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The Complete Monstera (Swiss Cheese Plant) Care Guide

Introduction

A picture of an indoor plant Monstera Deliciosa in a black pot plant with a wooden chair in the background

Living organisms are categorized in a hierarchy of dominant features from kingdom to family, sub-grouped in genus and species. The Monstera, for instance, is of the Plantae Kingdom (plants), the Viridiplantae subkingdom (green plants), the Streptophyta Infrakingdom (land plants), etcetera.

Monstera belongs to the Araceae family, flowers on a fleshy spadix suspended by a leafy spathe. The genus consists of 37 accepted species and 92 species in Central America, and they are commonly recognized with their large leaves and fenestrations.

Accepted verified Species of the Monstera Genus

Monstera acacoyaguensis Matuda
Monstera acuminata K.Koch
Monstera adansonii Schott
Monstera amargalensis Croat & M.M.Mora
Monstera aureopinnata Croat
Monstera barrieri Croat, Moonen & Poncy
Monstera buseyi Croat & Grayum
Monstera cenepensis Croat
Monstera costaricensis (Engl. & K.Krause) Croat & Grayum
Monstera deliciosa Liebm.
Monstera dissecta (Schott) Croat & Grayum
Monstera dubia (Kunth) Engl. & K.Krause
Monstera epipremnoides Engl.
Monstera filamentosa Croat & Grayum
Monstera glaucescens Croat & Grayum
Monstera gracilis Engl.
Monstera kessleri Croat
Monstera lechleriana Schott
Monstera lentii Croat & Grayum
Monstera luteynii Madison
Monstera membranacea Madison
Monstera minima Madison
Monstera molinae Croat & Grayum
Monstera obliqua Miq.
Monstera oreophila Madison
Monstera pinnatipartita Schott
Monstera pittieri Engl.
Monstera praetermissa E.G.Gonç. & Temponi
Monstera punctulata (Schott) Schott ex Engl.
Monstera siltepecana Matuda
Monstera spruceana (Schott) Engl.
Monstera standleyana G.S.Bunting
Monstera subpinnata (Schott) Engl.
Monstera tenuis K.Koch
Monstera tuberculata Lundell
Monstera vasquezii Croat
Monstera xanthospatha Madison

Common Synonyms include:

Tarovine
Split-leaf philodendron (Philodenron pertusum)
Swiss cheese plant
Windowleaf
Custard plant
Indian ivy
Mexican breadfruit
Ceriman
Fruit salad plant

Like Swiss cheese, the Monstera leaves are holey too, and these openings are called fenestration. Some rare species like the Monstera Obiqua have large fenestration in their leaf matter. The main identifiable difference between the deliciosa and the adansonii species is the fenestrations. The deliciosa fenestrations reach the leaf’s edge (pinnately lobed). In contrast, the adansonii leaf fenestrations typically create only perforations in the leaf.

Several proposed theories for leaf fenestration include wind tolerance, light distribution, and the redistribution of rain or condensation – all to ensure the plant’s continued survival and wellbeing. The Monstera’s leaves provide a few clues to the plant’s needs:

  • Big leaves to catch maximum light
  • Fenestrated leaves to manage heavy precipitation, condensation, and light distribution
  • Dark green to absorb the entire light spectrum

A second indicator of the plant’s needs is its natural habitat, which is tropical rainforests in the case of the Monstera species. Rainforest soils are rich in organic matter and dominated by fungi, especially mycorrhizal fungi. These microorganisms are essential in ensuring optimal growing environments for Monstera. Monstera roots can reach depths of up to 150 cm (59-inches) in their natural habitat.

Other considerations for caring for a Monstera, based on their natural habitat, include:

  • Optimal growth pH: 6.0
  • Optimal growth temperature: 34⁰C (91.4⁰F)
  • Optimal annual rainfall: 2000 mm (78.74-inches)
  • Plant growth form: Climber
  • Life cycle habit: Perrenial

The plant produces edible fruit that tastes like banana and pineapple (fruit salad?). Cultivated plants seldom produce flowers or fruit comparable to plants in their natural habitat. The flower has a cylindroid spadix partially enveloped by a thick and caducous spathe like an arum lily. Flowers are hermaphroditic (male and female reproductive structure combined), and night beetles pollinate. Monstera prefers growing alongside trees to use them as a supporting structure (they are essentially creepers). In the absence of support, the plant will grow horizontally.

