Swiss Cheese Plant
The exquisitely structured heart-shaped leaves of Monstera adansonii with their lacy holes and leathery texture make this house plant truly unmistakable.
Factor in that it is relatively easy to care for and quick-growing and you’ve got yourself an absolute gem of a tropical plant befitting of any naturally bright spot in your home or workspace.
Monsteras Leaves – Swiss Cheese Plant
Monstera adansonii is known by many names and almost all of them make reference to the patterning on the leaves. In Latin ‘Monstera’ means “monstrous” or “abnormal”. Perhaps the most common nickname for the Monstera adansonii houseplant is Swiss Cheese Plant. Other names include Monkey Mask, Five Holes Plant, and Adasons Monstera.
Each alternative name is derived from the intricate holey patterns that appear on the leaves as the plant matures. Unarguably, this feature is what sets this plant apart from many other tropical house plants and in plant terms, this leaf structure is referred to as leaf fenestration. According to the University of Wisconsin, the holes in the leaves are a way of letting strong winds pass through reducing the risk of damage.
Typically young plants will not have any holes and will be a bright apple green in color. As the plant matures these holes will begin to appear and take on their distinctive patterning.
Leaves will become a deeper shade of green and will grow larger. The exception is Variegated Monstera where leaves display yellow and white variegated patterns in mature plants.
Whatever your preference for its name, Monstera adansonii, or Swiss Cheese Plant is a vining plant, meaning it will climb or trail. Plant it in a hanging basket where a beautiful cascade of foliage will unfold. Alternatively, place it in a pot or container and provide a moss pole or trellis and allow it to creep and climb into a beautiful far-reaching display.
Originating from Central and South America Monstera adansonii uses the assistance of nearby trees and their branches to enable it to climb skyward under the canopy of the jungle. It is thought that the holey leaves evolved to help them survive given the reduced amount of sunlight they received in the dense jungle with only dappled sunlight.
This plant is effective as a climber thanks to its aerial roots that grow above ground on the stem. These roots are able to anchor themselves to neighboring structures which provides the support needed for the plant to creep and climb in much the same way as a vine.
Here I’ll show you that just a few straightforward plant care techniques will make you and your Monstera adansonii the envy of your friends and family and desperate for you to tell them how they can grow one for themselves.
Caring for Monstera adansonii
The best position for your plant is a bright spot but away from direct sunlight as this will easily burn their leaves.
In their native Central and South America, they are accustomed to intense humidity and the canopy of the jungle above them where their leaves are protected from any direct sun.
These plants will thrive in conditions with lots of moisture and humidity levels above 60%. A greenhouse, a warm porch, or a conservatory is perfect. However, if neither of these is an option for you, select a warm, sun-facing room such as a kitchen or bathroom.
You can increase the humidity levels in your home to accommodate the needs of your Monstera adansonii in a number of ways. Misting the leaves of your plant regularly will help to replicate the largely damp environment of the rainforest. You could also place your plant next to other humidity-loving plants. Another way of increasing humidity is to invest in a humidifier. Alternatively, place stones or pebbles in the tray that collects water below the well-draining pot in which your plant sits. This will retain moisture and evaporate increasing the ambient humidity levels.
Height and Spread
When grown indoors and given the right levels of humidity, plus the right soil conditions, Monstera adansonii can grow as tall as 8 feet, with a spread of up to 3 feet. Expect more modest results if humidity levels are lower.
The great bonus of the Monstera adansonii plant is its quick-growing nature coupled with the duration of the growing season. Your plant could grow as much as two feet between the beginning of Spring and the start of Autumn. Impressive stuff and great for filling an otherwise empty space in a relatively short space of time.
To replicate the conditions of a rainforest environment keep your plant moist by misting the leaves regularly. Every 2-3 days is ideal. In addition, your plant should be watered thoroughly but then allowed for the soil to become just slightly damp before watering again.
It is more important to be led by the moisture levels in the soil rather than by a regular watering schedule. This is a common mistake made by many plant owners whereby it is assumed that you need to use your watering can on a specific day each week.
This is certainly not the case with Monstera adansonii. There are many other variables that contribute to an effective watering schedule. This includes climatic changes, whether your plant is in a growing season or in a period of dormancy, and the position of your plant in relation to the amount of light your plant receives each day.
The best thing you can do for your plant is to check the soil with a soil moisture meter or by placing your finger 2 inches below the level of the soil. Alternatively, you could prod the soil around the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. If the soil is dry on the surface and slightly damp when your finger is fully immersed in the soil, then it is time to water your plant. However, if the soil is damp or bordering on soggy below the surface, wait a few days before checking the moisture levels again.
You’ll notice over winter when your plant is in its dormancy, that the soil may remain damp for longer. Reduce the amount of water and the frequency of watering during this time.
If your Monstera adansonii develops yellow leaves this is often an indication that it has been overwatered. To remedy this, simply cut off the yellow leaves and hold off watering until the soil is only slightly damp. Make sure you use a container or pot with good-sized drainage holes and soil that is well-draining.
