Monstera Deliciosa is one of the most common and beloved houseplants in the entire house plant community. They are also a personal favorite; I remember them growing around my childhood homes in tomato sauce jars and massive pots all over the place. Any time a branch would snap, or the mother plant would grow too large my mum would trim it back and propagate the leaves. As a result, we would have glass jars overflowing with rooted Monstera clippings in every available window. Had the plant been as desirable then as it is now, she could have made a small fortune selling her propagated plants. Their large luscious green leaves with their trademark “Swiss Cheese” style holes and the ability to grow quite massive indoors makes them an easy choice for plant enthusiasts! What many houseplant hobbyists do not know is that like many tropical houseplants they live quite a different life in the wild. When mature and in ideal conditions they can even flower and fruit. Something I didn’t even know until I came across a post in a houseplant group a year ago.
The Delicious Secret Of Wild Monstera
Monstera are native to southern Mexico and are a variety of breadfruit. They are known by many names such as Mexican Breadfruit, Fruit Salad Plant and more commonly the Swiss Cheese Plant. The fruit is said to taste like a fruit salad or a combination of pineapple, banana, and strawberry. It takes close to an entire year for the fruit to ripen and it only grows on very large, mature Monstera plants. Because the conditions must be just right, and the plant has to be so large not many people get to witness this event outside of its natural environment. The fruit while delicious can also be quite dangerous if eaten before it’s ripe, it contains a harmful substance that can cause severe mouth, throat, and intestinal irritation. If you have ever gotten insulation (fiberglass) on your skin imagine that discomfort but inside your mouth! Yikes! So, if you ever get your hands on this uncommon delicacy ensure it is fully ripe before attempting to eat it! The fruit ripens from the bottom up, the hexagon shaped scales peel away to expose the fruit underneath as it ripens. While writing this article I spent a good chunk of time trying to track down Monstera fruit to ship to my home on Vancouver Island but could only find one supplier. A business called Miami Fruit; they do ship to Canada, but they are 1. Out of stock and 2. Over $100USD to buy, not including shipping! Safe to say I will have to pass on this venture, but I will continue my search and if I ever get my hands on some, I promise I will make a video!
The Monstrous Wild Versions Of Our Innocent Indoor Friends
Wild Monstera can grow up to 20 metres high with leaves up to a metre wide! Monstrous indeed! To put that in perspective a standard room is between 8-9ft high. So, 20 metres is around 65ft or about 7 stories tall! Pretty amazing right? No wonder its name is essentially “delicious monster”! Monstera Grow upwards with the help of Aerial roots, much like their equally popular friend the Pothos. If you missed July’s newsletter you can find an article from me regarding the benefits of growing pothos on moss poles and the basics on what and how aerial roots work, check out those cool facts here!
Unlike Pothos though they have some very unusual growth habits and superpowers! They are another jungle growing plant that scales trees to reach the light at the top of canopies. They are so well adapted to growing on jungle floors that seedlings unlike most normal plants actually grow towards the darkest spots around them to hunt out tree trunks. Once they locate a tree trunk, they begin their ascent to the top of the canopy. At times doing so, fervently they neglect the jungle floor and can start growing similarly to bromeliads and other epiphytes, receiving all their water and nutrients from their aerial roots. Upon reaching the top of the canopy they can then redirect those aerial roots back into the ground, becoming attached to the earth below once more. Talk about an unusual growth pattern!
But before you attempt to turn your monstera into an epiphyte you should probably know this can only successfully happen in very high humidity levels. So, unless you live in a home with 80% humidity, unfortunately you’re going to need to keep that pot and soil around. The slits and holes that create the trademark look of maturing monstera are more than just a fancy design but yet another amazing survival tactic from mother nature that allows the plant to pass dappled light down to the lower leaves and withstand heavy rains and intense wind by allowing the water and wind to pass through the leaves with little to no resistance, preserving its overall well being. A clever feature when your climate is prone to hurricanes and tropical storms!
Caring For Monstera Indoors
Caring for Monstera plants is relatively simple, as you now know they are well adapted to survive no matter what life throws at them! Indoors you can grow them as large as you want as long as you have the space and provide them with the right size pot and something to support them as they grow. When they are small, they can grow happily without much help but as they get larger you will need to put them onto a moss pole or trellis. I have opted to put mine on to a trellis this summer and build a moss pole structure behind the trellis when it gets larger. I also repotted mine into a mixture of high quality sterile potting mix and compost. Check out that video below.
They endure low to medium light levels, but you should avoid putting them anywhere near direct sun, if you’re noticing yellowing leaves too much sunlight is likely the cause. They should not dry out completely, but over watering will result in root rot. Pressing your finger into the soil if it is dry up to your first knuckle it’s probably safe to water your leafy friend. Re-pot once a year but keep in mind if you continue giving her more space she will happily keep growing! So once your jungle buddy gets as big as your space allows its time to start pruning back but avoiding upgrading the pot unless you’re wanting a living room overrun with metre wide leaves and massive aerial roots chilling on your couch. Fertilize regularly, especially during high growth months generally after the last frost and before the first frost of your cold season. If you’re keen to propagate a larger plant just make sure you get a couple leaves and make the cut below an aerial root. You can then either dip the end in rooting hormone or enjoy your cutting as a water plant until it outgrows its watery environment. Secure a large plant to trellis or moss poles to ensure it receives proper support and grows upwards rather than outwards. You should also redirect long aerial roots back into the soil of your pot to ensure it’s got a very secure base.
If you already have a happily growing Monstera hopefully you learned some new facts about your green roommate and if you do not have one yet I highly recommend them to all levels of houseplant lovers, beginners and experts alike can all enjoy this amazing and unique tropical plant!
Do you grow Monstera? Have you ever tried the fruit or seen one growing in the wild? We want to see your pictures and hear from you in the comments!