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Monstera are a popular choice for first-time propagators and a pretty solid one. They root pretty easily in a variety of substrates, and if they do start to die, they take their sweet time about it.
It can be stressful though, especially when it doesn’t seem to be going to plan. And having people say ‘but rooting Monstera is so easy!’ is NOT helpful when yours is stoically refusing to budge. Whilst I’ve never had an issue rooting Monstera (BRAG) I had a LOT of issues rooting Rhapidophora tetrasperma and people were very quick to comment on the article I wrote about how I finally managed it, saying that it was suuuuper easy to root. NOT FOR EVERYONE, OK??
Propagating is all well and good when it’s going, er, well and good, but there are a number of issues that crop up OFTEN, and this article will go through what might happen and what to do when it does.
Are Monstera hard to propagate?
No. Monstera are semi-epiphytes, meaning that they use their aerial roots to grip onto whatever they’re using as a climbing frame.
Aerial roots aren’t the same as underground roots BUT being able to grow roots of any kind quickly is likely one of the keys to Monstera’s continued success as an invasive species in literally any non-frosty country.
That being said, commercially grown Monstera tend to be selected for traits that make them great to sell – qualities such as big leaves and fast growth definitely trump those that root quickly. If you sell plants for a living, selling ones that are easy to propagate does not a sound business model make.
Don’t let this put you off though. Monstera are still pretty easy to root, to the consternation of sellers everywhere (don’t worry guys, people have been killing house plants for centuries, and will continue to do so for many years to come).
SO, here are some common issues that can occur when rooting Monserta propagations (and some solutions ofc):
Why is my Monstera propagation turning yellow?
This is SUPER common, and absolutely normal. In fact, it can be a sign that your Monstera knows what it’s doing.
Definitely keep a close eye on the roots (or stem if there aren’t any roots yet) but don’t panic and yeet it into the bin quite yet.
The leaf is old
This is probably unlikely if you’ve taken a top cutting, but it’s worth mentioning if you’re propagating an older plant with multiple growth points.
A yellowing leaf is often a sign that the plant is sucking all the nutrients out of it…for whatever reason.
The most common reason is that the leaf is no longer functioning properly due to age. Before it drops off, we’re treated to a little autumnal display – Monstera leaves go bright yellow, but other plants can go orange – Philodendron subhastatum leaves look incredible before they go:
As I said, this isn’t that likely unless you’ve taken a cutting from a growth point that’s no longer growing, but rule it out first, because if it turns out that an old leaf is your only problem, then you don’t need to take any further action.
The energy is being redirected to the roots
This is another reason for the propagation’s leaf to turn yellow that’s just part of the propagation process. Nothing is wrong, the plant is rooting fine, it just looks like the cutting is dying.
Plants often lose leaves when they’re rooting. When a plant has roots, it can absorb nutrients and water from the ground. A cutting has no roots, so it has to improvise; taking energy from its leaves.
This is totally normal, and you don’t need to worry BUT you can reduce the chance of this happening by making sure that your cutting has ample light (but not enough to burn it), humidity, and warmth to root quickly and not risk any further leaves.
The cutting has root rot
If you’re rooting in water, you can check for this. New roots should be white and fluffy – if they’re brown and mushy then you have root rot.
In my experience, this is less likely to happen if you propagate Monstera in soil unless you’re overwatering a tonne. If you suspect your soil propagation has root rot, you need to take it out and have a look, but be very gentle so you don’t damage the root any more than necessary.
You can treat root rot by removing any damaged roots and soaking the remaining ones in hydrogen peroxide but you also need to sort out why the cutting got root rot in the first place.
The most common reason is lack of aeration because the anaerobic bacteria that cause root rot thrive in the oxygenless-environment.
Solution? Get more oxygen into the soil/water.
To add more aeration to soil, simply add some perlite or orchid bark. How much is entirely up to you. If you’re an overwaterer, you can go for up to 50%. If you’re an underwaterer I’d stick to 25%.
To add more aeration to water you can change it more often (every day or two), add an airstone/pump, or add oxygenating plants like java moss.
The cutting is too big
The jury’s out on whether to go big or small with regards to cutting.
