Monstera Deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Plant): A Beginner's Care Guide

Basic Witch

I don't care what people say about how a beginner should start with succulents.

SUCCULENTS ARE SMALL AND BORING.

Suppose you are really looking for a house plant that can elegantly fill your home's negative space. In that case, an aroid is what you should consider.

Aroid, an arum family plant, has taken over the social media trend in recent years. They tend to be lush, with many variegations, and bring a tropical motif to your home. Monstera deliciosa is a relatively common kind of aroid that has been populating the U.S. market for years. And it is an excellent aroid for beginners.

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Monstera deliciosa. (Photo by Chris Lee on Unsplash)

Trust me when I tell you this, with the right amount of research and some simple steps, a Monstera is pretty easy to take care of.

But before we start, here are some facts for anyone who's interested in Monstera's origin:

Monstera deliciosa is native to the tropical forests of southern Mexico. In the wild, it can grow up to 66 ft high, with large heart-shaped leaves. However, when grown indoors, it gets to 6.6 - 9.8 ft tall at most.

The Monsteras we get in stores usually are baby plants or adult plants ranging from 10" - 20".

I got my first Monstera as a beginner plant parent. I put it in a spot with good lighting, and did nothing but water it regularly. Within a year, it grew like the "monster" it is named after.

As easy as it may sound, there are some intricacies involved in its plant care. You can really take these care tips and apply them to almost all the plants within the aroid family.

1.Healthy roots!

Rather than a care tip, this is more of a preventative measure to set yourself up for success.

Check the root system upon getting (or even before buying) your Monstera.

(You can skip this step if your Monstera is too big to handle! )

Gently pull the plant out of its nursery/plastic pot (wiggling the plant while squeezing the plastic pot helps!).

Check the root system once you pull the plant out, and look for any signs of root rot.

If the roots are looking kind of 'rotty', you need to consider repotting the Monstera and maybe contacting the store you bought it from. If not, good. Put it back into the pot and move onto the next step.

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A plant with rotted roots. (Photo by Plantophiles.com)
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My Monstera's healthy roots. (Photo taken on iPhone 12 Pro)

2. Lighting

Medium to bright indirect lighting.

A lot of care tip websites give out vague instructions like that. But what does it mean?

Indirect lighting is pretty easy to understand. It means that sunlight should not directly fall on the foliage of your Monstera. Too much direct sunlight might burn the leaves of your Monstera, resulting in brown, crispy spots.

Typically, morning sun or late afternoon sun won't be harmful as much.

Medium to bright lighting might be harder to gauge. But you can pay attention to how the plant reacts to the lighting condition and adjust from there.

If under-lit, the leaves will gravitate towards the light source. The stem might grow longer (leggy), resulting in a less bushy appearance because of not enough lighting.

If there is too much light, like I said, crispy brown spots.

It is usually ideal to place your Monstera near an east-facing window or under similar lighting conditions.

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Nice morning light through an east-facing window. (Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash)

3. Watering

When to water?

Monstera does not like to sit in wet soil between watering. So it is better to water only when the top 1 inch of the soil feels dry. An easy way to gauge is to stick a finger in the soil to the first knuckle. If it feels completely dry, you can give the plant a good drink.

For someone who isn't confident in gauging the plant's humidity level, a humidity meter also helps a lot.

How to water?

When watering, make sure you completely drench the soil, and the water flows out from the drainage hole. It is important to empty the tray underneath the pot to prevent root rot.

Tap water or filtered water?

Depending on the area you live in, tap water might be completely fine when used to water your Monstera. But pay attention to the leaves. If the tips are turning brown, it might mean that the tap water's chlorine is harming your plant.

If that is the case, consider switching to filtered water.

For beginners…

The most important thing for watering Monstera is to avoid over-watering. It is always easier to revive a plant from a drought than to treat root rot.

Monstera is not a super dramatic plant when over or under watered. But the symptoms are pretty universal:

An under-watered Monstera might have droopy leaves or develop yellow/brown spots. A good drench should fix that.

An over-watered monstera, however, might also have yellow, but mushy leaves. And when you cannot precisely diagnose the cause. It is always easier to pull the plant out of the pot and check the roots. If they are turning black, you have root rot.

4. Misting

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(Photo by Severin Candrian on Unsplash)

If your area's climate resembles that of a tropical forest in southern Mexico (warm with a lot of humidity), misting your Monstera shouldn't be on your mind. But if you live somewhere like LA like me, your Monstera won't say no to a humidifier nearby.

However, I would say that it may not be necessary. My Monstera is thriving with no humidifier or regular misting under the dry climate of southern California. But, it is always best to judge for yourself whether your plant looks happy.

It also helps if you mist and wipe the dust off the foliage regularly, so the Monstera can be more productive at its photosynthesis.

5. Feeding/fertilizing

Honestly, Monstera is a pretty fast growing plant when put under the right condition. For beginners, I wouldn't suggest you worry about feeding it with plant food within the first year of getting it unless it has been pre-owned and has been in the same pot for more than a year.

If you have to feed the Monstera, it is always best to use really diluted plant food on the first try so that there is a lesser risk of burning the roots.

For my next article, I will continue to talk more in-depth about Monstera's propagation method. Stay tuned and water your plant!

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