With huge, glossy, dark green leaves, Monstera deliciosa, also known by its common name “Swiss cheese plant,” is a striking addition to any room. It’s a woody vine that grows in the tropics of North and South America, where it can reach 70 feet tall. But it’s also a popular houseplant because it’s generally unfussy and has few pests or diseases. Its gorgeous leaves, which develop holes that give it its whimsical name, may grow up to three feet wide! It's a great plant for newbies and experienced plant people alike.
Here’s what else you need to know about this insanely Instagram-able plant:
There’s a little confusion about exactly which Monstera plant is which.
This is where it gets a little complicated! The plant category, or genus, is called Monstera, but several different species of Monstera go by the same common name of “Swiss cheese plant.” Mostly, you’ll find Monstera deliciosa, which has long-lobed leaves and elongated holes (though young leaves may not have these holes). Another similar plant, Monstera epipremnoides, looks almost identical except its leaves change from having holes to long slashes through the outer edges. And Monstera adansonii has heart-shaped leaves with holes. Regardless of which species you buy, they’re all beautiful, easy-care plants with similar needs.
Your Swiss cheese plant likes indirect light.
In its native environment, the Swiss cheese plant grows beneath the canopy of large trees. So, it prefers indirect sunlight, or sunlight filtered by a sheer curtain. It will take some direct sunlight, but not more than a few hours per day. It’s also important not to put it in direct sunlight right away as it’s getting acclimated to your home, because the leaves scorch easily. Also, in low light levels, it will not develop the characteristic leaf holes.
How do I care for my Swiss cheese plant?
Monstera deliciosa likes moderate indoor temperatures of 60 to 85 degrees. It prefers high humidity, but it will adapt fine to dry indoor conditions. If you really feel like nurturing it, you can mist it occasionally to boost humidity—but it’s not entirely necessary. Water a Swiss cheese plant until it runs out the bottom (make sure your pot has drain holes! No plant likes wet feet!), then wait until the top few inches feel dry before watering again. Don't overwater—that's a common mistake with this plant. Monstera deliciosa likes its soil a little on the dry side. If you like, feed with a balanced liquid fertilizer in the summer, then stop over the winter when it’s not actively growing.
You can take Monstera deliciosa outdoors in summer, or keep it outdoors in warm climates (it’s often grown as a landscape plant in warm climates such as Florida). Place it in an area with filtered shade, never direct sunlight, so the leaves won’t fry. Bring it back indoors before temperatures drop into the 40s.
Small plants may be staked with a moss-covered pole, which they will climb. The leaf size increases as the plants get going. If you don’t stake, you’ll have more of a sprawling plant, which is also fine. In the wild, the Swiss cheese plant produces fruit, but that's rare as a houseplant.
Keep it away from curious pets.
One caution: As with many tropical houseplants, Swiss cheese plant contains calcium oxalate crystals, which are toxic to pets. If you have cats or dogs that like to nibble, keep them away from this plant because ingesting it will irritate mouths, lips and tongues, and cause drooling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.
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