How to Care for Monstera Plants

About a year ago on a warm September day, I received a text from my dear friend, Emma (you may have heard of her?), asking if I was interested in taking on care and ownership of one of her several houseplants. A picture of the largest Monstera Deliciosa I’d ever seen accompanied the text that read: “Would you have any interest in taking this split leaf? I’ve had her a couple of years but lately she’s been losing leaves and I am just worried my home isn’t working for her … She’s very large, as you can see.” My reply was a very cool and collected “yes,” but as I reread her text and gawked at the photo, I realized that all my plant dreams had come true! Sure, I was the owner of a trendy fiddle leaf. Sure, I owned a small-ish Monstera already. But this? This was a Monstera the size of a TREE! I simultaneously felt thrilled I got to be the lucky one to rehab it, and extremely anxious I wouldn’t be able to bring it back to life. And thus started my journey of taking care of the glorious Monstera Deliciosa I now lovingly call Fran.

As soon as I got Fran safely home (this was no small feat!), I knew I needed to diagnose the problem Emma was experiencing so I could try to get her growing again. She was very tall, but only had four leaves on her, and almost all of them were wilted and curled. Emma told me that she hadn’t been watering the plant much in the last few months because she was afraid she had previously overwatered it, and she was concerned as well that she had placed it in a spot with inadequate light. After taking in these facts, checking Fran over, and doing a bit of research, I quickly diagnosed the problem as under watering. When a Monstera plant’s soil is dry to the touch (Fran’s was), and their leaves curl and turn brown and crispy on the ends, it means the plant hasn’t been getting enough water. In overwatering situations, the leaves turn yellow with possible blackish stems. Fran had no yellowing leaves, no blackish stems, but had very curled leaves and three of the four were brown at the ends.

I learned a lot since Fran came to live with me, and am happy to report she is thriving and has sprung a total of seven new leaves in a little less than a year! Because Monsteras are so popular right now (and they should be—they are gorgeous!), it seems like my knowledge is useful and should be passed on! Whether you’re the owner of a new Monstera Deliciosa, or you’re a seasoned plant-mama (or papa!) just looking to gain some knowledge, these tips may help you maintain your lovely Monstera and possibly solve any problems you come across while taking care of it.

Monsteras are actually pretty easy to take care of (sorry, Emma)! They reign from southern Mexico and Panama, and because of the holes they create as they mature, they are often referred to as Philodendron Split Leaf or the Swiss Cheese Plant. I read somewhere that the holes are a byproduct of originating in the rainforest, where vegetation above blocks sunlight, so the holes are to allow sunlight to get to the bottom leaves as well as the top. I can’t remember where I read that and haven’t found that information since, but it’s kind of nice to think of the Monstera as a very pretty houseguest who knows how to share.

My first tip on taking care of your Monstera is regular watering. Monsteras prefer slightly moist soil and generally like to dry out just a bit between waterings. They are epiphytes with aerial roots (a plant that grows on another plant in its natural habitat), so they don’t tolerate soggy soil. For a rule of thumb, once the top 2 to 4 inches of the soil are dry, your Monstera could use some watering. Since Fran is in a large pot, I give her quite a bit of water once a week in the growing season, which is spring through early fall, and then I taper off quite a bit in the winter.

As most plant parents know, it can be difficult to diagnose an over-watering or under-watering situation when the plant shows signs of stress, so watering on a schedule is my number one tip for all house plant care in general. A long time ago, I decided I would regularly water all of my houseplants once a week, choosing Saturday as the day I’d remember to do it most consistently, and I have stuck to that plan for many years. I adjust the amount of water I give each plant based on what the soil feels like when I check it, as well as the type of plant itself, knowing some plants like more water, some like less. If the soil feels soggy at all, I skip watering that week. By planning to water every plant in the house weekly, I never forget about one, and have some dedicated time each week to check them for signs of stress or pests, dust them off, or prune them if needed.

My second tip on Monstera care is fertilization. Fertilizers can be tricky, so once I found one I could use on all of my house plants, I bought a giant bottle and that was that. The fertilizer I use is one that I add to my water, so I fertilize once a month in the growing season at the beginning of each month with Superthrive. It is a bit pricey, but in my experience it has helped my plants stay healthy and fed better than any other fertilizer I have come across. I swear by it!

Third, Monsteras like bright indirect light. They can adjust to medium light, but might get leggy in that environment. Before Fran came to live with me, Emma had her in a spot that didn’t get a great amount of light, so when I brought her home I placed her in a room that has large west-facing windows. The windows are all the way on the other side of the room from where Fran sits, but the room gets enough light in the afternoons and evenings that she seems to love it in that spot. (In fact, all my plants love that room, no matter where they sit). She never gets direct beams of light so her leaves don’t burn, which is important to consider when choosing a spot for a Monstera, and she gets to show off as the largest in a room filled with plants.

