The Magnificent Monstera Plant – Care Guide and Varieties

Large potted monstera deliciosa in a modern livingroom
My Garden Life
December 18, 2023
Table of Contents

By Shanon Adame

The Monstera deliciosa plant has been a houseplant favorite for generations and remains one of the most popular houseplants to this day. Monstera plant care is simple and a monstera’s dramatic form and dissected leaves make a dramatic statement for home décor or just as a conversation piece.  

Monstera plants are native to the warm tropical regions of Southern Mexico into Central America. Some species of these resilient plants can grow up to 60 feet (18m) in height, and some of their leaves can grow as long as two feet (61cm). They are climbing plants that use aerial roots in their native environment to cling to surrounding trees or boulders and snake their way up toward the sun.

A large monstera deliciosa plant attached to a large boulder by using its aerial roots in a tropical environment

Why Do Monstera Leaves have Holes in Them?

“Monstera” is derived from the Latin word, Monstrum, that translates to “an animal or plant of abnormal form or structure.” Many species of Monstera live up to this name with unusual foliage shapes marked by holes and splits that occur naturally in their leaves.

The natural occurrence of holes in a monstera plant’s leaves has a technical term: leaf fenestration. There is some debate as to why holes develop in the leaves of a monstera plant. Some believe the holes help the plant endure strong winds by allowing air to flow through a leaf rather than ripping it.

Close up of a monster leaf showing the holes in the leaf knows as leaf fenestration.

Some think the holes form to allow better water flow to the plant’s roots far below and some experts believe the holes are the monstera plant’s way of acquiring more light. Since monstera plants in their natural environment climb high among tall tropical trees, this theory suggests, that it may be difficult for the plant’s lower leaves to get much light. The leaf holes develop to allow light to filter through the upper leaves to those below, thus capturing more sunlight for the entire plant. 

Monstera Plant Species and Varieties

These fun plants come in a variety of species each with unique leaf patterns and features. Even a small collection of monstera plants might look like none of them are related. Here are nine of the most common monstera plants grown as houseplants.

Monstera ‘Esqueleto’ (Monstera epipremnoides)

Monstera ‘Esqueleto’ (Monstera epipremnoides)

One of the most intriguing Monstera varieties with leaf fenestrations (holes) so extreme that large, mature leaves develop a skeletal appearance. This is a climbing plant, native to the cloud forests of Cost Rica, where it clings to trees with aerial roots.
Silver Monstera (Monstera siltepecana)

Silver Monstera (Monstera siltepecana)

Silver monstera is a vining plant native to the tropical regions of southern Mexico and Central America where it grows on trees. When grown as a houseplant the silver monstera plant doesn’t usually produce leaves with the fenestrations (holes) typical of many monstera species, but it is just as easy to grow as other species and produces lovely, silver and green, lance-shaped foliage. With maturity the leaves may start to develop fenestrations.
Shingle Monstera (Monstera dubia)

Shingle Monstera (Monstera dubia)

A charming Monstera species that is as interesting as it is attractive. This is a vining plant that produces heart-shaped leaves in variegated shades of green. In early stages the plant clings to rocks, trees, or other structures with leaves that lie flat against the surface, slightly overlapping with each other to create an appearance similar to shingles on a roof. As the plant matures the leaves develop the “fenestrations”, or leaf holes, that are typical of many Monstera species.
Variegated Monstera ‘Albo variegata Half-Moon’ (Monstera deliciosa)

Variegated Monstera ‘Albo variegata Half-Moon’ (Monstera deliciosa)

One of the more dramatic and rare forms of monstera plants. Each leaf of the ‘Half-Moon’ variety is a perfect division of green on one side and white on the other. Monstera is native to the tropical rainforests of Central and South America where it climbs by aerial roots into the trees.
White Variegated Monstera ‘Albo variegata’ (Monstera deliciosa)

White Variegated Monstera ‘Albo variegata’ (Monstera deliciosa)

All the great features you love in a Monstera deliciosa plant but with a touch of pizzazz. The leaves are a striking combination of green and white variegation that make the ‘Albo variegata’ species a dream for home décor.
Yellow Variegated Monstera ‘Aurea’ (Monstera deliciosa)

