An ubiquitous split-leaf indoor plant, monstera deliciosa is a climbing evergreen that will do great as a floor-standing plant, especially when given something to climb on.
Because it’s an easy-care plant, but also because it can fill up large, empty spaces in spacious homes or offices, monstera plants are among the top picks of designers.
I’ve put together an easy-to-follow guide on how to best take care of the monstera deliciosa, if you too are considering adding this plant to your home or office.
Size & Growth
In the rainforests in Central America — where the plant is native to — the monstera can reach 15 to 30 feet, although indoors it usually averages a height of 3 feet.
As for its growth pattern, the plant uses its aerial roots to attach to the trunk of trees and growth upward toward the light.
This growth pattern is maintained even indoors, where the plant is best offered a moss pole of other structure to support its climbing habit. Otherwise, it may attach to furniture or other things nearby.
Depending on the indoor environment and the space afforded to it, the plant can grow much taller than just 3 feet.
Watering is always tricky with tropical plants because their water requirements seem like a contradiction at times — they need a lot of water, but don’t like to sit in water.
The Monstera Deliciosa water requirements can be met easily if you plant them in well-draining soil. You should water these plants deeply, then allow all the excess water to drain.
If your plant is still small enough for you to be able to manipulate it without help, you can water them from below, by allowing the roots to soak up as much water they need.
Otherwise simply water at the base but allow the soil to start drying before you water again. Consistently moist soil is ideal. Don’t allow the soil to go bone-dry, but also don’t overwater.
In the growing season, it’s best to be regular with the watering, in winter and fall, you can cut back on the frequency a bit since the plant isn’t doing much growing during that time.
Bright indirect light works best for these plants that don’t get much direct light in their natural habitat either. Avoid direct light exposure that could damage the leaves.
A southern exposure is fine as long as the plant is not under strong direct light but maybe a few feet away from a southern window.
The plant can adapt to a low light environment, but don’t expect any spectacular growth from it then.
If light is scarce, the plant will try to grow toward the light and in doing so, it will grow leggy. To avoid this, make sure that it has access to plenty of indirect, bright light.
For tropical plants, fast-draining soil is essential. The monstera is no exception in this regard. It can grow both in acid or neutral soil, but it has to drain fast to prevent rotting or fungal issues.
A peat-based potting soil works best because it retains some moisture but also allows water to percolate, keeping the roots well-aerated to prevent fungal issues.
You don’t have to worry too much about fertilizing your monstera. With this plant, a little goes a long way. If you fertilize, do so in spring and summer.
Once a month is enough. Use a weak solution because monsteras aren’t heavy feeders. A general houseplant fertilizer will do just fine in helping the plant grow stronger roots and put out more vibrant leaves.
Propagation of monstera deliciosa can be achieved either through cuttings, which can be rooted in water, or through a method called air layering, which works even better.
Here are the steps involved in propagating monstera plants through the air layering method:
- Identify a leaf on the stem that already has an aerial root growing out beneath it.
- Take a clean, sharp blade and cut a notch below the root. It should be one-third of the stem’s width.
- Take some moist sphagnum moss to cover the cut and secure everything into place with a plastic wrap.
- Keep the sphagnum moss moist until a root emerges, then cut the stem and pot the plantlet in a new pot.
Alternatively, just take leaf cuttings with 1-2 nodes on them and root them in water. Replace the water frequently. When roots develop, you can move the cutting to a pot.
Pests & Disease
Monstera deliciosa plants can get pest problems that are common for other houseplants and they can also be affected by several leaf diseases, especially fungal issues.
The pests that most commonly affect monstera deliciosa plants include scale and spider mites, aphids, mealybugs, and thrips.
Some of these will be more prevalent on the stems and leaf joints (e.g. scale insects), others will set up shop mainly on the underside of foliage (e.g. spider mites).
Browning or yellowing leaves, leaves that are curling up or look shriveled, or yellowing spots on leaves, stems, and joints usually signal a pest infestation.
Here are some tricks and tips to keep pests off your monstera or treat an ongoing infestation:
- Keep debris off the leaves by regularly wiping off dust that accumulates over time.
- You can also put the plant under a direct water stream to wash off any dirt or debris but also wash off any pests that may be lurking unnoticed.
- Don’t forget about the underside of leaves too. Some pests will prefer those to other parts of the plant.
- Washing leaves with insecticidal soap can also prevent and treat an ongoing infestation.
The diseases that are most prevalent in monstera deliciosa plants include leaf spot disease and root root.
Leaf spot disease is a fungal disease affecting the leaves. It starts out as multiple blemishes that ultimately join together. Leaves can turn brown and fall off.
Keeping the leaves clean also helps with preventing fungal diseases, not only pest problems.
Excess moisture on the leaves can also cause fungal issues. Be careful when watering these plants, to keep water off the leaves or water in the morning to allow the water to evaporate until the evening.
Because fungal diseases can spread easily through spores, misting affected leaves can propel spores onto other leaves.
If you suspect sections of your monstera plant are affected by leaf spot try removing these to prevent further spread.
Another important aspect of keeping pests and fungal problems off your monstera plant is to always use sanitized tools when trimming, pruning or harvesting cuttings for propagation.
Root rot is another common problem in monstera plants. It’s often caused by overwatering, which creates a favorable environment for fungi and other processes that cause the roots to start rotting.
Soil that is prone to waterlogging coupled with overwatering will often be the cause of root rot in monstera plants.
If you suspect that the roots of your monstera are rotting, try to repot the plant but remove any soft parts or rotten parts of the root system.
If you act fast, you may be able to save the plant. Advanced stages of root rot are often fatal to the plant.
If the monstera deliciosa is not exactly what you’re looking for or you want a variety that stays smaller, there are plenty of other monstera types you can check out to see if you like them.
Keeping requirements for monstera varieties are usually the same I described above, with some varieties having a better tolerance to low light conditions than others.
My top favorite monstera plant varieties include:
– Monstera Variegata
The variegated version of the monstera plant features white portions of the leaves or entirely white leaves which make for an interesting contrast with the plant’s green leaves.
– Monstera Adansonii
Featuring heart-shaped leaves with multiple fenestrations (holes) per leaf, the adansonii variety is also a climbing monstera. Its leaves are more elongated and narrower compared to the monstera variety.
– Monstera Dubia
The dubia variety features smaller leaves that are heart-shaped with white-gray variegations. They’re prolific climbers and need moss poles or other structures to grow upward.
– Monstera Karstenianum
Featuring shiny dark leaves with pronounced veining, the Karstenianum is another monstera variety that does great indoors. A mossy pole is a must for this climbing-vining variety that grows fast and looks great in any indoor setting.
Regardless of the variety of monstera you choose, the keeping requirements usually stay the same — indirect light, well-draining and moist soil.
The monstera deliciosa is an easily available houseplant that can make a great impact on the ambience of your home or office.
It’s not fussy about its requirements, but good lighting, soil, watering and humidity can make a whole world of difference in how well the plant will thrive in indoor spaces.
Because fungal diseases and pest problems are often difficult to treat, the best way to avoid them is to keep the leaves clean and dry.