Soil Choice For Monstera Adansonii
Your Adansonii has specific soil requirements and will thank you for being planted in a well-draining potting mix that is rich in nutrients. A peat-based and coconut coir mix combined with perlite and bark works best. This will give the roots every opportunity to be free from excess moisture and this will encourage healthy growth and help prevent root rot.
Monstera plants do well in a slightly acidic pH level soil. A range of 5.5 to 6.5 is ideal to promote healthy growth throughout the growing season. An easy way to check your soil is with a soil pH tester.
Good quality peat-based potting mixes are readily available to purchase from any decent garden supply retailer or you can find them online here, there are plenty of options to choose from. I like to add plenty of grit or perlite to encourage drainage.
Alternatively, you can make your own well-draining potting mix at home. It’s easy to do and relatively cheap. Simply, mix one-third of organic matter such as peat-based soil and coconut coir with one-third of minerals such as grit or perlite, and one-third pine or orchid bark to keep the soil loose.
Although a little traumatic for your Monstera Adansonii plant it is worthwhile replacing the soil annually. This boost of nutrients is good for your plant. Plus, changing the soil will give you an opportunity to check the condition of the roots for any signs of root rot.
A well-established Monstera adansonii will thank you for the addition of nutrients on a regular basis throughout the growing season. Indeed, your plant will not grow to its full potential and leaves may become yellow if they are lacking in nutrients.
Use a half-strength liquid fertilizer (20:20:20 ratio) once per month from Spring until the end of the growing season in Autumn. Your plant won’t need feeding during the winter dormant period.
Always wait at least 4 months after you have repotted your plant before you begin to fertilize. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the repotting process will have weakened your plant’s root system and it needs time to recover and become established in its new environment. Secondly, the new potting soil that you use when you re-pot will almost certainly already contain a slow-release fertilizer. Adding more may burn or weaken the root system further.
As your Monstera adansonii creeps and climbs it may need a little pruning assistance if foliage becomes unruly or takes over your space. Wait until Spring or Autumn before attempting any pruning at which point remove the top layer of growth as well as any dying or damaged leaves. Use a sterile and sharp knife or pair of scissors and cut as close to the main stem as possible.
This plant is a relatively fast grower and usually needs to be re-potted at least every other year. Even with the best will in the world, your plant is likely to be caused a little stress and may suffer damaged roots as a result of repotting. For this reason, it is best to re-pot during the growing season (Spring to Autumn) when your plant is in its growing prime. Summer is ideal and will give your plant the best chance of recovering.
Re-pot your Monstera two days after you last watered it. This might sound a bit precious but the last thing your want is to be pulling dry, fragile roots away from a dry container. Pre-watering will ensure that the roots are softened slightly and the moisture will help them ease away from the edges of the pot and cause them less damage.
As you lift the plant from the pot be careful not to pull on the stems as these can become easily damaged too. Instead, tip the pot on its side and loosen the soil around the edges of the pot with your finger. This will make it easier to slide the plant from the plant pot or container.
Remove as much soil as possible from the roots by carefully brushing it away. While the roots are exposed, now is a good time to give them a thorough inspection. You’re looking for roots that are firm to the touch and cream or white in color.
Any roots that appear brown or black and are soft and mushy will need to be trimmed away as this is a sure sign of root rot. Always use a sterile and sharp knife or pair of scissors to cut away all traces of the diseased roots.
Whilst it is totally necessary to remove any signs of root rot as soon as you identify it, you should expect the growth rate of your plant to be hindered temporarily whilst it recovers. Your plant should be back to its old self within 4-6 weeks.
When it is time to replant your Monstera adansonii choose a pot or container that is slighter larger than the previous pot and one that has good-sized drainage holes. Clay or terracotta are great at helping to draw moisture away from the soil and will help further with drainage.
Bury the roots of your Monstera plant and just enough of the stem to enable the plant to stand upright. Press the soil around the stem gently but avoid covering it too much.
Always use fresh well-draining potting soil and avoid fertilizing your plant for at least 4 months once you have re-planted it. This is because the fresh soil will contain a healthy dose of nutrients for your plant to absorb.
Bear in mind that your plant may take a few weeks to settle and adapt to a slighter larger environment and the stress of being disrupted but it shouldn’t be too long before new growth begins again.
How To Propagate
There are two effective methods of propagating Monstera adansonii and for either method, you will need a healthy stem cutting.
You can choose to either propagate your stem cutting in water using a propagation station or jar or you can choose to propagate in soil. When propagating in the soil you’ll want to use some good quality rooting hormone.
I have tried both methods and they have worked equally well. I have to say that I enjoy the water method best just because I can see the root growth magic happening right in front of my eyes rather than guessing what is happening below the soil.
Before any of the science happens you first need to carefully select your cutting. For this, you will need to select a healthy-looking stem that has 2 or 3 nodes. Take the stem between your thumb and forefinger and gently hold it away from the main stem. Now using a sterile and sharp knife or pair of scissors, remove the cutting making sure you get as close to the stem as possible to avoid leaving any nobbles.
