Plant Sheet: Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa)

The Swiss Cheese Plant, often just called Monstera by its botanical name, is probably the current houseplant favorite around the world. No wonder, with its lush and striking foliage it brings a tropical jungle vibe right into your living room.

The botanical specimen Monstera deliciosa, commonly referred to as the Swiss Cheese Plant, originates in Central America. It exhibits optimal growth under conditions of bright, indirect light. Consistent watering is favorable as well as the utilization of well-draining soil.

Find out the most important care tips for Monstera plants and what the natural habitat of this tropical queen looks like!

Origin and Natural Habitat of Monstera Deliciosa

Also called the (Swiss) Cheese Plant, Split-Leaf Philodendron, or Window Plant, most people just refer to it as Monstera by its botanical name Monstera deliciosa.

Interesting fact: Even though the Monstera Plant is sometimes referred to as Split-Leaf Philodendron, it is botanically speaking not a true Philodendron. Monsteras and Philodendrons do belong to the same botanical family though, the Araceae family. Another popular indoor plant, the Golden Pothos, is also part of that same plant family. That explains their similarities in traits, growth, and propagation methods.

The Monstera deliciosa originates from the tropical and subtropical forests of Central America, mainly Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and Guatemala. Nowadays, it has been widely introduced as an ornamental plant in gardens in all other tropical areas around the world.

It is a tree-climber plant, attaching its vines to the tree trunk on its way up towards the light at the forest canopy with its aerial roots dangling about until they find a spot to attach itself to. The leaves are dark green and are perforated in a striking symmetric pattern.

In nature, this lush plant grows leaves of an immense size which led to its botanical name. ‘Monstera’ is the Latin word for ‘monstrous’ or ‘abnormal’, referring to the characteristic huge and perforated leaves. The perforations also led to the comparison to Swiss cheese.

These days, the Monstera plant is among the most popular – if not the most popular – indoor plants and is cherished for its decorative appearance.

This might not just be due to its striking looks but also in some part due to the current vintage trends from the 1970s that are fashionable again. In the 1970s, large-leafed plants such as the Monstera were trendy, too. They just fit that vintage indoor decor style perfectly.

Brighten Up Monstera’s Day: Light and Water Requirements

As so many tropical plants, the Monstera deliciosa naturally grows under the tropical forest canopy. Hence, it is not used to harsh direct sunlight such as the midday sun. Instead, it prefers bright indirect light, and as many hours of light as it can get. Morning or late afternoon sun are also fine with it.

It is best to place it a few steps behind a window instead of right behind the glass to make sure it doesn’t ge its leaves scorched and to distribute light evenly on its foliage.

As for watering, water your Monstera plant about every 1-2 weeks depending on the season. If it gets a lot of light or if the heating inside dries out the soil it probably needs water every week. Otherwise, every two weeks should be enough.

Before watering, always test the soil moisture. Stick your finger into the top layer of the soil. If the upper soil layer is completely dry, water your Monstera. If the soil is still moist, wait with watering until the upper soil layer is dry. Give it a good rinse until excess water starts to flow out the bottom of the pot. About 15min after watering, empty out all excess water.

Tip: Emptying out excess water is essential when watering your houseplants. There is almost no type of indoor plant that likes to sit in water.

Make sure to use a pot as well as soil with good drainage. There are simple ways to achieve good drainage for any type of pot, check out my post linked here to find out.

Your indoor plant soil can also easily be improved with some drainage matter – find out what common and sustainable materials you can use for drainage in your indoor plant soil right here.

A Monstera’s Guide to Happiness: Care Tips

Apart from the water and light needs, here are a few more tips that will make the coliving with your Monstera even happier for both of you.

Monstera are climbing plants, growing long vines. By cutting the stems regularly, you can trim the plant to grow bushier. Personally, I prefer to give it a structure to climb on. It just looks much more natural to have it growing in vines like it does in its natural habitat.

If you buy a plant in store, the leaves will already have perforations. If you propagate a stem cutting, you might wonder why the first new leaves it makes do not have any perforations and are rather small. That is because a new plant first grow immature leaves. In case of the Monstera, the immature leaves do not have perforations yet.

In its natural habitat, the mature leaves show up once the plant has sufficiently grown upwards towards the light of the forest canopy. Hence, the brighter indirect light your Monstera gets, the faster it will start growing mature leaves with the beautiful perforations. In low light conditions, it might keep growing immature small leaves for a very long time.

Tip: How to find out which spot in your home has the most indirect light? A light meter of a plant care app can help! Find out here which free plant care apps are the best and find one that suits you!

Can You Trim the Aerial Roots Of a Monstera?

This question is worth a separate heading because all of the aerial roots a Monstera plant grows can create a bit of a mess and as a plant parent, you will soon be asking yourself why it grows all of these roots and what to do with them.

Monstera plants naturally grow aerial roots that allow them to attach themselves to the tree or other surfaces they are climbing upwards on towards the light. The aerial roots are also able to absorb humidity as well as nutrients (such as from debris on the tree bark they cling to). As a houseplant, these aerial roots can seem a bit out of place if there are many.

If you trim the aerial roots, you don’t damage the plant really. It is a bit like cutting leaves off the plant. One thing you need to keep in mind though is that if you cut all the roots at once, it causes the plant a lot of stress. I would recommend to only cut the aerial roots if they are really in your way. Instead of cutting, you can also bundle them together with a piece of cord.

For cutting the aerial roots, use a sharp kitchen knife and cut them close to the node from which they originate but make sure to not damage the node. Leave about one inch (1-2cm) of space, then you are safe.

How To Propagate Monstera Deliciosa

Monstera plants are best propagated by stem cuttings that include one or two leaves as well as an axial joint, also called node. Including an aerial root is recommended but not essential – it is possible to propagate a cutting without an aerial root, I have done this many times before. The key is to include an axial joint as this is the point from which the plant can grow new roots.

Once you have chosen a fitting stem, cut it gently with a sharp kitchen knife. Do not use any common scissors as this will damage the vessels inside the stem. Especially as Monstera stems can be quite thick, using a knife is important to avoid damaging the cells.

It is possible to place the cutting directly into soil and let it root for about 4-5 weeks. Personally, I prefer letting plants root in water. By letting the cutting root in water, there are less chances of diseases or pests investing it and it is perfect for watching the new roots grow. You will know exactly when the time is right to plant it into soil. Usually, rooting in water takes about 2-3 weeks.

Monstera Superpowers

In their natural habitat, many indigenous communities endowed the Monstera plant with symbols of adaptability and resilience as it strives for light wherever it grows, attaching its aerial roots to any surface it finds.

Another curiosity are its wide perforations on the leaves. Photosynthetically, it is nonsense for a plant’s metabolism to minimize the green leaf surface with holes – so why does the Monstera plant do this? In nature, the plant grows huge leaves very high up in the forest canopy. The holes act as windows to let sunlight through to its lower leaves as well as to let the strong winds through without being damaged. Clever, isn’t it?

As many other plant, the Monstera also filters pollutants from the air that are harmful to humans. These are commonly called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and include pollutants such as formaldehyde and benzene. With its huge leaves, the powermachine Monstera deliciosa might positively affect your indoor air quality more than other houseplants will.

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