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First of all BREATH. We’re going to get to the bottom of what causing black or brown spots to appear on your Monstera. This is going to be fine.
There are 8 reasons why your monstera is developing black or brown spot on its leaves:
- Root rot
- Physical damage
- It’s too cold
- Not enough humidity
- You’ve been misting
- It’s not getting enough light
- It’s diseased.
Before you panic, I’ve listed these causes in order – i.e. the brown spots are way more likely to be caused by root rot. Disease is probably unlikely.
And root rot isn’t necessarily the end. It’s not great, but they can recover.
Brown or black marks on Monstera leaves don’t always mean there’s an issue with the whole plant – it may just be one leaf that’s having trouble with something.
The main obstacle when it comes to spots on Monstera leaves is diagnosis. It’s NOT easy. Sunburn can look like root rot. Root rot can look like fungus. Over time you can become better at identifying issues, but it’s not an exact science.
Before we start, I have a bit of bad news for those of you with variegated Monstera. They’re more likely to get brown spots overall, but they’ll turn up primarily on the white part.
The white parts are more susceptible to brown spots from sunburn and pest damage (thrips, of course) AND Thai constellation in particular are a little more prone to sunburn than their all-green counterparts.
Black spots on Monstera can be caused by root rot
Root rot is extremely common in plants, usually because we love to over water them. Other signs of root rot are yellowing leaves.
Plants don’t need watering nearly as much as we think (there’s an article here that’ll teach you how to do it properly), and they can get root rot extremely easily.
The good news here is that Monstera deliciosa are, in my experience, pretty hard to push past the point of no return. I mean if you want to be rid of one, overwatering is absolutely the way to go, but also, they can be brought back from it.
Once the leaves have blackened, browned, or turned yellow, it’s irreversible. The leaf might not drop, but it won’t return to its original green.
Root rot is caused by bacteria attacking the roots. The roots will go mushy and smell, gross, and will no longer work efficiently. But as I mentioned before, roots can regrow, and pretty quickly in Monstera.
There’s often a little bit of confusion around putting an overwatered plant in water, but let me explain.
Plants that are growing in water grow water roots, plants that are growing in soil grow soil roots.
They both do the same thing – extract oxygen from their surroundings – but in slightly different ways.
A more extreme way to think of it is like how humans can get oxygen by breathing in the air (but will drown in water) and fish are the opposite way around. If you're still confused, check out this post, which explains why waterlogged plants die, yet you can grow a Monstera hydroponically.
Plants can develop a root system that best suits their surroundings.
Black spots on Monstera can be caused by dehydration
Or, as professional people call it ‘incongruent watering’.
Monstera like a lot of water, but only when they’re dry.
Watering once a week is often far too much, especially in colder climates, or if your Monstera is in a low light situation.
If you’re unsure, pick up a moisture metre (they’re pretty cheap) and only water when the needle points to 2.
If you keep watering your plant and the soil is drying out really quickly then try bottom watering your plant.
Leave it to soak in a couple of inches of water until the top of the soil is damp.
If you have a big monstera, you can do this in the bath.
Soil can become hydrophobic, and not absorb any water.
Instead, the water runs in the gap between the soil and the plant, and through any cracks in the soil. Giving it a soak rehydrates the soil thoroughly, and helps it hold water again.
If the soil is still drying out in a couple of days, check that the plant isn’t rootbound.
The roots will displace the soil so then there’s not enough soil to hold an adequate amount of water.
If the roots are almost entirely encircling the rootball, it’s time to re-pot.
Don't be tempted to dramatically increase the size of the pot, because you'll end up with the opposite problem, and the plant could be at risk from root rot.
A pot a couple of inches bigger is fine.
Black spots on Monstera can be caused by sun burn
Wild Monstera (as it were) live in rainforests, below the canopy. They don’t get a lot of bright, direct light, so if they are exposed to it, then they can get burned.
This is especially true if you have a variegated Monstera – they burn incredibly easily.
Now the conflict we have here is that in order for your Monstera to grow those big, beautiful fenestrated leaves, it needs A LOT of light.
