If there is one plant that needs no introduction, it is the Adam's Rib or Monstera Deliciosa. You only have to go on a social network to see how many people have fallen captive to its tangled stems and perforated leaves, whether they are plant enthusiasts or not. It is even present in decorative prints and is a frequent guest in the photo shoots of decorative magazines. Monstera is like mid-century furniture: timeless and exquisite. Simply iconic.
Although it is a plant that has fairly simple requirements, there are those who have not had much luck and have seen it depart to a better existential plane or have it sitting small and sad in a corner, not quite knowing what to do to realise its full potential. It's also possible that your Adam's Rib is looking a little down or stagnant, that it's not turning into that exuberant and exquisite specimen you see in the photographs. Don't worry, we'll take you from the basics to more specific tips so you can learn all the tricks you need to get your Monstera up and running.
Getting to know the Monstera
Monstera Deliciosa is a tropical plant, from the Araceae family, like calla lilies, anthuriums and philodendrons. It owes its name monstera to the Latin, meaning strange, out of the ordinary, because although it has impressive green leaves, they are furrowed with these spontaneously formed holes. The delicious part comes from its exquisite fruit, because in its habitat it produces an elongated fruit with the same shape as corn cobs, which when eaten ripe has an exquisite taste reminiscent of pineapple, banana and mango.
However, even though its fruit is edible, the rest of the plant is poisonous and if you eat the fruit without waiting for it to ripen, you may suffer from irritations and other discomforts. Needless to say, it is not suitable for pets or children, especially if they are in the habit of playing with the plants. However, if your pet does nibble a bit of your monstera, it will only cause some stomach upset. They should still not be allowed to nibble or eat the leaves.
In the wild, Adam's rib is huge, can grow many metres tall and its leaves spread out all around. Believe it or not, monsteras produce long white flowers, but these are of little aesthetic importance. It will never flower if it is in a pot, but that is not a concern either because its attractiveness lies mainly in its lush foliage.
Some people confuse monstera deliciosa with open-leaved philodendrons, as their leaves look very similar especially on younger plants; but there is a simple trick to distinguish them: the leaves of the philondendron are perforated at the edge but lack the holes that monstera has near the midrib.
One of the coolest things about the Monstera is that it can grow both indoors and outdoors, and this doesn't necessarily mean it will have a smaller or different growth, the only difference is that indoors it doesn't flower. This plant has a lot of aerial roots, given its climbing habit. These rootlets will enter cracks and crevices or attach themselves to adjacent trees and branches to climb. Remember that it is a climber and not a parasite, so if you have it outside and it climbs up any of the trees, it won't hurt it.
If you put your Adam's Rib in a place that is too dark, it will exhibit a behaviour known as negative phototropism. That is, instead of moving and growing towards the light (as most plants do) it will seek shade. This does not mean that your monstera is choosing suicide, but that it is remembering its origins. In the tropical jungle, darkness means it is under a very tall tree, bigger than itself, up which it can climb to reach the sunlight. The problem is that indoors there are no taller trees, so watch out for the light.
Back to basics: basic Monstera care
Just as you have to learn to walk before you can run, it is worth taking a look at the most basic care of the Adam's Rib before getting down to the specifics. Providing the right minimum living conditions is always the first step to making your plants happy.
Monstera does not need too much water. In fact, overwatering is counterproductive. It is best to water once a week during the warmer season and every 2 weeks during the winter. In any case, check the substrate before watering. It should be completely dry, at least in the first 2 cm. If in doubt, it is best to allow a day to pass. This plant withstands drought very well but is not good with excessive humidity.
This is a tropical plant that prefers warm temperatures. It will be very happy if you can keep it between 18 to 27° C. If it is in a cooler climate, it will grow slowly and poorly and if it reaches 10°C, it will stop growing altogether. This is why if you live in a place with harsh winters, the idea is to keep the plant indoors during this season.
Adam's Rib requires a lot of light, but only indirect light. Remember that it is a rainforest plant, where it lives in the shelter of the tallest trees. Direct sunlight can burn its leaves and damage the overall health of the plant, so it should always be in shade or semi-shade. However, if it does not receive enough light it will not develop its holes and will tend to seek shade (the negative phototropism we mentioned) and will die.