Yellow Variegated Monstera ‘Aurea’ (Monstera deliciosa)

Monstera ‘Aurea’ is a particularly colorful and interesting variety with its combination of green and gold variegated leaves and the same deeply cut foliage that is distinct to the Monstera deliciosa species.
Monstera, Split Leaf Philodendron ‘Thai Constellation’ (Monstera deliciosa)

Monstera, Split Leaf Philodendron ‘Thai Constellation’ (Monstera deliciosa)

An exceptionally beautiful variety of Monstera deliciosa, the subtle variegation on the leaves of the ‘Thai Constellation’ plant resembles a starry galaxy!
Swiss Cheese Plant or Vine (Monstera adansonii)

Swiss Cheese Plant or Vine (Monstera adansonii)

Swiss cheese plant gets its funny name from holes that naturally develop in the plant’s leaves as they mature. The holes give the leaves the appearance of sliced Swiss cheese, but in nature they allow water and sunlight to flow through to lower parts of the plant.
Monstera, Split Leaf Philodendron (Monstera deliciosa)

Monstera, Split Leaf Philodendron (Monstera deliciosa)

The deeply cut foliage of the monstera plant has an artistic, sculptural appeal that adds a decorator-touch to any room. Monstera is native to the tropical rainforests of Central and South America where it climbs by aerial roots into the trees.

Watering Monstera Plants

Monstera plants prefer soil that is slightly moist and need to have the soil dry out a little between waterings. They do not tolerate soggy soil well, so be careful not to overwater. If you accidentally give the plant too much water, just wait a bit longer between waterings so the soil can dry out. If your pot is sitting in a saucer, you can pour off any excess water. Check that the first inch or so of soil is dry before watering again.

Monstera plant care - watering a monstera plant near a window.

How Much Light do Monstera Plants Need?

Five to eight hours of bright, indirect light is key to caring for your monstera. Too much direct sunlight can cause its leaves to burn. How do you know if your plant is getting enough light? Look for small leaf growth, as a deficit in light will cause immature growth. Another tell-tale sign that your monstera may not be getting enough light is solid leaves. Adequate light is necessary for the fenestration of the leaves. Setting your monstera near a window should do the trick in ensuring your plant gets sufficient sunlight. Don’t forget to rotate the plant every week or so to keep your monstera growing evenly.

A large Monstera deliciosa sitting in the sunlight from a window.

What Type of Soil do Monstera Plants Need?

The first thing to look for in a soil mix is well-draining components, like perlite or pumice. Even adding a little coarse sand to your mix will help guard against overwatering and root rot. Your monstera plant will want nutrient-rich soil, which you can find by looking for a high-quality potting mix. Look for a potting mix with a slightly acidic to neutral pH range (around 6.0-7.0). To maintain your plant’s root health, ensure the soil is aerated. Use a fork or trowel to loosen the soil, or add peat moss or orchid bark to your mix. Using a pot with drainage holes will aid in keeping the soil from becoming waterlogged. As your monstera plant grows, you may need to re-pot every one or two years; this will allow the plant’s root system to expand.

Monstera plant care involves repotting your plant into a larger pot when needed. A woman is potting a monstera into a clay pot.

Is Monstera Safe to have Around Cats and Dogs?

Monstera plants contain a substance called calcium oxalate that is toxic to cats and dogs. If your pet has a habit of playing with or chewing on houseplants, none of the Monstera species would be a good choice to have around your pet. Our list of Pet Friendly Houseplants can help you find plants that you can enjoy and keep your pets safe.

A fluffy calico cat looking up at a swiss cheese monstera plant on a shelf.

Pests & Diseases of Monstera Plants

Luckily, monstera plants tend to be resistant to pests, but insects like thrips, spider mites, scale, and fungus gnats can damage them. They damage the plant by feeding off the plant’s tissue. Many of these insects are very small and may go unnoticed. If you start to see yellowing leaves, sticky residue or spots on leaves, holes, or white powdery substance, there is a good chance your monstera has a pest. A good spraying down outside should knock pests off the plant, and you can use neem oil to treat the plant without damaging it or any beneficial insects.

Unfortunately, monstera plants, like all houseplants, can be victims of houseplant diseases. Root rot and leaf spot are the two biggest diseases to watch out for.

