Monstera deliciosa is undeniably one of the most famous indoor plants to ever exist. You can often spot the distinctive leaves in movies, video games, and printed across at least three cushions at your local homewares store. Apart from being an absolute fashion icon, it is also an extremely hardy and versatile plant.
Often the care instructions online are a mishmash of cut and pasted Wikipedia articles that are not relevant to Australia and can be strangely specific. On the flip side, the tags found on many plants are annoyingly vague when it comes to defining the amount of light and water a plant needs, often asking for a ‘medium amount’ of certain things, like we all know how much that is. That’s why we’ll be using real anecdotes and relatable measurements to help you take care of your Monstera deliciosa aka ‘Fruit Salad Plant’, aka ‘Elephant Ear Plant’ aka ‘Swiss Cheese Plant.’
When grown indoors, it is best to find the brightest spot possible for your Monstera. Enough natural light that you could read a book comfortably is a good place to start. Take care in summer that your plant isn’t getting too much hot afternoon sun as it can be scorched from the heat. A certain position might be perfect all year round but on a +40°c day the heat and light can quickly exceed what the plant can handle.
Monstera can survive in lower light situations, but the less light they have the smaller the leaves will be, and less fenestration that will develop. Fenestration is the characteristic holes that make the monstera leaf so easy to identify. Higher light levels will result in faster growth, larger leaves, and greater fenestration.
Most plants that are kept indoors are susceptible to over-watering. We recommend that you only water this plant once roughly the top two inches of soil are completely dry. This will take about two to four weeks depending on the season, position of the plant, and air flow. Please note this is the minimum amount that the soil should dry - you can let it go a lot longer, especially in Winter!
After the first few weeks you will easily be able to gauge how quickly it dries out and work off that routine. Over-watering this plant will result in root rot, blackened leaves, and possible death of the plant in extreme cases, but if you forget to water the plant for an extra week or two the plant may not even notice or may just wilt, giving you a very visual sign that it’s time to water.
If you use a self watering pot or have a tray under this plant do not allow them to remain full of water for more than a day. Always tip out any excess water, otherwise you will create a habitat for fungus and bacteria. A good place to water your Monsteras in a sheltered position outside, or in the shower. Spray over the entire plant to wash dust off the leaves and soak the soil until it starts to drain out the bottom. Try to allow the plant to sit in water so that the soil rehydrates fully. Leave the plant to soak for several hours or overnight, then let the excess water drain away before placing back in its position. See our Watering 101 article here for more details.
Monstera can be a very fast growing plant so will definitely benefit from regular applications of liquid fertiliser. During the warmer times of the year, spring and summer you can add some fertilizer to every second cycle of watering. If you find your plant is still growing in Winter you can potentially dilute your fertiliser to half strength and keep using it at less regular intervals.
Seaweed derived products like Seasol are not high in the key nutrients for growth (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), but are great soil conditioners and useful for preventing hydrophobia and pot-shock.
Monstera love to be cramped in their pots. They will grow huge almost regardless of their pot size. If you pot your Monstera into a huge pot it not grow any faster or larger, most likely it will get root rot from all the excess wet soil, or it will direct more energy to root growth instead of growing any leaves. When re-potting it is best to focus more on a pot that suits your aesthetic, and stick with that for a few years.
If you do decide to re-pot, it’s best to do it during the warmer parts of the year but I have found M. deliciosa not be too fussy regardless of the season. Make sure to pot it into something that has good drainage (at least one big drainage hole), otherwise you are almost guaranteed to kill your plant. If you decide to use a porous terracotta pot, the soil may dry out a little faster which can be very helpful in avoiding over-watering. Monstera thrive in a well-draining potting mix; a premium potting mix is a good place to start, but a cacti/succulent mix or even chunky orchid mix works great to help with drainage.
The fact that Monstera deliciosa is a huge vine can become all too apparent after a year or two. In the wild, this plant will grow across the ground and up trees. To help support this sprawling epiphyte, you may find you have to stake the plant to keep it upright as it grows larger. If you feel the plant is getting too long you can take a cutting from the lead part of the stem. This will halt the growth of the stem and encourage new shoots from the base. The cutting can be placed in water or planted into soil straight away. Make sure your stem cutting has about an inch of stem that contains a node. The cutting will take off much faster if it has an aerial root already formed. The stems are able to photosynthesise so don’t worry if your cutting loses its leaves, they are not necessary.
Over watering: This is the number one issue you will come across. This will cause blackening leaf tips, wilting, root rot, and often white mould on the soil. Make sure your pot is draining, and you are not watering too frequently. Do not water again until it is dry! In extreme cases you can swap out the wet soil for dry soil, or place the plant in a sheltered spot outdoors to speed up the drying process. Just wait. This is an indestructible plant but it will need some time. Lots of good air flow will really help.
Long, leggy, and floppy: If your plant isn’t getting enough light it is going to be become elongated to help it reach a potential light source. The leaves will be more sparse and internodes longer. Stake the plant and/ or move it to a brighter spot. Moving the plant into a bright spot every now and then won’t work, it needs to be a permanent shift.
Insects: I have never found M. deliciosa to be particularly susceptible to insect invasion; however, the most common pests are mealybugs, scale, and gnat flies. The best thing to do is to manually remove them to stop the immediate spread, then get your hands on a product like neem oil or pyrethrum, which will wipe out a plethora of nasty critters, whilst being very safe and non-toxic.
It is best to keep Monstera in a semi-sheltered position when outside. Try to find a spot where they are safe from the hot afternoon sun, frost, and wind. It should be noted that Monstera deliciosa do not require high humidity, or warm temperatures. They will grow faster in the warmth but are fine to be outside throughout Melbourne’s winter. Morning direct sun is perfectly fine and will give them a huge boost.
You will often see them growing in the front yards of many houses around Melbourne, but during the summer when the sun is too hot and bright, the leaves yellow and die off. In winter the same plant will again be hit with harsh winds which rip the leaves, and frosts that turns them black. However, the plant never dies in these situations. On large plants, the main stem can become very woody and as thick as your wrist. As long as it remains intact the plant will rapidly send out fresh leaves, and the damaged ones can be pruned off.
If you are looking for a plant for your balcony or courtyard then this is a perfect place to start. With the added bright light, and excellent airflow, this plant will grow faster, and be much healthier with little work. The extra air flow around the plant will greatly reduce the possibility of over-watering, while also reducing the chance of pathogens infecting the plants. I have found that the leaves will become larger, and have more fenestration in this position too. Feel free to plant one straight into a garden bed!