This tropical and lush plant requires a medium to high humidity environment in order to grow and develop to its full potential. If your plant is indoors and the environment is dry, due to heating or air conditioning, it is essential to get hold of a water sprayer and use it on a regular basis.
The Monstera is a very versatile plant and is very relaxed with its substrate, it does not require a special PH or composition but it is essential that it has excellent drainage, because if the roots become waterlogged, the plant will die. A good substrate mix for Monsteras is universal substrate, peat and perlite to make it a little lighter. Don't forget the old trick of putting some gravel or pebbles in the bottom of the pot to prevent excess moisture.
You can use a green plant fertilizer or organic fertilizer, well diluted in the irrigation water and apply it every month or month and a half during its growing season which is spring and summer. Personally, as Monstera is not a flowering plant or one that requires constant and particular nutrition, I prefer to use an extended release fertiliser in the form of sticks that are placed in the substrate and which dissolves little by little with watering. In any case, read and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
I like my Monsteras free, wild and happy to grow as they please but if you feel you should tidy it up a bit because it has grown wild and crazy, then don't be afraid to cut it back a bit. Preferably you should prune in the spring, plus you can use the stems you've cut to propagate it and take advantage of the opportunity to remove wilted or decayed leaves.
Tricks to keep your Adam's Rib happy
- Monstera needs a lot of space to grow. Forget about putting it in a small planter or on a narrow shelf in a library, you need to give it plenty of light and space so that it feels comfortable and starts to spread out.
- If your plant looks big and beautiful, but droopy and sad, it may be because it needs stakes or space to climb. You can put wooden sticks, supports, or even place it under other plants so they can climb happily.
- Clean the leaves. You need to remove dust and soil residue from the surface of the leaves so that it can continue to photosynthesise and grow. You can use a damp cloth or use special leaf-cleaning mixtures. Some people use a drop of olive oil on a cloth to give them a little shine and even vinegar diluted in water.
- Keep your plant's stake moist at all times, as this helps the aerial roots of the Adam's rib to climb more easily as it will naturally seek out moisture. Coconut fibre covered stakes are great because they can be moistened and the plant will climb easily. Don't worry if you don't like the way it looks, because the Monstera will cover it up in no time.
- Some people advise cutting the aerial roots that stick out of the plant, avoid doing this as you are harming the development of your plant. It is better to guide them upwards to the stake or back into the substrate so that they continue to grow.
- Repot your Monstera whenever you feel it is necessary. When you see that the weight of the plant is too much for the pot, when the roots start to show above the substrate and below the pot. Ideally, do this in spring and move it to a pot that is at least 20% larger than the previous one. Don't overdo it, because if the pot is too big the moisture can affect the roots and kill the plant.
- If you want to propagate your Monstera you don't need to cut too long stems to make cuttings. Look for branches that have at least one leaf, stem and an aerial root. You can put it in water, so the roots will develop better and you can plant it in a pot.
- It is an undemanding plant in terms of substrate nutrition, but this does not mean that it should be forgotten. During the growing season (spring and summer) you can fertilise every 2 weeks with a liquid fertiliser, preferably organic.
- If your plant is indoors and you have a problem with pests, it is possible that it is catching them outside if you take it outside to let the rainwater fall on it. Also, this can cause thermal shock to the plant. The best thing to do is to put a container outside to collect rainwater and then use it for watering.
- If the leaves of your plant have white spots and it is not variegated, it is because the water you use to water it is a bit hard. The solution is simple: fill the watering can with tap water but let it stand for at least 24 hours before watering or spraying.
- If the leaves of the Adam's Rib are too yellow, the problem is that it has too much direct light. Move it to a more sheltered spot, but don't overdo it with the darkness. Remember negative phototropism.
- The substrate for Monsteras should not be hard and compact, but loose and airy, so that the roots can take in oxygen.
- If the leaves of your Monstera have no holes you should move it to a place where it receives better light, as this is a symptom of a lack of light. If the problem is that there is nowhere in your house where there is good light, get a UV lamp. All your plants will love it and your Monstera will be radiant.
Dedicated to creating an army of cacti, succulents, poodles and cats to help me conquer the world. In the little free time I have left, I play, write and dance.