips off Monstera.
- Scale – another one that can be a pain to shift
- Spider mites
I don’t mean to worry, but Monstera can become afflicted by a lot of problems.
- Randomly stopping growing
- Spots on the leaves
- Stem rot
- Burnt leaves
- Yellow leaves
- Curling leaves
- Drooping leaves
- Leaves falling off
- New growth coming in smaller
Weird stuff Monstera do that’s (usually) nothing to worry about
- Monstera can get edema, which looks like the leaves are transparent
- As Monstera climb, they add support to their stem called corking which can look like scale
- Monstera often have water dripping off the tips of their leaves in the morning, a process called guttation
- New leaves come in light green and don’t darken until they’ve hardened off, which can be alarming to new owners.
- A lack of humidity can cause a delay in new leaves unfurling – there are things you can do to speed it up, but it’s usually best to leave them alone
- They tend not to produce new growth in winter – whilst Monstera don’t have a natural dormancy period, cold, dark days will stop them from putting out new leaves.
- Monstera aerial roots are…a lot. They’re one of the few aroids that grow incredibly long aerial roots to the point that you need to work out what you want to do with them. Putting aerial roots in water is an option but I find it gets a bit messy so I direct mine back into the soil. If you hate them, or they’re destroying your paintwork, you can cut them off. It won’t harm the plant.
Monstera growth hacks
One of the reasons Monstera deliciosa are so popular is their fenestrated leaves. However, you need to provide your plant with specific conditions you want it to grow leaves with splits in.
You need to make sure it has plenty of light, and grows vertically, so a moss pole or similar is handy.
Bear in mind that the normal growth pattern for Monstera is to grow on one long vine. We typically prefer our houseplants to be bushy, and whilst you can encourage your Monstera to grow in a bushy fashion (is bushily a word? I feel like it should be one), they’re vines, not bushes, so you’ll need to get creative with pruning and making sure to rotate it.
You can cut off the leaves of your Monstera if they’re not fitting your vision BUT they won’t grow back from the same place, and the new Monstera leaves grow from the petiole of the previous leaf, so make sure you don’t accidentally cut off the growth point. It’ll grow back, but it’ll slow things down for a while.
Monstera don’t typically produce runners like Monstera adansonii do – they might stretch out their stems and increase the space between nodes, but most nodes will have a leaf.
How to propagate Monstera deliciosa
Monstera deliciosa are a great project for first-time propagators. There’s a variety of different ways you can propagate them and they root pretty readily.
The first step of propagating Monstera deliciosa is to take a cutting. You can’t propagate a Monstera from a leaf – you need a node.
Nodes are bumps on the Monstera’s stem. The leaves and aerial roots grow from the node. Whilst you don’t need an aerial root to propagate plants, it can speed things up.
If you’re unsure of what a node looks like, just make sure that when you take your cutting you cut it so that you have two leaves – that way you’re guaranteed to have a node.
Then simply put the cutting in water, soil, moss, leca…whatever you fancy and wait for it to root.
I recommend that propagation newbies propagate in water, simply because it’s nice to be able to see what’s going on. If you prop in soil and keep pulling out the cutting to check progress it can damage the new roots.
I use tap water to propagate my plants, and I keep the props on my kitchen windowsill so I don’t forget them and it’s pretty effortless to change the water.
Make sure to change the propagation water often. A lot of people never change the water and still have success, but I’ve found that changing the propagation water every day really speeds up root growth, especially if there’s an aerial root on the cutting.
If your Monstera isn’t propagating, then you may need to increase oxygen to the roots, or be more patient – it can take several weeks for roots to form, especially if you’re propagating in winter.
If you’re too nervous to cut your Monstera, you can put an aerial root in water and get it to grow roots before you cut it. Just make sure you take the aerial root that’s attached to the newest leaf.
Should you root a random aerial root you might need to take a cutting that comprises several nodes – in which case, wait until it’s very well rooted before cutting so you don’t lose any leaves.
If you have Monstera flowers, you can grow Monstera from seed. Monstera flowers have both the male and female parts so you only need one plant BUT the female flowers are receptive before the male portion so you’ll need to pollinate it yourself (insects do it in the wild).
- Monstera deliciosa are a great, easy care option for new plant people
- Proving a Monstera with great light will help it grow faster, and it’ll have more energy to fight pests and disease
- Black, brown or yellowing leaves can mean issues with watering, roots, or light. Bronzey leaves often mean thrips.
I love my Monstera. They frustrate me with their bizarre stop-start growth pattern – I might get three leaves in quick succession and then nothing for months for no apparent reason – and obsession with harbouring thrips, but they’re a classic for a reason.
Monstera are also pretty hardy. They can recover from root rot, every leaf can be blasted by the sun and they can recover (the plant that is; the leaves are toast), and they’re great at surviving…anything. Even if the stem rots, you can chop up the healthy bits and they’ll regrow.
Monstera deliciosa are a great plant for people who want to learn about houseplant care because they’re quite difficult to kill BUT you can give them the bare minimum and they’ll survive.
But gradually give them more light, humidity, and fertiliser, and they do a great job of showing you how these different elements can affect plant growth.
The only downside is that the better you treat them, the bigger they get. And they get big.