The monstera, with its characteristic split leaves, is the star of any indoor plant collection. So, it is frustrating when your prized monstera doesn’t grow leaves with holes and just sits in one corner of your living room, looking ordinary like any other plant.
The leaves of some species like Monstera peru and Monstera standleyana never develop holes. Conversely, Monstera adansonii and Monstera deliciosa grow split leaves or fenestrations. However, the leaves might not split if the growing conditions are not ideal or the plant is less than 2-3 years old.
With its split leaves, the monstera is as alluring as it is enigmatic. In this article, I will explain why some monsteras have holes, and others do not. I will also explain how to care for your monstera and make it grow more split leaves.
- Species Specificity: Not all Monstera species develop split leaves. Monstera peru and Monstera standleyana naturally have solid leaves, while Monstera adansonii and Monstera deliciosa are known for their fenestrated leaves.
- Age and Growth Conditions: Even in species known for split leaves, fenestrations may not appear if the plant is under 2-3 years old or if it hasn’t achieved sufficient growth. Ideal growing conditions are crucial for the development of split leaves.
- Evolutionary Function: The holes in Monstera leaves serve important purposes. They allow for better air circulation, improve light penetration to lower leaves, and prevent water accumulation, thereby reducing the risk of pest infestations and diseases.
- Ideal Growing Conditions: To encourage leaf splitting, Monsteras require 6-8 hours of bright, indirect light, high humidity (60-80%), warm temperatures (65-85 °F or 18-29 °C), consistent moisture in soil, and adequate nutrition with a balanced fertilizer.
- Maintenance Tips: Training the plant to climb, regular pruning, and propagation from top cuttings can also promote the development of fenestrated leaves.
Why Most Monsteras Have Holes
Monstera species like Monstera adansonii and Monstera deliciosa have holes in their leaves as part of nature’s design. The holes promote air circulation and keep the leaves dry. Improved light penetration, airflow, and drainage keep the plant healthy, so these holes serve an evolutionary purpose.
Read on as I explain how the holes on Monstera leaves help the plant thrive.
The Holes Let Sunlight Through
Monsteras grow up to 2 feet (61 cm) wide in their natural habitat. They develop huge leaves, and the leaves on the top branches shade the ones below. The leaves on the lower branches do not receive light.
Without sunlight, monstera leaves cannot photosynthesize or create the nutrients the plant needs to remain healthy and thrive.
To fix this issue, Mother Nature programmed monstera leaves to split and let sunlight through to the lower leaves.
Biologist Christopher Muir of Indiana University, Bloomington, explains why the monstera leaves on the upper branches of the plant have holes while those on the lower branches don’t.
Monstera plants receive dappled sunlight from the dense canopies of tall trees in tropical rainforests. As the plants grow, the stems and the branches trail up the tree trunks, where more sunlight hits their leaves.
However, the sun’s rays hit the foliage and get scattered by the wind. So, it is difficult to predict which leaf will catch the light.
Muir calculated and proved that split leaves catch more sun rays than solid leaves with the same surface area. On the other hand, very little sunlight reaches the leaves at the bottom of the plant. So, these leaves typically don’t develop holes.
Split Leaves Improve Drainage
Tropical rainforests receive copious amounts of rainfall. The leaves of the plants here collect the rain. The humid environment, too, creates a buildup of water on the leaves. When there is too much water buildup, the leaves remain wet. Consistently wet leaves attract pests, mold, and fungus.
Wet leaves can also invite fungi that can eventually cause root rot, which ultimately kills the plant. The holes in the monstera leaves prevent the water from collecting and remaining stagnant and keep the leaves dry.
The Holes Promote Air Circulation
A dense canopy of leaves can prevent fresh air from reaching the leaves on the lower branches of a plant. Lack of airflow around a plant creates an excessively humid environment. This keeps the leaves soggy and invites pests. The holes let in air that eventually reaches the lower portions of the plant.
Why Some Monstera Leaves Don’t Have Holes
There are three main reasons why your monstera will not have holes or fenestrations, including the following:
- It belongs to a species not programmed by nature to produce split leaves.
- The plant is young. Other species don’t produce split leaves until the plant is 2-3 years old and has grown at least three feet (91 cm) tall and wide.
- Mature monstera plants don’t grow holes if the growing conditions are not ideal.
Poor Conditions Preventing Monsteras from Developing Holes
The following conditions prevent mature monsteras that belong to a species that produces split leaves from developing leaves with holes:
Monsteras need at least 6-8 hours of bright, indirect light to thrive and develop split leaves. They can also develop splits from bright, dappled light similar to their native habitat.
