Houseplants are enjoying something of a renaissance. More and more, our lives center around the home; naturally, people want to bring a splash of greenery into their living spaces. Houseplants that had once languished in terms of popularity are now the hottest items around, with newly minted plant lovers clamoring for Pilea peperomioides or Aglaonema. One plant that's soared in popularity is the Monstera deliciosa or Swiss Cheese Plant. Despite their exotic good looks, these houseplants are easy to care for and need just a little love to thrive. Here's how to keep your Monstera in peak condition.
Monstera deliciosa goes by many different names. It's often known as Split Leaf Philodendron (even though it's entirely unrelated for philodendrons). Another nickname is Swiss Cheese Plant, thanks to its eye-catching leaves, or Mexican Breadfruit, though it will not fruit indoors. In the wild, Monstera plants produce a tasty edible fruit that gives them the soubriquet deliciosa. Monstera plants are native to Mexico and Central America, where they grow around the bases of large trees. They were introduced to the rest of the world in the late 1800s and have been well-loved ever since.
As you'd expect from their shady natural habitat, Monsteras like gentle, indirect light. They're happiest when the rays of the sun are filtered or obstructed. Like all plants, Monsteras do need some light -- just not too much. A shady corner or any spot that doesn't get direct sun is fine. Monsteras aren't fond of drafts but do need good air circulation to prevent mold and mildew. They can tolerate a range of temperatures and humidity levels, but don't place them in damp, chilly spots.
Monsteras are very tolerant when it comes to watering. A schedule probably won't be beneficial, as there are times when your plant will need more or less water. In general, you will want to water your plant when the top one-and-a-half to two inches of soil in the pot becomes dry—test by poking your finger into the soil or using a moisture meter with a probe.
Monsteras like a little plant food in their water most of the year. They generally don't need to be fed during the winter months as they're not growing. Choose a safe, organic product for optimal health.
When you first bring your young Monstera home, you may notice that the leaves don't have any of those trademark splits and holes (fenestrations, to use the technical term). These don't begin to develop until the plant is mature -- at least two or three years old. Once the plant is fully mature, you should notice that the big, heart-shaped leaves begin to develop those eye-catching fenestrations. You can help things along a little by making sure your Monstera gets plenty of indirect sunlight -- but don't get impatient and place it right next to a window. That will only harm the plant's growth.
Another attractive feature of Monstera deliciosa is that it's easy to propagate. If you're lucky enough to have a friend who'll give you a cutting, you can grow your plant. Your cutting will need a section of stem and a root node to grow into a separate plant. Ideally, it would help if you snipped the cutting off with a sterilized knife or shears. You can then place the cutting in either potting soil or water until the roots have developed enough to plant in a pot.
Monsteras have a reputation for taking over your home. It's true that in the wild, they can grow dozens of feet tall. If you want a generous, sprawling Monstera, you should feed your plant well and get plenty of indirect sunlight.
As with any houseplant, it's essential to use only organic plant products to keep your Monstera healthy. Look for organic gardening products that are non-toxic and safer for children and pets, and won't affect the air quality in your home.