Origin and Distribution
Monstera deliciosa is a species of the genus Monstera (window leaves) comprising around 50 other species within the family of the arum family (Araceae). The popular houseplant with its large, conspicuously slotted leaves is at home in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. Here the plant first germinates on the ground, and then climbs along the huge trunks up high into the giant crowns of the giants of the jungle.
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How many species of this genus there actually are, nobody can say for sure. The estimates amount to around 30 to even 60 different variants, with some - including in particular the Monstera deliciosa that is so popular with us - spreading rapidly in climatically favorable areas and sometimes even have to be fought by human hands. For example, wild, invasive occurrences can be found in the south of the USA, but also in India and other Asian countries, in Australia and in some regions of the western Mediterranean such as Morocco or Portugal.
The first specimens of Monstera deliciosa reached Europe from Mexico as early as the beginning of the 19th century. A few decades later, the species was already in culture in numerous European nurseries. The monstera had its heyday as a houseplant for normal people in the 1970s and 1980s, but there has been a renewed return to this easy-care and attractive foliage plant for some years. The window leaf is not only interesting as a decorative leaf plant for the living room at home, its stylized leaf can also be found on numerous objects as an art and decorative object.
Due to its tropical origin, the Monstera is only suitable as a houseplant or is cultivated in tropical winter gardens and greenhouses.
Appearance and stature
In its natural location, the climbing plant, which is what the Monstera is, can easily reach the highest treetops. In cultivation, however, the window leaf grows upright to a height of about three meters. The long aerial roots, with the help of which the plant can anchor itself to any substrate, are also characteristic. This can be other plants such as the jungle trees already mentioned, but also rock walls or, in the case of indoor culture, special climbing aids. As soon as the aerial roots hit earth, they penetrate there and anchor themselves in it. They then take over the normal function of roots and absorb water and nutrients. The fleshy, also very long shoots of the Monstera, on the other hand, are not stable on their own and need support.
Which climbing aid is suitable for the Monstera?
So that the plant can also follow its natural growth behavior in the living room, it needs a reliable climbing aid. Of course, you can offer her one made of wood or metal, although her aerial roots do not always find a secure hold on its smooth surface. A so-called moss stick, which you can buy at any hardware store or garden center, is more suitable. This is often a thick rod made of plastic or some other robust material that is wrapped with coconut fibers or moss.
Alternatively, you can simply divert the aerial roots into the substrate, where they grow like normal roots and fulfill their function of supplying the plant with water and nutrients. Just do not cut off these roots.
The monstera is cultivated as a decorative houseplant mainly because of its up to 50 centimeters long and very wide, shield-shaped leaves. The attractive foliage plant initially develops heart-shaped, whole-edged and light green leaves, which only later receive their characteristic openings on the leaf edges and surfaces as well as the glossy, dark green one. The thick, leather-like leaves probably have this unusual appearance because the slits and openings improve the light absorption of parts of the plant in the more shady areas of the rainforest.
The leaf stalks of the window leaf also have a specific peculiarity: The strikingly strong and long leaf stalks are often angled downwards (“kneeled” as the botanist says), so that the plant with this additional climbing aid really hooks onto the branches and shoots of other plants can.
Flowers and fruits
With good care and optimal conditions, older specimens of the window leaf can also develop flowers in indoor culture. Usually this happens with plants that are at least ten years old. The flower looks very similar to that of Spathiphyllum or Anthurium, after all, they are related species. A yellowish, long-stalked flower bulb forms, which is surrounded by a large, white bract or bract. This flower shape is typical of the maple family (Araceae). Later, purple berries develop from it, which are considered a tasty delicacy in some countries. Monstera fruits are actually edible, but sensitive people should refrain from enjoying them: the calcium oxalate needles contained in the berries can irritate the mucous membrane of the throat.
The Monstera deliciosa species - which means “delicious window leaf” in German - has a good reason for its name. It forms elongated, green fruits that are not dissimilar to corn on the cob, which are edible and taste a little like pineapple. These bear the joking name “pineapple bananas” and are often sold in markets, especially in holiday destinations like Madeira. Since these fruits contain a lot of oxalic acid, like rhubarb, caution is advised when consuming. Not everyone can tolerate large amounts of this substance, which can irritate the mucous membranes and the digestive tract. As a rule, fruits do not develop in living room culture.
Apart from the fruits, all parts of the Monstera - from leaves to roots to flowers - are poisonous and should therefore not be consumed. In addition to oxalic acid and calcium oxalate crystals, the climbing plant also contains resorcinol and various hot substances. Symptoms of poisoning, ranging from skin and mucous membrane irritation to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, occur after consumption in both humans and animals. To avoid hazards, the Monstera does not belong in the reach of small children and pets such as dogs, cats, rodents or even birds.
Furthermore, the sap can cause allergic reactions, which is why you should always wear gloves for maintenance work (e.g. pruning).
Which location is suitable?
As in its natural area of distribution, the window leaf feels most comfortable in partially shaded to shady areas. Direct sun - especially the blazing midday sun - causes lasting damage to the attractive, green leaves and should therefore be avoided. A few rays of sunshine only ensure that the Monstera feels even more comfortable in the early morning and evening. In summer, at temperatures of more than 20 ° C, the plant can also be placed on the balcony or terrace, provided it is protected enough there. The temperature should not fall below 18 ° C in summer or winter.
