Plant Portrait: Monstera Deliciosa
One of the best parts of the IG plant community? #Monsteramonday, featuring the lush and exotic Monstera deliciosa.
Out of all the social media platforms, Instagram is the best for plant lovers. Once Leaf & Paw was born I was excited to create its own account.
First off, every Monday is #monsteramonday. IGers present luxurious photos of these giant Jurassic Park plants that I had never seen before (in 2017…). Maybe it’s just NY, but Monstera deliciosa, also called the Swiss Cheese Plant, was not a common one. After seeing photo upon photo of green deliciousness (get it? like “deliciosa”), I had to have one of these. Since they were scarce in NY, I was shocked, SHOCKED that weeks later I saw one, ONE in Wegmans for $15. Now that I have one of these monsters (get it? like “monstera”) it has ultimately become my favorite plant child. His name is Monty.
Once Leaf & Paw (and Monty) became active in #monsteramondays, I was surprised to receive a message asking why I own a toxic houseplant in a house of cats, despite my blog being all about safe plants for pets. Makes sense, so I’ll clear the air.
Are Monsteras Safe for Pets?
Monstera is a genus – a vast plant group that includes other types of Monsteras too. They’re very similar to the Philodendron genus which includes the heart shaped philodendron (above) and the elephant ear plant (below), BUT Monsteras are not related to Philodendrons. Confusion continues to arise since a common name for Monstera deliciosa is “Split Leaf Philodendron” which is, well, botanically incorrect.
Part of the Araceae family, Monsteras are considered toxic, but less than its siblings, the Calla Lily and Dieffenbachia. These two plants are more poisonous in general on the toxic scale, so I recommend avoiding them. Monsteras are only toxic in excess, causing stinging around the mouth and stomach upset if consumed consistently.
In my Ficus Elastica post, I came across this similar situation – I have quite a few plants that are toxic to animals and I’ll explain why I do. The main reason is leaf size. My cats, and it seems cats in general, fancy stringy, grass-like leaves that are easily chewable – like palms and spider plants. I have never had a problem with cats or dogs chewing, or even showing interest in large leaf plants, since they seem more like furniture than a salad. Monstera deliciosa are no exception with its plasticky leaves’ average size being 10″ in diameter. Honestly, leaf size is the key. So, to those wondering if it is ok to get one of these beauties, I say yes, as long as your pets aren’t destructive-consuming-plant-vacuums. In the end, you are the only one who knows your pet.
Monsteras are easy to take care of. Plant them in well draining, high quality soil, with plenty of perlite and rocks. The soil mix should stay relatively moist in all seasons, and you should only water when the top 1/2 of the soil is dry. I water Monty once a week and he lives in a east window with indirect light all day long.
Speaking of light – Monsteras aren’t too picky, but, like all plants, they will do their best in filtered light and ample humidity. Monty was in his plastic pot for a good six months and was just peachy. The photo below is when I first got him (plastic brontosaurus for scale), and the first picture in this post is his size eight months later. Sniff, I’m so proud.
I consider Monstera deliciosa to be a pretty hardy plant, and oddly tolerant of being shoved in a home instead of a jungle. Sometimes, though, Monsteras can be affected by bugs and less-than-ideal conditions, so here are some common things to look for:
Yellow leaves: Monstera leaves turn yellow as they age, which is normal. What is not normal is a young Monstera with lots of yellow leaves, that means there’s a problem with watering. Overwatering or chronic sopping wet soil will result in leaves that yellow then turn brown. This is an indication to revisit your watering schedule or plant placement and invest in a moisture meter.
Metallic looking leaves: Spider mites can attack Monsteras, leaving the leaves with a slight metallic sheen and pitted appearance. You may also find tiny red bugs moving around and some webbing between stems. Spider mites are really gross and can spread to your other plants if not addressed. I recommend hosing the plant down completely and treating with an insecticide asap.
Fungus gnats: Soggy soil can create root rot or cause fungus gnats, which are small annoying bugs like fruit flies. These sticky traps work great, but you’ll want to replant your Monstera in fresh soil. While you’re doing that, inspect for mushy or black roots (which you should remove if you find any), which can indicate root rot.
Brown edges on leaves: Don’t be alarmed, brown tips on Monstera leaves is actually ok. While it means your plant could use more humidity, it also happens inevitably as a Monstera ages. At the end of the day, a humidifier running a few days a week can’t hurt.
Propagating Your Monstera
Well, a year later (now February 2018), I’ve propagated Monty! Below is the new cutting. This was a very fun and rewarding experience that I talk all about in this post. I include a step-by-step guide and lots of pretty pictures so you can grow your Monstera collection, too.
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