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I know I’ve been a bit heavy on the Monstera content recently, but it’s for a few reasons:
- They’re awesome plants for beginners
- People like Monstera content
- I want a big-ass Monstera with leaves the size of dinner plates
What do we mean by splits?
There are a tonne different words that people use to decribe Monstera fenestrations. I like fenestrations because it’s a cool word and refers to both the splits and the holes.
They’re the bits in the leaves that aren’t there, as it were. Luckily my little content break is of a Monstera leaf. Look at it. The splits are where the leaves split. The holes are the holes in the leaf. Both are fenestrations. We all clear?
If you have a baby Monstera, yours may not have any splits yet. Don’t worry – if you look after it even moderately well, and don’t keep it in low light, you’ll be blessed with fenestrations at, er, some point.
Why do Monstera leaves split?
There are debates by scientists about why these leaves exist. It’s generally thought that Monstera have splits to regulate light, but I think all three explanations are equally valid, and all fall under the same general reason:
Monsteras have splits in their leaves to help the plant grow bigger and stronger more quickly.
Reason #1 that Monstera have splits: light
The general consensus at the moment is that Monstera have splits in their leaves to allow light to travel through the leaves and reach the lower leaves.
Monstera grow larger leaves as they grow towards the light, because they have to get more energy to support their increasing size.
But a big leaf will shade the leaves below, reducing the overall light that can be absorbed. So the splits and holes allow the light to penetrate.
This makes sense – Monstera adansonii tens to be bushier and have shorter petioles than Monstera deliciosa, so they have more pronounced holes from the beginning.
Reason #2 that Monstera have splits: water
Plants don’t like getting wet leaves. At the very least it blocks their stomata, and at worst, it can cause them to rot and allow fungal and bacterial infections to gain a foot hold.
Plants do like getting wet nodes and roots. It allows them to absorb water and nutrients and grow quickly.
Thus having fenestrated leaves kills two birds with one stone – it allows rain to easily get through the leaves without sitting on them, and the rain can easily reach the ground, where the roots can absorb the water.
Wow. Never thought I’d be the kind of girl that said things like ‘thus’.
Reason #3 that Monstera have splits: wind
Since Monstera don’t typically live in exposed areas (though they’ll give any conditions a go) this seems less likely, to be the reason that Monstera evolved to have fenestrated leaves, but it’s worth talking about.
It’s probably one of the reasons that Monstera Deliciosa is considered an invasive species.
The holes allow wind to pass through the leave without knocking the plant over. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Incidentally, it’s thought that the reason that Bird of Paradise plants have split leaves is to deal with wind. They typically live in more exposed areas than Monstera, where light is easy to come by.
But since Monstera are so adaptable, having holey leaves has probably allowed them to grow in exposed areas that they’re not *technically* designed.
Whether they’re meant to be or not, I think that fenestrated leaves are multi-purpose.
What causes Monstera leaves to split?
There are three main factors to consider here: age, light, and general care.
Nothing you can do short of getting a degree in botany can get your Monstera split before it’s of age.
(Botanists, feel free to share any secret Monstera splitting techniques in the comments)
If you’re on a budget and patient, you can pick up a super cheap baby Monstera, but you may have to wait a couple of years until it’s ready to produce even one split.
I have a young Monstera in an east-facing window. No holes yet, but he has split leaves down to a t. It took a few practice tried of producing splits on only half of the leaf, but he got there in the end.
So much about plant care is about patience. Your monstera will produce splits when he’s good and ready, regardless of how well you take care of him.
Remember that those MASSIVE monstera that go viral on Pinterest are likely to be a few decades old. You can’t rush nature (again botanists, give us tips to rush nature).
Once your Monstera is old enough to start producing split leaves, you’re going need to put him in bright, indirect light if you want those super big leaves.
For those of us that are incredibly impatient, bright, indirect light may not do the job, so you may want to put him in bright light.
You’ll need to do this slowly over time. Don’t leave your Monstera in bright light during the hottest part of the day.
I would recommend putting it out in the soft morning light first, and then bringing it back in. Then gradually increase the amount of light over time.
If you live somewhere with hot sun, keep it somewhere shady.
Grow lights are an option if you can’t put your plant outside, but I’m not sure if the leaves will grow as big as they would outside. I suppose if you got really strong ones they might but you run the risk of burning the leaves.
Your Monstera will never grow big beautiful leaves without being old enough, or without enough light, however well you care for it.
Without adequate light, it’ll be a waste of energy for your plant to grow big leaves.
But here’s the thing, more light = more care. You’ll need to water your Monstera more often, and keep humidity in check.
Don’t let your Monstera get super root bound, but don’t let it drown in its pot. You’ll need to fertilise every six weeks or so, and make sure it has a great quality potting mix.
I have an article here about encouraging your Monstera to grow as quickly as it can.
How to encourage split leaves on a Monstera
- Give it more light
Either move it nearer to the window, move it outdoors, or invest in a grow light.
- Prune the smaller bottom leaves
I read about this tip here, and I have no idea if it works, or why it would. I’m undecided whether I want to give it a go or not.
- Take great care of it
Don’t miss any waterings, don’t over water, fertilise enough (but not too much) and keep up your humidity. Good luck.
Why is my Monstera not splitting?
