These two monsteras are two of the jewels of my tropical plant collection. Easy, forgiving plants that thrive even with our temperature extremes, haphazard fertilization schedule, and even more haphazard watering regimes.
I posted about my Thai constellation several years ago, but the plant has since become significantly larger and always stops fellow plant enthusiasts in their tracks.
My Thai constellation and Albo monstera (large form) sharing my “monstera corner” by the pool
With adequate light, these are some of the easiest tropical plants to grow! As with many tropical plants grown as house plants, though, lighting seems to be the first step where people can go wrong.
Monstera deliciosa, variegated or otherwise, needs it BRIGHT!
This does not mean full sun, however. I grow mine in a shaded, sheltered corner outdoors where they receive 2 to 4 hours of direct morning sunlight (depending on season and weather), and shade the rest of the day. When I measure the area with a light meter, it’s about 500 – 600 foot candles when the sun isn’t directly shining on them.
Monstera deliciosa “albo”, large form – May 2022
This level of brightness is about the minimum you should strive for with your plants if you want the same large, heavily fenestrated leaves you see mine producing. Indoors, this typically means keeping them by a large window, preferably south-facing, or whatever is brightest for your home. Our windows and house build are such that I don’t have any windows bright enough to grow these well without supplemental lighting!
Signs that your monsteras are receiving adequate light include leaves that almost overlap, or that do overlap, and tight, relatively compact growth. Some cultivars or varieties are more vine-like than others, such as the borsigiana, but I prefer the larger forms and their giant, dreamy leaves. It’s questionable if the other varieties are true varieties, or just results from different growing conditions.
Either way, I find all of my deliciosas, variegated or otherwise, to grow large, compact, and beautiful when given adequate light. With enough light (but not too much) they’ll forgive just about anything!
Thai constellation and albo, July 2022
Is there such a thing as too much light for a Monstera?
YES! These are still tropical plants, after all, not cacti.
If you look above, you can see my two darlings in July of last year. It was very hot, and had become so rather suddenly after plenty of May Gray and June Gloom. The sudden change in sunshine, then increased temperatures as summer made a rather abrupt appearance, meant that leaves rapidly became sunburnt and crispy.
Regular green monsteras tend to be less susceptible to crisping than their variegated counterparts, but they’ll do this too. The main difference is that the white or cream colored areas on the variegated monsteras are extremely prone to burn and crisping compared to non-variegated leaves.
Thai Constellation, August 2021
Before I talk about watering your monstera, it’s crucial to talk about their soil. Without the right soil, water and light are just going to rot or crisp your plants no matter what you do.
A crucial component to any soil mix is drainage. The soil needs to be able to drain water and not be a soaked sponge for days and weeks on end. Wet, soggy roots lead to rot, and rot leads to dead plants.
Conversely, too dry of a mix or a mix that won’t retain enough moisture, and your roots will dessicate and die just as surely.
I prefer mixing my own soil blend using a few different ingredients, based on what I know of my watering habits (sporadic and forgetful), our climate (hot and dry more often than not), and my expected fertilization schedule (regularly in summer).
I start with a nice rich houseplant soil – Happy Frog or Fox Farms, either one works well for me. I like the mix of nutrients in the soil, and that they come with beneficial Mycorrhizae – fungus that helps the roots thrive.
50% of the soil is typically this rich soil, sometimes a bit less, and to that I will add 25% orchid bark (preferably small chips), and 25% pumice.
The pumice and bark both dramatically increase the drainage of the soil, helping keep it from compacting too quickly, and the two provide different benefits. The bark will hold onto moisture without being soggy, and will slowly break down over time. The pumice won’t break down, but the airy volcanic rock will keep the soil aerated, minimize compaction, and give the roots something textural to grab onto.
I don’t use horticultural charcoal, add worm castings, or get too crazy with soil additives. A big reason to use a quality blend like Happy Frog or Fox Farms is because they’ve done that for you!
