How to Get Fenestrations (Splits & Holes) In Monstera Deliciosa Leaves

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The split leaves of Monstera deliciosa is one of the things that sets it apart from other houseplants. They’re one of the few plants that readily produce fenestrated leaves indoors, though they do need certain conditions to grow them:

  • Monstera need to be at least a couple of years old before they start producing splits in their leaves
  • They need to be getting high levels of light
  • They’re also more likely to produce split leaves if they’re climbing something.

A common alternative name to Monstera deliciosa is split-leaf Philodendron, but Monstera are not particularly closely related to Philodendrons, though they’re both in the aroids family.

A split-leaf Philodendron usually refers to a Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum, which is…also not a Philodendron. It also doesn’t have split leaves. Never mind. I’m sure whoever was in charge of naming it tried their best.

I don’t think any Philodendron species have fenestrated leaves, though Rhaphidophora, Monstera, and Epipremnum do.

ANYWAY

monstera thai constellation with splits and holes

Why do Monstera deliciosa have splits/fenestrations in the leaves?

Bear in mind that research into aroids is practically non-existent because we don’t eat them or use them for medicine.

To allow light to the lower leaves

The current thinking is that the main advantage fenestrations gives Monstera deliciosa is the ability to climb a vertical tree whilst not shading out the lower leaves.

Most climbing aroids grow bigger leaves as they climb, and as a result, prevent light from getting to the lower leaves. This isn’t that big of a problem, because the newer leaves are so big they can do the work of several smaller, lower leaves.

The leaves that are shaded out by the newer ones quickly yellow and die.

Monstera deliciosa leaves also increase in size as they climb, but the holes and splits in the leaves mean that the lower leaves last longer, and the plant can harness more energy through photosynthesis.

To protect the plant from wind damage

Though wind damage isn’t too much of a concern in rainforests, because Monstera are protected by other trees, splits in the leaves help protect Monstera from gusty weather.

The wind can travel through the splits and holes without damaging them. This ability to withstand adverse weather conditions has helped Monstera grow prolifically in more exposed areas – not only invasive specimens in places like Florida but also those growing in places being deforested.

I think that the splits protect from wind damage and the holes allow light through, purely because my big Monstera still produces fenestrated leaves (because its leaves are huge and might snap in the wind if they were solid) but no holes, because when I propagated it, it no longer had any lower leaves.

To prevent standing water on the leaves

Contrary to popular belief, plants don’t like getting wet. When leaves get wet, the plant temporarily close its stomata and stops photosynthesising. Having holes in the leaves allows water to drain off quickly, so that the plant can get going again.

Keeping leaves dry also reduces the risk of bacterial infections.


Interestingly, aroids that have splits in their leaves seem to be the most efficient at adapting to new environments and accidentally becoming invasive – Golden Pothos and Monstera deliciosa are doing very well for themselves outside of their natural habitat. Plants with just holes in the leaves, like Monstera adansonii, don’t fair so well in the wild.

Whilst Monstera leaves probably split to allow for light to penetrate the canopy (or rather, that’s why that characteristic was passed on in the genes), the ability to tolerate high levels of wind and rain due to their leaf shape, helped them become successful in a variety of environments.


monstera deliciosa thai constellation in water

How long does it take for Monstera to get fenestrations?

Monstera deliciosa produce fenestrated leaves as a direct response to their environment. You could have a Monstera for 50 years and it won’t produce leaves with splits unless you give it a reason to.

Split leaves photosynthesise less efficiently than solid ones because they have less chlorophyll.

Monstera will only produce a less efficient leaf (i.e. a split one) if that will produce a net gain – i.e. growing a split leaf allows both the split leaf and the leaf below it to photosynthesize.

It’s true that Monstera don’t tend to produce split leaves until they’re at least two years old (ish) BUT it’s not an age thing so much as a size thing. Under the age of two, Monstera seem to concentrate more on quantity of leaf over size, so they grow a lot of leaves quickly. Once they start climbing, and their stem gets long, they start producing fenestrated leaves.

What are the levels of fenestration in Monstera?

There are a few different levels of fenestrations in Monstera, but there’s no obligation for every Monstera to go through all of them. Some Monstera progress extremely quickly through the levels and end up with double mid-rib holes. Others refuse to produce holes for years.

This depends on the cultivar (i.e. the genetics) of the plant and the environment it’s kept in.

There’s a lot of talk about large and small-form Monstera, and whilst they do have an impact on fenestrations, you can still grow MASSIVE small-form Monstera in good conditions.

It’s also worth noting that cuttings from small-form Monstera can develop into large-form plants. They’re NOT separate species, with different growth patterns – all Monstera deliciosa are climbers NOT crawlers.

All that stuff about large vs small internodal spaces and growth pattern differences is just an example of natural variations in plants that people make into a big thing in order to sell plants. The reason plants like Thai Constellation are all large form (i.e. size up quickly and get a lot of holes) is simply due to the genetics of the parent plant.

Level 1 – random splits

Level 2 – splits down one side

Level 3 – All splits, no holes

Level 4 – all splits, a single hole

Level 5 – all splits, several holes

Etc etc. I can’t give you a timeline, because Monstera growth rates vary a LOT and things like winter interfere with it. If the light gets lower, for example, your Monstera might produce smaller leaves.