Special Offer

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  • Luscious Tropical Green Color
  • Unique Segmented Leaves
  • Stunning Indoor Houseplant
  • Easy to Care For
  • Grows in Bright Indoor Rooms
  • Can Be Pruned to Fit Many Spaces
  • White Colored Spathe Flowers

Suppose you’re looking to take your kitchen, living room, or home office and turn it into your little piece of paradise. In that case, adding a Swiss Cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa) or two or maybe a few more are one of the better ways to do it!

Native to the South American Rainforests, Swiss Cheese has become a houseplant sensation due to its unique leaves fenestrations and tall height.

As the name implies, Monstera Plant leaves fenestrations as they mature. It will look like someone cut segments with a scissor out the sides of each leaf, and sometimes like a closed hole in the middle!

Monstera plants rarely flower when not in their natural tropical habitats. However, it isn’t the case because their intricate and glossy leaves are a stunning luscious green that catches all eyes in the room!

Swiss Cheese is straightforward to care for, and with just a little attention every so often, it will thrive! Considering these plants are native to rainforests, humid environments are the best place for them to grow.

Direct sunlight is not necessary and can damage the leaves of this plant. It will thrive just fine in a bright spot in any indoor room of yours!

Swiss Cheese is the type of plant that doesn’t frequent water. It thrives when its soil is dried out a bit before watering again. Try sticking your finger up to your second knuckle into the soil. Is it dry? Go ahead and water! If it’s still a bit moist, let your plant be for another day.

During the Spring season, pruning your plant after a few years is a good idea to get back to the shape you’d like it to be by cutting back as many leaves as you’d like.

Swiss Cheese looks fantastic in the corner of living rooms, offices, or hallways, just to name a few!

Spice up your home or office with a touch of the tropics with the Swiss Cheese plant. You’ll be so delighted with the quality! Order Today

Potting Soil Mix

Simplify Tip Infographic regarding saprophytic organisms

Monstera plants need good drainage and a slightly lower pH (6.0). Their natural soil environment has a high fungi-to-bacteria ratio (100:1) and is rich in organic matter.

Microorganisms

As mentioned earlier, the Monstera’s natural habitat is a rainforest where fungi dominate the soil’s microorganisms population primarily due to the amount of carbon content on the forest floor that requires decomposition. High in lignin and cellulose, wood is resistant to bacterial breakdown, requiring the unique abilities of saprophytic fungi. Also, forest trees depend on a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi that create hyphal networks to provide their hosts with nutrients and water in exchange for carbohydrates.

To incorporate these essential organisms in your soil, creating a healthy soil biota, consider including compost in your mix and treating the soil with actively aerated compost tea (AACT).

Potting Soil

One of the most common mistakes made by novice Monstera growers is overwatering this beautiful plant species. While the plant’s natural habitat has above average rainfall, rainforests benefit from well-developed soil biota and water management capacities.

Creating a similar soil is essential – well-drained, slightly acidic, and rich in carbon content.

Monstera Potting Soil Acidity (pH)

To improve acidity, we’ll use some untreated woodchips and conifer bark. It’s also good to know that cedarwood contains plicatic acid, a natural fungicide, so avoid planters made of cedarwood or using its shavings in compost and potting soils. You always want to maximize your fungal population and diversity in your soil. Peat moss is also an option to boost acidity, but remember that it drains water poorly and is prone to creating anaerobic conditions. Instead, use the wood chips to boost acidity slightly and use coconut coit to replace peat moss.

I’m going to slip in some additional knowledge here. If you’re asthmatic, avoid the conifer bark as it contains abietic acids, which have been shown to cause chronic lung damage with excessive exposure (source).

Monstera Potting Soil Drainage

Coconut coir is a renewable resource (unlike peat moss) that offers exceptional drainage and water management. While some would advise you to use vermiculite, substitute with perlite instead. Vermiculite is the common name for hydrated laminar magnesium-aluminum-iron silicate, and EPA and CDC list this substance as potentially containing asbestos (EPA & CDC).

