The monstera plant is prized for its huge, split leaves that look like no indoor plant. So, it is indeed frustrating when your cherished plant does not develop split leaves.
You can get your monstera leaves to split by planting them in well-draining soil, keeping them in humid rooms with bright, indirect light, and fertilizing them during the growing season. However, only the leaves of mature monstera plants split. So, if your plant is under 2-3 years old, you’ll have to wait until it’s mature enough.
In this article, I will describe how you can create the ideal growing environment for your mature monstera plant to thrive and develop split leaves. The trick is to mimic the conditions found in its natural habitat.
- Plant Maturity: Monstera leaves typically start to split when the plant is around 2-3 years old. Younger plants need time to mature before their leaves will split.
- Optimal Conditions: Provide bright, indirect light, maintain high humidity, and ensure well-draining soil to mimic the monstera’s natural tropical rainforest habitat.
- Patience and Care: Regularly fertilize during the growing season and avoid stressing the plant with too much direct sunlight, overwatering, or cold temperatures.
- Environment Adaptation: Understand that the splitting of monstera leaves is a natural adaptation to allow sunlight to reach lower leaves and prevent damage from wind and rain.
Understanding Monstera Leaf Fenestrations
Monstera plants are native to tropical rainforests in Central America. In their home environment, they’re typically surrounded by tall tree canopies that they often climb as they mature.
Their unique growth patterns and characteristic leaf splits are actually the results of environmental adaptations that aid in their survival.
Below are the environmental conditions that encouraged monstera leaves to split:
- The dense tree canopies provide dappled sunlight. The large upper monstera leaves split to allow the lower leaves to access sunlight.
- As the monstera climbs tree trunks for more sunlight, it is exposed to high winds. The splits or holes prevent damage and offer resistance to strong winds.
- The high amount of precipitation or rainfall in rainforests can be dangerous for any plant as it can cause root rot or leaf spots. The leaf splits prevent the raindrops or condensation from staying on the leaves long enough to cause leaf spots.
Creating Ideal Conditions to Encourage Leaf Splitting
Of course, the abovementioned conditions are impossible to perfectly replicate in the home setting. Nevertheless, monstera leaves are already genetically programmed to split. You only have to stimulate them to do so by providing them with optimal care closely resembling their native environment.
Here are some ways to encourage your monstera leaves to split:
1. Wait for the Plant to Mature
Yes, there is a reason why monstera leaves have their characteristic holes, and it is not vanity!
The mature leaves of the monstera can grow up to 2 feet (60 cm) wide. These sprawling leaves can block sunlight, moisture, and air from reaching the leaves growing on the lower branches. So, Mother Nature programmed monstera leaves to split to let in sunlight, drain raindrops, and promote airflow.
Monstera leaves usually start to split after a few leaves grow on a stem and create a dense canopy that blocks light from hitting the lower leaves. If you have a young monstera plant with sparse leaves or the leaves have not grown wide enough to block light, there is no need for the leaves to split.
The splits on monstera leaves also promote drainage.
Water can accumulate on the surface of these large leaves and attract pests, fungi, and mold. Wet leaves also make a plant vulnerable to root rot, which eventually kills the plant.
The splits on the leaves prevent water from stagnating. So, just wait for your plant to mature. It usually takes 2-3 years until your plant has large enough leaves to form fenestrations.
Meanwhile, you can create a growing environment that encourages your monstera to thrive and sprout more leaves. Read on to find out how.
2. Provide Bright Indirect Light
Monstera plants are inhabitants of the tropical rainforests of the world. They receive dappled sunlight and are protected from the sun’s harsh rays by the dense canopy of tall trees.
They wilt in harsh sunlight, and they do not tolerate shade, either. Shady conditions stunt their growth. They need bright, indirect light to flourish.
Here are some tips to help you meet your monstera’s light requirements:
- Place your monstera plant near an east-facing window.
- Place your monstera near a west- or south-facing window in winter.
- DO NOT keep the plant near a west-facing window where it might get burned by the scorching afternoon sun.
- Cover the window with curtains or drapes to provide the plant with filtered light during hot and bright days.
You can also grow your monstera under artificial lights if there is not enough natural light inside your home. Be sure to use full-spectrum artificial lights with around 200-500 foot candles placed about 1-2 feet (30-60 cm) above your monstera plant. Keep it on for about 12-14 hours daily.
You can keep a mature monstera with split leaves in low light or north-facing windows. However, newer leaves will be unlikely to develop splits if you keep your monstera in low-light conditions for too long.
3. Ensure That the Soil Drains Well
Monstera plants grow in tropical rainforests where the environment is damp and humid. So, these plants need moisture to thrive.
However, forest soils are not wet. In fact, very little aerial moisture makes its way into the ground. So, monsteras have not evolved to withstand wet feet. You’ll want to plant your monstera in free-draining soil.
Here’s what you must remember before transplanting:
Do Not Use Garden Soil
The main reason not to use garden soils is that they tend to be heavy. They may also breed harmful pathogens, such as fungi and bacteria.
