The genera Monstera boasts a diverse range of species with more than 40 found in this group. This means you have numerous options to choose from with variations in color and characteristics. One of the most commonly grown is Monstera deliciosa. The specific epithet or species name deliciosa means “delicious,” referring to the edible fruit.
An aroid of the Araceae family, M. deliciosa is native to the forests of southern Mexico and Guatemala. Commonly referred to as split-leaf philodendron, this plant is not a true philodendron. Another common name is Swiss cheese plant, due to the fenestration or holes in the leaves of the plants. These tropical plants are best known for their bright green,
heart-shaped leaves with deep lobes. While there are many theories for the purpose of this adaptation, the current consensus is that these holes allow for greater leaf volume and increased sunlight to pass through to lower foliage. The plant also makes large aerial roots that are used to stabilize the plant by anchoring it to trees or other structures and helping it climb. Aerial roots also absorb moisture and dissolved nutrients from rainwater running down the roots and trees of those grown in their natural tropical rainforest environments. Indoor grown plants do not commonly flower, but when optimal conditions are met in mature plants, flowers can occur followed by fruit that is said to have a taste of a pineapple and a banana. This is why it is also known as Mexican breadfruit. The fruit takes up to 12 months to mature. The fruit appears to have layers of scales like a pinecone, and when scales begin to fall off, the fruit becomes soft, signifying ripeness. Variegated monsteras are highly prized and very gorgeous. There are a few cultivars of variegated monsteras that sport yellow and white coloring that range from splotches to speckles or both.
The four main types of variegated Monstera deliciosa are:
Monstera requires a well-drained, acidic to neutral soil or potting media that is rich in organic material. It loves bright, indirect sunlight. Be aware that too much direct light during the summer can burn foliage. A stake may also be necessary to prevent older leaves from drooping. Planters with greater depth are perfect for monstera to support its upwards growth and secure vining leaves with a stake. The bottom third of planters can be filled with light sandy or medium loamy soils, then the top half with more peat-based soil.
Monstera is a climbing vine that can be grown vertically by staking. Not using a stake will encourage monstera to grow horizontally over their pots, giving a cascading look, but large leaves become heavy and can cause tipping of light containers.
Originally from the equator, monstera loves humidity. Be sure to give plants regular waterings and mist foliage, but let soil slightly dry out between watering to avoid root rot. You can fertilize with a balanced liquid fertilizer three to four times per year or during late spring to promote growth. Monstera can be easily propagated from cuttings or air-layering with sphagnum moss. Low light situations can stunt growth. Some common pests include thrips and mealybugs, which can be avoided by wiping dust and debris off of foliage with a damp sponge. Neem oil, insecticidal soaps and other alternative organic options can also be used.
Top: Younger leaves of monstera do not display the holes and slashes. They develop as the leaves age.
Right: Monstera deliciosa can benefit from decorative stakes to support climbing leaves.
Photos by Heather Kirk-Ballard