Think jungle foliage and the first leaf that comes to mind is probably the swiss cheese plant, AKA Monstera deliciosa, piñanona or ceriman.
It is ubiquitous in both the houseplant world and tropical foliage prints because of its heart-shaped holey leaves and easy-going nature. I
ts botanic name is one of the easier plant names to decipher, ‘delicious monster’, in reference to the prized edible fruit produced on mature plants.
How to care for a monstera
Forest dwellers, native to the mountainous subtropical forests of Central America, monsteras aren’t fussy plants.
They’re tolerant of cool temperatures; they’re not going to overreact if you leave them in direct light and if you neglect your parental watering duties for a week or two, you won’t find a plant crime scene.
However, there are some plant hacks to make sure your monstera is thriving, not just surviving.
Monstera plants do best in a bright spot just out of direct sun. In darker parts of the house (some natural light needed), your monstera will have smaller leaves, but it will keep growing.
Humidity is important for keeping the leaves of your monstera verdant. Keep it away from radiators at the very least and mist the leaves and stems when you remember or if you start to observe leaf edges going brown and crispy.
Misting is not the same as watering, so make sure you check on the compost around the roots of the plant. When it feels dry, give it a drink.
It’s best to do this in the sink and allow excess water to drain through the bottom of the plant pot, before repositioning it. Monstera don’t like wet feet.
Allow the compost to dry out a little between watering, allowing the top layer of compost to dry before watering again.
Propagating a monstera
It’s best to take your cuttings in spring or summer. You’ll need fresh peat-free and organic multipurpose compost, a pot, and a clear plastic bag.
Monstera plants root quickly and easily and will even give you a head start in the propagation process by sending out aerial roots.
You can take a cutting most easily from a section of the main stem, at a ‘node’ where you have both an aerial root and a leaf at the same point.
You’ll end up with a T or J shaped section that you can root in a jar of water or plant straight into a medium sized pot with drainage holes.
The whole aerial root should be buried, and the stem should sit just on top of the compost. To keep the cutting secure, firm the compost around the root.
Water the compost around your cutting immediately, and tie the clear plastic bag over the pot to create a greenhouse effect around your cutting as it develops root.
Remove it for an hour every few days so the air doesn’t stagnate and to water again if the compost has dried out.
After 4-6 weeks your mini monstera should have rooted and you can remove the bag.
A good way to judge the age of your plant is by the number of holes in the leaf. Young plants often start with just one or two holes in each leaf and as the plant matures like a good emmental cheese, each leaf becomes more perforated than the last.
If you’ve only got a small plant, you might not have enough growth on the main stem of your monstera this year, but don’t fret, with love and the right care, it won’t be long before you are making monstera babies for all your friends and family.
George Hudson is Head of Plants and Education at Walworth Garden, a South London charity delivering workshops, courses, therapeutic horticulture and plants for sale in a garden open to all. Follow on Instagram @walworthgarden