Move over birds of paradise, fiddle-leaf figs, and Boston ferns: There’s a new plant in town. Native to Central America, the tropical monstera is famous for its holes, which is how its nickname as the “Swiss cheese” plant came about. The plant features a bushy and wild shape, but you can find them in apartment-friendly sizes. The only issue is having enough light—this bright green species cannot survive without tons of it.
“It’s hard to go wrong with a monstera. The plant gives any space instant jungle vibes and comes in many sizes and variegations, which helps them blend into their surroundings,” says Erin Marino, communications director at NYC houseplant shop The Sill. “I love to display this plant in a white ceramic planter for the green and white contrast.”
To get every tip and trick on how to care for your monstera, Marino and The Sill’s resident plant expert, Christopher Satch, break down everything you need to know to keep your plant du jour alive and well.
Why We Love It
Despite the fact that the monstera derives from the Latin meaning “abnormal,” don’t let this tropical green’s graphic leaves fool you into thinking it’s difficult to manage. “We love the monstera because it only looks hard to care for!” says Marino.
While monsteras tend to flourish when you give them plenty of room to spread out and even climb up a nearby pole or small trellis, that’s not to say this plant won’t work in smaller nooks. The general gist? “Give it moderate natural light and a stable environment and water it once a week, and it’ll thrive,” shares Satch.
“It’s hard to put an exact lifespan on a plant, but a monstera can definitely outlive its owner if given the proper care. We’ve had customers tell us about houseplants that they’ve had for decades and are still going strong,” says Satch.
The key to extending your plant’s lifespan? Make sure it sits in a balanced spot, with access to plenty of sun and shade. While the monstera is one of the few plants in the aroid family that produce edible fruit, the species rarely flowers when kept indoors. That said, monsteras will often reach six to eight feet tall when kept inside—fruit or no fruit.
“Monsteras require bright to moderate, indirect sunlight. Unfortunately, apartments can be lacking in natural sunlight, so if your space is pretty dim, this is a houseplant that you’ll want to pass on,” says Satch.
Avoiding direct sunlight is one of the best things you can do for your monstera. If the leaves begin to yellow, your plant is telling you that it’s getting too much sun. On the other hand, if you notice that the newest leaves are growing toward the dark, rather than the light, your plant is telling you that it needs more sun.
“Monsteras will tolerate many soils, but they do best in well-drained potting soil,” says Satch.
To encourage growth and freshen the soil, you’ll want to plan on repotting your plant every year. Continue to move up in pot size every year until you’ve reached the largest container you want. As long as your plant has good drainage, you can’t go too wrong with soil. A peat moss–based, well-draining potting mix is a healthy place to start.
“In the summer, water frequently, as soon as the soil dries out, to encourage new growth,” says Satch. “In the winter, water less frequently—about once every one to two weeks. Make sure that the soil dries out completely in-between waterings. Monsteras can survive if the soil is a bit soggy, but it’s not ideal.”
Haven’t been keeping track of your watering dates? Don’t sweat it. Stick your pointer finger about two inches down into the soil. If your finger comes out dry, you’ll know it’s time to give your monstera a drink.
“When mixing plants together, always choose plants that require similar care. Grouping houseplants together is great because not only is it aesthetically pleasing and really packs a visual punch, but it also helps to maintain slightly higher humidity levels than normal, which most tropical plants benefit from,” shares Marino.
Given their meandering, round leaves, monsteras tend to look great next to philodendrons and pothos, which have similar shaped leaves and require similar care. However, if you’re looking to create contrast, Satch suggests offsetting their broad leaves with a plant with prickly shape and texture, like bird’s nest ferns.
“Whatever you do, don’t pot other plants in the same planter as your monstera. Monsteras secrete chemicals from their roots that suppress the growth of other plants and sometimes even kill them,” explains Satch.
Another faux pas to avoid? It’s important to protect your monstera from any extreme changes in the environment—like an air conditioner or heater blowing hot air directly on its leaves.
“Monsteras prefer a stable environment with regular to high humidity. During the dry winter, invest in a humidifier to help keep your houseplants happy. Like with any houseplant, our number one suggestion is to learn about your plant’s natural environment and try your best to re-create it.”
A six-inch monstera in a grow pot should run you about $25 retail. It’s always best to purchase your houseplant from a reputable source, especially for plant newbies, so you can ensure it’s healthy. Check out tropical plant offerings at TheSill.com.
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