It also helps to not overdo your soil additives and fertilizers when you know you plan to provide fertilizer directly. With a rich soil mix, you don’t need to offer fertilizer at all for at least a month or so after potting – the soil has it already!
Water and Fertilizer
Watering these is pretty straightforward, especially if you’ve given them an airy mix:
Water when dry.
That’s it. Done.
I tend to forget on a regular basis, and even in summer, I rarely watered them more often than once or twice a week. If you’re worried, you can put a layer of orchid bark over the top of your soil to help keep moisture in, which is what I did when I repotted my Thai into a much larger pot.
Do you need to use filtered water for your monstera?
Nope. I use hose water for mine all through summer. I see no difference in leaf size or how soon the white/cream parts start to get the typical crisping.
How often should I water it, really?
If you have to set a calendar reminder for yourself to water your plants, check your monstera every 2 or 3 days if it’s outside, and once a week if it’s inside. Outdoors, the plants tend to have more access to light and warmth, especially in summer, and they’ll go through water more quickly than plants indoors.
That doesn’t mean you water them every time you check them! Just that you should check if the plants need water at least that often.
Albo leaf, September 2021
After discovering a deep love for Dyna-Gro Foliage Plus and how well it worked for my Anthuriums, it’s what I use on all of my tropical plants now. In summer, I try to fertilize every time I water, as the plants are actively growing and using everything I give them. I forget, or I’m lazy, on a pretty regular basis and the plants don’t seem to mind. Would they look better if I didn’t forget? Probably.
In winter, I fertilize almost not at all. I’ll use our fish-tank water from water changes when we happen to have some, but that’s the extent of their winter fertilization routine.
Spring and fall I aim for about once a month, more often if it’s hot (above 80F during the day and 55 – 60F at night).
You basically want to feed your monsteras when they’re actively growing, and you don’t want to give them extra food when they’re already stressed from shorter days and colder temperatures.
Monstera Albo, August 2021
Monstera Albo, August 2022
Propagating your Monstera
Monsteras are fairly easy to “chop and prop”, at least if you have the space and set up for it.
This spring, I propped my Albo – I wanted to grow it from the top node, where the leaves were large and fenestrating, rather than keep extending the grow pole I’ve been using to prop it up. My setup for propagation is simple:
1 gallon pots full of perlite
Tray to hold the pots/water
You’ll see dirt in the bin above, but it was just a halfway point as I was checking each cutting.
Make sure your snips are clean, and cut your stems around each node where a leaf has come in. A good sign of an active ‘node’ is seeing aerial roots coming out of the stem – they’re long, tentacle-looking things that many folks (myself included) often trim for a tidier appearance.
I like cut up the stem then let it sit for at least half an hour for the end to callous over, although you can go as long as a day or more to be sure it’s scabbed. This is important! It keeps the stem from rotting before the new growth can emerge.
In my case, after the initial moisture had dried and there was a simple scab, I stuck each cutting into the pot with perlite, and put a layer of pumice on top. This weighs down the perlite, keeping it from drying out and floating away, and helped keep the cuttings in one spot.
Then, I put the pots in the tray for water, and stuck that on top of a seedling mat. It’s too cold right now for me to try propping without supplemental heat – you’ll see the best success with temperatures in the high 70s to mid 80s. I waited a day (letting the cuts finish scabbing over), then poured water into the tray and let the pots absorb water from the bottom up. Since then I’ve kept the tray full of water and now (about 4 weeks later) I’m seeing the first rewards in the form of new growth on my cuttings!
When I see a full new leaf emerge from these mid-cuts, I’ll place them up in my shop for sale! I only have 5 from this batch, and I’m not planning to chop and prop often. If you want one, get one when you see them up!
You can also follow along with me on Instagram, @TrexPlants, to see what I’m cooking, growing, and sowing! Spring is a busy time, and there’s always something going on.