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Don’t worry, guttation is nothing to worry about – it’s perfectly normal for house plants to have water droplets on the ends of their leaves.
It can be quite alarming to see water droplets forming on the ends of your Monstera’s leaves when you’ve been so careful not to overwater it.
My Monstera Thai Constellation currently has water on the leaves.
If you’re new to plant care, but you’ve been doing your research, this could be a red flag, because a plant rejecting water is surely a sign that it’s being overwatered…
…but actually, water droplets on Monstera leaves are the result of a perfectly healthy, natural process.
(it sounds like I’m giving the talk. You know…the Talk)
Why is my monstera weeping/crying/sweating/dripping water?
It’s a process called guttation and it’s not exactly water that’s accumulating on the end of the leaves, it’s xylem sap, which is basically water and minerals your plant doesn’t need anymore.
Plant pee, if you will.
When you water a plant, it takes up water (shocking, I know). But, rather like us when we have wine, the plant doesn’t know when to stop sucking up water. If it takes up more than it needs, it expels the excess moisture (plus some other crap it doesn’t need) through its leaves.
But why doesn’t it just respire, like a normal plant? I hear you ask.
It’s too do with the time of day. You’ve probably noticed that you usually see plants leaking water from the ends of their leaves in the morning, and it’s because they guttate at night. Plants close their stomata at night so the water has no choice but to leak out of the end of the plant.
There is only so much water a plant can absorb and expel – if you water too frequently, you can end up with root rot.
Is guttation the same as dew?
No. Guttation is an internal thing a plant does, but if you’re looking at outside plants, it can look the same.
Usually, a plant gets rid of excess moisture through transpiration, and you can’t see the moisture leaving. You know, because it’s tiny molecules of water vapour. But plants don’t transpire at night, and the roots carry on sucking up water.
Understandably, with the roots taking up water and the leaves not expelling any, pressure builds.
Guttation occurs when the water is forced out of the stomata and collects on the tip of the plants, like a little teardrop.
Dew, on the other hand, has never been within the plant.
It’s moisture that’s been hanging around in the air and the condenses on cold surfaces such as plants.
It’s unlikely to occur indoors unless you’re leaving your windows open at night, so if you have water droplets forming on your plants, it’s probably guttation.
Is guttation bad for your plants?
I’m going to say no, but keep reading, because obviously I’m going to mention overwatering, because when don’t I?
Guttation is a perfectly natural part of a plant’s life, and it isn’t a sign that your plant is anything other than totally healthy.
My own observations have found that plants weep more when they’ve just been watered, so if you’re noticing more guttation than normal, then maybe check your soil.
Guttation can’t absolve overwatering, much like you can’t outrun a bad diet.
You may notice more water coming out of your Monstera’s leaves in the morning.
During the day, plants rid their leaves of excess water through the process of transpiration, but at night, they close their stomata and stop transpiring.
Guttation becomes the number 1 process for shedding excess water, which is why your plant’s leaves might be wet in the morning.
I want to reiterate that there may be nothing wrong with your plant – since it’s a natural response to excess water. There are a plethora of reasons (temperature, humidity, plant size) that your plant is…guttating? Is that a word? Surely there’s a verb form of the noun guttation?
So whilst guttation is nothing to worry about, it’s always worth keeping an eye on your plant, especially if it was a £89.99 Thai Constellation.
By the way, my Thai does need repotting, I’m just waiting for my worm castings to show up. I’m transferring her into terracotta too so her roots can be very aerated. She deserves the best.
I’m also shuffling her around the house a lot so that she gets the best light and humidity, so I notice when she drips on me. My other plants could be guttating just as much, I’m just not noticing it.
Guttation does seem to happen in monstera more than other plants, but maybe I just notice them more because of the huge leaves.
Guttation is only bad when…
- It’s ruining your furniture. Water damage is real kids.
- Your plants are over fertilised. If you see a white mark that looks like an ink blot, then this may be a sign that you need to ease off on the fertiliser, or switch to a gentler one like bunny poop or worm castings (also poop). Your plant can get leaf burn from the excess fertiliser present in the xylem.
Does guttation happen in every plant?
No – big woody plants (some would call them ‘trees’) don’t guttate because they’re big and gravity is a real thing so the plant doesn’t have the ability to resist gravity to push the xylem up the stem.