Personally, I don’t really care. There are definitely pros and cons to both BUT I tend to propagate for one of two reasons:
- The stem snapped
- I’m trying to change the shape of the plant
I’m not one of those people that has the compulsion to propagate – I can barely look after the plants I have.
The point is that I don’t choose the size of the cutting to maximise the chances of it succeeding. Sometimes I get a small cutting, sometimes it’s freaking massive.
I think a nice balance is two leaves, but I’ll prop anything from a wet stick to 10 leaves.
In general, plants with more leaves take longer to root.
I don’t know why. It shouldn’t be the case, but…it seems to be. The cutting also seems prepared to sacrifice leaves willy nilly, I suppose because it can.
Once the cutting is rooted, larger ones then just take off, and before you know it, hey presto! You have a plant. Single leaf cuttings grow a bit…I dunno…sadly? For a few months before they hit their stride.
Why is my Monstera propagation turning brown?
All of the reasons for a cutting turning yellow can also apply here (and vice versa – plants have, like, 3 symptoms for a million issues) but it’s more likely that these issues will result in brown leaves.
The cutting is in shock
I mean, it makes sense. It must be VERY shocking to suddenly be a cutting.
In many cases, you can’t stop a plant from going into shock. Their lives are going very differently from how they were intended. Try as I might, a south-facing window in North Yorkshire has precious few similarities to the Amazon rainforest.
We don’t prevent shock – we manage it. Like so:
- If you’re water propagating, make sure the water is room temperature, or slightly warmer
- Humidity should be above 65%. If it isn’t, use a humidifier, or make a makeshift grow tent with a clear plastic bag.
- Don’t add nutrients to the water. If someone cut off your leg, you would NOT be in the mood for food. I appreciate that analogy has some holes, but just go with it
- Aeration. Its the key to successful propagating so I’m gonna just keep pushing it
Lack of water
This is the most common reason we have brown leaves. Caroline, you might be thinking, of course the plant has a lack of water IT HAS NO FUCKING ROOTS. Yes, I know. I didn’t say there was anything you could do about it.
Actually, you can. If you increase the humidity to 75%, you could potentially stop leaves from turning brown, because balancing the moisture in the air with the moisture in the leaves can stop the leaf from drying out, but it’s not a guarantee.
Not enough humidity
We kind of already covered this one in the section above. Read this article if you’re not convinced by how important humidity is to tropical plants. Making sure your plants get plenty of humidity makes everything else plant care related so much easier. Including (especially??) propagation.
I like to propagate my Monstera in as full sun as they can take, but it does mean that’ll probably lose all the leaves. It does mean that the new growth is better adapted to full sun and will grow bigger and faster.
It does, however, mean that it looks very sad and a bit, er, dead, until the new growth kicks in.
Why is my Monstera propagation not rooting?
Firstly, you need to check that you’re not being impatient.
When it comes to Monstera, I prefer soil propagation. Monstera do well propping in soil (a lot of plant don’t, especially if you don’t keep on top of misting the soil) but it’s slower than water propagating.
I prefer it because the bit of propagating I hate is moving water props back to soil – if they’re gonna die, it’s gonna be then that they do it. So I avoid that stage.
It can take weeks for Monstera to develop roots. Be. Patient.
If you’re not seeing any deterioration that causes you to worry, leave it alone.
Monstera can take colder temperatures quite well, but it’s not a great environment for propagating.
As you’ve probably guessed, my propagation ethos means that I often end up propagating in winter (stems snap when they snap). There are rumours that you can’t prop in winter but that’s not true. You just can’t tell the plant that it’s winter. Here are some options to keep your plants warm:
- A grow mat
- A grow light (most of them kick out a bit of heat – you don’t need a lot)
- A sunny windowsill, but don’t let it touch the glass of the window
You can also root Monstera year-round in a tropical aquarium, should you have one.
Not enough light
This is self-explanatory – plants grow faster when they have more light.
Roots grow better in the dark. We need the roots in the dark and the leave in the light. All those glass propagation vessels are ever so cute but not ideal for rooting cuttings*.
*Personally, I don’t think there’s that much difference in the time it takes for a cutting to root in light vs dark, but I’m not a botanist.
