The Monstera Peru or as it is also known, Monstera Karstenianum is one of those extraordinary finds that makes you feel like a houseplant master gardener.
As with many other Monstera species, it has an interesting growing habit as it ages. As the leaves mature, they form open spaces called fenestration.
There’s nothing wrong with the plant. It’s just a way of conserving energy and nutrients as the plant grows larger.
Position Moderate, indirect sunlight
Watering Water thoroughly when soil is dry
Size 3-5 ft tall, potential vine spread 13 ft
Climate 65 °F to 80 °F plus 50 to 70% humidity
Propagate Stem cuttings
Toxicity Poisonous to people, cats, and dogs
Flowers Unlikely to flower as a houseplant
Monstera Karstenianum is just one of a larger family of 45 different species of Monstera and is native to the southern half of South America. The name Monstera implies the massive size these plants grow to in the wild. However, they can be tamed to be a lovely part of your home’s decor. Bringing color and intrigue with large, green leaves that tell tales of adventures in exotic rainforests in their braille-like texture.
The first observation of this alluring climber was in the mid-1800s during an expedition through the Amazon rainforest. Its giant, leathery leaves, trailing up trees in search of light fascinated explorers as they began to document its features, including the location of the finding. According to their maps, they were in the part of the rainforest that extends into Peru. Thus, the name Monstera Peru.
Monstera Peru Care
Thankfully, Monstera Peru is a mostly fuss-free houseplant and you don’t need a Phd in horticulture when tending to it. As you’ll see, the needs of this plant are quite simple and absolutely achievable.
In the wild, this aroid plant thrives in bright, indirect sunlight that beams down through breaks in the rainforest canopy. This can be mimicked in your home by placing it in a north or east-facing window. Its thick leaves can provide protection if exposed to a few hours of direct sunlight but any more may result in leaf burn and dehydration.
This positioning also encourages vines to reach for the sun, stimulating growth and photosynthesis. Its robust design can also help it survive in low light conditions. if you don’t have a north or east-facing window. However, lower light means less photosynthesis and therefore slower growth.
Regardless of the growth rate, your Monstera will appreciate being supported with natural stakes like bamboo or moss poles. I usually save small branches from pruned, garden trees to use for this.
Height & Spread
To the delight of those that spot it in the wild, Monstera Peru can grow to astronomical heights in a nutrient-rich, humid environment like a rainforest. Inside your home, it’s a much more manageable endeavor. To accommodate their rapid growth, however, they do need a considerable amount of space, though to creep and climb.
In the right conditions, these plants can grow to 3-5 feet tall. Even taller if re-potted regularly, with a possible vine reach of 13 feet. In more mature plants, the leaves alone can reach an impressive 12 inches in length.
Watering Monstera Peru
Monsteras like to be watered based on two factors. Moisture absorption and moisture evaporation. Moisture absorption is how fast water is taken in by the plant and the soil’s ability to retain it. Moisture evaporation is dictated by environmental temperature. As these factors change with the seasons, I prefer to check the moisture levels in the soil to guide me into knowing when my Monstera need watering rather than watering on one particular day.
To protect from over-watering and root rot, be sure that the top 1-2 inches of soil is dry before watering. This will ensure the roots are ready to receive moisture to then distribute throughout the plant. Regular misting will also help to maintain that important humid environment.
If you happen to forget to water it for a day or two, no worries. Nature has you covered. This climber has adapted thick, textured leaves specifically for the purpose of retaining water in times of drought. But, if the leaves start to curl, it’s a sure sign that your Monstera needs watering.
The roots of the Monstera Karstenianum, in particular, grow quite shallow. Not reaching very deep into the pot. But, they don’t like soggy roots. So, how do you keep them happy? Use soil with an equal balance of favorable drainage properties, healthy airflow, and the ability to retain water long enough for those short roots to absorb it.
Adding some sustainable materials to your everyday potting mix will serve to support all three. Orchid bark, coco coir, and perlite are some great soil additives to keep your Peruvian climber healthy and thriving.
It’s also a good idea to plant your Monstera in a fairly shallow pot or container. Larger pots will encourage the soil to remain moist for longer and this is not good news for shallow roots that don’t like being soggy.
Typically, all Monstera species that grow in the wild will eventually flower and produce fruit that is said to taste like a “fruit salad”. When grown indoors, where their size is limited, your Monstera Peru will, most likely, not bloom.