My next tip on taking care of a Monstera is staking! In the wild, Monsteras climb up on other trees as they grow, and can grow up to 66 feet tall! Inside they can only get to about 9 feet tall, and will use a stake (preferably covered in moss but mine is not) as their inside host. I learned the hard way that staking is a must for Monsteras through taking care of another smaller, but bushier one I have in a different room. For a long time it wasn’t staked, until one day as I was dusting the leaves, I knocked the whole thing over onto the desk below where it perched, and sadly, many stems tore off the main plant. I was able to propagate some of those stems, thank goodness, but I learned my lesson. Stakes help the plant grow upward and can really help keep all those big leaves balanced. A little side note: I actually planted some of the stems I propagated alongside Fran in her pot! I figured there was enough space and Fran could use a little company, and the addition made Fran’s bottom half more proportional with her giant top half. She does have some new smaller leaves off a node at the bottom of her trunk, but the rest of the leaves are from a different Monstera.

My last and final tip is a little odd and may come across as “woo-woo” to some, but I kind of believe in going above and beyond to add a little love to my plants, and Fran is no exception. Not only did I name her and give her the best seat in my house, but I placed moss on the top of her soil as well as various rocks and seashells I have found on some of my travels throughout the years. Collecting rocks and shells has always been a “thing” for me, but I find placing them on top of my plants’ soil sends a little extra boost of love to the plant, (or at least it does in my head), and it makes the plant look even prettier and adds a special touch!

That’s it for my tricks on how I got Fran to go from Sad-but-Giant-Monstera to Gorgeous-OMG-knock-my-socks-off-Giant-Monstera! I hope you find something useful in all that I’ve learned in taking care of her! Feel free to add any tips or tricks you know of in taking care of Monsteras in the comments! -Michelle

Credits // Author: Michelle Houghton. Photography: Janae Hardy. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • What a great post! I have a very small Monstera, bought this spring while we all were in quarantine. She’s growing but still pretty small. I’d love more plant posts and it was fun to read about Fran…

    • I have a swiss cheese plant and i need someone to give me some tips how to take care of it please

  • Love this post! Great tips. Don’t have one of these yet but am dying to get one!! And your “woo woo” tip is right up my alley!

    • Jamie- glad you liked the woo-woo! Hope you find one soon! It’s a fun plant to have and not too difficult to take care of!

    • This plants is wonderful! You cannot kill it — unless you spray it with lye! LOL And even then — I bet it would live!

    • Ellie- Emma had the stake in the plant already, but when I repotted Fran I just made sure to pack the soil in to keep it upright and sturdy. She had most of it tied up the main “trunk”, and as it’s grown I’ve trained the new shoots up the stake.

      • I would like to use moss on my stake. Should it be sheet moss wrapped around and secured with twine?
        Enjoyed your article. Will look for more.
        Thanks,
        Sharon Brower

    • I also place rocks and seashells on top of the plants soil. I find that these plant grow bigger, faster and healthier than plants without.

  • Fran looks so happy! I have a few Monsteras myself (they’re addicting!) and your advice is totally spot on. They really are easy to care for once you find the right light for them and figure out how much water they need each week, and it’s so rewarding watching new leaves unfurl. 🙂 I would also recommend giving them a large enough pot to comfortably grow in so they don’t become root bound, especially as they produce more leaves. Great post!

    • Repot when you see roots coming out of the drainage holes, or out of the top of the soil. I usually only increase the size of the pot by an inch or two, otherwise you risk root rot or the plant spending it’s energy filling the other with roots rather then growing leaves.

  • I have a smaller Monstera that I’ve struggled with knowing how to care for. I now know she needs to be staked and likely watered more often. Thanks so much for this! (And for the record, I appreciate your woo woo suggestion to place rocks you’ve collected in her pot – great idea) .

  • I purchased a monstera last summer & it has tripled in size, I had to repot it in a 19 in wide pot. Do you know what these root looking things are that are hanging off of my plant & do you know if I can remove them?

    • Those are roots it catch up humidity from the air ,so dont cut them off🙂mine got alot of it in times when i didnt water it enough.Nowadays i dont water it much but spray the leaves and roots with water everyday i can remember it

  • This reminds me of the giant monstera and rubber plant that my mother had in the 80s and 90s (actually, I think she got them in the late 70s). I miss those.