When choosing a location, you should consider the expected final size of the Monstera in addition to the light requirements. This plant needs a lot of space and should ideally be placed right from the start where it can remain permanently and undisturbed for many years. Plan enough space for this, both in height and in width: A change of location due to lack of space (or other reasons) is not at all comfortable for the window leaf. In this regard, the plant is a diva and should accordingly be left alone.
With regard to the nature of the substrate, the Monstera feels most comfortable in a soil that corresponds to its natural site conditions. A humus-rich, loose and weakly acidic to neutral substrate that you either mix yourself or buy is ideal. A high-quality rhododendron soil based on compost instead of peat is well suited. Alternatively, mix two thirds of commercially available compost soil with one third of coconut oil or perlite. (€ 32.90 at Amazon *)
In addition to the classic soil, you can also cultivate the Monstera in hydroponics without any problems. Put the plant in vermiculite or expanded clay (€ 17.50 at Amazon *) and use a special pot with a water level indicator. The plant substrate should be renewed every one to two years, as lime and other deposits collect in it.
Plant monstera properly
It is best to plant the Monstera in a large pot in advance so that its roots have enough space. The planter should leave at least two fingers' widths between the wall of the pot and the root ball. In addition, if possible, use a pot with a drainage hole so that excess irrigation water can drain off and waterlogging does not arise in the first place. It is planted as follows:
- Cover the drain hole with pottery shards
- fill part of the substrate
- Loosen the root ball with your fingers
- Place the plant in the middle of the container
- Carefully insert the aerial roots into the pot
- do not kink or otherwise injure
- fill up with substrate
- water well
The Monstera is properly seated in the planter when the roots are about two to three below the surface.
Younger specimens of the Monstera should be repotted annually due to their rapid growth, whereas older plants need fresh substrate about every two to three years. The best time to do this is spring.
The Monstera feels most comfortable when the substrate is always slightly damp, but not constantly wet. Although the rainforest plant has a high need for water, especially in the warm summer months, like most other plants, it cannot tolerate permanent waterlogging. So water them regularly between April and October, but only when the top layer of the substrate has dried off. In the winter months between November and March, however, you can water much more sparingly, as the Monstera needs less water during this time.
In addition to a regular supply of water, the Monstera also needs an environment with high humidity, which is often not given, especially in winter. To remedy this, regularly spray the plant with water or place it in a bowl filled with stones and water.
Fertilize Monstera properly
Like almost all rainforest plants, the Monstera has a very high nutrient requirement and should therefore be fertilized regularly. To do this, give her a liquid green plant fertilizer with the irrigation water approximately every two weeks between April and September. Alternatively, you can also use a slow release fertilizer, for example in the form of sticks. In the other months between October and March, however, you stop fertilizing.
Monstera sheds leaves / gets brown leaves, what to do?
If the Monstera suddenly gets brown leaf margins, it is often due to over-fertilization. This occurs when you do not apply the fertilizer in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions or when you use it undiluted. Pot the plant in fresh substrate and follow the manufacturer's instructions. If, on the other hand, the window leaf sheds its leaves, a lack of nutrients may be the cause.
Cut monstera properly
Basically, the Monstera does not have to be pruned, only diseased or dead leaves should be removed. However, since the plant can become very tall in a short time, it is advisable to limit growth if necessary. To do this, simply shorten the main shoot, the side shoots can also be shaped. The window leaf does not lignify, is easy to cut and can be cut all year round. The only disadvantage: If the monstera is cut back, it does not develop any flowers.
You can use the clippings that arise when pruning to multiply this pretty plant. Both head and shoot cuttings as well as stem pieces are suitable for this, provided they have at least one bud. However, cuttings should always have aerial roots, as this is where the new roots develop. You can root the plant pieces both in a water glass and in nutrient-poor potting soil.
Diseases and pests
The Monstera is a robust and easy-care houseplant that is rarely attacked by pests or pathogens. Signs of illness are often the result of poor care and go away as soon as you eliminate the cause. Brown leaves, especially at the edges, as well as yellow discoloration usually indicate that the plant is kept too wet or that fertilization is incorrect. Since newly sprouted leaves only divide over time, the lack of leaf division is also a sign of disease: Here the Monstera often does not like the location that is too dark.
When you go on your summer vacation, you can create a simple irrigation yourself thanks to the aerial roots for the Monstera: All you need to do is divert the aerial roots into a container filled with water.
Species and varieties
As a rule, only the Monstera deliciosa species is cultivated as houseplant, which is also found in the following interesting cultivars:
- 'Variegata': has conspicuously variegated leaves and needs more light than the pure green species
- 'Borsigiana': develops rather narrow and less openwork leaves
Both varieties mentioned grow more slowly than the original form, whereby 'Variegata' needs more warmth in addition to a bright location.
Monstera - window leaf approx. 50 cm high 28.75 EUR Buy at baldur Monstera 'Monkey Leaf' 13.68 EUR Buy at baldur Monstera 8.82 EUR Buy at baldur