Plant parenthood has been a popular pastime in recent months, as many of us have found it’s the perfect way to both fill time and make our homes a little homier. But it can be tough to know which plants to get and how to keep them alive and thriving in the coming months and years.
One of the most charming and easy-to-care-for indoor plants—for both beginners and plant experts alike—is the Monstera plant. These popular plants are native to Central America and are commonly referred to as “Swiss cheese plant” or “cheese plant,” due to the characteristic long holes or slashes along with their leaves. This striking and Instagram-able appearance is a lot of what’s made Monsteras so widely enjoyed, and their ease of care doesn’t hurt.
(It is worthwhile to note that Monstera plants can be toxic to cats, dogs, and other pets, so if you’re a pet owner, it’s best to make sure your Monsteras are out of reach!)
Like most plants, Monsteras don’t just come in one variety. Monstera deliciosa is the most well-known and recognizable variety of Monstera plants. They’re the ones with the big leaves with the large slits running up and down the sides. If you’re already familiar with Monstera plants, this is likely the variety that you’re thinking of.
Monstera adansonii is another beautiful variety of Monstera plant, with smaller leaves, and with holes that make up about half of each leaf. In nurseries, Monstera adansonii often get mistaken for Monstera obliqua, a variety that is quite unique in that the leaves are generally more than half made up of the holes themselves. The Monstera obliqua variety is also incredibly rare, and you are unlikely to ever see one — either in a nursery or in the wild.
Another relatively rare type is Monstera siltepecana. This variety doesn’t have large holes like the other types do, and they tend to have both dark and light green hues on their leaves. If you can manage to find one, they’re a gorgeous addition to any plant collection.
Monstera variegata (or “variegated Monstera”) is perhaps the most striking variety of the Monstera family. They technically aren’t a separate type of plant but are instead just a different color variety of the Monstera deliciosa. They stick out from the regular variety because of their varied patches of green and white leaves. This gorgeous and memorable color patterning has made the variegated Monstera highly desired and quite expensive. If you can find one and afford one, this beloved Monstera plant would be the envy of many a plant-lover. Most plantophiles would argue they’re worth every penny.
Once you’ve chosen a variety and found your very own Monstera plant, it’s time to learn the ropes for the care and cultivation of these plants. The good news is that, although not totally hands-off like some plants, Swiss cheese plants are relatively easy to manage and keep healthy.
You can pot Monsteras in regular indoor potting soil, in just about any pot with drainage holes. The pot should be larger than the Monstera’s roots: it’s always a good idea to give them a little room to grow. Monsteras can also be kept outside in the shade, as long as you live in a relatively mild or warmish climate.
Likewise, if indoors, these plants do best in the shade with access to indirect sunlight, rather than living under direct sunlight. Monsteras aren’t fans of the cold, so keep them indoors when it’s chilly and keep them away from sources of cold air like air conditioning vents or units.
Monsteras usually need water about once every one to two weeks, though this varies depending on climate and the amount and intensity of light exposure. Overall, they tend to not need a whole lot of water, and their soil should never be drenched. The best way to tell if your Monstera needs water is to stick your finger in the soil: if the top two inches are dry, it’s time to hydrate your plant.
Because of their tropical origins, humid conditions are best (though not necessary) for these plants. If you don’t live in a humid climate, it can help to mist the plant regularly or use a humidifier wherever your Monstera hangs out.
Monsteras don’t need much fertilizer, but it can be helpful to fertilize your plant about once a month during the spring and summer (their growing season). There’s no need to fertilize at all during the fall and winter, when the plant is dormant.
Like the rest of their care, Monsteras are fairly easy to propagate.
One method of propagation is simply cutting off a leaf right below the place where the stem meets the leaf (called the “node”). You then take this cutting and put it in a jar of filtered water, waiting until the cutting starts to develop roots, at which time it can be potted in soil and developed into a brand-new Monstera plant.
Alternatively, you can wait for the Monstera to grow air roots, and then cut off the stem below the air roots. This method allows you to plant the cutting directly in soil, skipping the step of growing it in a jar of water.
Just like with any plant, it’s good to know the signs that your Monstera plant is struggling. If your plant has developed black or yellow tips on the leaves, that’s a telltale sign that you’re overwatering it. Ease up on the hydration, and your plant should be able to recover just fine. If refraining from watering and draining any excess moisture doesn’t help, try repotting the plant in fresh, dry soil.
If, on the other hand, the leaves look brown and crispy around the edges, that’s a sign that your Monstera isn’t getting enough water. Give the plant a little more water, and see if that helps! Likewise, if the leaves are wilting or the soil is extremely dry, it’s time for a nice dose of plant hydration.