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Monstera deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Plant / Hurricane Plant)

About the Monstera / Swiss Cheese Plant

Swiss Cheese Plant at two years oldMonstera deliciosa, the Hurricane or Swiss Cheese Plant are all names for an old fashioned but favorite houseplant for many. Look closely at the Latin name (Monstera deliciosa) and play around with it a little and you get "Delicious Monster".

While it's not at all delicious on the account of its leaves being poisonous, it really is a monster - in size.

There's no getting around the fact, while lovely and incredibly easy to care for, it needs space and will roar for it should you not give enough. This houseplant is not for the window sill or small flat.

The Swiss Cheese Plant will inevitably need support indoors, either by way of a moss stick or some stable nearby structure which you can tie it to. For example, exposed wall pipes or a sturdy floor lamp.

It originates from the tropical rainforests of southern Mexico but adapts and positively thrives in the most untropical places - our homes. If you've the room, want an easy going, striking and interesting green plant to add to your collection or brighten up a stale boring corner of your home, Monstera deliciosa should be on your shortlist.

There's no getting around the fact, while lovely and incredibly easy to care for, it does need space

As it ages the new leaves become Swiss Cheese like, with large cut ribbons or holes in its leaves, a natural adaptation that has been the subject of intense study over the years.

For those who are interested, it's generally believed leaves with large holes like this, have much better resistance to damage from downpours and hurricane's, which in its natural habitat is common place.

In addition the light levels reaching down onto the floor of a tropical rainforest is low and the light that does make it through is dappled. So the leaves with these ribbons have a larger surface area to better capture what little light filters down.

The Swiss Cheese Plant has fantastic looking ripped and ribbon like leaves Photo by 1:1Although it's been around for ages, there are still very few cultivars you can buy. The most common is the original M. deliciosa, but you may find it being incorrectly sold as Philodendron pertusum, or a Split leaf Philodendron especially if the plant you are looking at is very small. Monstera's when young will not have the distinct leaf shapes that a mature specimen will develop, so it's easy to confuse it with a general Philodendron.

There is a variegated cultivar which has white sections on the leaves called M. deliciosa variegata. This is a little harder to care for and grows slower, consequently it's rather hard to get hold of. In addition, unlike a lot of variegated houseplants, on the Swiss Cheese Plant the markings don't tend to make it any more appealing.

This lack of appeal could be because the variegation can be very contrasting and at first glance can make it look like someone has spilled white paint over it. Have a look at Google Images, what do you think of it? Let us know in the comments at the end of the article.

If your space is limited but you really want this houseplant, look out for M. deliciosa borsigiana or mini, which are the slightly more compact varieties.

Monstera deliciosa can be kept small if you've limited space in your home

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Swiss Cheese Plant
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Swiss Cheese Plant Care Guide

Light

Gentle sunlight is fine for the Swiss Cheese Plant, but harsh sun needs to be avoided as it will scorch and possibly yellow the leaves.

On the other side of things, dark gloomy corners need to be avoided too in order to prevent loss of the Swiss Cheese effect in the leaves and the annoying spreading effect that occurs in these conditions.

Watering

Only moderate levels of watering are required here. When you do water make sure you aim to get all of the compost evenly moist, then wait until it has almost dried out before watering again. Monstera deliciosa or the Swiss Cheese Plant makes a wonderful houseplant if you have space

You'll need to wait less time between watering's during the warmer months of the year. Or if the plant has been positioned in a very warm and dry space because all of these things will increase the thirst of your Swiss Cheese Plant.

Humidity

It will take average to high humidity levels well, but will start to suffer if things are very dry for prolonged periods. Find ways that work for you to increase humidity if this is likely to be an issue in the spot you have chosen for it.

Feeding

Feeding is essential if you want new, lush green growth. Use any houseplant feed and use it it at normal strength no more than once a month during periods of active growth. Reduce the amount and frequency of feed if you're finding your plant is becoming a monster and outgrowing its home too fast!

Houseplant Feed for sale on Amazon.com
Houseplant Feed for sale on Amazon.com

Temperature

Visible new growth will show whenever temperatures are regularly at 18°C / 65°F or above.

Although it will survive easily between 10°C / 50°F - 30°C / 86°F try to keep in the middle of this where possible to avoid temperature related problems.

Repotting

A young plant in its first pot will need to be repotted shortly after purchase. As is usual with most houseplants, find a pot which is a bit bigger than the existing one and using new compost pot it up into its new home. Don't feed newly repotted plants for at least three months.

A small warning - think really carefully before you decide to upsize the pot of an established and mature plant. Because - Bigger Pots = A MONSTER Monstera deliciosa. You've been warned!

Propagation

You normally won't want more than one of these in your home for obvious reasons, but if you really want to give it a go or want to take cuttings for friends, you can remove the growing tips from stems just below an aerial root node.

Once you've done this plant the cutting (including the aerial root node) in a similar compost mix to what the parent was growing in and maintain similar conditions until established, before moving on to its new home.

Speed of Growth

When the plant is in active growth (depending on temperature this is usually, during the Spring and Summer months) it puts out quite a few new shoots and leaves, especially if properly fed and watered with good light levels.