I’m assuming it’s either pushed out of the roots, but I really have no idea. Presumably, they can just take in an awful lot of water. Or they rot. Nightmare.
Alocasia tend to drip water from their leaves a lot, and so do Anthurium (at least, the clarinervneum that I have does). I’ve actually found that the water leaves marks on the leaves of my Anthurium clarinerveum:
Guttation usually happens at the bottom of Monstera and Alocasia leaves, but on anthurium it seems to happen on the lobes at the top, and then trickle down.
I’ve noticed that guttation happens more in newer growth – if you’re looking for it, check the newest leaves first. Here’s a water drop on the end of my Florida green’s newest leaf:
Plants in hydroponic systems still guttate
I don’t know why it surprises me that the Monstera growing in my aquarium guttate just as much as the ones in soil or leca.
I have a tiny baby Monstera in there. Here he is:
Look at his roots! And his two leaves coming out at once! He’s loving life!
I assume that either plants simply don’t know how much water they’re going to need, and err on the side of caution OR guttation is important for getting rid of, e.g. excess salts. See? Plant pee.
Why is my plant sticky?
Xylem fluid isn’t sticky, so if your plant is covered in sticky droplets, that’s not a sign of guttation.
But if you have philodendron, you may have noticed sticky drops on the stem, leaves, or cataphylls.
Firstly, you need to check for pests. Scale insects in particular produce honeydew, which can cause sticky leaves.
In fact, if you google ‘sticky philodendron’ all you get is a load of scale horror stories. But in my experience, either philodendron start expelling seriously sticky xylem once their stems reach a certain girth, or they’re just naturally sticky.
I have no idea which it is, but my P. golden dragon, P. hastatum, and P. subhastatum are all healthy, have no bugs (famous last words) and are sticky as hell.
I know what it is!
They’re extrafloral nectaries, and they crop up, er, sometimes.
So, what are extrafloral nectaries?
Well, they’re glands that produce nectar, but rather than doing so in/on the flower (that’s the extrafloral bit) they’re on the petioles or leaves.
They have been described on most above-ground plants, and whilst botanists aren’t 100% sure what they’re for, they’re pretty certain it’s to attract predatory bugs. The bugs rock up at the promise of nectar, and stay around for the bugs that are eating the plants.
I mostly see extrafloral nectaries on the stems/petioles of my Philodendron (they are incredibly sticky), though you can get them on leaves too.
If your plant has spots on the leaves that are pretty uniform, and your plant seems otherwise healthy, you may be seeing extrafloral nectaries. Just to make things more confusing, they’re apparently not always sticky
It can be alarming to notice that your indoor plants are dripping leaves, or that the leaves on your prize Monstera are wet, but guttation is a natural process that isn’t harming your plant.
So this article from the Spruce seems to suggest that guttation is different from the roots sucking up excess water and expelling them through its leaves, but every other article suggests that it’s the same thing.
I’m not saying the spruce is wrong, but it’s unlikely that a plant can suck up water and expel it, unchanged.
I mean, when we drink a lot of water, we pee it out, but it’s not pure water. It’s pee.
Water plus other stuff we don’t need. Salts etc.
It’s *kind of* the same with plants.
I conclude this essay by comparing the process of guttation to the process of peeing more when you’ve drunk (drank? what’s wrong with me today?) too much water – it won’t kill you but maybe chill it with the hydration.
Hope that helps.
I’ve seen a lot of people in Facebook groups that have been FLEECED when it comes to buying Monstera. There’s no need. Monstera are very common (they’re literally an invasive species in MANY countries).
All the shops listed below are in the US I believe. Here in the UK you can buy Monstera in supermarkets. Don’t pay more than £20 unless it’s a really big one.
Don’t buy wet sticks (unrooted nodes) to propagate unless you know what you’re doing. If you want a cheap variegated Monstera, they’re coming. I have some tips for dealing with wet sticks here.
I got a Thai for under £100 which is still expensive, but people are literally paying that for crappy cuttings.
They’re in tissue culture and are fairly easy to find in the UK and EU. There are rumours that they’re coming to the US soon, so just hang on a bit longer. Unfortunately, I don’t have any news for when you’re getting cheaper anthuriums. Those things are PRICY in America.