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Monstera naturally only have one stem. They’re vining plants, that usually only have one active growth point at once.
A lot of people get confused when they see super bushy Monstera like this:
One of two things is going on here:
The first is that it was grown in nursery conditions, that we’d struggle to replicate in a regular house.
The second, and far common way to get a bushier Monstera is to plant a load of cuttings in one pot.
This is fine to do, but also can result in one dominating the others over time.
Also, if you don’t want to have to repot into a pot approx. half the size of your living room in the future, you’ll want to separate them at some point. Monstera roots have a tendency to fuse together over time, so…enjoy.
Is it normal for My Monstera to only have one stem?
Yes, 100%. A Monstera’s one aim in life is to grow into the sun.
They don’t know why that’s
a. not a great idea, and
b. impossible for at least two reasons
- it’s really far away
- it’s really, really hot
One can’t climb towards the sun if one is growing out. The best course of action is to grow up. And the fastest way to grow up is to only grow one leaf at a time. Excess energy goes towards making bigger leaves to maximise energy output, rather than producing multiple leaves at once.
This is why Monstera produce fenestrated leaves.
The holes allow light to penetrate to the lower leaves, so they can photosynthesise. Everything about a Monstera’s physiology suggests that it was designed to be one vine, growing up.*
*That’s why you can trick them to grow bigger leaves if you grow them up a moss pole. Their only goal is up, and they have no understanding of ceilings.
How can I encourage my Monstera to branch/grow another stem?
There is a segment of house plant enthusiasts out there that will argue that it’s impossible to convince your Monstera to grow multiple growth points, and it’s a waste of time to try.
However, it has happened. It’s not impossible. It’s just…not easy.
BUT 100% worth a try. All you’re doing is providing your Monstera with the best conditions it would ever want.
I mean, just…more.
I know that people say that Monstera are low light tolerant. I know that they’ll burn to a crisp in the sun.
You know who doesn’t know this??
You’ll need to acclimate it to avoid the whole thing crisping up, and your lower leaves may look a bit, er, dead, until the new ones grow in, but if you want to convince your Monstera it has enough energy to grow two leaves at one, you’ll need a LOT of light.
I’m not talking your common or garden 60% here. We’re looking at 75%/80%. You know, high enough that you worry for your health.
Look, if it was easy, we’d all be doing it.
I’m also not saying it’s a good idea! But we’re trying to make a plant go against its basic physiology here for AESTHETIC reasons. It’s not gonna be easy.
(Do I want to try it? Kinda. But I’ll need a big-ass terrarium).
Perfect soil and watering
‘Perfect’ is difficult to explain here, because it depends on a lot of thing,s but we want something that dries out quickly, but also you can’t miss a watering. Or water too often.
But like, if you’re giving it a LOAD of light then a dense soil mix might dry out quickly. This is probably something you’ll need to workshop.
Also, the humidity will keep it damp. But the warmth will dry it out.
This is probably the one that you shouldn’t overthink too much. Just keep the roots healthy.
In terms of water type, they’re not picky. Tap water is fine if it’s decent where you live (generally if you can drink it, Monstera can). If you’re using a complete fertiliser (more on that later), then you can use distilled or pure water if you’d prefer.
Don’t let it get too cold or too hot. A fan will help keep it cooler in summer, but if you live somewhere cold in winter you may just need to accept it might not grow at all in winter, never mind produce multiple leaves simultaneously.
Fertilise monthly. Monstera don’t usually show that they’re hungry, but it will slow their growth if they’re not fed. In my experience, they’re not picky about what fertiliser they have, but something with an NPK of 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 should cover all the bases.
It might not be a bad idea to use a hydroponic fertiliser, especially if you’re using distilled water, because it contains the full roster (love that word) of macro and micronutrients.
Air layer it
This is one of those things that might not help, but certainly won’t hurt.
Air layering is the process of rooting a cutting when it’s still attached to the mother plant. Except here we won’t cut the cutting – we’re basically just adding multiple root systems.
I’ve never done this, and have no idea if it’ll convince the plant to grow multiple growth points, but…it should help right? More roots = more energy?
If nothing else, it’ll help your Monstera grow faster, bigger, and with shorter internodal spacing, so it’ll look really full.
Can you plant multiple Monstera stems together?
Yes, and most of those MASSIVE bushy plants you see being sold in garden centers for eye-watering prices are a few plants grown together.
Monstera grow fine like this, if you look after them, but looking after them can be a challenge.
Basically, they get too big. Monstera stems can easily get as thick as an arm (we’ll say a medium-sized arm for the sake of argument). If you’ve got five in a pot, you’re gonna need a big pot, and we haven’t even considered the leaves.
As I mentioned at the start, the bigger they get, the more difficult it will be to separate them without damaging the roots. So either split them when they’re young, or prepare for monstrous mature plant.
How can I encourage my Monstera to grow more leaves on a bare stem?
This is a common question, and the answer is…you can’t. Some plants, like rubber plants, can be notched in the stem, and a new little branch will grow.
This can’t be done in Monstera, because they’re not natural branchers.
That being said, new growth can appear on a bare stem, it’s just quite rare and can’t really be controlled.
Monstera grow from the top, and are very unlikely produce growth from an old node. Once a leaf has gone, it’s highly unlikely to grow back.
I’m writing things like ‘highly unlikely’ because it has happened before, but it’s a rare occurrence, and it’s a combination of luck and a genetic oddity in the Monstera.
You may get growth points, but no actual…growth. This sounds weird, but it’s happened on my Thai, and I don’t want you to get overexcited. These little nubs have been there for a year and not grown.
The white circle shows what looks like an active growth point. It’s not a stem, it’s a tiny furled-up leaf. It’s actually curled round to the right and is nearly touching the stem, which won’t help it to grow.
The one on the green circle has blackened on the edge, which usually means it’s given up for now, but may change its mind in the future. The thing in the coral circle is a root that’s just really bright for some reason.
This is all happening RIGHT at the base of the stem, as far away from the active growth point as it’s possible to be. It happened when I switched it to water, for reasons best known to itself.
Some plants, like Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma, can be encouraged to grow from an old node if you cut off the growing tip. In my experience you have a 50% chance of the new growth coming from the second-to-last node, and 50% chance that it’ll be any other node at random.
Usually, Monstera will only grow out of the newest node, regardless of whether it’s grown from there before.
If the bottom of your stem is bare and you hate it, I recommend you air layer it and/or chop and prop.
Monstera are designed to only have one stem.
If you’re looking for something naturally bushier, consider something like a Calathea or fern.
In general, climbers are easier to care for than bushy plants, because they can grow to find what they want and tend to cling to life harder because you never know – the next leaf might be growing in perfect conditions.
Bushy plants that grow on the rainforest floor are more pessimistic in nature. You might think I’m unnecessarily anthropomorphising, but you look at a peace lily and tell me it’s a natural optimist??
They’re simply not.
It makes sense, because they grow in a clump, and are stuck with whatever conditions they have (unless, for example, a tree falls down or there’s a flood). If they get the wrong humidity, they simply expire, because they can’t grow their way to a better life.