How to Grow Your Monstera Plant (Swiss Cheese Plant)

swiss cheese plant

Brina Blum / Unsplash

There’s no plant that has come to symbolize today's houseplant craze as much as the monstera. Its big green leaves, which feature characteristic deep splits and perforations, have been printed on everything from cell phone cases to clothing. And while it’s not quite a beginner-level plant, anyone can beautify their space with this striking, iconic tropical. 

  • Botanical Name: Monstera deliciosa
  • Common Name: Split-leaf philodendron, Swiss cheese plant
  • Plant Type: Climbing, evergreen perennial vine
  • Mature Size: 30 feet tall
  • Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
  • Soil Type: Well-drained potting mix
  • Soil pH: 5.5 to 7.0
  • Toxicity: Toxic to humans and pets

Monstera Plant Care

swiss cheese plant monstera
Brina Blum / Unsplash

Water your monstera when soil is just dry to the touch; cut back slightly on watering in the winter months. The soil in your monstera’s pot should be kept consistently moist but not waterlogged. Yellowing leaves or brown-edged leaves are a sign that you’re overwatering.

Gently mist your monstera plant in the morning once per week to ensure that it's getting the humidity it needs. If the edges of your monstera’s leaves are brown and brittle, the plant isn’t getting enough humidity. If you have the space, monstera can also make a great houseplant for your bathroom, especially if you can display it a few feet from a window facing east, west, or south.

Keep an eye on your monstera’s leaves, especially the oldest ones on the plant, and clean them with a soft, damp cloth or quick shower with tepid water to remove any dust buildup. 

Your monstera will need just two doses of fertilizer throughout the year, one in early spring and one in high summer.

Over time, your monstera plant will grow aerial roots from its stem. Do not cut off these aerial roots—they are there to support the plant. When any aerial roots that are not supporting a climbing plant are long enough, gently train them back into the soil to take up additional nutrients. 

Best Growing Conditions for Monstera Plants

Monstera grow best with bright, indirect light to properly thrive, but they can do well with bright artificial light and adapt to low-light conditions, too. Without bright light, however, leaves will grow more sparsely and slowly. Monstera in low-light conditions may also have smaller leaves without the characteristic perforations prized by indoor gardeners. 

Choose a spot to display your monstera where temperatures don’t drop below the high 60-degree range to avoid slowing down growth.

Try to avoid drastic temperature changes in your monstera’s space —this can prompt significant leaf drop as the plant adjusts to its new climate. 

Monstera plants are epiphytic vines, which means they're climbers rather than trailers. Instead of a hanging basket, monstera should be planted in a container with a moss-filled pole, a piece of wood, or another form of trellis to climb with their stems, which can grow up to six feet or longer. The stems send down long, dangling aerial roots, which support the plant. 

Monstera Varieties

Botanically, this plant is known as Monstera deliciosa thanks to the ceriman, fruits with a pineapple-banana flavor, that it produces in its native habitat, the jungles of Central America. 

One of M. deliciosa's common names is Swiss cheese plant, thanks to the deep notches and holes in its large leaves at maturity. Another is split-leaf philodendron—a common misnomer, although both monstera and philodendron plants require similar care. Young monstera plants are often mistaken for philodendrons since they have smaller, heart-shaped leaves that look different from those of a mature plant.

As they grow up rather than out, monstera can become quite large, with leaves spanning more than two feet in some conditions. Look for cultivar "Borsigiana," which has slightly smaller leaves and stems, if you’re tight on space.  

How to Propagate Your Monstera Plant

Monstera deliciosa can be propagated easily via leaf bud cuttings. Another option, especially for an older, taller specimen that’s lost its lower leaves, is to air layer the top portion of your overgrown monstera plant before pruning back excess growth.

How to Propagate Your Monstera Plant via Leaf Bud Cuttings

Step 1: Prepare a container large enough to hold three or four cuttings with fresh all-purpose potting soil.

Step 2: Using a clean, sharp blade, cut a segment of healthy monstera stem from the mother plant. Choose a portion of the stem that has several leaves.

Step 3: Cut that stem into several segments, with one leaf per segment. Segments may also have an aerial root attached.

Step 4: Plant three or four of the stem segments in the same pot. This will create a bushy, full look in the new container. You can also propagate the stem segments in water for a few weeks before planting. New growth will emerge from the point where the leaf and stem meet. 

small bare root monstera houseplant
The Sill Monstera $67

How to Propagate Your Monstera Plant via Air Layering

This method of propagating monstera works particularly well to jump-start a leggy, overgrown specimen that’s lost its bottom leaves while creating a new plant. 

To propagate your monstera using this technique, you will need a sharp knife or other cutting tool, a toothpick, a handful of long-fibered sphagnum moss, twine or strong string, a sheet of clear plastic (like a plastic sandwich bag or a piece of plastic cling wrap), and optional rooting hormone.

Step 1: Examine your monstera’s leggy stem to identify the spot where you’d like the roots on your new plant to grow. Choose a spot that’s at least six inches below the bottom of where leaf growth begins.

Step 2: Using a clean, sharp blade, carefully make an upward diagonal cut about one-third of the way through the stem at the point you chose. 

Step 3: Insert a toothpick sideways into the cut to keep it open through the rooting process. To speed the process, you can apply rooting hormone to the freshly cut surface of the stem at this point, but new roots will still grow without it. 

Step 4: Moisten a big handful of the sphagnum moss and tie it around the cut on the stem using the twine. This will give the new roots a medium to grow into. 

Step 5: Tie the sheet of plastic around the ball of sphagnum moss so that it will hold the moisture in.

Step 6: Care for your monstera as usual. You should see new roots growing through the moss within a few months. 

Step 7: When you see new roots, remove the plastic wrap and cut through the stem just below the new growth. Plant your new monstera, leaving the moss on the roots, in an appropriately-sized pot with fresh all-purpose potting soil, and then care for it as usual. 

Step 8: After removing the air-layer, cut the mother plant back significantly. New growth will appear just below this cut. 

Common Growing Problems

monstera care guide - monstera plant in bohemian living room
Black and Blooms

It's easy to tell what is bothering your monstera plant by checking its leaves. If the leaves are yellow, your plant may be overwatered or need more nutrients. If the leaves are brown, your monstera may need more water or humidity. If the leaves aren't splitting, your plant may need more sunlight.

Potting and Repotting Your Monstera Plant

Repot your monstera at any time of year using all-purpose potting soil. Since these plants prefer to be pot-bound, it’s a good idea to repot only every two to three years. Once your monstera is in a container with a diameter of eight inches or larger, top-dress with fresh potting soil rather than repotting. 

Over time, your monstera will lose its lower leaves as it continues to climb; even pinching off growth tips won’t stop its upward growth. While there’s no way to encourage regrowth on those bare lower stems, it’s easy to propagate a new, fuller-looking plant from a healthy stem with several leaves. 

Article Sources
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  1. Monstera Deliciosa. North Carolina State Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox.

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