Monstera deliciosa is one of the most popular houseplants around the globe.
How long has Monstera deliciosa been grown as a houseplant? Why is it so popular? Where does it grow naturally? How do you care for it? What are the variegated forms of Monstera deliciosa?
Find the answer to these questions and more in today’s post, celebrating one of the most beloved houseplants.
Table of Contents
- Monstera deliciosa’s History in the Wild and as a Houseplant
- What is the difference between Monstera deliciosa and Monstera borsigiana?
- What are the variegated types of Monstera deliciosa?
- How do you care for Monstera deliciosa?
- Related Posts
Monstera deliciosa’s History in the Wild and as a Houseplant
What does the name Monstera deliciosa mean?
Monstera deliciosa means delicious monster!
It earned the name monster (Monstera) because of its ability to develop absolutely huge leaves. In fact, Monstera deliciosa can grow leaves that span up to 3 feet!
It is described as delicious (deliciosa) because Monstera deliciosa grows edible, tasty fruit that many say tastes like a combination of pineapple and banana flavors, two of my favorite fruits! I haven’t had the pleasure of trying it yet, but I would love to someday. 🙂
It’s commonly known as the Swiss cheese plant, the Split-leaf Philodendron (though it should be noted that it is not a Philodendron), Mexican breadfruit, and as its scientific name, Monstera deliciosa.
Where does Monstera deliciosa originate in the wild?
Monstera deliciosa is native to Central America and some parts of South America, growing in the tropical forests.
It can now be found growing outdoors in many tropical areas of the world, sometimes described as an invasive species.
It is a climbing, vining plant that uses huge aerial roots to cling to trees or other shrubs as it makes its way up into the tree canopy.
What is Monstera deliciosa’s growth habit?
Monstera deliciosa starts as a scrambler on the forest floor with heart-shaped leaves and few to none of the characteristic splits or fenestrations/holes. See the picture below for an example of a young plant.
Once it finds something to climb (often a tree), it will begin to grow upward. As it grows higher, the leaves mature into what most of us think of when picturing a Monstera deliciosa.
What does maturation for Monstera deliciosa look like? Its leaves grow bigger and bigger, eventually developing lobes on the leaf margins and fenestrations or holes on either side of its main vein.
These cuts and holes earned it the common name swiss cheese plant.
“Under the best circumstances the leaves are a meter in length with a thick glossy texture and more than a hundred of their characteristic perforations.”AROID PROFILE No. 1: MONSTERA DELICIOSA, MICHAEL MADISON, https://www.aroid.org/aroideana/artpage.php?key=MDAxMDEwNQ==I
Why does Monstera deliciosa have cuts and holes (lobes and fenestrations)?
Scientists have a few ideas about why Monstera deliciosa developed its characteristic lobes and fenestrations, but no definitive conclusions. It is still a debated topic.
Here are the current hypotheses I’ve heard discussed:
Possibility #1: The holes and lobes allow for more water to pass through the leaves to get to the roots of the plant.
Possibility #2: The holes and lobes provide space for winds to pass through, causing less leaf damage.
Possibility #3: The holes and lobes allow for light to pass through between the leaves, sustaining foliage that is tightly packed together.
Possibility #4: The holes and lobes make the leaves look as if someone has already eaten away at the leaf. This might make the leaf appear less desirable to those looking for a snack.
Do you have a theory of your own? Share in the comments below!
What is Monstera deliciosa’s history as a houseplant?
M. deliciosa is part of the incredibly sought-after Aroid family (along with Philodendrons, Anthuriums, and many others) and has been popular for hundreds of years.
Some sources say it was discovered in the 1700s while others say the 1800’s. Either way, this plant has been around and in cultivation for a very, very long time.
The plant is cultivated for mostly ornamental purposes but is also grown for its edible fruit.
Pictured below is a photo of Monstera deliciosa’s flower and then its fruit, attached to the plant.
“Monstera deliciosa produces edible fruit which is yellow when ripe, has a delectable aroma, and has a taste compared to a fruit salad of banana and pineapple. Care must be taken not to eat the fruit until the bluish green outer skin has broken free; this skin contains trichoscleroids and is very irritating to the mouth and throat. The fruits are sold commercially as “ceriman” in Mexico.”Monstera deliciosa, William T. Drysdale, https://www.aroid.org/aroideana/artpage.php?key=MDE0MTQwMg==P
Check out the corncob-looking fruit pictured below!