If you're lucky, you have a room filled with bright, indirect light. If you have a south-facing room with great windows, put the Monstera next to window, but hang a sheer curtain. This should stop the plant from burning.
Alternatively, you can gradually increase your plant’s tolerance to the light – this is time-consuming and always carries a risk of burning.
If you have a warm enough climate your Monstera could grow into a BEAST if you acclimatise it to living outdoors. Put it somewhere where it gets nice light but is shielded from the strongest rays - under a porch or shady tree would be good.
I have an article here about acclimatising your plants so they can live outside in the summer.
Both my Monstera are in south-facing windows, and they’ve acclimatised well without any burning.
You can try grow lights if your Monstera lives in a low-light situation and you don’t want to move it.
I have these ones and they get the job done without burning the plant.
Variegated plants are WAY more susceptible to sunburn than green plants because chlorophyll is a layer of protection.
I don’t think this plant is actually burnt because it’s a way away from the window, but I would still consider this sun damage. See how crispy it looks?
If you suspect that sunburn is the cause of your sunburned Monstera, then check this article on what do with your sunburned Monstera to restore it to its former glory.
Black spots on Monstera can be caused by physical damage
Especially on new growth. Plants don’t like being touched, and you can easily cause damage by touching new growth, however lightly.
I’m as guilty as anyone for trying to sneak a peak at a newly unfurling monstera leaf (there could be holes!) but try not to.
As well as new growth, plants can get damaged in transit.
If the black spots on your leaves look quite straight, it’s probably old damage. If a plant was packed in tightly with others and had a leaf bent back, that can leave a scar.
If the leaf is young, not only is it more delicate, but it may still be growing.
Something happened to my baby Monstera and now it has a gnarly leaf tip. I still love him the same.
A small scar you didn’t notice might look huge by the time the leaf has finished growing.
The scar may also change and get a brown edging as the plant tries to heal itself.
Plants do not care about this kind of damage.
Just leave it be (or cut it off if you don’t like the way it looks, but you’ll have to remove the whole leaf, otherwise you’ll inevitably make it look worse)
Black spots on Monstera can be caused cold temperatures
Tropical plants hate the cold. The biggest culprit of black spots caused by the cold is unheated sunrooms or conservatories.
They remain warm during the day until quite late in the year (especially if they’re south or west-facing) but get really cold at night.
Fun fact: my mum killed a Sansevieria (yes - she's got that much of a black thumb) by leaving it in the conservatory over winter.
I’m not 100% if the plant starts self-destructing as a way of conserving energy – like a form going dormant – or if the cold weather and immuno-compromised plant attract fungal diseases.
I think it’s probably a bit of both.
The problem with glass rooms is that they give the plant a lot of light, so the plant tries to continue growing when it really doesn't have the resources. Either keep the room warm or move your plant to a warmer spot.
Plants that are kept in a cold spot for a few hours can look FAR worse than mine below. I actually think this spot was caused by watering it with too-cold water when the leaf was still new. It’s just a theory though.
Black spots can be caused by low humidity
Monstera aren’t THAT fussy about humidity.
They grow better with high-ish humidity, but it’s not the end of the world if you live somewhere pretty dry. But you may end up with brown, crispy edges to your leaves.
If you have low humidity (ie. less than 40%) consider getting a humidifier. It's the only way to provide constant humidity to your plants. If you have medium humidity try these tricks to increase your humidity without a humidifier.
To be honest, Monstera will happily live in 40% humidity. But if you want optimal growth and massive leaves, try to increase your humidity to around 65%.
Black spots on Monstera can be caused by too much misting
Plants don’t like getting their leaves wet – it cause the leaves to rot (which will lead to black spots) or it’ll lead to fungal and bacterial diseases (again which will lead to root rot).
I have a whole article on why I think misting is a waste of time, but there are people that swear by misting, so it’s up to you to decide which side of the fence you want to sit on.
Monstera aren't massively bothered by misting, since they have pretty thick leaves that won't be easily rotted by standing water BUT it's worth noting that NO ONE (plants, humans, bunnies) enjoys getting rained on.
SURE it can be a relief if it hasn’t rained in six months BUT in general no one likes getting rained on.