Obvs if there’ too much light, we get brown marks on the leaves, but as I mentioned, I think nobly sacrificing the leaves on that cutting can mean that the new growth is bigger and stronger.
Not enough humidity
I really should stop banging on about humidity. Seriously though, propagating in a terrarium is so easy – a true plant life hack.
Not enough airflow
Air flow is key. Oxygen is life. I’ve already mentioned how to increase aeration so I won’t go on about it again. Instead, I’ll share a tip for people that propagate a LOT.
I have a little aquarium with about an inch of water and a TONNE of java moss in.
Whenever I need to propagate something I’m not THAT bothered about, I pop it in there. It now has a couple of syngoniums, an adansonii, an epipremnum and a couple of aglaonema
Oh, and thrips. Still works though.
Why is my Monstera propagation rotting?
If you take anything away from this article, it’s that successful propagations need oxygen.
If your Monstera cutting is rotting, it’s not getting enough oxygen.
When we pick a substrate to propagate in, all we need is something that can deliver oxygen to the node and then the roots.
Water propagation is so popular because:
- it’s cheap
- there’s a lot of contact between the water and the node, so oxygen transfer is easy
- it’s easy to oxygenate water
However, if the oxygen level of the water depletes, it just rots.
We tend to automatically assume that water propagation works because plants need water (or more likely, we don’t really think about it all, we just do it because we were told to) – which they do – but when it comes to propagation, the water is acting as a substrate.
Any substrate will work IF you can get the required oxygen to the roots. You need moist substrate for a couple of reasons:
- to keep contact between the substrate and cutting so oxygen can get into it
- to keep the stem from drying out
At the cutting stage, the plant can’t absorb water, because it hasn’t got any roots. Humidity is more important. In fact, if you put a wet stick in a very humid environment, it could probably root without any substrate at all.
Many people are worried that their propagation is rotting because the humidity is too high, and whilst that can be the case, plants can do really well at 90% humidity and not rot. The key is balance. If it’s cold and humid, you’ll get rot, because the plant can’t grow and ‘use’ the humidity. Ditto light – if it’s too dark, all the humidity and warmth in the world won’t help.
Light + humidity + warmth + airflow = happy plants. But you need all three.
Why is my Monstera propagation not rooting?
- You’re being too impatient – it can take a couple of weeks for roots to form
- You don’t have enough oxygen – add an airstone, oxygenating aquatic plants, or change the water daily
- It’s too cold. Put it somewhere warm
- It doesn’t have enough light
- The cutting is too big – be patient, it just takes longer. Consider switching from water to sphagnum moss
How long does it take a Monstera propagation to root?
There are various factors that can influence how quickly a Monstera roots. If you maximise them all you can have roots within the week. Just because your Monstera is rooting slowly doesn’t mean that it won’t.
Also, remember what I said about large cuttings – sure, they take their sweet time to root, but they tend to put out new growth waaay more quickly and consistently than smaller cuttings.
- Temperature – 24oC (75oF)is PERFECT
- Humidity – as close to 70% as you can
- Light – I go as bright as I can, but bright indirect won’t damage your leaves. A grow light is a good shout, but you may still get brown spots
- Maximise oxygen – an airstone, chunkier soil mix, whatever works for you. As I said, I’m partial to java moss because it’s set it and forget it.
- Water – if you’re soil propping it needs to be spot on – I like to mist the surface everyday, and water thoroughly when (if) it needs it. If your humidity is good you can usually get away with just misting the soil.
I’ve always struggled to root Philodendron Floridas, but I’ve recently discovered that they root fastest in damp soil. A chunky mix and a self-watering pot was key. There is definitely trial and error when it comes to rooting plants, and it’s not going to work for all plants, but i thought I’d share what worked for me!
Common issues with propagating Monstera
You don’t have a node
If you google ‘why isn’t my Monstera rooting’ LOADS of the top results cite that not having a node is the main reason for your lack of success.
Monstera cuttings need to have a node in order to grow into a new plant.
This is an unequivocal fact.
Plenty of people (all of them on Facebook, it would seem) claim that they managed to grow a Monstera from a nodeless cutting. They did not. The node may have been very small (likely sliced when cutting) but it was there. You don’t need much of a node, but you do need one.
