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If your Monstera leaves are falling off, it’s because of these reasons:
- The connection between the leaf/petiole and plant has been severed
- The root system can’t support the number of leaves
- The leaf is compromised, so the plant cuts its losses
- The plant is stressed
- The plant decrees the leaf is no longer needed (senescence)
Root issues are most common, but check the connection between the leaf and the stem first. There’s no point disturbing the roots when the issue is that the cat bit through the petiole!
Petioles are the long, thin bit that attaches the leaf to the stem.
This is why your Monstera leaves are falling off:
Severed connection between leaf/petiole and stem
Something happened and the leaf is no longer connected to the stem and therefore the roots.
If your Monstera has short petioles and you can keep the leaf propped up so the damage doesn’t get worse it’s *possible* (though unlikely) for the leaf to stay healthy.
When I see leaves that have been nearly snapped in two, I cut them off. The plant will try to heal the wound but it’s usually unsuccessful so I cut my losses asap. The energy the plant wastes on healing would be better off going towards new growth.
This is pretty common. Pets and kids can easily accidentally snap petioles especially if your Monstera is in low light. The petioles tend to be longer and thinner as they stretch towards the nearest source of light.
Long + thin = more fragile and more easily snapped
The petiole has snapped under the weight of the leaf
This is incredibly common in Monstera deliciosa.
Leaves are big and heavy, and the petioles are relatively thin. Again, they’re even thinner when kept in subpar conditions.
Water and nutrients flow through plants to keep the leaves and stems healthy, but the water also has a secondary function: the pressure keeps plants upright. This is called turgor pressure – i.e. the water pressure keeps the plant rigid.
Therefore, if something happens (like underwater or compromised roots) and water can’t flow through the plant, it’ll collapse a bit. Top leaves often droop first, as they’re furthest away from the roots. As the leaves droop, the petioles snap under the excess weight.
Overwatering leading to root loss is a very common cause of leaf loss in Monstera, but there are a few other causes of compromised roots that can lead to leaves dropping off.
Root rot is often indirectly caused by overwatering, but the direct cause is an increase in bacteria caused by a lack of oxygen.
The roots die off, and therefore can’t support the current number of leaves. Often leaves will yellow first, because the plant is pulling all the nutrients out.
You need to get your Monstera out of the pot and check its roots. If they’re mushy and brown, cut them off, let the soil dry out, and give it a bit of TLC whilst it recovers. You can cut off the leaves if you like, but I let the plant shed it naturally.
Stem rot happens when the, er, stem rots. It can be caused by a number of things, but by far the most common cause is the stem being too deep in the soil, or laying on top of the substrate and staying too wet for too long.
The roots can’t reconnect to the leaves if the stem is rotten, so you’ll need to take cuttings and propagate.
Dried out roots
Underwatering is just as likely to cause the leaves to fall off as overwatering BUT it takes longer because Monstera have thick roots that can retain water for a long time.
However, leave your Monstera for long enough, and the root will start to die off. Again, take the plant out of the pot and cut off any that are obviously dead. You can rehabilitate in water if you don’t have many roots left.
Monstera are incredibly good at regenerating themselves, so though you might lose a lot of leaves, the plant will recover.
Overenthusiastic root trimming
Monstera deliciosa love growing roots more than anything else. If you keep up-potting them every time they outgrow their pot, you’d end up needing a plant pot the size of a wheelie bin.
The solution? Trim the roots!
Trimming the roots is a pretty safe practice, but if you’re a bit overzealous (or your Monstera is a particularly sensitive soul) it can cause leaf drop. The roots will grow back, it’s just the initial shock can cause the plant to drop leaves.
Speaking of shock…
The Monstera is stressed/shocked
Monstera are just as likely as other plants to experience stress and shock, but they tend to deal with it better than delicate plants like Calathea.
Still, these two things can still cause leaf drop:
Repotting is an innately stressful experience for houseplants. Though Monstera deal with it well, if there were any health issue before, repotting can make these worse.
