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This may be a slightly controversial post, but I’ve done my research.
Monstera deliciosa aren’t that fussy about what soil they’re in.
I’m not saying that there aren’t soils that are better suited to them, BUT it’s just as important to consider you as a plant caregiver as it is the plant itself.
If you’re an overwaterer, a very well-draining soil mix will dry out quickly and help to avoid root rot (within reason). If you’re an underwaterer, or you travel a lot, or you simply…forget to water, your Monstera will probably fare better in a denser soil.
We used to keep Monstera in really dense soil designed for outdoor use.
Outdoor soil retains a lot more water than indoor soil, because the wind and sun etc cause soil to dry out really quickly (like, in a day).
That stuff was wet.
Buuut since we’d only remember to water them every couple of months, they did pretty well.
What is the ideal soil mix for Monstera?
Ideally, Monstera like a very well-draining soil. In the wild, they’re semi-epiphytic and climb trees, attaching their aerial roots to the tree trunk to grow towards the light.
You can buy Monstera mixes, but it’s cheaper to make your own, especially if have a few plants. I generally do a 3:3:3:1:1 mix of coir, orchid bark, perlite, charcoal, and worm castings.
The issue I have with this soil mix is that I find I have to bottom water to really thoroughly soak the substrate because only the coir and perlite absorb water. If you quickly top water, the water just travels between the gaps and doesn’t have a chance to absorb.
The solution I found was to put my Monstera outside in summer, and hose it down when I was watering my veggie garden.
Fun fact about my veggie garden: obvs most of the plants died in winter, so now I’m overrun with parsley, kale and chives. I’m not complaining, it makes a change from the tomato behemoth I created last autumn. That thing was a monster, and even I, the tomato queen of the world, couldn’t eat that many tomatoes.
Is Miracle-gro potting compost good for Monstera?
This is a slightly controversial take, but I don’t think Monstera would struggle to grow in Miracle-gro. You would have to make sure the soil was completely dry before watering, but as long as you do that, you should be fine.
Monstera are incredibly adaptable. They’re an invasive species in…basically any country with the right climate, and a slightly-denser-than-ideal potting mix won’t deter them in the slightest. In fact, it can be helpful if you’re growing cuttings.
Normally this wouldn't really be worth mentioning, but a LOT of people acquire Monstera by asking for a cutting from a friend. If you get a big cutting, planting it in a dense soil mix can help keep it upright. Monstera can have quite a messy growth pattern if they're not kept in check, and weighing it down a bit can really help.
As someone who has grown Monstera in both LECA and water, this is one of those tips that is only relevant once you’ve dealt with a Monstera falling over and showering your carpet with leca/water multiple times a day.
I’ve also had great success rooting Monstera cuttings in soil (yes, even dense soil). Again, just be sure not to overwater them. Use a moisture metre to check the soil (they work well in store-bought potting soil) and only water when the soil near the bottom of the pot is a 2 on the metre.
Do Monstera grow well in water?
Yes they do – I actually have a whole post about how to grow a Monstera in water. I have both my regular deliciosa and my Thai Constellation in the aquarium and they’re doing really well.
The only issue, which I touched on before, is keeping the damn things upright. They do float, but they also fall over because the petioles are so long.
Our current solution is sitting the plants inside a hollow piece of bogwood which has worked really well.
The only problem is that the roots and the bogwood have fused together, so now they’re stuck together forever. We are hoping to move soon, and I don’t really want to think about how we’re going to transport the enormous wood/Monstera hybrid.
Also, it’s now rooting in the substrate of the tank. It will not like being moved.
I’ve also tried pegging the leaves to a bit of board behind the tank. This works really well, but it does look a bit like you’re torturing the plant. We’ve briefly thought about allowing the aerial roots to attach to the wall BUT it’d be a pain if we ever wanted to move the tank.
I’ve yet to come up with a way to stick a moss pole in an aquarium, so you’d probably need to find a cool piece of wood that you could attach the plant to, or accept that it’s going to hang out of the tank.
Trailing Monstera do look cool, but you're much less likely to get those massive fenestrated leaves because it's growing away from the light.
Another option could be floating the plant in a floating pool noodle, but this is probs a temporary solution – a big Monstera could probably tip over a pool noodle and end up face down in the water (or fall out altogether).
And there’s always zipties!
Taking non-hideous photos of aquaria is so difficult. It’s hard enough having to work out how to get rid of the reflection (which I don’t know how to do), but how does one deter photobombers??
I was trying to get a photo of the roots in the water (which you can see a bit in the background) but then this noob fancied himself a bit of a model and shifted the focus (literally; thanks iPhone) onto him.
Do Monstera grow well in leca?
Leca is often the preferred substrate for Monstera (or at least it seems that way from watching a lot of plant YouTubers. If you’re interested in how to get started with semi hydro I have a full guide here.
There is a bit of chatter about how leca prevents Monstera from growing really big leaves, but I’m personally not convinced that that’s true.
I don’t have any Monstera in leca, but I have plenty of other aroids (in various media) and I don’t think it really affects the size of the leaf. My Marble queen pothos is turning into a right monster.
Can you use cactus soil for Monstera?
Sure! In fact, if you’re the kind of person that likes to water your Monstera a lot, then something fast-draining that won’t retain water (i.e. cactus soil) is perfect. If you find it’s drying out a little too quickly, just add in something that’ll help retain the moisture, like coir.
As long as Monstera have good light (and they can take a LOT of light), and get the right amount of water they’re not that fussy about what their roots are in.