An important factor in determining the suitability of a plant to your home and envisioning the care it will need, is to know the origin of the plant. Plants that are native to desert regions will require substantial amount of sunlight and loose, fast-draining soil. Plants from the floor of a rainforest will need some protection from strong sunlight and generous humidity.
Monstera is a vining plant from the rainforests of Mexico and Central America that makes use of aerial roots to climb up and through the branches of trees in its native habitat. The curious perforations, which lend it the nickname of Swiss cheese plant, develop on mature leaves. The reason for this adaptation is not fully understood but it is accomplished through a genetically encoded process, unusual in the plant world, in which cells organize their own destruction through programmed cell death.
In the home, maturing plants will need the support of a moss covered pole that they can climb. If treated well, monstera can live for years, and grow to well over ten feet tall.
Monstera deliciosa is sometimes incorrectly called a split-leaf philodendron or Philodenron pertusum. Those names are no longer considered accepted plant names and are synonyms for monstera or Monstera deliciosa*.
During active growth (March to September), monsteras should be protected from direct sunlight, and placed in a position of bright, filtered light or slight shade. The leaves of trees outside the window or a sheer curtain will give your plant the protection it would have from a tropical tree canopy in its native rainforest. Alternatively, a position away from the window in a bright room will do.
In winter, the plant needs more direct, bright light. Providing that additional light exposure is essential to the health and attractive qualities of monsteras -- large, glossy leaves with well developed divisions.
Water thoroughly, making the soil moist but not wet, and checking back after 15 minutes to remove any water sitting in the plant's run-off dish. When the plant is in active growth, allow the soil to just dry at a depth of a several inches between waterings. Mist the plant and its moss pole daily or provide a wet pebble tray for optimal humidity. Wipe the leaves with warm water every week.
Reduce water frequency and humidity in winter.
Typical home temperatures are fine during the growing season, with a shift to a cooler setting in the winter between 55 and 65°F. Monsteras benefit from the rest that occurs at these lower, winter temperatures. Your plant will not resume growth until a temperature of 65°F. is reached, at which point greater humidity and water is required.
Protect this plant from blasts of cold or heat from open windows, air conditioning units and heating vents.
Monsteras like to be root-bound and can stay in the same pot for years, moving to one size larger pot only when the roots come out through the drain hole. Quick-draining soil is essential. Equal parts potting soil, peat and sand are generally best. Once a maximum pot size is reached, replace the top layer of soil every other year.
Feed every two to four weeks, with a standard houseplant fertilizer at half strength, from March through September.
The aerial roots are important for climbing and nutrition. Healthy aerial roots result in the most attractive plants so do not remove them. As the plant grows into a vine, encourage some of these roots into the moss covered support for your plant and allow the rest to remain exposed where they will absorb moisture from the air. (You can make your own supporting pole for a monstera by filling a tube of rolled plastic netting with sphagnum moss and embedding the end deep in the soil of the pot.)
Loss of the oldest leaves is natural and gradual. If leaves yellow and drop in larger numbers, you may be over-watering or under-feeding.
Browning leaf edges may result from too little humidity.
Stretching of leaf stems and development of stunted leaves that do not develop perforations may indicate inadequate light, particularly in winter. Your plant needs energy to develop strong healthy leaves and it may be in too little light or missing a necessary rest in winter.