While both vermiculite and perlite aid in water retention, perlite allows water to drain more readily, a vital factor for Monstera (and cacti). Perlite is a white material that almost feels like polystyrene but is expanded volcanic glass. Perlite is commonly used as a growth medium in hydroponics or cultivating cuttings. Adding it to our mix increases aeration and prevents soil compaction over time.

Boosting Organic Matter in Monstera Potting Soil

Monstera needs ample organic matter and diverse soil biota to flourish. Ensure that your final potting mix is at least 50% compost – well-made aerobic compost that is still damp and less than six months old.

Compost increases the diversity and population of microorganisms in your soil, an essential mechanism to improve soil quality, buffer pH variations, increase nutrient bioavailability, and improve disease resilience. Including leaf mold in your mix will boost fungi populations while providing all the benefits of traditional compost.

If you want to learn how to make a good leaf mold, check out my video on the subject below.

You may also want to view my “How To Improve Soil Quality In The Garden” playlist on my YouTube channel.

Actively Aerated Compost Tea (AACT)

Compost tea contains all the soluble nutrients extracted from the compost and representative bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes. The compost quality used in compost tea is an essential factor in the tea’s efficacy. It stands to reason that if the microorganisms and nutrients are absent in the source compost, they will not be present in the tea either. However, bacterias or fungi can populate by adding food to stimulate their individual growth.

Humic acid or fish hydrolysis boosts fungi growth, and molasses will boost the bacterial population.

Brewing an effective composting tea is dependent on several factors. Like most living organisms, including you and I, if the needs of the microorganisms are met, they thrive. Making compost tea is an evolving science, and different approaches have been developed to thoroughly satisfy select organisms’ needs. By closely monitoring the brewing environment, beneficial microorganisms can be kept alive and helped to thrive. Factors that influence the outcome are:

  • The brewing temperature
  • The added foods
  • The levels of oxygenation during production
  • The quality and microbial composition of the compost used
  • The time microorganisms are immersed in water

It’s essential to remember that we’re working with oxygen-dependent aerobic microorganisms. These organisms are essential to the soil, allow plants to grow unimpeded, and act as defenders of the soil-realm. Merely soaking compost in water overnight is an excellent way to make humus-colored water, not compost tea. The water environment must have at least 5.5ppm oxygen to transfer the microorganisms from the stabilized compost.

Anything less might be counter-productive, producing microbes that could be detrimental to the plants and soil. The bacteria responsible for diseases in humans are almost exclusively anaerobic, and pathogenic microorganisms oust the added beneficial microorganisms in low oxygen teas. This scenario is less likely if your thermophilic process during composting was unquestionably effective.

Effective compost tea, like adequate compost, is location-specific. The best compost is produced by gardeners or farmers using local materials populated by local microorganisms because the organisms in a local system are best equipped to manage the requirements of the local pedosphere. Similarly, compost-tea-making should ideally be localized using localized compost, and this is the best option but not an absolute necessity.

If buying compost tea, remember that the shelf-life is exceptionally short (about 6-hours). Your best option is to buy the compost and microorganisms food separately and brew it at home.

Resources Required:
  • A suitable container
  • Air pump (aquarium air pump will do)
  • A length of tubing to fit the air pump – long enough to feed air into the bottom of the bucket
  • Aquarium airstones or bubblers
  • 5-gallons of dechlorinated water (rainwater is suitable)
  • 3-cups of finely sieved compost
  • A porous bag – compost teabags are available online. Alternatively, use a sock
  • A spoonful of fish hydrolysis
Directions to make AACT for Monstera:
  • Start aerating the water in the container.
  • Put mature compost in the bag or sock, attach it to a weight, and place the bag and weight in the bucket.
  • To remove air from the compost bag, gently massage it.
  • Add the spoonful of fish hydrolysis after the first hour.
  • Allow the bag to be aerated for 24 hours, ensuring it doesn’t float but stays at the bottom of the container.
  • If you use the AACT in a sprayer, you will need to filter the liquid before using it – a cheesecloth will be adequate.
  • Use the liquid within an hour after aeration stops.

I’m personally a fan of the AACT method. With this method of making compost tea, your little microorganism-divers get a chance to gulp air, have plenty of other food, and are even reproducing sounds like a better plan to me.