You may not think you have a node, but if new leaves are growing, there was a node on the cutting. Plants don’t go in for immaculate conception.
A monstera leaf can still root without a node.
And live for a good few months.
But a rooted leaf without a node can’t grow any more leaves.
The cool kids call them zombie leaves, but I’ve overthought that moniker waaaay too much and have come to conclusion it makes no sense. I could probably write an essay on that, but this is not the place.
The cutting is too large
Again, this doesn’t mean it won’t root. At all. And I have no evidence for this bar anecdotal (which is the case for a lot of house plant facts), but it just seems that big cuttings take ages to root.
Maybe it takes them a while to realise that they need to be growing roots?
They’re like ‘I CAN’T be a cutting, there’ like six leaves here’ and then a month later they’re like ‘GUYS, we ave no freaking ROOTS! I’m gonna start growing them, but I’m gonna have to sacrifice Gary.’
Buuut once they do get around to rooting, it’s all go. There’s no hanging around, filling a pot with roots and maybe thinking about growing a crappy little practice leaf (wet sticks, this is what you do – sort it out). They just get right on growing big leaves like nothing happened.
The cutting has pests
Pests love a plant with issues, and who has more issues than a freshly amputated cutting? When plants are in shock, they release hormones to tell all the other plants (to what end though?? they can’t exactly run away). These hormones attract pests that wish to feast on the weakened plant.
In the wild though, the hormones ALSO attract predatory bugs, because they know that the plant-eating bugs will be there, and they want to eat them.
In our houses though, we don’t tend to have many predatory pests (unless we introduce them). So cuttings need to be monitored for bugs frequently.
In my experience, pests don’t usually impact the Monstera actually rooting, but it can make the new growth come in much slower and MUCH, er, weirder. To be honest, I usually just cut my losses, chop all the leaves off and go with the wet stick method. It’s not ideal, but I hate dealing with pests (and I quite like nurturing wet sticks).
Adding nutrients to the water
There are some instances where nutrients aren’t an issue – aquarium water and rich soil (such as in terrariums) don’t seem to impact growth. It’s the chemical nutrient that can really damage cuttings.
Adding nutrients to propagations is a bit like misting – it can cause a lot of issues and the best outcome is that nothing happens.
Tips for propagating Monstera wet sticks
Wet sticks are a common option for people buying variegated Monstera online. It’s a solid option because they transport better and are cheaper BUT there are a lot of opportunities for scams, so buy from a trusted seller. Check out reviews, or ask people on Facebook groups for recommendations.
I personally like growing plants from wet sticks because it’s a nice sense of achievement, but if you’re after a big plant NOW, it’s not the way. I would also recommend practicing on a regular green Monstera wet stick before spending a lot on a variegated one.
BTW a wet stick is a stem cutting with a node but without leaves. An aerial root is a bonus but not necessary (other than to confirm that there is a node).
Use moss as a substrate
There are a few of reasons I like to use moss for propagating wet sticks:
- It stays moist for a long time
- You can mist it to rewet it
- It’s not as messy as soil or water
- You can put the whole thing in a terrarium/plastic bag to increase humidity, but you can also remove it really easily
- The plant will grow soil roots, so it’s easier to pot up in soil later
Keep the wet stick warm
As I said, we’re looking for around 24oC. A cold wet stick won’t grow, and will be more susceptible to drying up or rotting
Put it in a Ziploc bag to retain humidity
This is a very simple, cheap hack but it works. Not only does it keep humidity up, but it keeps moisture in, so you shouldn’t need to re-dampen the moss
Make sure it has plenty of light
I like to start wet stick under a grow light, and then move then into natural light. This is based purely on experience, but I’ve found that you can get multiple growth points this way BUT if you keep it under the grow light most of them will dry up.
You still want to make sure it’s getting good light though, like a south or west-facing window (remember I’m in the UK, so east is better if you live somewhere hot).
I’m sorry if this was repetitive, but when I first started propagating I read a lot of articles on what to do, but not why it worked. Which meant that when it didn’t work I didn’t understand why, and just assumed all was lost.
Should I say humidity and aeration again???
Humidity and aeration.
I think that covers it.