Botanical name: Monstera deliciosa
Monstera deliciosa commonly called Swiss Cheese Plant is a popular houseplant whose large deeply perforated leaves are a sight to behold. It is easy to grow even for a beginner. It is native to tropical forests of Southern Mexico, South of Panama where it grows as an epiphyte on trees. It has been introduced to many tropical areas and has become mildly invasive species in Hawaii, Seychelles, Ascension Island and Society Islands. The name 'deliciosa' means 'delicious' referring to the edible fruit. 'Monstera' means 'monstrous' referring to the size that this plant can grow to, over 30 ft (9 m) in the wild. The common name 'Swiss Cheese Plant' refers to the holes which develop in the leaves similar to those found in some Swiss cheeses. Other common names for Monstera are fruit salad plant and fruit salad tree in reference to its edible fruit which tastes like fruit salad. Monster fruit, Mexican bread fruit, windowleaf among other names. With proper care Monstera can grow to a height of 20 ft or more. The leaves on young plants are smaller and entire with no lobes or holes but soon produce lobed and fenestrate leaves as they grow. Monstera is a suitable stand alone plant for occupying large empty spaces. To produce an upright plant, use a moss stick to support it and also take care of the aerial roots.
Various varieties of Monstera deliciosa are available. The form Variegata has white and cream lines or patches on the leaves. Where space is limited the borsigiana or mini Monstera are ideal.
Swiss Cheese Plant prefers bright to medium indirect light away from direct sunlight. Place it next to a sunless window or near a bright window. The plant produces small leaves and spindly leaf-stalks if there is not enough light and it stops growing in deep shade. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.
Water Swiss Cheese Plant liberally during the growing season and allow the top 2 in. of soil to dry out between waterings. Reduce watering during the cold season to keep the soil slightly moist. Avoid waterlogging as it can lead to root rot disease which can result in the eventual death of the plant. Learn more on how to water houseplants.
Average warmth with a minimum of 150C is ideal for Swiss Cheese Plant. Protect the plant from cold draughts. Learn more on temperature for houseplants.
Average room humidity is ideal for Swiss Cheese Plant. Regular misting is necessary especially when the air is too dry to raise humidity. Occasionally clean the leaves by damp-wiping with a soft cloth to get rid of dust and discourage pest infestation.
Feed Swiss Cheese Plant with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer every 4 weeks during the growing period. Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is minimal and feeding at this time may lead to fertilizer burn. Learn more on how to feed houseplants.
Repot Swiss Cheese Plant annually during the growing season as the roots require adequate room to grow. Use a pot 2-3 sizes larger and one that has a drainage hole. The soil should be free-draining and rich in organic matter. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole(s) to prevent waterlogging which can lead to root-rot.
Pruning Swiss Cheese Plant is easy. Remove yellow and dead leaves to maintain the plant neat and tidy. When the plant becomes too large and unruly cut back the stems to the desired level to rejuvenate growth. The stems can be used to propagate new plants. Learn more on how to prune houseplants.
Swiss Cheese Plant can be propagated at the beginning of the growing period by use of stem cuttings or by air layering.
Propagating Swiss Cheese Plant from stem cuttings in soil
Take a stem cutting from a healthy Swiss Cheese Plant by cutting at a point just below an aerial root. Just one leaf node with the leaf is enough to propagate a new plant. Insert the cutting in moist free-draining soil. Place in a shaded well-lit place and maintain the soil moist until new growth emerges. Allow the new Swiss Cheese Plant to be well established before transplanting.
Propagating Swiss Cheese Plant from stem cuttings in water
Take a stem cutting from a healthy Swiss Cheese Plant by cutting at a point just below an aerial root. Just one leaf node with the leaf is enough to propagate a new plant. Place the cutting in a jar containing plain water. Place the set up in a well-lit spot and change the water every 7-10 days. Once adequate roots have developed, plant the cutting in soil and place in a shaded well-lit place. Allow the new Swiss Cheese Plant to be well established before transplanting.
Propagating Swiss Cheese Plant by air layering
There are two ways of air layering Swiss Cheese Plant. One consists of notching the stem of a healthy Swiss Cheese Plant and coating the notch with a rooting hormone. Surrounding the area with damp moss and then covering it with a polythene film or clear plactic wrap. The second way involves coating the stem at a node with a rooting hormone. Surrounding the node with damp moss and then covering it with a polythene film or clear plastic wrap. In both cases, after the roots have formed sever the stem just below the covered part. Remove the polythene and carefully pot the rooted cutting in moist free-draining soil. Place in a shaded well-lit place and maintain the soil moist until the new Swiss Cheese Plant is well established.
Young leaves may not be perforated but in mature leaves the causes are lack of light, cold air, underwatering and underfeeding. In tall plants, the reason is likely to be failure of water reaching the uppermost leaves; ensure aerial roots are pushed into the compost or allowed to grow into a moist support inorder to supply water and nutrients to the upper leaves.
Overwatering Swiss Cheese Plant is the reason if many leaves are affected and there are signs of wilting and rotting but if there is no wilting and rotting, underfeeding is the problem. If only lower leaves are affected and have dark spots and new leaves are dark and small; underwatering is the reason. If leaves are pale colored and have straw-colored patches the problem is too much sunlight.
As the lower leaves of Swiss Cheese Plant age they fall but if there is an abnormal loss of leaves the reason is sudden change of growing conditions. If the leaves turn brown and dry before they fall then high temperature is the cause.
The reason for rotting stems in Swiss Cheese Plant is the fungal stem-rot disease which is promoted by high moisture and too little warmth. You can save the plant by repotting and keeping the soil dry and warm.
The reason for leaves with brown papery tips and edges in Swiss Cheese Plant is dry air or the plant may be pot-bound. Mist the leaves and repot in a larger-sized pot.
Too little light is the cause as Swiss Cheese Plant will not thrive in deep shade; move the plant to a more brighter spot.
If the soil is too wet, Swiss Cheese Plant will respond with leaves weeping at the edges. Allow the top 2 in. of soil to dry out between waterings and reduce frequency of watering.
Common disease in Swiss Cheese Plant is Leaf Spot.
All parts except the fruit of Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa) are mildly toxic to humans and toxic to pets. If ingested they will cause pain and swelling in the mouth, tongue and lips, vomiting, excessive drooling and difficulty in swallowing.