Amend Store-Bought Potting Mix
The potting mixes you buy from the store are usually designed to retain water. They don’t drain well. Add perlite, pumice, or coarse sand to the mix to improve drainage.
Make Your Own Potting Mix
You can easily find the ingredients at your local garden store. Some ingredients like sphagnum peat moss and coco coir hold onto water so avoid using too much.
I recommend equal parts coco coir, perlite, and sand or pumice. Coco coir can be slightly acidic but it’s okay because monsteras thrive in soil with pH levels between 6.0 and 8.0. Perlite is neutral at 7.0-7.5 and has no effect on soil pH.
Practice Good Watering Habits
Keep the soil evenly moist but never soggy. Water only after the upper 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) of the soil has dried out.
Read more about how to prevent indoor soil from staying wet in my article here: What to Do When Indoor Plant Soil Stays Wet
4. Create a Humid Environment
Monsteras love humidity. At home, they will do well in areas with 60% humidity.
Here are some tips to create a humid microclimate for your plant:
Mist the Leaves
Just be sure to mist your monstera only in the morning to let the leaves dry. Wet leaves can attract mold and fungi. More importantly, use lukewarm water with temperatures around 68 °F (20 °C).
Misting regularly—about 3-4 times a week—will replicate rainfall and will stimulate the upper leaves to form splits.
Use a Pebble-Filled Saucer With Water
You should also keep the planter on a saucer of pebbles filled with water. The planter should sit on top of the layer of pebbles and not touch the water. The evaporation of the water will increase humidity around the plant.
Group Other Plants Around the Monstera
Plants grouped close together create a humid microclimate. You can also place a bowl of water on the floor amid the plants to create additional humidity. Choose plants that share the same light and humidity requirements as your monstera, such as philodendrons and pothos.
Increase the Humidity
You might want to crank up the humidifier (but to a bearable level). Keep the comfort level of the inhabitants of the house in mind when you adjust the humidifier settings.
Although monsteras prefer humidity levels above 60%, they will do fine with 50% as long as the temperature and sunlight levels are moderate and the soil is moist.
Keep It in a Bathroom You Use
Bathrooms are an ideal location for monsteras because they tend to be moist and humid places. Your monstera will love the damp air here. However, ensure that the temperatures don’t change too drastically during warm or cold showers and the bathroom receives bright, indirect light.
5. Ensure the Ambient Temperature Is Not Too Low
Monsteras grow best when the temperature is between 65 and 85 °F (18 and 29 °C). These plants originate in warm tropical rainforests. Their growth is stunted or the plants may die if the temperature falls below 50 °F (10 °C).
Protect your plant baby from exposure to cold drafts. Do not keep it near doors and windows through which cold drafts can enter the house. When placing your plant next to bright windows in winter, ensure that the windows remain closed.
6. Feed the Plant
A sick plant has stunted growth. Without adequate growth and ample foliage, monstera leaves do not split.
Feed your monstera with plant food that contains a balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You can use homemade compost or buy plant food specially formulated for indoor plants.
I suggest you use the Easy Peasy Liquid Plant Food available on Amazon.com. This plant food contains a balanced mix of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It promotes strong roots, encourages lush foliage, and maintains plant health. It also contains sulfur, which increases nutrient uptake so that you don’t have to fertilize too often.
Fertilize your plant every two weeks in spring and summer when it grows actively. In their natural habitat, monsteras grow in soils rich in magnesium. However, you may not have to add magnesium to the potting mix if you use a balanced fertilizer containing micronutrients.
Add magnesium only if your monstera is deficient in it. Magnesium deficiency manifests as leaves turning yellow between their green veins.
You can use Epsom salt, which contains magnesium sulfate. Add about a tablespoon of Epsom salt to a gallon (3.8 l) of water and water your plant with the solution. Continue to water until the excess runs out of the bottom of the planter.
You can also spray the leaves with this solution.
7. Do Not Stress the Plant
Like most plants, monsteras fail to thrive when they are stressed. A monstera is stressed if it receives too much direct sunlight, remains waterlogged for a long time, gets too cold, or is repotted.
If you believe your monstera is stressed by one or more of these reasons, fix the issue.
Move the plant to a sheltered and warm spot. If the plant had been sitting in water, you might have to repot it. It may shed leaves after you have repotted it. Wait for it to adjust to its new home and recover from the stress, and it will soon start growing fresh leaves.
Remember that monsteras love to be root-bound. They need to be repotted only every 2-3 years. So, only repot when you have to. Move the plant to a planter that measures 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the old one every time you repot it.
During the time between repotting, remove about 2 inches (5 cm) of the upper soil layer and replace it with fresh potting soil or compost every year. This will recharge the soil and feed the plant.
The holes on the leaves of the monstera plant that make it so alluring are part of Mother Nature’s grand design. The leaves split only when the plant is mature and has a dense canopy.
You can speed up your mature monstera’s growth and support its health so that it sprouts more leaves that will eventually split beautifully.