Easy Houseplant—Swiss Cheese Plant or Monstera Deliciosa
A Dramatic Houseplant
Swiss Cheese Plant, Monstera Deliciosa, or Cut Leaf Philodendron is a large showy houseplant with dramatic foliage. Mature leaves can be nearly three feet long with deep, uneven cuts along the edges. Holes appearing in the leaf give this easy to grow house plant its common nickname. The holes are charmingly irregular and add interest to the large leaved plant. The foliage is a deep, glossy green.
Though young Monstera deliciosa have heart shaped leaves that resemble a common heart-leaf philodendron, the Swiss Cheese Plant is not a philodendron.
Swiss Cheese Plant has been a popular indoor specimen for many years and adds a beautiful tropical touch that can brighten a corner in a large room or office. The vivid green leaves add a touch of color to a room decorated in neutral colors.
Though it flowers in the wild, it will usually not flower when kept indoors.
Native to Central American rain forests, Monstera deiciosa will not tolerate temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep out of cool drafts.
Monstera deliciosa is a hot decorating trend. Images of the leaves are popping up in advertising, promotional photographs, on wallpaper, textiles, and dishware. A single leaf placed in a glass vase (don't forget to add water) makes an attractive statement in a room, so it is a popular prop for interior design.
When a floral arrangement or bouquet may seem too fussy in today's minimalist culture, a single leaf fills the bill adding a natural element that has a clean line, but an interesting structure.
How to Grow a Swiss Cheese Plant
Swiss cheese plant does best in bright light, but not direct sunlight. Light from an East facing window is best. Avoid placing in south facing window as the intense heat may scorch the leaves.
Plant in a loose, rich soil. Add peat to enhance drainage. Make sure your pot has drainage holes at the bottom. (Water that can not drain out may cause root rot) Place pot on a large saucer or tray to collect drained water so as not to damage floors or furniture.
Allow soil to dry out between watering. Mist occasionally especially in dry conditions (such as winter when the heat is blowing or summer when air conditioning dries out the air).
Tropical swiss cheese plant appreciates humidity. The dry environment of a house in winter can be mitigated with an occasional misting. As the large leaves collect dust, an occasional wipe with a damp cloth is beneficial. Hold the leaf, supporting the underside so that it does not tear as you clean the leaves.
A temperature between 65-85 degrees F is best for Monstera deliciosa. Apply fertilizer once a month with a balanced (20-20-20) fertilizer. Use half the recommended dosage. Grown in a large pot, Swiss Cheese plant will sprawl and appear like a shrub. It can also be tied to a support and grown upwards for vertical interest.
If you see exposed roots, they are not a cause for concern. Swiss Cheese Plant which is a vine produces air roots that will attach themselves to a pole used for support. The roots will also invade the soil of nearby plants!
Swiss Cheese Plant - Problems
Swiss cheese plant, like many houseplants, is toxic. Do not allow dogs, cats, or children to touch or chew on leaves. If chewed, poisons in the foliage can cause irritation of the mouth, blisters, and vomiting. The plant can also cause skin irritation in sensitive people. Wash hands well after touching or wear gloves when handling.
Yellow leaves are usually a sign of overwatering
Yellow leaves can also be a sign that the plant needs nitrogen, a common ingredient in fertilizer. Some older leaves at the base of the plant may turn yellow with age and is not a cause for concern. In any case, remove yellowed leaves as they will not revive.
Brown Leaves can be caused by sun scorch if plant is set in a southern exposure. Move plant and remove brown leaves. Brown leaves may also be cause by over fertilizing. Cut back on fertilizer and remove brown leaves.
Lanky plants, or plants with very long stems and small leaves probably need more light.
When Monstera Grows too Large
A Swiss cheese plant can overgrow a container and take over a room. Outdoor plants can grow very large and out of hand. You can prune a Monstera to keep its size in check.
Use a clean, sharp pair of sturdy clippers. Regular household scissors will not be make a clean cut. Cut into the vine just below a node (the beginning of an aerial root) in spring. New shoots will emerge. This plant can cause skin irritation so use gloves when handling.
An open cut on any plant can be an invitation to fungus or bacteria. Use a fungicide on the cut. I use a paste made of cinnamon and water to deter trouble.
If you want yet another plant you can encourage the cut pieces to grow. Place a section of the cutting in water for decoration or to encourage new growth. Change the water every few days. In a month or so you should see changes. the best piece of the plant to try to propagate will have some of the aerial root attached.
After you see new growth, plant in potting soil and keep moist.
The video below may be a bit long but it gives you a good clear look at a node and the right place to cut the Monstera.
How to Take a Cutting
To solve some confusion
Monstera Deliciosa is sometimes confused with a Tree Philodendron. In fact, both plants are occasionally called Split Leaf Philodendron. In the video below, you can see the difference.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
During the summer months I put my Monstera deliciosa on the patio. What can I use to keep bugs from eating it and leaving holes ?
The leaves of Monstera deliciosa often show naturally occurring holes. Google image the plant to see the natural holes to understand what it is that you are seeing - you may not have an insect problem at all!
There are several types of pests that can eat holes in the leaves of plants. If you see slimy trails on the leaves the problem is probably snails or slugs. Sprinkle some diatomaceous earth on the soil and dust near the holes to deter (or kill) these pests. Diatomaceous earth is a powdery sand that can also harm humans. If inhaled, it can cause sneezing, runny nose, or shortness of breath. It can also be an eye irritant. Wear a mask if you use this stuff. Wash hands after use.
Some pests can be fought with neem oil. Available in many forms (I use a concentrate mixed with water in a spray bottle), neem oil repels Japanese beetles and several other pests. It can be an eye irritant. Avoid getting mist on face. Wash hands after use.
If the holes you see on the plant are caused by outdoor pests, the easiest solution would be to leave the plant indoors year round.Helpful 9
What kind of fertilizer should I use for my Monstera?
Use any all-purpose or organic fertilizer for your swiss cheese plant. You will notice numbers on the package. The first refers to nitrogen, the second to phosphorus, the third is potassium. A balanced fertilizer would show equal numbers like 20-20-20. Use one half of the amount of fertilizer that the product recommends. You can feed it more frequently if you dilute to one quarter - some people like the phrase fertilize weakly weekly. Twice a month works well for the half dilution. Fertilize a bit less in the winter if you live in a colder area.Helpful 7
For an indoor plant, which grows taller, the Swiss Cheese or the tree Philodendron?
Both of these plants can grow very tall. Notice the telltale names, "Monstera" for the one, "tree" for the other.
If you are concerned with a choice that depends on eventual size, don't worry about that. Choose the plant that you like the best. Either one can be pruned to restrict its height.
Pinch back top shoots in Spring. This will encourage side shoots that cause the plant to widen rather than growing very tall.Helpful 7