1. Root Rot of Monstera

Root rot is usually caused by over-watering or soil that does not drain well. The roots become soggy and begin to rot. As the plant starts to decline, the leaves will wilt and turn yellow. To prevent root rot, ensure your monstera is in well-draining soil, and its pot has drainage holes. If root rot is suspected, you may need to trim the affected roots and re-pot. Leaf spot is a term used to cover a wide range of fungal or bacterial diseases in plants.

Monstera deliciosa plant with yellowing leaf.

2. Leaf Spot on Monstera

If your plant is suffering from leaf spot, you may see yellow spots develop in the leaves. As the disease progresses, the spots will develop a darker center, which will start to secrete a sticky substance. If left untreated, leaf spot can kill your monstera. Again, overwatering is usually the top culprit for causing fungal and bacterial diseases. If you think your plant has been affected, reduce watering and only give water when the top few inches of soil feel dry. You could also try decreasing humidity and increasing airflow by utilizing a de-humidifier or moving the monstera away from other plants. You will also want to prune infected leaves, but it’s important not to over-prune the plant, as removing too many leaves will make the monstera unhappy.

Close up of Monstera deliciosa leaf with black to yellow leaf spots indicating leaf spot disease

A copper sulfate-based fungicide can be used as a last resort, but this treatment will only be effective if the disease is caught early. Fungicides will not work once the disease is advanced.

Propagating Monstera Plants

Wish you had more than one monstera plant? Much like a cactus, they can be easily propagated from stem cuttings. Find a healthy, mature stem with at least one or two nodes. Make a clean cut just below the node with sharp pruning shears. Allow your cutting to air dry for an hour or two — this will help to protect the cutting against root rot. Once it dries sufficiently, plant the cutting in your soil mix with the cut end inserted into the soil. Give the cutting a small watering and watch your new monstera grow.

Hands with scissors taking a cutting from a swiss cheese plant - Monstera adansonii.

Aerial Roots on Monstera Plants

Because Monsteras are climbing plants, they will grow long aerial roots that allow them to grab onto other surfaces. Aerial roots also help the plant to absorb moisture from the air. The roots can be an interesting feature of the monstera plant, but if you don’t like the look of the monstera’s aerial roots, you can prune them back to the main stem without worrying about your plant. However, removing the aerial roots may prevent the plant from growing larger leaves.

Hands with pruners removing large aerial roots from a monstera plant.

Support Pole for a Monstera Plant

Your monstera plant will grow best if you provide it with conditions that most closely approximate its natural environment. In addition to light and water considerations, your monstera would prefer a place to climb. You can solve this need by loosely tying the main stem to a wooden stake or bamboo pole as the plant grows or, better yet, get a pole specifically made for climbing potted plants. Support poles made of moss or coir are widely available either at garden centers or online and the natural material gives your monstera plant’s aerial roots a good surface to grip onto.

The monstera plant is not only a striking and unique addition to any household but it’s intriguing adaptations for climbing and optimizing water and light sources are a reminder of the adaptability and tenacity of nature!

Monstera plant care may involve using a support post to hold the vine. A potted swiss cheese plant with a support post in a living room.

Monstera Plant Confusion

There are many common names associated with different species of monstera plants but the one that probably causes the most confusion involves the Monstera deliciosa. This particular species is often commonly called a “split-leaf” or “cutleaf philodendron”. Monstera deliciosa is similar to the tree philodendron, Philodendron selloum (synonyms: Philodendron bipinnatifidum, Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum), in that both plants have large, deeply cut leaves but their growth habits are quite different, and they are not botanically related.

A key source of the confusion is the fact that the tree philodendron is also commonly referred to as a “split-leaf philodendron”. This overlap of a common name with the Philodendron genus can leave people uncertain as to whether they are growing a monstera plant or a philodendron plant.

Here is a photo of Philodendron selloum (Synonym: Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum) for comparison to your monstera plant:

A large potted tree philodendron - Philodendron selloum- placed on a wooden chair.

With all that said – if you like monstera plants there’s a good chance you might like philodendron plants as well. They’re a fascinating group of tropical foliage plants that are very easy to grow as houseplants. Have a look at our article, Get to Know Philodendron, to see what interesting species you might want to add to your houseplant collection! 

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