Gardening

So You Finally Got a Monstera—Here’s How To Keep It Happy

Plant guru Hilton Carter on the transformative powers of the monstera—and how to keep yours flourishing.

July 15, 2021
Photo by Hilton Carter

I came across a truly magnificent Monstera deliciosa, aka Swiss cheese plant, a while ago. It was almost as tall as I was, and so big that I wasn’t sure if it would even fit in the back of my car. The kicker? It cost only $90. That's still a lot of money, but c'mon, how often do you find a 5-foot monstera for under $100?!

I hemmed and hawed and did a few laps around the store trying to decide whether I should take the plant home with me. I ultimately walked away—slowly, looking back often—because I didn’t know how I’d get it into my car (let alone my apartment) without help. To no one's surprise, when I returned with my boyfriend in tow a few days later, it was gone.

I tell that story because I've learned two important things as a plant parent: Always buy the monstera (which I learned the hard way), and make sure you're taking care of it well—which I learned the easy way, from plant stylist and author of Wild at Home, Hilton Carter, who owns several flourishing monsteras himself (among many other plants).

So, What is a Monstera?

Monsteras have been the darling of the Instagram plant world for several years now, finding a home on every plant lover’s wishlist—including mine. “What’s great about the monstera is how quickly it can transform a space, making it feel more alive and tropical,” says Carter, who recently collaborated with Target on a collection of faux and real plants, plus accessories. “With its large leaves, holes, and splits, it’s an instant eye-grabber.”

How to care for a Monstera

Because they’re native to tropical areas, Carter explains monsteras do best in bright, indirect sunlight, so place it in a room that gets plenty of natural light throughout the day, but not right in front of the window. “The more light a monstera gets, the larger the leaves grow, causing more holes and splits," said Carter, referring to the fenestrations (a fancy term for holes in the leaves). "The leaves of the monstera open up to allow light to shine through its upper leaves so that its lower leaves can bask in the light, as well.”

Try not to let the temperature drop below 60°F, and if the room is particularly dry because you’re running the heat or AC, give your plant its own humidifier or mist it a few times a week.

Finally, if you want your Swiss cheese baby to not just survive but thrive, you can give it something to climb on, whether it’s a stake, trellis, or moss pole. Aim to repot it every couple years or so, and keep it away from any pets, as its foliage can make them sick.

Photo by The Sill

When Should I Water My Monstera?

There's no set rule for watering, but you should let your monstera dry out between waterings: “Only water when the top half of the soil is completely dry,” recommends Carter. He also suggests keeping your Swiss cheese plant in a porous pot (like ones made from terra-cotta) to allow extra moisture to evaporate, avoiding root rot.

Monstera not looking so hot? If the leaves turn yellow or the stems turn black, chances are your plant is getting too much water, and if the leaves curl or wilt, chances are it’s not getting enough. Most monsteras will need more water in the summer, and you can also give them fertilizer during this time to encourage growth.

Photo by Amazon

What's The Difference Between Monstera deliciosa and Monstera adansonii?

The Monstera adansonii, a cousin of the deliciosa, also has delightfully hole-y leaves and is also referred to by some as a Swiss cheese plant, but the holes don't reach the edges of the leaves. This type of monstera is typically a smaller vining plant which can hang loose or be trained to climb along walls, bookshelves, or trellises. Frankly, of all the monsteras out there, I think this one most closely resembles the beloved sandwich topping.

Photo by Terrain

How to Propagate Monsteras

If your friends are begging you to share your Swiss cheese plant with them, the good news is that it’s easy to propagate. I used to be scared of propagation, but now I do it all the time. My best advice is to just accept that it might not work and try anyway!

Carter explains that all you have to do is cut off a leaf and stem just after a node, then pop it a glass jar or propagation station with some lukewarm water. Within a few weeks, it should sprout roots, and once they look thick and healthy, you can move it into soil.

Photo by Anthropologie

This post was updated in July 2021 with more monstera maintenance tips because we still can't get enough of the plant!

Are you as much of a monstera fan as we are? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Rosemary Zamecnik
    Rosemary Zamecnik
  • Tonie
    Tonie
Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.

2 Comments

Rosemary Z. July 22, 2021
I took a Monstera Plant from my Mom's home after she died. By the end of the first year, it was huge. I had placed it on a pedestal in my plant room. It got these long snake like things that grew so long I kind of named it after the plant in the Little Shop of Horrors movie. It got so large (6 feet around) that it took up the whole back part of that room and I eventually had to get rid of it. Had to toss it into our ravine. I felt sad, but it just took over the entire plant room! I still have the columnar cactus plant that I also rescued from my Mom's house. She had it for over 25 years and it never grew beyond 8 inches. It has now reached the ceiling twice in my plant room and I started two more plants with part of the plant that I had to cut back. I must have a green thumb!
 
Tonie September 19, 2020
Monstera are wonderful plants! Being a plant person I was gifted one for Christmas one year; she grew so lush and huge one fall about six years later I had to find a good home for her. She was too large to get back in my home!!