In October, I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a Monstera deliciosa albo top cut for $250 on Etsy.
He’s not much and is this the most I ever spent on two leaves? You bet.
First off, I waited for a really long time to buy a variegated Monstera. Shelling out $600 for a shipped plant in October was just not smart and really not necessary since I have so many other plants that I love. Also, and no matter how much I wanted to shell out $600, my thought before hitting “buy” was always, “but what if it dies?” Then I would grimace and the sad, defeated Charlie Brown music would play as I closed my laptop.
Buying rare plants, especially variegated ones like Monstera albos or variegated Philodendrons, are a bit of a gamble when they have to be shipped to you. Plus I live in NY and October weather-wise is a bit of a gamble. Why did I do this again?
Anyway, I searched high and low for months with a budget of $250 and wanting a top cut only. Why a top cut? I’ll explain later. Finally I found this seller on etsy and he was nice, accommodating, and understood my concerns. Finally a two-leaf baby Monstera arrived to my house – after I had been repeatedly panicking because it was stuck in a cold Pennsylvania warehouse for five extra days – healthy. Why did I do this again?
Being part of the plant community since 2018 at this point, I’m well aware that my experience, panic and hesitation is not unique. I know that, like me, many of you are salivating at the thought of owning one of these plants, but don’t know if these single or double-leaf cuttings are worth it or or likely to survive. Should I start a support group?
Actually this is the support group. This post. This is all about rooting and caring for that Monstera chunk you bought – whether an albo/thai Monstera or Philodendron. And yes it’s supposed to give you “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” vibes.
Raising a Monstera albo Cutting, Week by Week
I’ve documented my Monstera albo’s first day home to three months later, and all the bumps along the way. I should probably stop making baby jokes – I don’t even have kids. Speaking of which I named him Marvin.
Week 1 – Unpacking the Monstera Albo:
Marvin arrives on October 20th. Once I stop freaking out that I am the proud owner of a monstera albo, I unpack him and check his roots, leaves, and stem. He arrives bubble-wrapped in a box with a wet paper towel keeping the roots moist. He looks so amazing and I begin to cry.
I strategically bought a top cut. If you don’t know what a top cut is, it’s literally the top-most part of the plant, the section with the newest leaves. A top cut is one of the “better cuts” but any cut on a Monstera will work as they just push out new growth near the aerial root.
I noticed he had a new leaf about to unfurl which may seem exciting but I knew it wasn’t going to unfurl. Because he was sent to me (and, remember, stuck in Pennsylvania) he was VERY stressed out. Eventually I figured this new leaf would dry up or get stuck. I was correct, one of those things happened, but more on that later,
Following my propagation techniques, I stuck him in water, in a hefty glass jar. He’s living on one of my carts in front of a giant sliding glass door. He’ll get about 6+ hours of strong indirect light each day.
Week 2: Roots are A’comin:
After a week of being a helicopter parent, roots began a’poppin. They’re so smol, so cute. But more importantly, they’re HAPPENING. Talk about relief. I did nothing but monitor him this week, didn’t change water, nothing, just watched him like a hawk.
Week 3 + 4 – Marvin Giveth Thy Roots
Those smol white roots began branching in week three and four. I added water as needed, just topping off the jar. I did mix in a tad bit of aquarium water from my fishtank (you can use the tiniest bit of fertilizer too if you, like, don’t have fish). Since roots were growing so rapidly I wanted to give him a Flintstone vitamin (not really, please don’t do that).
Remember that leaf that was supposed to unfurl? It still hasn’t, but I’m leafing it alone. Get it? I’ll see myself out….
Week 5 – Upgrade Time:
Marvin needed a bigger jar and a bigger jar he received. He moved from a curry sauce jar to an actual ball mason jar with a larger opening.
Week 6 + 7 – Free the Leaf
Still remember that stuck leaf? Nothing was happening and it was starting to dry up and looking sketchy.
I took a huge risk by taking a sterilized sharp facto knife and slit the leaf skin that was keeping that leaf in. Marvin was putting energy into keeping this unfurled leaf going so I had to intervene. And this is what happened a week later:
See that tiny nub? That’s a new aerial root! You can still see the “leaf” in the stem to the left but I know it will dry up at this point. Marvin will start putting his energy towards making new leaves now.
Week 8 + 9 + 10 – I Was Right
Now, if you haven’t read my Monstera propagation post, you need to, because week eight is when everything changed. That tiny aerial root bursted with growth and he even pushed out another because he is now putting out a new LEAF. A leaf you guys, a leaf. Here’s what we’re looking at at week 10+.
Now, Marvin arrived with a single dark aerial root, which is the aerial root that will ultimately become the mother root. And this is typical on a Monstera cutting. Basically, it is what the smaller white roots grow from. But now that more nodes are appearing/growing, this shows stronger, more secure root development. In other words, it’s almost time to plant. You can see how I “freed” the leaf better in the photo below. That papery skin on the right was where it was trapped.
Now, just a disclaimer, normally Monsteras do not need help, but since I’ve cared for Monsteras for years now, I knew the signs. Don’t go “freeing” your Monstera’s leaves to get them to come out quicker, that will not work in your favor and your Monstera will be sad. Let them do their thing, honey.
When it’s Time to Plant Your Monstera albo cutting:
Here’s the big question it seems no one answers. No matter how many videos I watch on IG or Youtube, I’m aware that a decent answer to this only exists in a few places. It’s just such an imperative question and one that can either put your Monstera cutting into growth mode or death mode.
Generally, I say when the roots are at least 6″ BUT, and a huge but here, Monstera albos are different. Actually most variegated leafy plants are because they are generally just more fragile. For one, they grow slower. And they are so beautiful yet cause so much misunderstanding like the unicorns they are.
So I’m telling you, when you think it’s time to plant your cutting, don’t yet. Wait another month in water in a warm place. Just wait. As Nike says, just do it. Why? Because from the thousands of Monstera-related messages I’ve gotten over the years, many ask “can I plant” and my answer 90% of the time is not yet. They are always glad they waited. So, just be patient.
You don’t want your cutting to be water forever but know that planting it causes it more stress, so making sure the roots are ready is the best way to combat this. Marvin’s roots look like this today (it’s January 2022) and I’m going to wait until February to plant him. Coincidently I’ll probably write a blog post about it too, so stay tuned.
I want to hear from you too though – what else would you like to know about raising expensive plant cuttings? Do you need more info on a what I did in a certain week? I want any and all of your feedback in the comments. Thanks for reading and I hope you learned something!