But, as the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. There is no set recipe for compost teas, and the above one is merely a guideline. As a master gardener, you will develop what works for you, your soil, and your plants. If you want to be effective, find a lab that can analyze your soil – not for chemical content, but rather microbial diversity and population. That way, you can know what is abundant and in deficit. Diversity rules the earth – literally. The more diverse your population and balanced the predator-prey systems are, the healthier your soil and happier your plants are.

Speaking of diversity, we know the thermophilic phase of composting reaches temperatures unsuitable for many fungi species. While evolution has provided them with a survival strategy, it remains much more likely you’ll end up with a batch of compost with higher bacteria populations. Using the initial compost, AACT offers gardeners an easy way to boost the fungi populations in the soil.

Bacteria thrive on sugars, and fungi thrive on proteins. By adding a tiny amount of protein (fish hydrolysis or humic acid), you can boost your fungi population in the tea, and therefore the soil. The amount is approximately two teaspoons to 5-gallons of water. Remember always to use dechlorinated water when working with anything microbial. You can also fill a bucket of water from the tap and leave it in the sun for a day to neutralize the chlorine (or add some ascorbic acid).

Worth mentioning is the use of vermicompost to make AACT. Vermicompost is the most nutritious version of compost, especially if the worms’ bedding is predominantly aerobic compost, leaf mold, and Bokashi bran.

Monsteras’ Need of Light

Monstera are not cave dwellers like mushrooms but grow up the sides of trees to reach heights of up to 70-feet in their pursuit of light. Did you know that, in forests, mycorrhizal fungi develop a network of mycelium that helps more giant trees support smaller trees? That way, tall mother trees can provide smaller trees with the benefits of photosynthesis, even if the smaller trees get less light. (Source)

It’s fascinating and helps us understand how smaller plants, like juvenile Monstera plants, still get what they need amidst the shade of more giant trees. The bottom line is that Monstera needs light, but preferably not extended direct sunlight. Artificial light can work too, but not as well. These are relatively hardy plants that are easy to grow – just give them enough light and don’t overwater them.

It protects Monsteras from direct sunlight during the spring and summer months (March to September). In its native rainforest, your plant would be shielded from the sun’s rays by the canopy of trees that surround it. As an alternative, find a spot in a well-lit room away from the window.

The plant requires more direct, bright light in the winter. The gorgeous large, glossy leaves are what attracts gardeners to this plant, but they’re not ornaments – they’re there to trap as much light as possible while still allowing some to pass through. Adding the Monstera to your home or offices will add vibrancy throughout the year, as long as it gets enough light and can grow in soil that isn’t waterlogged. Insufficient light is known to retard leaf fenestration (the holes in the leaves).

Finding a Suitable Location For Your Growing Monstera

Remember that when your non-binary Montsera grows, it could occupy quite a bit of space. In nature or a super-large and humid greenhouse, these plants can reach heights of 70-feet (20 meters). Ideally, you want to find a thriving space and leave it there. And while they/them may be your darling, you don’t want it to block passageways and windows – so consider where you would like it to be located when it’s big.

Please note that Monstera can reach these heights because it’s a Liana – a woody creeper. Instead of spending its energy on developing a trunk, Liana sends aerial roots into trees and focuses its resources on getting to more light. Monstera will head towards the closest light source (probably your window). Don’t let its size potential scare you off – you can prune and shape Monstera.

Most often, Monsteras are sold with a moss pillar in the center of the pot. There are several variations for center supports, including a stick covered in coconut fiber, garden cloth pillars stuffed with coconut coir, or a wooden lattice. If your region’s climate permits you to have your Monstera outdoors (absolute minimum temperatures of 50⁰F (10⁰C)), allowing it to climb a deciduous tree can present as a stunning garden feature in winter.

Monstera is a beautiful houseplant that can withstand low humidity and light watering despite its tropical origins. Flower and produce fruit are the only things it won’t do indoors.

Growing Monstera Outdoors

If you live in the Southern states, full sun is preferable to shade when growing Monstera vines. A darker green color is achieved by growing vines in the shade instead of full sunlight.