In an ideal situation, Monstera would live in damp (but not too damp!) soil, and be surrounded by high humidity. Humidity and rain are NOT the same. It’s the difference between sitting a lovely steamy sauna and having someone pour water on you.
Black spots on Monstera can be caused by not enough light
This isn’t a direct correlation, so low light doesn’t automatically mean that your Monstera will get black spots, but hear me out.
A Monstera kept in low light is probably going to be a little more stressed than one kept in bright, indirect light.
Stress can encourage pests, and Monstera are extremely attractive to thrips anyway. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It's also worth noting that plants kept in lower light tend to take a lot longer to absorb water (because they're not growing as quickly) PLUS there's less sunlight to help the water evaporate.
If you’re keeping your Monstera in lower light, then you need to be really careful about not accidentally overwatering it.
Your Monstera may have pests
The most common pest that afflicts Monstera is, in my experience. Thrips.
But they probably won’t kill your plant unless you let them run wild. They’ll just make it look TERRIBLE. Here’s my sad looking specimen with a touch of thrips damage.
If you look closely, you can actually see the thrips here. They're the little green/yellow blobs that look like teeny grains of rice.
The big brown spot at the top isn’t anything to worry about. It’s just a result of…winter. The humidity is lower, as is light, and plants are just less resistant to any hardship that comes their way.
But the little spot just above? That’s thrips. Those little sods.
Black spots on Monstera can be caused by disease
If you’ve exhausted all the other possibilities, your plant could have a disease. Cut off the affected leaves, and read this post on how to give your Monstera great conditions and help it grow.
Be sure to check any nearby plants for signs of disease too.
Often things like fungal infections are a result of external factors, such as the plant having water sat on the leaves, and won’t necessarily spread to other plants.
Fungal infections and diseases tend to cause brown or black spots with a yellow ring around the edge.
I don’t have any pictures of this, simply because it’s rare. I mean, it’s not rare rare, its just that that probably isn’t the issue your Monstera’s having. The spots will be pretty round and have a clear yellow ring around the edge.
Over time, most Monstera spots tend to go yellow around the edge, because the plant forms a barrier between the dead, brown part (if I haven’t already mentioned, there’s no turning brown leaves green, I’m afraid)
Should I remove the leaf if there’s a brown spot?
It depends. Unless the leaf is diseased or rotten, the brown leaf won’t harm the plant. It won’t turn green again though.
I tend to snip off badly affected leaves and trim the smaller brown spots out of leaves if I can. It's really a judgment call. Leaves will only a small amount of browning will still help photosynthesis, so it's in the interest of the plant to leave it be.
If you hate the look of imperfect plants
don’t come to my house, then by all means, chop them off. If you’re unsure of how to do this, then I have written about how to cut off damaged Monstera leaves here.
What about tiny black spots on Monstera?
The things I talked about above cause black patches, rather than actual little spots. There are two things (that I know of) that cause tiny little black pinpricks:
- Old leaves
Thrips poop is black, and looks like this:
I don’t have a picture of what old leaf black spots look like, but they have three main characteristics:
- They occur on smaller leaves
- The leaf is already very yellow
- The spots are quite uniform – not in neat rows or anything, but waaay more uniform than the thrips poop.
YEARS ago I read an article on this, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it’s called. IT DOES HAVE A NAME THOUGH.
What's happening here is that the leaf is being sacrificed by the plant, but before it unceremoniously stops being nourished, the plant takes the time to suck out all the nutrients it can.
Waste not, want not.
Harsh though. Hey, leaf! You’re too small and/or old, so imma kill you off, but not before I literally suck you dry.
This tends to be an aroid-centric thing (though correct me if I’m wrong. Uniform black dots on other plants can be a sign of edema.
Final thoughts on spots on Monstera
- If the spot is mushy it’s probably root rot – re pot and rehab if it’s really bad
- If the spot is crispy it’s probably sunburn or dehydration – move it and water it
- If the spot is super dark and there are a few and they look kind of uniform it’s probably a disease. Snip snip, clean the leaves with a dry microfibre cloth, and monitor it.
Don’t overpay for your Monstera!