Propagating in Water
Take your healthy stem cutting and place it in a propagation station or in a jar with clean water that covers the nodes. Place your cutting in a bright position but not in direct sunlight and change the water every 3-5 days.
Be patient while you wait for new roots to appear. This can take 4-6 weeks and often longer. Your cutting will be ready to pot in soil once a network of new roots begins to appear.
It can take longer than you might imagine for new cuttings to root but keeping them moist and warm and being patient will all help.
How to Propagate Monstera in Soil
Once you have your healthy cutting you will need to dip the cut end and the nodes in a good-quality rooting hormone.
Place the cutting in a small pot with drainage holes and fill it with potting soil. Position in a bright spot but not in direct sunlight and keep the soil slightly damp. Keep your cutting warm by covering it with a plastic bag to seal in moisture but remember to remove the bag for a few hours every few days to allow air to circulate.
You’ll then need to be patient and wait for the first signs of new growth to appear above the soil. This should take 4-6 weeks. Once new growth has appeared, you can remove the plastic bag and begin watering as you would for a Monstera adansonii plant.
Common Problems with Monstera adansonii
Like many houseplants, Monstera adansonii can be prone to an infestation of a number of common pests. These include whitefly, mealybugs, and scale. Whilst unsightly and inconvenient these pests are unlikely to be detrimental to the health of your plant provided they are treated promptly.
Firstly, move your plant away from all other plants and check for any signs of infestation on them.
Using a wet cotton tip or cotton pad, gently dab away as much of the infestation as possible.
Use a household insect spray, neem oil, detergent, or soapy water to wash as much of the remaining infestation away. Repeat regularly until all signs of the pesky beasts have subsided.
Make sure you keep your infested plant away from all other plants to avoid further infestation.
Now, here is a run-down of how to identify mealybugs, scale, and whitefly what to look out for on your plants.
Mealybugs are tiny white dots that produce a distinctive cotton-like mass on the plant’s surface. They feed on the plant’s sap by piecing their straw-like mouth into the foliage.
These tiny wingless insects are often a result of the humid and damp conditions in which Monstera adansonii thrive. They hide out in crevices and leaf junctions where water can collect.
Use a damp cotton tip or cotton pad to gently remove as much of the infestation as you can see. Follow this up by using a household insect spray, neem oil, detergent, or soapy water to wash away any remaining infestation.
Repeat regularly until all signs of the infestation have subsided.
Scale is static shell-like parasites that sit on the underside of the leaves and feed on the plant sap. Infestations lead to the plant looking sick and wilted.
Treat scale in the same way as for mealybugs by using a cotton pad to wipe off as much as possible and then washing the remainder away with diluted detergent or soapy water.
These are winged insects with soft bodies and are closely related to mealybugs. These tiny pests are triangular in shape and are found clustered together on the underside of leaves.
They are easily spotted as they tend to be most active during the daytime and disburse quickly when disturbed.
They use their mouthparts to pierce plants and then extract moisture. They are then able to produce a sticky substance known as honeydew. This honeydew will cause fungal diseases to form on the leaves of your plant if unattended.
In time and if left untreated, plants will quickly wilt, turn pale, stop growing, and eventually leaves may shrivel and drop off the plant. Ultimately, your plant may not survive as acting as soon as you spot the first signs.
Treat them by thoroughly spraying all affected areas of your plant with a powerful spray bottle. This helps to blast them off rather than dab them away.
Follow this up by using a household insect spray, neem oil, detergent, or soapy water to wash away any remaining infestation. Repeat until the infestation has cleared.
Monstera adansonii is sensitive to moisture and overwatering. If you find your plant is developing yellow leaves it is most likely due to incorrect watering.
Here’s a photo of one of my Adansonii that I mistakenly overwatered. You can see the leaves turning yellow until they eventually die off and go brown.
Monstera likes a decent watering but once you’ve done that, leave the plant until the soil is almost dry before watering again. Overwatering is by far the most likely reason your plant has yellow leaves.
Root Rot is another common problem for Monstera adansonii. The best method of prevention is to always use well-draining soil, a container or pot with good-sized drainage holes, and to only water your plant when the soil is almost completely dry.
To know for sure if your plant has root rot, you will need to carefully remove it from the pot or planter. Since this can cause stress to your plant you should take extra care when you do this.
The best way to remove your plant from the pot is two days after you last watered it. This will ensure that the roots are softened slightly so that as you lift the plant and soil from the pot it will minimize root damage.
Avoid pulling on the stems of your plant as these can become easily damaged. Instead, tip the pot on its side and loosen the soil around the edges of the pot with your finger. This will make it easier to slide the plant from the pot or container.
Remove as much soil as possible from the roots by carefully brushing it away. Roots that appear brown or black and are soft and mushy will need to be trimmed away using a sterile and sharp knife or pair of scissors.
After repotting using fresh soil, allow your plant a few weeks to recover before resuming a less frequent watering schedule.