Avoiding Leaf Burn and Browning on Thai Constellation and Albo

Written ByJen Greene

Posted: September 30, 2023

I recently saw a friend post to Facebook asking about how to prevent the white parts of her variegated monsteras from browning as fast as they had been – which led me to examine my own plants, and consider how long it typically takes me to see real browning or crisping. The white parts of those leaves will always brown before the rest of the leaf does, but when I thought about my plants, I realized the white patches on mine rarely looked browned until I saw other signs of leaf damage. 

So if you’d like to avoid browning and crisping in your own white leaves, learn from my mistakes (and successes)! 

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Number one way to crisp white leaves: Sun scorch

I am admittedly an absent-minded grower, and never (I mean never) remember to cover my monsteras with shade cloth when we start to get our first hot days of the spring or summer. 

At left, you can see the sun bleaching on the green parts of the leaves, and the beginning of the dreaded crisping on the white patch of that leaf. This was entirely due to the rapid onset of this year’s summer after a long, cloudy spring – very unusual for our area, but gave my monsteras a long, gentle spring to make new leaves. 

Too much sun is obvious, but it’s important to note that in my case, I see these scorching events at the turn of the season or when it’s suddenly much hotter than it was before. Much like my cacti and succulents, when it’s hot, the monsteras are also less tolerant of intense sunlight. Sudden changes from cloudy spring weather to hot, bright, and sunny summer-temperature days? Guaranteed to be a scorch risk.

How do you counter this?

If you’re like me, and keeping your monsteras outdoors when the nights are above freezing, then as the weather changes – cover them with shade cloth! Pay close attention to water and soil needs, and keep them well-watered as they wake up in spring.

Sudden jumps in temperatures, particularly to the 90s and 100s, are the riskiest times for your outdoor monsteras. Investing in some shade cloth, even just the cheap 40% cloth you can easily find on Amazon, is the best insurance against scorch in my experience.

Number two reason for white leaf crisping: inadequate water

Again, speaking from the perspective of “enormously forgetful and negligent grower”, I see crispy white patches when I start to get forgetful about watering regularly later in the summer months. 

I note that it’s particularly lack of water, not the heat, because when I do manage to stick to a consistent watering routine, the white patches stay white. 

Above, you see my Thai constellation with the slowly crisping, browning white parts of the leaf that become typical for me late in summer. I see this pop up when I get forgetful, and the soil dries out and stays dry for longer than most people would be comfortable with. 

I’ve let my outdoor monsteras get dry for long enough that I start to see drooping or that slight sign of “hmm, you don’t look happy”, which can be as short as one week or nearly a month without water, depending on weather. 

The main takeaway here? 

If you want beautiful white patches for as long as possible, ensure your plants have adequate water consistently. 

This is very closely related to point number 3…

#3: Prevent white leaf crisping with proper soil

A bit of a “well, duh” comment, but your soil has a huge role to play in keeping your leaves from crisping too quickly. If the soil doesn’t drain quickly enough, the soggy soil will crisp your white leaves even faster than underwatering your monstera.

I don’t have photos of this, funny enough – I’ve seen it enough in indoor plants kept by friends, or in my variegated Alocasias. At right is my Thai Constellation outdoors after 6 cool months. Notice no crispy white patches! 

monstera thai constellation

Well-draining soil that keeps roots from staying soggy for prolonged periods is a huge help in keeping leaves looking pristine. Again, stating the obvious – but the better your overall growing conditions for the plant, the longer the white parts will stay white and beautiful.

I use a soil mix that leans more towards a cactus/succulent mix than what most people would consider a “houseplant” mix.

I’ll mix:

Orchid bark holds on to moisture longer than pure pumice, and pumice allows for plenty of air in the soil – very good for root health. Cactus/succulent soil is also an air-ier mix, with large chunks of pumice in it, keeping things draining well. Only 1/4 of the soil is the rich, dense houseplant mix, which offers nutrients but isn’t in quantities large enough to get overly compacted or stay swampy.

Watch for hot surfaces 

At left is my large-form albo with some severe scorch in a line, where other white areas and leaf portions stay green or white and pristine. This was from this particular leaf resting, at an angle, against a black glass-topped outdoor table. 

As you might imagine, the parts that rested against the edge of that black glass, in summer, outside…got scorched. 

This was entirely related to heat and the angle; the reflection of heat from the table burned the leaf. 

Having done your best to keep your white monstera leaves white… accept the inevitable. 

The white spots on your leaves will, inevitably, brown before the rest of the leaf does. This doesn’t mean that you’re doing anything wrong, doesn’t mean the plant is less beautiful – it’s just a facet of growing a plant with white patches on the leaves. 

For any leaf that’s beginning to yellow and die, it’ll tend to do so with the white parts getting crispy first, and then the rest yellowing as expected. 

My two joys! 

Thai constellation and Monstera Albo large form. I recently propagated my Albo, and hope for the remaining cuttings to be rooted and producing new growth soon! 

The first cuttings to root and thrive were purchased when I shared them via Instagram before I ever posted them for sale online, so if you’d like cuttings or propped plants – make sure to follow me! @TrexPlants 

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