Monstera Deliciosa Overview
|Official Plant Name||Monstera Deliciosa|
|Common Name(s)||Swiss Cheese Plant, Ceriman, Custard Plant|
|Native Area||Mexico to Panama|
|Flowers||Lily like white flowers, followed by conical cream fruit|
|When To Sow (Indoors)||Year-Round|
|Flowering Months||June, July|
4 – 8M
1.5 – 2.5M
Spring / Summer
Most Soil Types
Moist but well drained
Monstera deliciosa, otherwise known as ‘Swiss Cheese Plant’ is a common houseplant to grow indoors.
It is a subtropical plant that can find a place in a bright area indoors, with indirect light, and moderate to high humidity. In certain parts of the UK, it may also be grown in partial shade in a sheltered, frost-free area, in humus-rich, moist yet free-draining soil. But it is more common to grow this subtropical plant as a houseplant in temperate climes.
This species of flowering plant is native to subtropical and tropical forests in Mexico and south to Panama. Its common name as a houseplant ‘Swiss cheese plant’ comes from the holes that develop in the leaves, which resemble the holes in some Swiss cheeses. The same name is also sometimes applied to Monstera adansonii, which also has holes in the leaves. However, Monstera deliciosa is more common, and is the main subject of this article.
The holes develop through a process known as ‘fenestration’. It is believed that the holes develop as a mechanism to allow as much light as possible through to lower foliation.
Monstera deliciosa takes its botanical name from ‘monsterous’ – a reference to the large size to which this plant can grow in its native range, and ‘delicious’ – a reference to the edible fruit. Unfortunately, however, while the plant flowers readily in the subtropics and tropics, forcing it to flower and fruit outside its native range proves extremely difficult. Specific conditions need to be met for the plant to flower, and it is very rare to see this in the UK or elsewhere when the plant is grown indoors.
The Monstera deliciosa is a member of the arum family (Araceae). It is an epiphyte climber, with aerial roots. In its native range environment, it can grow up to 20m high, growing up trees towards the light. Even in indoors cultivation, it is a large plant, which can grow to 4-8 m and 1.5-2.5m in width if given the opportunity (and grown in a large enough container).
Why Grow Swiss Cheese Plant?
Monstera deliciosa can be a dramatic houseplant – wonderful for adding to an interior design, in a home or office space. It has large glossy leaves, and looks fantastic inside a home of work place. Its architectural qualities mean that this is a plant that can tie a room together. Of course, like other houseplants, Monstera deliciosa will also increase oxygen levels, and clean the air – making for a better interior environment.
Swiss cheese plant is ideal for growing inside because it can tolerate a reasonably wide range of conditions. It can cope with bright, indirect light, and will thrive at temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees C. But they will continue to grow at temperatures over 18 degrees, and can survive down to as low as around 10 degrees C. It has an RHS hardiness rating of H1B.
They can endure for numerous years when provided with the appropriate conditions.
One very important thing to note, however, is that the plant is toxic. Ingestion can cause severe discomfort, and sap can irritate the eyes and skin. Always wear gloves when handling this plant.
Where To Grow
Swiss cheese plants are usually plants which require very little care. The most crucial thing is to make sure they are in a light location, but not in direct sunlight. It is best to position your plant a few feet away from a window that lets in plenty of light. Remember that your plant will need plenty of room to grow. Do not place your houseplant too close to a radiator, stove, or other heat source, on in the draft from a door, window, fan, or air conditioning unit.
If larger leaves do not show holes (‘fenestration’) then this can be because there is not sufficient light. (Younger leaves will not perforate immediately, but mature leaves should do so.) If mature leaves do not have holes, move the plant to a brighter spot.
Brown patches on the leaves can be due to scorching from the sunlight. Move the plant out of direct sunlight if you encounter this problem.
Planting Swiss Cheese Plant
As well as finding the right location for your Monstera deliciosa, it is also important to choose the right container and growing medium.
The container should be deep, and have drainage holes at the base. A heavier container (such as a terracotta or stoneware pot) is ideal, since it will be less likely to tip over and better able to support the weight of the plant as it grows. Remember, as a climber, a Monstera will ultimately need a moss or coir pole as support to cling to with its aerial roots.
The container should be filled with a peat-free, all-purpose compost or similar. You should make sure that there is a minimum of one inch of medium around the root system of the plant in all directions.
One of the most common mistakes people make with this easy and low maintenance plant is watering too much. It is better for the soil to be on the dry side. How often you will need to water will depend on where exactly you live, the temperatures, season, light levels and other conditions.
One way to work out when you should water your houseplants is to use the Greg Plant App. This collects data and uses this to provide you with information for houseplant care specific to your situation.
Without this, you will have to rely on your own finger. Stick it into the growing medium to see whether the top two inches of the compost mix is dry. When they are, you should water well. But you should allow the water to completely drain through afterwards. Don’t let your plant sit with wet feet.
Remember, your houseplant will typically require far less water during the winter months, especially if you place it in a cooler room.
If you water too much, or the excess water does not drain away properly, you may see leaves yellowing and wilting. You may also see ‘tears’ of water at the edges of the leaves. The compost should be just damp, and never waterlogged.
Wilting leaves may be a sign of a problem – showing that you are watering either too much or too little. Check the growing medium to see whether it is too wet or too dry. And also take a look at the roots – it may be time to repot (see below).
It can be a good idea, for best results, to feed your plant with an organic houseplant feed around once a month during the spring and summer.
Cleaning and Humidity
Since the plants need sunlight for photosynthesis, it is important to keep them clean so the light can get through. The large leaves on a Monstera deliciosa will tend to attract dust. So it is important to give them a wipe every now with a damp cloth. This will keep them looking good – but more importantly, allow plant processes to continue as they should.
Wiping over with a damp cloth can also help to keep up humidity levels around the plant. In a dry, centrally heated space, it can also be beneficial to mist the leaves every now and then to keep the humidity up in a drier environment.
You should repot your plant in spring if the roots start to emerge from the base of the pot. Choose a container that, again, provides at least 1 inch of growing medium around the roots in all directions. If your plant becomes too large to repot easily, simply scoop as much potting mix from the surface of the container as you can. Then replace that with new growing medium.
If your Monstera is bigger than you want it to be, you can prune it by cutting away some stems at the base. Be sure to wear gloves as, remember, the sap can be toxic.
You can also very easily take cuttings from a mature plant – perhaps to give away the mature plant to someone with more space, or to increase your houseplant collection.
Cuttings can be taken in springtime or early in summer. Choose a stem which has aerial roots beginning to grow in its lower portion. New root grows from the white or brown buds across from a leaf. Using a sharp implement, slice through the stem an inch or so below the aerial root. Place this stem into a container with a little water in the base, so the aerial root is underwater. Place this container in a bright spot out of direct sunlight. Replace the water every couple of days, and after 1-2 weeks, new roots should emerge. After lots of roots have formed (usually after 4-6 weeks have elapsed) you can take your cutting and pot it up.
A permaculture garden designer, sustainability consultant and freelance writer, Elizabeth works as an advocate for positive change. She aims to inspire others to reconnect with nature and live in a more eco-friendly way. She also tries to practice what she preaches as she tends her own forest garden, polyculture beds and polytunnel. See her personal website here.