Monstera deliciosa’s fame in the 1970s is often attributed to Henri Matisse, who was quite fond of Monstera deliciosa and appears in photos with a large plant. Matisse also created several works of art inspired by Monstera deliciosa!
Monstera deliciosa is toxic to people and pets. The only part of the plant that is safe and edible is the mature fruit.
What is the difference between Monstera deliciosa and Monstera borsigiana?
Monstera deliciosa and Monstera borsigiana are two types of Monstera deliciosa that are often found in cultivation. Borsigiana is currently described as a variety of the classic M. deliciosa.
Borsigiana’s origin is unclear currently, so it hasn’t been classified as its own species (despite being commonly called Monstera borsigiana in the houseplant community).
Each can be classified as:
- Monstera deliciosa (or ‘Large Leaf form’)
- Monstera deliciosa var. borsigiana (or ‘Small Leaf Form’).
Monstera deliciosa is the larger plant of the two. It has ruffled petioles where the petiole attaches to the leaf when the leaves are mature. The nodes (or places where roots and shoots emerge) are tightly packed together.
Borsigiana does not grow quite as large and does NOT develop the characteristic ruffles on the leaf petioles in maturity. Borsigiana or ‘Small Leaf Form’ also has larger internodal spacing, creating a plant that is more sprawling in nature.
Both can be found as classic, all-green plants and variegated plants.
Variegated Small Leaf Forms (borsigiana) are much more available than variegated Large Leaf Forms (with the exception of Monstera Thai Constellation, which we will discuss more below).
Here’s a great video that discusses and shows the visual differences between them.
What are the variegated types of Monstera deliciosa?
There are 4 main types of variegated Monstera deliciosa:
- Monstera deliciosa var. borsigiana Albo variegated
- Monstera deliciosa var. borsigiana aurea or Marmorata
- Monstera ‘Thai Constellation’
- Monstera deliciosa var. borsigiana Mint variegated
Monstera deliciosa var. borsigiana Albo variegated
This particular variegated Monstera is arguably the most popular. It is commonly referred to as Monstera Albo.
It has a predictably large price tag due to its extreme popularity. A nice cutting of this plant with a single leaf often sells for several hundred US dollars.
I do not have this plant currently, though I would love to grow one in the future. It is easy to see why people love Monstera albo so much. The stark white variegation against those large, classy Monstera leaves is a winning combination.
I’m hoping that the price will eventually come down as more people own and propagate the plant so it becomes more accessible.
Monstera deliciosa var. borsigiana aurea or Marmorata
Monstera deliciosa var. borsigiana aurea or ‘Marmorata’ is often referred to as Monstera Aurea.
Monstera Aurea is similar in size and growth habit to Monstera Albo, with one major difference: the variegation is a beautiful yellow.
This plant isn’t quite as popular as the Monstera Albo, but still carries with it a high price tag due to lack of availability.
Monstera ‘Thai Constellation’
Monstera ‘Thai Constellation’ is unique to the list of more common variegated Monsteras because it has stable variegation and is derived from the true Monstera deliciosa with large leaves and short internodal spacing.
This particular cultivar, Thai Constellation, is the product of a genetic mutation developed in a lab in Thailand.
Genetic mutation is where all of the cells in the plant are genetically mutated and are very unlikely to revert. The genetic mutation is so stable that these plants can even produce genetically mutated seeds.
Genetically mutated plants often have a splashy appearance across the leaf, which you can see in Monstera Thai Constellation.
The variegation in Thai Constellations is typically a creamy white color or a very pale yellow color.
The other variegated Monsteras are a product of Chimeric variegation, where some cells are genetically able to produce chlorophyll (the green parts of the plant) and other cells lack this ability. This type of variegation is super unstable because there is no way to predict whether either type of cell will continue to proliferate.
That essentially means there are two distinct types of cells and that it is possible for one type to take over the plant.
As a result, chimeric variegation cannot be propagated by seed and must be preserved through cuttings.
Even so, there is no guarantee the plant will remain variegated. It is possible for the green cells to take over and revert the plant to green. It is also possible for the white, mutated cells to take over, creating an even larger problem because the plant cannot live without chlorophyll to photosynthesize.
