Species advice

Swiss cheese plant care

Is there any plant that sums up the new houseplant craze than the monstera deliciosa?

There was a period during 2019 where it was impossible to walk into any shop, and *not* find monstera print on absolutely everything, from bed sheets, to wallpaper, from mouse mats to playsuits and PopSockets (yes, I own both the latter!)

When happy they proliferate wildly. Having started with just 2 mature plants from IKEA, they’ve grown like wildfire. I’ve had to cut and split them into multiple pots – now at 9 and counting.

Light for monstera deliciosa

Bright, indirect light – near or under windows is ideal, with not too much direct sunlight otherwise leaves can get scorched. Our south-facing kitchen window is fine year-round, but in other, sunnier parts of the world, it might be a little too much.

Watering monstera deliciosa

Moderate watering, around once a week – but check the soil first to make sure the top inch or so isn’t still damp from the last watering.

Also make sure it’s not sitting in water after you’ve finished watering – pour away any excess.

Soil and potting mix for monstera deliciosa

Monstera deliciosa leaves
Monstera deliciosa growing within a conical trellis

Monsteras are from the vining aroid family, so like free draining and chunky soil. Early on in plant parenthood, I made the mistake of planting some monsteras in almost pure coco coir, which can be ok, but can also easily pack in around and suffocate the roots, not giving them the free draining and aerated soil they need.

I now pot monsteras in a 50:50 mix of houseplant soil and orchid soil (bark + clay bits + soil), plus a handful or two or perlite thrown in, and they are much happier.

Make sure that the point that the lowest leaves emerge from the stem is above the soil level, otherwise they can get too damp and begin to rot.

They’ll also throw out aerial roots from nodes on their stems – when long enough, you can tuck these back into the soil, to help stabilise the plant, and gather moisture/nutrients for the upper leaves.

Humidity for monstera

Moderate humidity is ideal – they don’t like the leaves drying out too much. You can mist them lightly, but be careful that this can encourage fungal growth on the leaf surface, so make sure they also get air circulation and dry out between misting.

Propagating monstera deliciosa

Monstera are fairly easy to propagate. Like many other plants, all you need is a node and a couple of materials.

Sphagnum moss propagation

This is now my favoured option, because the risk of rot is seems lower than in water, and it also seems to encourage roots much faster! Simply wrap the the node in damp moss, and pop in an open-top jar. Keep the moss damp by misting or pouring water in and out again – but don’t let water collect at the bottom of the jar.

When roots have emerged, pop the cutting in suitable soil, along with any of the moss that is attached to the roots.

Water propagation  

This is another straight forward way to root monstera – simply pop in a jar of water and wait. Keep changing water every few days and checking the roots and cut end for rot (parts of the plant going black and mushy). If you do spot rot, cut off those bits asap.

Once I even had a node itself rot, and with some careful surgery, it still sprouted roots.

Common issues with monstera deliciosa

Splaying – As vining plants, monsteras will naturally splay out over the pot. This can make them a little unwieldy, and means they start to take over quite a bit more space than you’d planned.

There are two options – to deal with this:

You can give it a moss pole to root onto, and it will attach and grow upwards rather than outwards. This is often the most recommended route.

Or, you can use a trellis to give it support but also keep it tidy. This monstera trellis tutorial by Darryl Cheng is extremely helpful. A trellis is my preferred option, because it’s easier to untangle the roots later, and means you don’t end up with a huge tree-like monstera, which isn’t viable in small homes like ours. I personally use conical plant supports from outdoor garden centres, to keep our monsteras together.

Leaves not developing fenestrations or holes – maturer plants tend to push out larger leaves with fenestrations, while younger plants tend to have full leaves. They develop as each leaf forms – so if it doesn’t have fenestrations to start with, it won’t get them later.

Black marks on leaves – depending on the conditions, it could be a sign of root stress or rot. If you’ve been watering quite a bit, or recently repotted and may have damaged the roots, that is one explanation.

If you see the black spots growing, and a yellow ring around the outside of the spots, it could be a fungal infection. This can be caused by the leaves being damp but not being allowed to dry off again.

Drooping and discoloured leaves – a sign of pests – look out for signs of spider mite and thrips, and treat accordingly

Thrips damage on monstera deliciosa (also look out for brown/orange patterning underneath the leaf)

Dull leaves – wipe both sides of the leaves clean with a damp lint-free cloth or paper towel every now and again, to keep them breathing and photosynthesising healthily.

Lower leaves dying off – if the odd small leaf at the base of the plant dies off, that’s fairly normal, especially if where the petiole (leaf stem) connects to the main vine is below the soil surface.

Though it can be tricky to find the right spot and conditions for them, once they get growing, there’s no stopping them.

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