Height / Spread

With time comes a humongous beast. Up to 20m / 65ft high and the leaves can often reach between 25–90cm / 9-35 inches both in width and length.

Flowers

Monstera deliciosa has very large flowers, although it's uncommon for it to bloom indoorsThe Swiss Cheese Plant belongs to the arum family, so the flowers it produces is typical in appearance to the many other plants within this family i.e. pretty unremarkable as flowers go.

Unremarkable, except for two points. Firstly if fruits are produced on your Monstera (rare indoors) you can eat them once ripe! Do some research first though, as eating the fruit before it's fully ripe isn't good for you. What does it taste like you ask? Well it's supposed to be a (delicious) cross between banana and pineapple mixed with hints of various other tropical fruits.

Secondly a large Monstera will produce a proportionally large flower which can be a fun talking point if not something overly pretty to look at.

Is the Swiss Cheese Plant Poisonous?

Monstera leaves and roots are toxic to people, cats and dogs. This is a result of the calcium oxalates found in the plants sap. Fortunately the purpose of calcium oxalates is to make the plant taste unpleasant to stop people or animals from eating it, so most of the side effects of eating Monstera are superficial at worst, such as a sore mouth, lips or tongue.

Anything Else?

The Swiss Cheese Plant looks fantastic with shiny, polished leaves. Make sure you clean it regularly to keep this attractive look.



Caring for a Monstera Plant Summary

  1. Average Light Levels An adaptable houseplant that will do well in moderately lit spaces.

  2. Moderate Watering Water well and then wait until the soil is almost dry before watering again.

  3. Temperature Average room temperatures are fine.

  4. Feeding Feed once a month.


Swiss Cheese Plant Problems

Leaves and stems growing into dark places

This is often a confusing thing to see, as almost all plants will grow towards the light, not away from it. However if light levels are quite low the young leaves and shoots on Swiss Cheese Plant's will often grow towards even darker areas, which is known as negative phototropism.

Basically they're seeking the really dark spots because out in the wild of the tropical rainforest this is where the tall trees are standing. Once reached the shoots will clamber up them to get to the top of the open and much brighter canopy (clever no?).

In our homes the dark spots are obviously going to stay dark. So if the creeping and spreading is really bad, either fold them back into the main stem, remove these shoots completely or consider a brighter spot for the plant in general.

Dripping / Crying leaves (guttation)

After it has been well watered, you may find water droplets have formed and collected at the leaf tips. This is know scientifically as guttation and is typically harmless. If the plant is very large with many leaves it may get a bit messy. It's caused by a lot of water being available around the roots so the cure for this is to ease up a little on the watering.

Yellowing lower leaves

In 80% of cases this is caused by it either being too cold, too much watering or a combination of both. Keep above the minimum recommended temperature and reduce the amount of water you give, or wait longer before giving it some more. In the other 20% of cases, the yellowing leaves are just the natural shedding of old leaves and is nothing to worry about.

Yellowing leaves elsewhere

If the yellow appears in random patches the culprit is likely harsh sunlight. Another possibility is if the yellow is appearing with brown spots then it could be underwatering.

The final most likely cause of yellow leaves is underfeeding. Small pots with no fertiliser, while restricting the growth, will eventually cause the Swiss Cheese Plant to suffer. If you don't want to (or can't) repot your plant, then feed sparingly every couple of months and you should start to see an improvement.

Aerial roots

The aerial roots of Monstera can be tucked into the soil, or a supporting moss stickIn general the only beautiful roots you find on houseplants that you actually want to see, are those of the Moth Orchid. So having brown creeping roots appearing higher up on Monstera stems might not be your cup of tea.

In the wild they function to help anchor the long weak stem to nearby structures such as trees and provide additional access to water and nutrients. Indoors, under your careful care and attention, this isn't such a big issue so you have three choices:

  • One you can leave them as they are.
  • Two you can cut them off.
  • Three you can try to guide and tuck them into either the soil if they're long enough, or into a moss stick.

Of the options, number three is probably the best for the plants health. However the Swiss Cheese Plant is robust and removing the aerial roots is unlikely to do long term harm.

My Monstera is too big!

Yes it does that I'm afraid! Pruning doesn't really give a neat and tidy look, so the only real solution is to restrict it's growth by only feeding sparingly and keeping it in a smallish pot. Keep the roots restricted and you will limit the amount of green leaf growth.

No holes in my Swiss Cheese Plant

The leaves of young plants or on very new stems are usually uncut with little or no perforation. The cut effect will come with age. If you have a mature Swiss Cheese Plant then the most common cause is too little light and possibly underfeeding. You may also not have a genuine Monstera and perhaps been sold / given a Philodendron, which looks very similar when young.

Brown leaf edges / Papery tips

Brown tips can be a sign of overwatering, but if this is indicated you'll get yellow leaves too.

If the brown effect appears on its own then it's almost certainly caused by very dry air, cut the dead brown bits off and increase humidity to prevent further damage. Check your choice of placement too, for example. if it's next to a radiator think about moving it while the radiator is in use over Winter.


Also on Ourhouseplants.com

Credit for the ripped leaved Monstera deliciosa close up - Article / Gallery - 1:1


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