Leaf color is lighter in full sun and may show signs of sunburn (excessive sun exposure). Choosing an area away from other trees, plants, buildings and structures, and power lines is essential if fruit production is a primary goal of your Monstera landscape. Monstera vines can be grown under the shade of landscape trees if fruit production is not the primary goal. If Monstera vines are allowed to grow unchecked, they can quickly outgrow their containers. Select a spot in the garden that won’t flood (or remain damp) after a typical summer rain but is still warm.

Feeding Your Monstera

Your Monstera is a low-maintenance yet beautiful companion. It prefers a restricted diet, half what you would feed your other plants, and less than fertilizer manufacturers suggest. Using diluted EM® (Bokashi effective microorganisms) or compost tea twice a year will boost your plant’s health. Feeding should be in early Spring or late winter when the growing season is about to kick off, and then again in mid-summer for the last stretch. Your Monstera will remain bright and perky throughout winter but will not grow (unless temperatures are toward 80⁰F).

Sometimes, the plant’s guttation will leave slight round white marks on the end of your Monstera’s leaves and cause excessive mineral content in the xylem sap secreted through the hydathodes on your Monstera leaf.

Overfertilizing can cause severe issues for your Monstera, so make sure you’re correctly diluting any added liquid fertilizer and that you’re not giving it too much. You may want to consider cutting back, especially if you’re still fertilizing during the fall and winter when your Monstera is no longer actively growing.

Also, be aware that even healthy sap contains some minerals, so it may leave behind a white crust after it dries. A light residue is normal; crustation is not. If you’re confident that your Monstera isn’t being overfertilized, simply wipe the leaves gently with a damp clean cloth to remove any residue. You want your Monstera to have maximum opportunity to photosynthesize water, oxygen, and hydrogen to produce carbohydrates for cell growth.

Outdoor Monstera’s fertilizer needs are relatively low. Apply 1/4 lbs (113 g) of a complete dry fertilizer mix containing 20% to 30% nitrogen from organic sources after planting. Nitrogen, phosphate, potash, and magnesium are components of a complete mix. For the first year, apply fertilizer every eight weeks. As the vines grow, fertilizer should be increased to 0.5, 0.75, and 1.0 lb (227 g, 341 g, 454 g) but reduced to 2 to 3 times per year.

Watering your Monstera

One of the most significant risks to having a Monstera is overwatering it. We all look at the rainforest rainfall levels and think our Monstera should be well in the shower, and the opposite is true. Ensure that your potting soil drains well, that the holes at the bottom of your planter are open, and that any water in the plant’s run-off dish is constantly drained.

Before the next watering, you must be able to stick your finger’s first two digits into dry soil. If that top inch is still moist, wait a day or so. A few inches of soil should be allowed to dry between waterings when the plant is actively growing. Mist the plant and its moss pole every day, or provide a wet pebble tray for optimal humidity. Every week, give the leaves a warm water wipe to keep them clean and available to photosynthesize.

During the colder season, your Monstera will remain green but stop growing. Cut back on watering and feeding during this time, hydrating the plant only when the soil is dried up to 3-inches deep.

Misting Monstera leaves helps the plant cool down without overwatering it. Remember, this plant is used to temperatures in the nineties. Consumed water is rapidly converted during photosynthesis in that environment, while some are lost through leaf perspiration.

In your home environment, all processes are slowed, so much less water is needed. Misting the leaves helps the plant regulate its temperature, which is only necessary for the warmest months.

Heat Requirements for Monstera Vines

Monstera thrives in hot, humid climates, but it can also thrive and bear fruit in warm subtropical regions worldwide. In Seychelles, Monsteras has become an invasive species. Light shade (filtered sunlight) is preferable to total sun exposure, leading to leaf-scorching. Frozen temperatures are too harsh for Monstera’s tolerance. Leaves and stems are damaged or killed by 30 to 32°F (-1.0 to 0°C).

Typical home temperatures are acceptable during the growing season. The cooler winter temperatures (between 55 and 65°F) allow the plants to rest, leaving them fresh for growth in Spring once temperatures consistently exceed 65°F. Once this happens, up the watering and start a restricted feeding schedule. Always protect your Monstera from sudden shifts in temperatures, even within their acceptable range. Should you wish to move the plant, so so incrementally.

