For the past few years, Monstera—also called Swiss cheese plant and sometimes mistakenly split-leaf philodendron—has been the plant on social media. All the influencers on Instagram seem to have a big one in a corner of their living rooms. It is a great plant, especially if you want a houseplant with impact.
Native to Mexico
Monstera deliciosa comes from the tropical forests of southern Mexico and Central America. It’s botanical name refers to its large size (it can grow up to 60 feet tall in the wild) and its delicious fruit, which is covered with scales and said to be similar to pineapple or jackfruit in taste. As a houseplant, it’s unlikely to produce fruit or flowers, but it sure makes a statement. Indoors monstera grows up to 8 feet tall and 3 feet wide. It has bright green, shiny leaves with holes in them.
Monstera does best in a bright room—one with morning sun is perfect—but not in direct sunlight. You may need to rotate the plant occasionally to ensure all sides of this giant get some light. Plant your monstera in a standard indoor potting mix and let the first couple of inches of soil dry out between waterings. Generally, if you water every one to two weeks, it should do well. Don’t fertilize during the winter when the plant isn’t growing much, but in the spring and summer you can give it a dilute (one-quarter of the recommended amount) dose of fish emulsion or liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks.
This plant is sold in a variety of sizes, and will grow a foot (or in great conditions two feet) a year. It will grow more if it spends summers outside. While it’s generally an easy plant to grow, it may be bothered by mealybugs and other plant pests.
There are several species of monstera, but the most commonly sold species other than deliciosa is Monstera adansonii. This plant has smaller leaves, but they have larger holes in them, sometimes as much as 50 percent of the leaf area. It may have a more vining habit, too. You may also find variegated monstera in plant shops. There is a rare monstera called M. obliqua, but you are unlikely to find that in any plant shops so be wary if a plant is labeled that way.
Not a Philodendron
Monstera plants are sometimes called split-leaf philodendrons, though they are not philodendrons at all. Both plants are in the same family—Araceae—but not the same genus. The genus Philodendron includes more than 400 species of plants. The common houseplant philodendrons are those with heart-shaped leaves and a trailing habit. They are easy-care and a delight to have in the house. There are several species of philodendrons, however, that have more divided leaves, such as Philodendron bipinnatifidum and Philodendron xanadu. The leaves on these plants are extremely dissected and look just a little bit like a monstera.
All of these plants are fairly easy to find in plant stores and would make a great gift for the plant lover on your list. One thing to note, however, we’re recently heard from some trendy podcasters that the new hot houseplant is string of pearls!