Do Monstera leaves split as they grow?

No – Monstera leaves unfurl either with splits or without them, but an unsplit leaf won’t develop splits over time. When a new Monstera leaf unfurls, it will grow significantly, but nothing will change other than the shape.

NB if you try to add your own splits to your Monstera leaf, the plant will seal itself to avoid any diseases getting in, so the edges will go brown.

Do genetics affect the likelihood of a Monstera developing splits in the leaves?

Yes and no. Some Monstera deliciosa cultivars are more likely to develop highly fenestrated leaves than others. For example, if you want grow a highly fenestrated variegated Monstera, you’re better off buying a Thai Constellation over a Monstera variegata albo.

There’s no genetic difference between small and large form Monstera, so it’s possible to grow large small form Monstera, but not necessarily easier.

All Thai Constellations are large form, and, given the right care, will develop inner fenestrations. There is more variation when it comes to Monstera albo, so it’s the luck of the draw.

How to encourage fenestrations in Monstera

Wait until it’s old enough

I currently have a baby Monstera that’s about a year old (I got it in March, and it looked like a tissue culture baby). There’s no point expecting it to fenestrate until next year. Sure, it’s technically because it’s not old enough, but it’s more that…it doesn’t need to produce split leaves. All the leaves are around the same-ish height, and the taller leaves aren’t inhibiting light levels to the smaller ones.

Give it plenty of light

This is a biggy. You CAN keep Monstera deliciosa in low light, but you won’t get the big fenestrated leaves that they’re famous for, because there’s no point.

Monstera kept in low light won’t waste a leaf by putting splits in it – it needs all the chlorophyll it can get. Also, the petioles stretch towards the leaf, and then leaves weigh the petioles down, so the plants droops rather than climbs.

Fulfilling a Monstera deliciosa’s light requirements is the closest thing to a cheat code.

Increase the humidity

Monstera deliciosa aren’t particularly fussy when it comes to humidity levels BUT increasing the humidity can increase the leaf size and the chance of fenestrated leaves because it mimics the plant’s natural environment and makes up for things like occasion missed waterings.

monstera deliciosa with splits and holes on a coir pole

Give it something to climb

As I’ve said (at least once, perhaps twice?) Monstera only produce fenestrated leaves if they need to, and you can, er, make them need to by growing them vertically. There are various ways of doing this. Mine grow well without any support other than it’s own aerial roots directed into the soil, but a moss pole can really help as well

There are plenty of people growing Monstera with huge, fenestrated leaves using coir poles or bamboo canes, but the reason that moss poles and directing aerial roots back into the soil works so well is that it creates a bigger subterranean root system. The bigger the root system is, the more stable the Monstera is and the more nutrients and water it has access to.

A Monstera that has a lot of resources and a means of growing up is highly likely to produce fenestrated leaves faster.

Water and fertilise it well

I mean, you need to care for your Monstera well if you want it to grow big leaves. As well as keeping it well-fed and hydrated, you need to make sure its root system is healthy, and it’s pest and disease free. These articles can help you with that:

Can Monstera stop producing split leaves?

Yes. If the environment around your Monstera changes, it might regress, and start producing less mature leaves. This often happens when you buy mature Monstera and then bring them home.

It’s normal for the first few new leaves to be fenestrated but then revert back to their immature form (the new leaves that is, the old leaves don’t magically lose their fenestrations).

You can try to increase the light and humidity using grow lights and humidifiers, but nurseries have conditions especially honed to mature aroids, and if your house doesn’t have the right conditions, it can be difficult to convince your Monstera to grow leaves with holes in.

You may also find that if you propagate a cutting, the new leaves won’t be as mature as they were when it as attached to the mother plant. Sometimes you just have to wait a couple of leaves for the mature leaves to start growing, but you might have to wait for it to mature again from scratch.

Do any other houseplants have split leaves?

Yes, a few other houseplants produce split leaves though often they’re trickier to convince to fenestrate:

It’s called mini Monstera for good reason, though they’re actually a different genus (though more closely related than they are to Philodendron). Rhaphidophora tetrasperma’s natural habitat is about as far away from Monstera deliciosa’s as it’s possible to get, but they have a very similar appearance.

golden pothos with fenestrations

Commonly called Golden Pothos (though not actually a member of the Pothos genus), but also includes other Pothos, like marble queen and manjula. Though heartleaf Philodendron do get pretty big, they won’t fenestrate like Pothos.

You rarely see the mature form of Monstera dubia, because they’re prized for their unusual shingling growth pattern, but when they grow up, they start growing like a regular climbing aroid.

  • Epipremnum cebu blue

Usually grown as a hanging or trailing plant, but cebu blue develop fenestrations if you grow them up a pole. I have mine trailing because I like it though!

And that’s it for this article. Feel free to leaves questions and comments below.

Before you go, you might like these articles:

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

14 thoughts on “How to Get Fenestrations (Splits & Holes) In Monstera Deliciosa Leaves”

  1. Hi Caroline!
    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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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*)

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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 😀

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

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