Propagating Monstera Vines

Seed, stem cuttings, suckers, and tissue culture can all be used to propagate Monstera. Stem cuttings, rooted in containers or partially buried in soil, are the most common propagation method. Cutting-derived plants can bear fruit in 4 to 6 years, whereas suckers bear fruit in 2 to 4 years.

Outdoor Planting of Monstera Vines

Most well-drained soils, including sandy soils, can grow Monstera. Soil that is regularly flooded or overly wet is toxic to Monstera vines. A robust and productive vine can only be established and grown if properly planted. Choosing a healthy nursery plant is the first step. Most nursery Monstera vines are 2 to 4 feet long and are typically grown in 3-gallon containers. Take a look at the vine’s stem to see any wounds or constrictions. The vine should be in good health before it is planted in the ground.

Sandy soil is typical throughout the South, especially in Florida. Before you plant your young Monstera vine, clear a space of about 5-foot diameter of any sod or weeds. Dig a hole about three times as deep as the seedling container and about four times as wide – a giant hole gives space for the roots to establish fast.

Don’t add compost to your hols, as it discourages spreading roots. Instead, wet the hole with actively aerated compost tea, sides, and bottom. Fill the hole with the soil excavated.

When placing the vine in the hole, be sure to place the soil media from the container at or slightly above the surrounding soil level when removing the vine from the container. To remove any air pockets, lightly tamp the soil around the vine roots with AACT. It is imperative that you immediately irrigate the soil around the vine’s roots.

Using a wooden or bamboo stake to support the vine is optional. To avoid damaging the vine stem, use wire or nylon rope to secure the vine to the stake. Use a slow-degrading string, such as cotton or a natural fiber instead.

Taking Care of Your Montera Vine

The Monstera is a vine, and the aerial roots are essential for anchorage and feeding. Avoid removing the plant’s aerial roots, which add to its appeal. Encourage some of the vine’s roots to grow into the moss-covered support for your plant while allowing the rest to remain exposed to the elements.

The gradual loss of the oldest leaves is a normal part of the plant’s life cycle. You may be underfeeding or overwatering your plant if they turn yellow and drop in large numbers. Low humidity levels sometimes cause leaf edges to turn brown – it may also indicate sun scorching.

A lack of light may cause leaf stems to become elongated and leaves to stunt during winter. Your plant requires energy to grow strong, healthy leaves, and low light levels or lack of rest during the winter months can scupper this process. Ensure that your plant gets adequate light during its resting period over winter. Cut back on water and feeding, but not light.

A Supporting Pole For Your Monstera Vine

You usually get a support pole made of a round or triangled strip of hardware cloth and covered or filled with coconut coir when purchasing your Monstera vine from a nursery. As your plant grows, you will need to adjust it.

Ensure that it is adequately anchored in the soil to prevent your vine from growing lopsided. Consider constructing your center pole as a tapering pole, which will allow you to extend it as the vine grows. Filling the center of the pole made of hardware cloth with coconut coir will give the aerial roots something to hold onto.

FAQ’s related to Monstera Plants

Summary

Knowing where a plant comes from can help you decide whether or not it will thrive in your home and anticipate the amount of maintenance it will require. Desert-adapted plants necessitate total exposure to sunlight and soil that drains quickly. As a rule of thumb, any plant that grows on the ground of a tropical rainforest must be protected from strong sunlight and abundant humidity.

In its native rainforests of Mexico and Central America, Monstera is a vine-like plant that uses aerial roots to climb up and over the branches of trees. The Swiss cheese plant’s unusual perforations, which have earned it the moniker, appear on the mature leaves. This adaptation allows wind to pass through the leaves without the plant detached from its support structure.

A moss-covered pole that the plants can climb will be necessary for the home for them to mature. A well-cared-for Monstera can live for a long time and grow to a height of up to six feet indoors and as high as the supporting tree allows outside.

Unlike many other plants, monsteras prefer to be root-bound and will only move to a new pot if the roots emerge from the drain hole. Soil drainage is critical. For the best results, pot the soil mixed with peat and sand. Every two years, remove the top layer of soil from the pot and replace it with a 50/50 mix of soil and compost.

What a delicious monster! I trust you enjoyed this informative article. If you would like to be notified of any other special offers, we have from time to time, or new posts, add your email to our list using the short form below. Happy gardening, folks.