  • Thoroughly enjoyed this. I have two monsterra, about 5 months back I moved them to my two sun roof and two very large windows after not being happy with the way they were growing in other parts of the house. Almost immediately I saw a huge difference, the one that hadn’t a split leaf as yet got one in about 3 weeks they both started shooting off new leaves like crazy. We are currently looking to buy a new house and sun roof with good windows in master bathroom is a must on my list.

  • I simply adore monstera plants, have had them on and off since I was a teenager after getting my first one as a tiny seedling which then proceeded to become huge in a matter of months. The humid Sydney weather helped with my first one I think and it was in the shower stall so it was always getting steamy air on its aerial roots.
    I am also a fan of polishing their leaves with a damp cloth to give the leaves a nice shine… and talking to them too. 😉
    Thanks for this post.
    Anita
    xoxox

  • Great tips! And putting shells/rocks/gravel on top of the soil is an excellent way of keeping bugs out of the soil too!

  • These are awesome tips. O have one Monstera plant that has just shooted out a leaf. Waiting for it to unfurl. So so exciting to see new life.

  • It’s really not surprising that rocks and shells would make a plant appear to thrive, and indeed they do. Here’s why. Rocks are made of minerals and shells of calcium. Every time you water, a little bit washes off to the plant roots just as in nature when it rains. And voilà! A beautiful, healthy plant. ❤️

  • I have a big one that is probably about 50yrs old.Ive had it for almost 20yrs,took it when a friend who had it wanted to throw it away, he in his turn got it from his mom who akso had it many years and now nobody really remember when she got it or from where😀😀😀so Fran can be with you for a looooong time in the future if your getting along.Nice story i, need spoil mine with some decorations too now i feel guilty…🙂

  • I really think I need to move mine a little bit closer to some natural light as she’s getting a bit ‘leggy’ (but I wasn’t quite sure why!). This is such a beautiful, and massive, plant!

    Steph – http://www.nourishmeblog.co.uk

  • I was the recipient of a gifted a plant from my BIL a few years ago as it outgrew their space. Originally it came from a local nursery’s private collection, and it was living outside and had grown to very large proportions. Mine is currently mounded with about 30 6″-10″ leaves some split, some solid and slightly wild and out of control. It also lives in the back side of a room with west facing windows and loves it. The instructions said, I like shade, you can’t over water me, and I am hard to kill. I water weekly on Saturdays, and it’s a been a good plan. It took me along time to learn about my beautiful plant and it’s care so I am thrilled to see your blog. I will be getting a moss stake, and some pretty rocks for the large container it lives in, asap. Easy to propagate, I gifted my besties a shoot in a lovely little container to share the love. Wonderful info and inspiration!

  • Great post! I have one of these plants that’s about 3 years old. It is a real monster. Most of the leaves are big…but one is about two feet long. I’ve had these plants before, but I’ve never had one thrive like this. I have it in front of a very large window, but that side of the house is shaded most of the day so it never gets strong, direct rays. Guess it likes it there. It’s so big that it has knocked the stake over more than once. I actually had to anchor it to the ceiling to keep the plant from taking it down again.

  • Thanks for the great posts. I have always called this a Hurricane Plant. I guess the plant can handle strong winds because of the holes in the leaves??? Mine is inside so I have never tested this theory. My Monstera has thrips that I cannot seem to get rid of, I have been trying for years. Just washed it again today. So sad when the bugs make it look so unhappy. Anyone have and other ways of getting rid of thrips on Monstera? Insecticide and soap/water/rubbing alcohol and washing don’t seem to get rid of them permanently.

  • Nice post, but a monstera is not a split leaf. They are 2 different plants. Very common misconception.

  • Because this plant contains oxalic acid is it safe to touch it’s leaves and other parts with your bare hands
    with out getting burned?

  • I grew up in the ’60s in an A-frame midcentury modern home. My parents had a ginormous “split leaf philodendron” (as they called it) in our living room. It was about 12′ tall. It was my job to wash the dust off the huge leaves. I think the plant was sold with the house.

  • Help! My monstera is taking over! I’d love to divide the plant into smaller ones, but I’m afraid of damaging its root system. What tips do you have for dividing a monstera?

    I love the idea of a name for her (him?) but think I’ll wait until it’s divided and give all of the babies names 🙂

    Thanks in advance!
    Karen

  • Thank you so much for this! I have a monstera that I LOVE and its growing new leaves but they are all staying on the smaller side with no holes/slits. Not really sure what I’m doing wrong but I will start doing some of these things you’ve mentioned here!

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