Any kind of root disturbance can cause your Monstera to focus on root growth. Therefore any emerging or unhealthy leaves may be sacrificed by the plant in an effort to recover from repotting.
Transport shock isn’t caused by plants moving from a to b. It’s caused by a change in the environment.
Long journeys can be stressful if it’s super hot or cold, but shock usually stems from moving from good conditions to poorer ones.
So if you move house with your Monstera and it takes 8 hours in a comfortable temperature, and the conditions in both houses are identical, transport shock will be minimal.
However, moving your plant 20 feet from a bright window to a dark corner can definitely cause transplant shock, because the conditions have deteriorated and the plant will have to readjust.
Shock only causes a couple of leaves to drop. If your Monstera drops a lot of leaves and shows no sign of perking up, there could be another issue at hand.
The leaf is damaged
Monstera don’t care how they look. If a leaf isn’t doing its job of collecting light, it’ll get rid of it.
Thrips suck the juices out of leaves. If the infestation is bad enough, the leaf stops functioning properly and drops off.
Monstera can get bleached in the sun. This damages the chlorophyll and causes the leaf to drop off. The plant will slowly pale over time
Monstera can also burn in the sun. All the moisture is sucked out and the leaf goes crispy and drops off. If the leaves are only partially damaged, allow the plant time to absorb nutrients.
- Cold damage
If sun damage causes all the water to be sucked out of the plant, cold damage floods the cells with water so they burst. The leaf goes soggy and will drop off or disintegrate over a week or two.
The plant just wants rid of the leaf
Monstera don’t care how they look. If a leaf isn’t pulling its weight it’ll be abandoned. This often happens with the lower leaves due to the natural growth pattern of the species.
It’s too small
You know how young Monstera deliciosa have those teeny tiny baby leaves that go yellow and drop off? Totally natural.
Whilst it does happen in the wild, the use of tissue culture does make this more common. When tissue culturing Monstera deliciosa, the new plantlets are tiny compared with Monstera seedlings.
They grow up quickly (both because they’re kept in perfect lab conditions and it’s in the best interests of the grower so they can keep the flow of new plants going) so once the plant is established the new leaves might be several times larger than the first ones.
The small leaves require more energy to keep alive than they produce, so they get cut off.
It’s not getting enough light
A tell-tale sign that a plant isn’t getting enough energy is when they start implementing a ‘one in, one out’ approach to leaves. If you notice that you lose a leaf every time a new one grows, consider increasing your Monstera’s light.
The fact that new leaves are growing suggests the roots are ok (though always check, just in case), and light is a likely culprit.
What to do when Monstera leaves fall off
There’s not really a lot you can do about the leaf itself, but do a plant audit to get to the root of the issue as soon as you can.
Here’s the order I check everything:
- Check for pests. If you’re not sure, give the leaves a good clean, and keep a close eye on them. Or get some predatory mites just in case
- Check the roots & soil – is the soil staying wet for too long? Are the roots firm, dry, or mushy? Is the stem buried too deep in the soil?
- Check the stem for signs of stem rot
- Assess the conditions – could your Monstera do with more light? How’s the humidity? Is it warm enough?
- Has it recently been through something stressful, like repotting or moving? If yes, allow it a few weeks to recover and then go through this checklist again.
Will Monstera leaves grow back?
No, not from the same place.
Monstera deliciosa *typically* only have one growth point. Nine times out of ten that growth point will be at the other end of the stem from the roots.
Taking cuttings can cause the next axillary bud to emerge from a random node, but you can’t choose a node to activate. Plus, if you manage to activate a node on a bare bit of stem, a whole new stem will grow, not just a random leaf.
Monstera deliciosa want to grow up. They are NOT a naturally bushy plant. If a leaf drops somewhere along the stem, the plant has no interest (or means) of replacing it.
That’s it for this article. Let me know if you have tips or issues in the comments.
Before you go, you might find these articles useful:
- Monstera deliciosa – the ultimate guide
- Why does my Monstera have black spots?
- Why are my Monstera leaves curling?