When it comes to making a botanical statement about living life on your own terms, few plants offer as much drama and personality as Monstera deliciosa and its relatives. These exotic tropicals look demanding, but learning how to grow and care for monsteras is a simple, satisfying task. Whether monsteras are on your wish list or already in your home, here's everything you need to know for success:
You may not think of your monstera as a vine, but it is. These beauties are native to the tropical rainforests of Central America,1 where they climb skyward from jungle floors to great heights. Most common monsteras are similar in appearance, but narrowing down your type is part of the fun:
- Monstera deliciosa, also known as the Swiss cheese plant, is the most popular monstera on the market. When mature — and given adequate light — its massive, heart-shaped leaves develop large holes along the main leaf vein and large leaf splits along the outer edge.1
- Monstera adansonii, also known as monkey mask, is less common. Its arrow-shaped leaves don't split along the outer edge. Instead, the holes remain inside the leaf margins.
- Monstera obliqua is a rare plant seldom found for sale — though mislabeled plants are common. Very similar in appearance to Monstera adansonii, it has narrower, thinner leaves and a greater percentage of leaf holes.
All monsteras are part of the botanical family Araceae, which is toxic to pets if consumed.2 If you have pets, train them to avoid houseplants and never eat plant parts. If your pet eats monstera leaves or stems, contact your vet right away.
Monstera deliciosa relies on aerial roots to reach new heights.
In their native tropical habitat, monsteras reach towering heights thanks to aerial roots. Normal roots anchor plants below ground, but aerial roots anchor plants to trees, walls and other above-ground surfaces, allowing the plant to climb.
Monsteras in your home don't reach rainforest heights, but they still grow the same way. Support your monstera's aspirations by providing a moss pole for support. The aerial roots will grow into the moss and anchor your monstera as it soars.
Given the right conditions and support, Monstera deliciosa are long-lived plants that can grow 10 to 15 feet tall indoors and stretch 8 feet wide, with leaves that measure 18 inches across or more.1 Variegated monstera grow much slower and rarely achieve that size indoors.
As your monstera matures, expect the leaf holes and splits to change dramatically. Depending on the plant type and growing conditions, leaf perforations progress to dramatic split leaves. Proper light levels are especially important. Low light inhibits holes and splits.3
Monstera adansonii leaves have holes, but no splits along leaf edges.
Most monstera have simple growing needs that suit living indoors well. By providing your plant with these basics, you help ensure it stays in good health:
- Light – In the rainforest, towering trees protect monstera leaves from intense sun. From spring through fall — your monstera's active growth period — give it bright indirect or filtered light. In winter when sun is less intense, direct light encourages the best color and leaf development.
- Water – Monsteras are tropicals, but they prefer that soil dries out slightly during active growth. Check the soil by hand. When it feels dry 2 to 3 inches deep, water it thoroughly. Always remove excess water from your saucer or cachepot to avoid root disease. During winter, reduce water accordingly.
- Humidity – Not surprisingly, rainforest natives like humidity. During active growth, mist your plant and moss pole daily. Wipe leaves weekly with warm water to simulate a rainforest bath. If you use a saucer rather than cachepot, fill it with pebbles, add water to just below the pebble tops, and place your plant on top. Evaporating water humidifies air around your plant.
- Temperature – Monsteras do well in average home temperatures during the growing season, but they prefer temperatures around 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit during their winter rest period.1 Regardless of the season, keep your monstera away from heating and air conditioning vents.
- Fertilizer – Feeding monsteras during the growing season is essential to their health. A premium balanced fertilizer such as Pennington UltraGreen All Purpose Plant Food 10-10-10 provides essential primary plant nutrients plus secondary and micronutrients to keep monstera foliage looking beautiful. Follow the label instructions for your plant's container size, and feed every 12 to 16 weeks.
- Pruning – Knowing when and how to prune monstera is simple. If vines and aerial roots get unruly and unattractive, simply prune them back. Always cut just below a leaf node so you don't leave a stump. For a wild look, remove only dead or damaged leaves and stems. Healthy aerial roots are essential for support, plus they absorb moisture from the air.
- Repotting – Monsteras do best when they're slightly rootbound, so don't be quick to repot. When roots emerge through drainage holes, shift your plant to a pot one size larger. Always use fast-draining potting mix designed for container plants. Pennington UltraGreen Plant Starter with Vitamin B1, used weekly until your plant settles in, helps reduce transplant shock.
Making new monstera babies is simple in water or in soil.
Like many climbing plants, monsteras are easy to propagate from stem cuttings in water or potting mix. Choose a vine tip that has several leaves and the beginning nubs of aerial roots. Cut just below a leaf node for a piece 4 to 5 inches long. Then remove the lower leaves to expose at least two to four leaf nodes and root nubs.
If rooting in water, that's it. Place the cutting in a vase or jar so the nodes remain submerged. Once several healthy roots form, replant the cutting into soil. If rooting directly in potting mix, thoroughly coat the cut stem in a quality rooting hormone. Then insert it into its new home. Most monsteras root quickly and easily. You'll soon have more babies to tend.
By following these monstera basics, you can grow amazing monsteras that make a powerful statement about your love of plants and life. Pennington is here for you all the way with premium plant foods and expert advice. Let us help you learn and succeed as you add to your growing plant family.
Always read product labels thoroughly and follow instructions.
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1. New York Botanical Garden, "Monstera (Monstera deliciosa)."
2. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, "Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants – Monstera deliciosa."
3. New York Botanical Garden, "Gardening FAQs."