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For those of you too impatient to develop a huuuge, fenestrated Monstera deliciosa, there’s always Monstera adansonii to fill that fenestrated gap in your life.
I love Monstera adansonii (sometimes referred to as a Swiss cheese vine). They’re more compact than their larger cousin, and the fenestrations occur much earlier in their development.
They’re also easier to live with, in a practical sense. Monstera deliciosa have big, thick stems (and petioles) that are pretty solid. If a leaf decides it’s gonna grow in an awkward direction (like horizontally along the floor where it trips everyone up) there’s not a lot you can do about it without risking damaging it.
Both can be trained up moss poles (or planks of wood if you want them to self-adhere), but adansonii is much easier to convince to grow in a fashion that’s aesthetically pleasing. M. deliciosa grows however the hell it wants.
Anyway, this article is a troubleshooting one, specifically about holes in leaves. Whilst M. Adansonii grow holes in their leaves pretty easily, occasionally people will message me to tell me that their specimen is sending out unfenestrated leaves.
Are you sure it’s a Monstera adansonii?
This sounds ridiculous, but hear me out.
A while ago, I bought what was labelled as a Monstera Friedrichsthalii. It looks like an adansonii but has no holes in the leaves. But then when you go to google M. Friedrichsthalii…it’s just another name for adansonii.
I have no idea what it is. But I’m pretty sure that however long I wait, it’s not going to turn into an adansonii. It definitely looks like some kind of Monstera though, so perhaps if I care for it well it’ll develop some fenestrations in its adult form.
There was a big hoo haa a few years ago about M. adansonii vs M. Obliqua. I’m gonna preface this by saying that you’re NOT going to accidentally end up with an Obliqua rather than an adansonii (Obliqua go for around a grand) BUT you may be disappointed if you’re waiting for Obliqua-like fenestrations on your adansonii.
Adansonii come in a few different forms, and the size, shape, and placement of the holes can vary tremendously.
Obliqua are commonly said to be more leaf than hole (and I ain’t buying something for the gaps in its leaves) and are waaay more fenestrated than adansonii.
You can get decent fenestrations on adansonii, but not as aggressively lace-like as Obliqua.
Monstera adansonii leaves develop larger leaves (with larger holes) as they mature
Monsteras don’t grow cool-looking leaves for our benefit – they do it to maximise their growth. If they’re getting all the right stuff to grow big leaves, they’ll also develop really big fenestrations.
A lot of the time, house plant hobbyists don’t get the opportunity to see their plants in their adult form. We just can’t provide them with the resources to make it worth their while.
The adult vs juvenile forms of M. adansonii aren’t that different (compared to, for example, Monstera Dubia which goes from little silver shingling leaves to big-ass fenestrated beauties) BUT you will see an increase in size and fenestrations as they get older.
If your adansonii isn’t developing fenestrated leaves, it likely isn’t old enough.
However, in the case of M. deliciosa, they definitely only grow fenestrations if they need to. I’ve seen massive specimens grown in poor light that have no fenestrations and are seriously leggy.
Adansonii are more so fenestrated by design. They won’t be as fenestrated when they’re younger, but there should still be some holes.
Monstera adansonii should develop fenestrations within their first three or four leaves. Mine had one ‘whole’ leaf when I bought it (all the others had holes) but it was pretty small and died not long after.
Make sure your Monstera adansonii has enough light
Whilst there is a bit of disagreement about why Monstera develop fenestrations (to let light through? To let wind through? To attract a beautiful lady plant?), it’s pretty much the consensus (for now) that leaves with holes in allow light to travel to the lower leaves and allow for increased photosynthesis, giving the plant more energy.
If the plant doesn’t have enough light, it won’t need to develop fenestrations. In fact, it would make more sense to produce ‘whole’ leaves and maximise their photosynthesis capabilities that way.
A common way to ‘trick’ the plant into thinking it’s getting more light is to train it to grow upwards.
Now, the plant needs energy to grow, so it’ll still need a decent amount of light if you’re planning on growing healthy leaves, BUT by mimicking the way it’d climb another tree in the wild, you can help convince your adansonii that wildly fenestrated leaves are a great idea.
Remember that a moss pole may not be enough to get a plant to climb by itself. Moss poles are great, but you’ll need to attach the vines yourself, using garden ties.
I personally don’t mind attaching my plants to moss poles, but if you want them to cling themselves, you’ll need to provide them with something solid like a plank of wood or, failing that, a wall.
The better you care for your Monstera adansonii, the more fenestrated it’ll be
I know, I know, it’s boring, but it works.
Decent light is a must. Monstera adansonii are pickier about light than deliciosa and will quickly deteriorate if they’re stuck in a dark corner.
Watering is a funny one. In my experience, adansonii develop a higher tolerance to drought as they get older. For the first couple of years I had mine it’d wilt terribly the second it was too dry, but nowadays it can dry out totally and not be too fussed.
Obviously I wouldn’t encourage you to let your plant dry out too much, but if you struggle to keep your adansonii hydrated, it could just be a phase.
Airy soil is important for adansonii. Don’t repot unless you need to (roots coming out of the bottom of the pot), but if you’re worried that the soil your plant came with is too dense, just take a bit out and mix in some perlite with a chopstick. It doesn’t need to be a lot (just grab a handful of soil and replace with perlite) – you can always add more if overwatering is an issue.
Do you care for Monstera adansonii the same way you care for Monstera deliciosa?
By and large, yes.
They both thrive in bright, indirect light though deliciosa will survive lower levels fairly happily (though expect no/crappy new growth).
They both like a tonne of water infrequently, and will benefit from having something to climb.
Adansonii don’t seem to be quite so attractive to thrips as deliciosa – mine has had thrips but shook them off pretty quickly with a few showers and sprays down with neem oil.
The main difference I’ve found is that Monstera adansonii, like me, will NOT tolerate being hungry.
They do kindly inform you about it though. Most plants won’t tell you if they’re in need of fertilising – you have to go through the rigmarole of checking that it isn’t a problem elsewhere, since often fertilising can do more harm than good for an unhealthy plant.
If your Monstera adansonii is hungry, the new leaves will be yellow and mottled, like someone’s taken an eraser to the green. It looks a lot like thrips damage and a bit like mosaic virus, but 99 times out of 100, your Monstera is hungry. I fertilise with a gentle seaweed fertiliser, but any house plant fertiliser will do just fine.
Take care of your Monstera adansonii well (or even just do the bare minimum to keep it alive) and it should produce some fenestrations.