How to Grow and Care for Monstera, a Low-Maintenance Houseplant That Can Also Thrive Outside
When it comes to recognizable houseplants, Monstera is high on the list. Known for its Swiss-cheese like leaves and showy appearance, the greenery makes itself known when displayed in the home. "Many houseplant enthusiasts love growing Monstera for its giant green leaves that make any room look tropical," says Beatriz Garces of Nature's Way Farms. "Monstera is a climbing vine with large heart-shaped leaves that develop holes or fenestrations when they mature."
The reason behind the variety's popularity goes far beyond its aesthetics, though. "They are easy to grow, easy to find, and possess varieties that fit your lifestyle," says Adrienne R. Roethling, the director of curation and mission delivery at Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden. "They thrive indoors and are considered a clean air plant. This means that they help filter out any impurities in the air."
While the houseplant is known for being easy to grow, like any living thing, it requires some basic care to keep it healthy and thriving.
How to Plant Monstera Outdoors
Although most gardeners prefer to grow Monstera in a container indoors, Roethling says it can also be planted in the ground. It grows best in USDA hardiness zones 10 through 12, and because it's a tropical plant, Roethling says it does not like temperatures below 50 degrees—meaning you should only plant Monstera outdoors once the fear of frost has passed.
When planting Monstera outdoors, Garces says to choose a location that gets bright light for about six hours of the day. Remove some of the stem and leaves from the Monstera and loosen the roots before planting for easier establishment. Dig a hole in your soil—which should be well draining—and put the base of your plant in the ground and cover with more soil.
"Once planted in the ground, water well and provide a heavy-duty trellis to allow the vines to grow," Roethling says. When grown outdoors Monstera can grow to be 50 feet tall or taller.
How to Care for Monstera Inside
Monstera thrives in humid environments, so in order to set the plant up for success, it's important to replicate tropical conditions in your own home. In addition to satisfying its light, soil, water, and fertilizer requirements, Garces recommends keeping the houseplant in your bathroom or kitchen.
According to Garces, Monstera prefers bright, indirect sunlight. "Leaves will develop more fenestrations—holes—in locations with brighter light," she says. "In low light conditions, it's likely plants will stay smaller and leaves will stay whole." Indirect light is especially important for variegated forms of Monstera, which Roethling says will burn in direct sun.
Monstera should be potted in a porous soil mix of bark and peat moss, says Garces. "Thick monstera roots do not like wet feet and do better with a soil that can drain freely," she says.
Monstera benefits from weekly watering. "When you do this, place the plant in a large saucer or the kitchen or bathroom sink and fill it with at least 4 cups of water and let it soak in," says Roethling. In addition to watering the soil, Roethling says to spray the leaves with water daily, which hydrates the foliage and further mimics humid conditions.
Many gardeners grow Monstera because of its beautiful foliage, and regular fertilization is important to encourage growth. "Nitrogen fertilizer is going to be the best so that the foliage stays vibrant and grows well," says Roethling.
With that said, you want to make sure the formula isn't too nitrogen rich, or else you'll be feeding your plant too much acid. Roethling recommends choosing a low ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, such as a 1-1-1.
How to Repot Monstera
When grown indoors, the Swiss cheese plant can grow up to 10 feet tall, meaning it will need to be upgraded to a bigger pot every so often. "Every two years or so, most Monsteras will need to be repotted," Garces says. "When younger, they might grow faster and slow down with age."
She recommends choosing a container that is about 2 to 4 inches wider than its current container. "They do best in terra-cotta or clay containers that allow for airflow, but should be fine in any container with drainage," Garces says.
If you have a hard time removing the plant from its pot, Roethling recommends turning the container on its side and yanking the Monstera from its vessel. "Once you do, start dismantling the root ball. Loosen it up so that you have dangling roots," she says. Replace the soil with a new batch while holding the plant over its new pot, continuing to fill and tease the soil around the roots until it's full again.
How to Propagate Monstera
Monstera plants are one of the easiest plants to propagate, according to Garces. "Due to their climbing habit, they produce adventitious roots that help support them and absorb water from human air," she says.
To do this, simply clip the branch above the root node and place it in clean water in a sunny location, replenishing the water as needed. Once you have substantial roots, which should take about two to three weeks, Roethling says to move it into a container with a good potting soil blend.
Common Problems With Monstera
Although Monstera plants are low maintenance, you might still run into a few issues, like bugs and yellowing leaves.
According to Garces, many large-leaf indoor plants are susceptible to spider mites, mealy bugs, aphids, and thrips. "Typically, when they are caught early, spraying the leaves with an insecticidal soap should get rid of any pests," she says. "For heavier infestations, multiple treatments may be necessary. Always be sure to read labels before applying."
Another common problem you may run into with Monstera is yellow, mushy leaves. Garces says this is likely due to over-watering. "lf you start to see these symptoms, allow the soil to dry completely and then reduce watering," she says.
On the other hand, if you start to notice your Swiss cheese plant has brown tips, you may be under-watering it. To remedy this, Garces says to water the Monstera deeply, or submerge containers with draining into water to make sure the soil is properly saturated; then adjust the schedule as needed.
If the soil isn't dry and you've been consistently watering the plant, it's possible you're using a soil or fertilizer that contains too much acid. "Be sure to read the labels on the soil mixes or the fertilizer and follow the instructions accordingly," Roethling says. "Test the soils to see if the pH is too high or low."