Monstera plants (Monstera deliciosa) originate from the tropical forests of Central America. They are known by a number of common names, including cut-leaf philodendron, Swiss-cheese plant and windowleaf. Thriving only in warm, humid environments, monstera plants are grown primarily as an indoor ornamental outside of their natural habitat.
Monstera deliciosa is a fast-growing vine with large oblong leaves that are indented from the edges back to the center. The leaves can grow to 3 feet long by 2 feet wide, and the plant must be supported as it grows due to the weight. The flowers are cream to white in color and consist of a single large bract that surrounds the fruit in a hoodlike fashion. They can grow to more than 70 feet in length.
In their natural setting, monstera plants thrive in lightly shaded, humid conditions below the canopy of the tropical forest. They grow best in high-pH, alkaline soils that drain well. The plants do not like wet feet and will not grow in saturated ground. For indoor containers, a mixture of sand and loam in equal parts makes a good growing medium. Monstera plants can tolerate direct sunlight but may lighten in color with prolonged exposure.
Outdoor monstera plants should be given about an inch of water weekly during dry periods. Indoor plants need their soil kept moist but not wet. Monstera established in the landscape should not need much fertilizer. You can apply a complete fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium (N-P-K) and magnesium in spring and late summer. Indoor plants can be given an N-P-K fertilizer with a higher phosphorus percentage, such as 15-30-15. Apply it two to three times per year, but not during the winter months. Wipe the leaves of indoor plants with a damp cloth once a month to remove dust.
Monstera plants grow very quickly and can easily take over a landscape if not pruned regularly. Snip branches and leaves by cutting them where they meet the stem. The best time for major pruning is during the spring when the plant is in a vigorous stage of growth. Light pruning can be done in spring, summer or fall. Pruning cuts should be flat and made as close to the stem as possible without cutting into it.
Pests and Diseases
Indoor monstera plants may attract mites and scale insects. Spraying the plant with a diluted horticultural oil or soap can be an effective treatment. Outdoor plants are not usually susceptible to infestations. In Florida there have been reports of serious damage to foliage caused by grasshoppers. Monstera can also develop bacterial diseases such as leaf spot and root rot. Examine the plant periodically for signs of disease, and seek treatment advice from a horticultural professional if needed.