Using a slow-release or liquid fertilizer is simply a matter of preference. Both work well, when used as directed.
I’m a big fan of fertilizer spikes just because they are easy to use, mess and odor-free. They also continue to provide nutrients directly into the soil for 2 months.
I like Jobes Houseplant fertilizer spikes because they contain magnesium, which is used by Monstera to form strong stems and leaves.
Some houseplants can’t tolerate high levels of acidity in their soil but the Monstera Peru can actually tolerate some. The goal should be a pH of somewhere between 5 and 7.5. Use a soil Ph test kit if you want to get the levels just right.
You can easily fertilize with your other house plants once a month during the active growing period in the warmer months. Avoid feeding your Monstera during its dormant period (in winter). This can actually harm the plant as it’s metabolic processes, that would otherwise use the feed, are not active during this time.
How to Prune Monstera Peru
Pruning your rare find can accomplish a few things that contribute to the health of your plant and maintain a lovely appearance.
In low light, your plant may get “leggy” as it reaches towards the light. Removal of these stems will help keep a fuller shape. Considering its rapid growth in summer, pruning can keep this in check. The third benefit is actually a result of the previous two. Enzymes within the plant react to the loss of stems by sending an urgent call for new growth to the rest of the plant. New leaves and stems will soon appear where you have pruned.
Remember, pruning to encourage new growth isn’t necessary if the plant is already producing healthy, new foliage. Prune your Monstera only if it gets too leggy, has yellowing leaves or bare stalks that need removal or if it’s simply getting too big.
How to prune is fairly straightforward, too.
- Sterilize your pruning shears with rubbing alcohol. Bacteria on your sheers may infect your plant.
- Cut the longest stems first as these are most likely to yellow the soonest and cut where the plant meets the crown of the roots. Any higher will expose the plant to disease and pests.
- When removing yellow or damaged leaves, cut just above the joint where the next healthy leaf attaches to the stem.
- Water the plant well directly after.
With such rapid growth habits, repotting Monsteras is common practice. Roots growing out from the bottom of the pot or stunted growth could be signs of it needing a change. However, you may not see these signs for a few years after initial potting.
If needed, choose a new pot no bigger than 1-2 inches larger than the previous one. Otherwise, water will drain out through the excess soil without ever reaching the roots. If you find your plant has become root bound, simply make a few vertical cuts in the root ball before replanting. This will encourage new root formation that will spread into the new pot.
Remember to use soil rich in material that will promote ample drainage and most importantly, always wear gloves when transplanting a philodendron. Skin exposure to the plant’s sap can cause skin irritation and rashing.
How To Propagate Monstera Peru
The best way to successfully propagate this plant is by taking stem cuttings. (Hint: When you prune, you can keep the healthy cuttings to make brand new plants.) Just make sure the cutting has at least two nodes along the stem. This is where the new roots will grow from.
Place your cuttings in a propagation station or jar of water, in a sunny spot, and in a couple of weeks, you should see new roots growing from those nodes. You can then pot them and place them in an area with the same light and humidity as your mature plants. Placing a small trellis or a couple of stakes in with your cuttings encourages climbing and strengthens the plant.
Naturally, propagating will be far more successful if done during warmer months when your plant is actively growing. Cuttings taken during the plant’s dormant period may not be strong enough to produce roots or even survive.
Common Problems With Monstera Peru
So, as we’ve seen, as long as your Monstera Peru gets the right amount of water and light and it likes the soil it lives in, it’s going to be happy and so are you!
But, there are a few things to keep an eye out for. One is brown spots on the leaves. This generally happens with inconsistent watering. Yes, your plant will tell you when it needs water but that tends to happen on a fairly consistent basis.
Conversely, over-watering will have similar negative effects like root rot which, just like most plants, will cause it to fail.
Another thing to avoid is compacted soil. Just like us, this beautiful plant likes to breathe. Not only through its leaves but through its roots. Compacted soil will limit airflow through the soil and cause the plant to fail. So, loosely adding elements like orchid bark or coco coir is imperative to your plant’s health and longevity.
For your own health, be aware that any ingestion of this plant can cause allergic reactions in the eyes and throat. If the sap comes in contact with your skin while pruning, it may cause skin irritation or rash. Thus, keeping this plant away from children is strongly advised.
In dogs and cats, this plant can be poisonous and may result in your pet’s inability to breathe or swallow and symptoms can continue for two weeks after ingestion. If any of these scenarios occur, seek medical attention immediately.