I have fond memories as a child of my mother's split leaf philodenron. Any time I got in trouble for sassing my punishment would be to clean the leaves on the Rubber Tree and the Split Leaf. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time talking to these two listeners. I never learned not to talk back. I still believe to this day this is the reason I gravitate to plants.
The Split Leaf Philodendron has been a long, loved plant that is making a huge comeback. Monstera Deliciosa is a native to the tropical rain forests south Central America, from Mexico to Peru. It is a climbing, evergreen perennial vine that is perhaps most noted for its large perforated leaves on thick plant stems and its long cord-like aerial roots.
In the wilds of the jungle, Monstera can grow to be enormous: dozens of feet tall with leaves that spread to nearly two feet wide. Due to its tolerance of less than ideal conditions, such as dry air and indirect light, split-leaf philodendron is a popular houseplant.
While this plant is sometimes called the Swiss Cheese Plant, that name properly belongs to Monstera adansonii which also has holes in the leaves.
To be successful growing your Monstera, there are a few things you need to keep in mind for a great relationship.
Light - Monstera Deliciosa lives in humid tropical forests, below the main canopy of trees so it is accustomed to lower light. It does best indoors in bright, indirect light. Too much light and the leaves will burn and fade. Too little light and the leaves will be small and will not split. In a north- or east-facing window, you can place them close to access more sun, or you can keep them out of reach of direct light in a south- or west-facing window.
Temperature - The Monstera will grow in most household temperatures, but a temperature between 65-85℉ is ideal. They can survive in temperatures as low as 50℉, but the cold temperature will stop growth.
Water - Monstera love a good soaking after the soil has almost completely dried out. Water more often during the warmer months while they are growing, and reduce watering during the winter months, letting the soil almost completely dry out between watering. Water well until the water drains out the drip holes in the bottom of the pot. Allow the top 25-30% of the soil to dry out before watering again. Keep the soil damp but never soggy. Water droplets or perspiration on the leaves indicate over-watering; brown leaf edges indicate under watering. Never let ALL the soil dry out completely. And when you do water, make sure you water thoroughly so that you don’t have any dry patches of soil. This is really important!
In the winter, slow down your watering frequency. Monstera requires much less water during the winter months.
Humidity - Monstera Deliciosa is a TROPICAL so it thrives on high humidity! Split leaf philodendrons grow better in high humidity, but adapt to household humidity. Use a pebble tray during the winter months to increase the immediate humidity around your plant.
Soil - Use a well-aerated potting soil that holds water but still drains quickly. Add a bit of sand to a peat based potting soil to improve the soil texture and allows water to move through the pot.
Fertilizer - Monstera Deliciosa likes to be fertilized during their active growing season. Use a balanced plant food diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength. I like to use the yellow box of Miracle Grow with a bit higher nitrogen. Keep in mind, too much fertilizer when the plant is not actively growing causes leaf tip burn. Stop fertilizing in October as this plant slows down and enters its dormant stage. Restart fertilizing in March as it wakes up and begins a new growing season.
Re-pot - Unlike most indoor plants, a split leaf philodendron prefers to be in a large pot. These bigger pots promote larger leaves. Monstera deliciosa should be transplanted about every two years. If it’s growing faster, transplant it when it’s outgrown its existing pot. Aim for a pot which is 2″ wider than the prior one, as that provides plenty of space. Be sure that your pot has plenty of drainage holes and is deep enough to support a large stake or trellis. Monstera deliciosa is a climber in its natural habitat, using its aerial roots to cling to large trees, so you should provide it with moss-covered support sticks or a trellis.
Maintenance - Rotate your Monstera to promote a full, balanced indoor plant. Keep leaves clean and dust-free by washing with a cloth dipped in a solution of a drop of dishwashing detergent in a few cups of water. Pruning is mostly cosmetic or to retard further growth. Lower leaves which are dying off can be removed by cutting 1/4″ above the stem joint. This allows you to remove the leaf in its entirety without harming the plant’s base.
Aerial roots that become unruly are easy to snip off with a clean and sterile pair of pruning shears. If they’re close to the soil, you can tuck the rootlets into the pot instead of clipping them off.
This plant needs to be aggressively trimmed or it can take over your room. Excess growth in places you don’t want it can also be removed as needed. Be sure not to take too many leaves off at once as the plant still needs some, and avoid cutting the main stalk.
Brown spots on the leaves can be caused by a number things including overwatering or not enough water. If the very tips of your leaves are turning brown, it could result from the entire soil drying out too much and/or from inconsistent and improper watering.
Pests - Split leaf philodendrons are fairly immune, however white flies, scale, thrip and mealybugs can be a problem. Check frequently for pests by examining the backs of the leaves and new growth. If a ficus becomes infected, spray with 91% Isopropyl Alcohol mixed with water (2 parts Alcohol, 1 part water) or an insecticidal soap at 1/2 the recommended strength.
If your plant has brown spots on the leaves, which are surrounded a yellow “halo” around the brown spot, this is a classic symptom of a fungus. If you have any fungal leaf spots on your plant, it is best if you catch the issue early and remove any infected leaves. Keep the foliage dry to be safe (no misting) for a while.
Propagation - Propagate using Stem Cuttings. Be sure to include a few leaves and a few plant nodes on each cutting and to allow the cutting to sit out over night before planting. This helps prevent the developing roots from rotting.
Special Notes - These plants are considered poisonous and should be kept away from pets and children.