In both cases, the plant is often cut back to the section before it reverted to white or green to try to maintain variegation. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t.
Monstera deliciosa var. borsigiana Mint variegated
The Mint Monstera is the variegated Monstera that I know the least about. My understanding is that these plants are very similar to Monstera Albos, but instead of having mostly white variegation, they have patches of white variegation with green specks and splashes that give the plant a minty appearance.
I’ve heard people both:
- Defend this particular plant saying that they do believe it is its own cultivar
- Counter that Mint Monsteras are really just Monstera Albos with larger mint sections, and therefore not its own stable cultivar
If anyone has more official information on this plant, I would love to find out more.
Why are variegated Monsteras so popular?
Variegated Monstera deliciosas are incredibly striking because they develop such large leaves with super contrasting variegation.
This makes these plants a huge statement piece, which I believe is the reason they became so popular.
Unfortunately, their extreme popularity has elicited a high price tag, making these plants pretty unobtainable for most of us.
I do hope that one day these plants will be available for a more affordable price. I would love to try growing a Monstera deliciosa var. borsigiana albo variegata (Monstera albo), but it’s way out of my price range currently!
How do you care for Monstera deliciosa?
Monstera deliciosa isn’t tolerant of temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It prefers to stay between 60 and 80 degrees, just like we do.
How much Light to give M. deliciosa
Monstera deliciosa naturally receives sunlight filtered through treetops. The higher it climbs, the more light it receives as it gets closer to the tree canopy or ceiling of the forest.
In our homes, replicating these lighting conditions typically looks like being near a window. If that window receives sunlight all day, then Monstera deliciosa will want to be pulled back a bit or have the light slightly reduced through sheer curtains or blinds.
I have Monsteras growing in north and east windows successfully. I also have Monstera growing under grow lights.
If you want your Monstera deliciosa to develop its characteristic leaf split and holes, it will need a decent amount of light (so low light won’t cut it) and something to climb. 🙂
What kind of pot and potting mix does M. deliciosa prefer
Monstera deliciosa likes an airy mix that provides its roots with proper ventilation while still holding a little moisture.
This usually looks like a houseplant potting mix with lots of perlite added or fancier mixes with equal parts potting mix, perlite, orchid bark, charcoal, etcetera.
If your potting mix is super airy, Monstera deliciosa will do well in a plastic or ceramic pot. If your mix is a bit more water retentive, you may want to use a terra-cotta pot that will help to wick extra moisture from the potting mix so M. deliciosa doesn’t stay wet for too long.
And, very importantly, Monstera deliciosa loves to climb and will develop its mature, fenestrated leaves while climbing. To give it climbing support, use a moss pole, a bamboo stake, or some other type of upright support to help it grow up! Some people even let M. deliciosa’s aerial roots anchor to their walls and climb the wall itself.
How often to Water M. deliciosa
This plant, like many of our common houseplants, likes to dry out completely or nearly dry out before being watered again.
It can stay dry for a short period of time without serious damage, but will not do well if allowed to be dry for long periods of time.
You will notice M. deliciosa’s leaves begin to get dull and a bit floppy when it isn’t receiving enough water. You may also notice that new growth doesn’t develop properly, sometimes partially browning and crisping or dying off completely.
When M. deliciosa is receiving too much water, its leaves will begin to mush and die off. Its potting mix will smell. And it is likely to develop fungus gnats.
How much Fertilizer does M. deliciosa prefer
Monstera deliciosa can be fertilized using a well-balanced houseplant fertilizer. If using a non-organic fertilizer, use a diluted amount (one-half or one-fourth of the recommended amount).
If using organic fertilizer, you don’t need to be as worried about overfertilizing Monstera deliciosa.
I prefer to fertilize every couple of weeks with Espoma Organic’s Indoor Plant Food any time the plant is growing.
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What Pest Issues does M. deliciosa have
Monstera deliciosa does seem to be susceptible to Thrips and Spider mites, especially if it is under-watered. It can also have all of the other common houseplant pests but doesn’t seem to be a target for them.
Are you ready to try a Monstera deliciosa?
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Here’s a direct link to Monstera deliciosa, but be sure to check out the other plants they have. Their selection is huge!