The Monstera, also called window leaf, originates from the forests of Central and South America. In its tropical homeland, the leaf-jewelry-plant winds itself lianenartig at tree-trunks up as far as into the crowns of the jungle-giants. The most widespread species is the Monstera deliciosa. The houseplant has been in vogue again for some years now. Monstera prints adorn furnishings and posters. They can be found in fashion and single Monstera leaves are staged as stylish vase jewellery. The large-leaved plant with its conspicuously slit leaves attracts all eyes. Not least the easy-care handling has contributed to their popularity.
There are between 20 and 50 species of the genus Monstera, which differ in leaves and growth. While some have deep pinnately lobed leaves, others are less strongly perforated and form no or only a few aerial roots.
The window leaf grows upright and can grow up to three meters high. The climber forms long fleshy shoots that are not stable, but can anchor to other plants or crevices with their long aerial roots and petioles. In its tropical homeland, this special climbing strategy enables it to use the smallest humus deposits in branch forks as a source of nutrients, because as soon as the aerial roots encounter moist humus soil, they transform into normal roots.
The monster leaves are shield-shaped, up to 50 centimeters long and initially light green, heart-shaped and with entire margins, but over time they turn a shiny dark green. In addition, the characteristic window-like openings form in the leaf surfaces, making the leathery foliage appear pinnate. This makes the Monstera a decorative and impressive indoor plant. Why the plant forms these special leaves has not yet been clarified. An attempt to explain this means that the larger and slit leaves improve light absorption in shady locations. The leaf stems of the Monstera are strikingly long and strong. They are very firmly attached to the stem and are often strongly angled downwards. This allows the window leaf to anchor itself to the branches of other plants.
Older specimens of the Monstera sometimes form a typical maple stick (Araceae) pistil surrounded by a large white bracted leaf, which later forms violet berries. These are in principle edible, but contain calcium oxalate needles that irritate the pharyngeal mucosa.
Location and substrate
The Monstera takes up a lot of space and is best planted in a larger tub. It prefers a bright and warm (not full sunny!) as well as relatively humid location in a nutrient-rich substrate. Although it also tolerates semi-shady and shady locations, the leaves do not develop particularly well. They become very beautiful when the light comes from several sides. Especially the morning and evening sun is given to the plant, which can also be placed outside in a half-sun place in the summer. The room temperature should be around 21 degrees in spring and summer. In winter it can be maintained at lower temperatures between 16 and 18 degrees.
Water the Monstera regularly, but not too much. The plant tolerates dryness better than too much water. Waterlogging must therefore be avoided in any case. Well you get already stale water or a warm summer rain at your summer location in the garden. Spray your Monstera occasionally with room-warm rainwater or distilled water. Our tip for the holiday: If you cannot water the houseplant for some time, hang the aerial roots in a glass filled with water. This ensures a sufficient supply of liquids even during your absence. From November to March you should water the Monstera more sparingly.
Fertilize the Monstera every 14 days from April to August with liquid green plant fertilizer in half dosage.
Younger window leaves should be re-potted every year, as they grow in size very quickly. Choose a larger vessel so that the fast-growing monstera has enough space to develop further. For older plants, it is sufficient to exchange the upper three centimeters of soil for fresh substrate in spring.
Wipe the leaves occasionally with a damp cloth to remove dust deposits. This is particularly important towards the end of the heating period. Take care not to injure the aerial roots during plant care and do not cut them off under any circumstances. They can simply divert annoying aerial roots into the pot substrate, where they then root in quickly. If your monstera gets too big, you can cut the fleshy stems with scissors at any time. The plant sprouts again from the leaf axils at the stem end after some time.
The most widespread variety is the ‘Borsigiana’, whose leaves are not quite as large, but rather narrow and often less open. A variety with variegated leaves is ‘Variegata’. It grows relatively slowly, is slightly more sensitive and needs a lot more warmth. It should not be too dark, otherwise the leaves will turn slightly green. If it forms shoots with exclusively green leaves, you should cut them off early.
They can reproduce the Monstera in summer via head and stem cuttings. They reliably form their own roots in a water container at about 25 degrees Celsius. Cut the cuttings so that they have as many aerial roots as possible. It is also possible to moss the shoots, in a similar way to propagating the rubber tree: simply cut off an aerial root and wrap the shoot section all around in a mixture of moist moss and potting soil, which you wrap firmly with cling film to protect it from drying out. If fine rootlets are visible under the foil, you can simply cut off the shoot segment and plant it.
Diseases and pests
The Monstera is an easy-care and robust houseplant that is only rarely attacked by diseases. Occasionally scale insects and spider mites appear. Brown leaf margins and cracks indicate a too cool and wet posture. Yellow leaves are also a sign that the root ball is too wet. If the leaves are not divided, the plant is probably too dark or there is a lack of nutrients.
Whether potted plants such as oleanders or indoor plants such as orchids: The scale insect infests the most diverse plants. René Wadas, a herbalist, will give you his tips on pest prevention and control: Production: Folkert Siemens; Camera: Fabian Primsch; Editing: Dennis Fuhro; Photo: Flora Press/Thomas Lohrer
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I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.