However, when grown in colder, darker regions, the plant produces small leaves with no holes to conserve energy due to low-light conditions.
Monsteras originate in the warm and humid rainforests of the world. They love humidity levels between 60 and 80%, although they can tolerate slightly lower levels. They do not thrive in dry air, which is common inside our homes in winter.
Inadequate humidity can lead to poor growth and low-quality leaves without fenestrations.
My article here contains more tips on increasing humidity around your Monstera: How to Get Your Monstera Leaves to Split
Monsteras are tropical plants. They thrive when the temperature is between 65 and 85 °F (18-29 °C). A temperature below 55 °F (13 °C) slows its growth. The cold can also stress the plant, limiting its ability to grow to its full potential.
Monsteras need consistently moist soil but cannot tolerate waterlogged conditions. They do not thrive in dry soils either.
They need well-draining soil rich in organic matter. Soilless mixes composed of equal parts coco peat, compost, perlite, and pine bark give your monstera a balance of good drainage and moisture retention.
When grown in appropriate soil, they can grow optimally when watered every time the upper 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) of the soil is dry.
Monstera leaves do not split if the plant is malnourished and is not growing vigorously. As fast-growing foliage plants, monsteras need adequate amounts of nitrogen, especially during the growing season.
When using soilless mixes, you’ll need to feed your plant a balanced 20-20-20 NPK fertilizer. You can apply granular fertilizers twice during the growing season, ideally spaced two months apart (early spring and late spring). Alternatively, apply diluted liquid fertilizers monthly only during the growing season.
You also need to supplement the plant’s magnesium, zinc, and manganese requirements for better foliage development. Check the product label to ensure the fertilizer also contains these three essential micronutrients.
How to Get More Holes on Your Monstera Plant
Monstera leaves usually split when the plant is 2-3 years old. Monstera leaves can grow up to 2 feet (61 cm) wide, so leaves on the upper branches split to let in light and air. The leaves don’t split if they’re not wide enough or if the canopy is sparse because there is no need to.
Monsteras naturally develop holes in their leaves only when they mature and have reached a certain height and width. You can force the leaves on your monstera to split by making the plant grow faster and sprouting more leaves.
You can also get more holes in a monstera plant by creating an ideal growing environment that encourages the plant to grow, thrive, and produce more leaves. Provide it with consistent but diffused light, a humid microclimate, adequate water, and nutrients.
Here are some tips on how to get more beautiful fenestrations on your plant’s leaves:
Monstera Maintenance: Training, Pruning, Propagation
In addition to receiving basic needs like like, water, humidity, and nutrients, monsteras also need maintenance care that can contribute to their likelihood to form leaves with holes.
I’ll discuss these in more detail below:
Train the Plant to Climb Up
Provide the plant with a trellis or a moss pole to climb and reach toward the light. As the plant receives more light, it will grow more healthy leaves with holes. This trick mimics the monstera’s natural habitat.
Prune Old Growth
Pruning encourages new growth. Snip away old and small leaves, and you will soon see a profusion of new leaves. As the foliage becomes bushier, the leaves will develop holes.
A monstera plant with large, glossy, split leaves is a showstopper wherever you place it. Gift yourself another showstopper by creating another monstera plant from a top cutting.
Propagate Top Cuttings
Top cuttings regrow faster than cuttings taken from the mid-section of the plant or the stem. The monstera that grows from a top cutting has leaves almost as mature as those of the mother plant. So, these leaves will develop holes quickly.
|Light Requirements||Provide 6-8 hours of bright, indirect light|
|Humidity Levels||Maintain humidity levels between 60-80%|
|Temperature||Keep the temperature between 65-85 °F (18-29 °C)|
|Watering||Ensure consistently moist soil, not waterlogged|
|Nutrient Supply||Feed with balanced fertilizer regularly|
|Training and Support||Train the plant to climb towards light sources|
|Pruning for New Growth||Prune old growth to encourage new leaf growth|
|Propagation from Top Cuttings||Consider propagating from top cuttings|
Most plant enthusiasts love the split-leaf look of the monstera but not all monstera plants have holes in their leaves. So, make sure you buy a species from the nursery that will develop holes.
Remember, a young monstera won’t grow split leaves right away. Wait for it to mature enough. However, if a mature monstera is not sprouting split leaves, check if it is receiving adequate light, water, and fertilizer.