- It’s not getting enough light
- It’s not old enough
- It doesn’t have the energy/resources
Read this post on providing the best conditions for your Monstera. Whilst it’s pretty difficult to kill a Monstera, they also require specific conditions if you want them to grow super quickly.
Final thoughts on encouraging your Monstera to produce fenestrations
If you have your heart set on getting a mahoosive Monstera will beautifully fenestrated leaves, then your best bet is to buy one.
Unfortunately I, like most of us, don’t have a couple of hundred quid to drop on a plant, so feel free to join me in the waiting game.
I have pretty much decided that my Monstera will be going outside this year, although I think I’ll bring it in most nights. If nothing else, it’ll give all the predatory bugs in my garden a nice thrips feast.
14 thoughts on “When do Monstera Leaves start to split?”
Came across your blog when I was googling how to grow avocado from seed, and have been binge reading your posts since!
Plants I got as gifts from my boyfriend, Quarantine and spending more time at home because of pandemic led me to acquire and care for more plants. Your writing is enlightening as well as entertaining, and I wanted to thank you!!
Since I live in Greece, the climate is different but your advice is super useful, plus it’s a True delight to read!
Keep up your plant love and writing!
You’re so welcome! Let me know if there’s anything you need a hand with, I’ll be glad to help. Good luck with your avocado!
I’ve read a couple of your posts now that I’m into the world of plants! haha So I just wanted to pop in and say your writing style is great and I enjoy your blog! 🙂 Thank you!
(but also, Noooo! please don’t feed your Monstera to the thrips!! *0*)
Aw thanks! I won’t, promise 😀
Hi, how do I know when my Monstera leaves are going to split? Do they start to go brown in places or do they curl up? There is quite a lot of leaves and is growing well, I got it in august with 2 of the biggest leaves already split and then a few weeks ago a curled up leaf appeared from nowhere and started to unfurl with the holes over the next few weeks and is a lot lighter in colour than the rest but starting to get darker in colour. I have read through a lot of your article but can’t seem to find anything about it (I may just be blind). Any help or advice would be appreciated as this is my first proper plant and really want to look after it, thanks
When they emerge they’re either split or they’re not (though some people do cut them, but I do NOT recommend doing that)- they won’t split once they’ve unfurled. The younger leaves are lighter in colour and then harden and darken over time – that’s totally natural.
Monstera only develop splits if they need to – some people shake them to emulate wind (I have no idea if that works), but increasing the amount of light will encourage larger leaves with splits in.
Hi! So I have a monstera that spilt at a very young age its at least 1 foot. It has one current spilt leaf and 2 other’s coming in. I have no idea how its growing so fast lol. I’ve only had him since around september or nevember? (Last year) He was small when I got him. The people at lowes labeled him as philodendron so for 3 months I was taking care of a philo . After reading your post about the three reasons they spilt, I do think it is because of light. I’ve never given him a shower (until today) nor had him outside. He’s always in the sun as much as possible though. And every now and then the really tiny leaves will turn yellow after a watering. (I water him every friday accept for this week due to transplanting and showering him) I don’t know if this will help you with your monstera but here ya go 😀
Thanks for sharing! Often the younger ones with splits are cuttings from older plants – it’s a great way to get a smaller plant with splits since the large ones can be quite unruly!
Hello! Can I use a warm humidifier for humidity? Thank you!
I love your blog! So informative!
Definitely – some people claim plants prefer it, but I don’t know how scientific their research is! As long as it’s not too hot, they should be fine.
Such a great article! Thank you so much. Also trimming the bottom leaves definitely works. My new leaves were about 4-6 centimeters wider each time, so I went and chopped off 2 bottom leaves off and the next new leaf was twice the size. I was blown away. I let that one establish and the new one was only slightly bigger, so I chopped another bottom off and the next one was huge again. Absolutely blew my mind!
I was so unprepared for how much more water it would need with the new leaves and they ended up a bit rippled on the edges due to lack of watering, so do be wary of that!
OOOOO I’m definitely going to give mine a little prune and see if I get the same results! Thanks so much for the tip! Haha yes it’s incredible how much additional water one new leaf requires. Growing veg plants from seed has made me super aware of that.
I came across your post trying to read up on encouraging fenestrations on monstera deliciosas. I grew mine from seed. When I ordered the seeds, they germinated in transit so all I had to so was to plant them. I planted them on February 1 this year and just yesterday, the largest of the bunch opened up a leaf with a split. I was so happy! I wasn’t expecting it to be that fast! I was soooo happy I told my family and friends. HAHA!
The plants were just recently repotted because having grown them from seed, they shared a single pot. When I separated them, for the potting mix, I used a seed raising soil-mess medium (because that was the only one I had that time) and added a bit of pumice and rice hull. I placed it outdoors, on the west side, under the shade of large tree. I live in a tropical country and it was heavily raining the past few weeks so I only watered the plants once a week. I used to fertilize once a week too (yes, I’m experimenting on overfeeding them), but since it has been raining a lot recently, I only fertilize every other week. So far, the plants are liking it.
I’m just so happy I’m sharing it with you 🙂 I will continue giving it ample light and water to encourage growth and I will have to try pruning the tiny bottom leaves. Thanks for the advice!
Oh, it’s so exciting that you grew them from seed! I need to try that. It sounds like they’re growing quickly, so the over feeding must be working.
I guess all the factors (rain + humidity +light + nutrients) are balanced really well. You’ll have a group of monster monstera in no time!