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How Do Monstera Leaves Split?

A monstera plant is a lovely indoor plant with very large, heart-shaped leaves. There are multiple theories as to why Monstera leaves split. One thing for sure is that the fenestrated leaves (split leaves) are an adaptation to help the plant thrive.

Monstera Adansonii

A baby Monstera plant has heart-shaped, solid green leaves that unfurl and split as the plant matures, giving the plant the nickname, “Swiss cheese plant.” This process of mature leaves splitting and getting holes is called leaf fenestration.

Why Does A Monstera Leaf Split?

There are three different reasons given by experts as to why the leaves on the Monstera houseplant split. All explanations assume that holey leaves are an adaptation that helps the plant survive in the wild.

Monstera's are are epiphyte's, which means they are used to growing in the jungle shade in the wild and the gaps help it to thrive in those locations by:

  • Making the Best Use of Sunlight: A Monstera plant has splits in the leaves in order to allow enough light to travel down to the lower leaves. The higher leaves tend to be older, larger leaves, so the holes and splits allow light to pass through to the leaves below.

  • Preventing Rain Pooling: Monsteras do not like water to pool on the leaves, and they have quite large leaves! The holes in the leaves allow the water to drip through the leaves to the soil.

  • Providing Protection Against Wind: Although this is the least accepted rationale for the split leaves, it does bear mentioning. Leaves with holes in them allow the wind to pass through, saving the plant from damage on windy days.

Read more: 16 Different Types of Monstera Plants

Do Monstera Leaves Split On Their Own?

A healthy Monstera plant will split on its own when it reaches 2-3 years of age. In order for the plant to split, however, it must be experiencing optimal growing conditions. Optimal conditions for a happy Monstera include proper sunlight, water, and nutrition.

For example, I got the below Monstera Deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Plant) when it was quite young and has yet to develop splits in all of its leaves:

Young monstera plant
Photo: IndoorPlants.comA young Monstera's leaves are solid and heart-shaped. They will not split until the plant matures after 2-3 years.

Are Unsplit Leaves A Sign Monstera Is Unhappy?

Young Monstera plants do not split, and you cannot rush the process. Giving your Monstera plant proper plant care coupled with patience is the only way to ensure the Monstera plant’s leaves will split.

However, if a Monstera is 2-3 years old and exhibiting other symptoms of poor health, it’s unlikely the leaves will split until you remedy the problem. Clear signs that your monstera is not happy to include:

  • Wilting leaves

  • Leaves that curl on the end

  • Leaves that are yellowing

  • Leaves that are brown on the edges

  • Mushy brown spots or a musty smell from the soil

The key is determining what’s causing your plant to be unhappy. For example, a plant that is over-watered might get root rot. If you subject your plant to too much bright light, the leaves might wilt.

Monstera split leaf
Photo: IndoorPlants.comMonsteras need optimal growing conditions for their leaves to split.

How To Get Monstera Leaves To Split

If your Monstera plant is not splitting, first ask yourself if you have not waited long enough. Is the plant mature? Second, check the plant care criteria. Often, inadequate lighting will stunt the plant’s growth and prevent Monstera fenestration.

Lastly, be certain your watering and fertilizer regimen is what the plant needs. A happy Monstera is well-tended.

Monstera Adansonii
Photo: IndoorPlants.comOne reason a Monstera plant has splits in the leaves is to allow enough light to travel down to the lower leaves.

How To Care For Monstera Houseplants

  • Water: A Monstera plant should be watered approximately every 7-14 days. Always touch the soil before watering your Monstera plant. If you check the soil every few days, that is a great way to ensure you are not over- or under-watering the plant. The top inch of the soil should be allowed to dry between waterings.

  • Sunlight: The Monstera needs adequate light in order to thrive. Although it can survive in low light, it prefers bright, indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight as that can burn the leaves. If you don’t have enough indirect sunlight, you can use a grow light to improve the light conditions.

  • Humidity: These are tropical plants with rainforests as their natural habitat, so they prefer higher than normal humidity levels. Try to replicate 60-80% humidity with a humidifier or pebble tray.

  • Temperature: Monstera adansonii and monstera deliciosa thrive in temperatures ranging from 65-90 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Fertilizer: Monstera plants need periodic fertilizing. Feed your plant once per month during the growing season with a 20-20-20 houseplant fertilizer.

  • Soil: Monstera plants thrive in a well-draining, quality potting soil with peat moss.

  • Potting: When repotting your Monstera plant, choose a pot that is 2-3 inches larger than the old one to give the plant’s roots plenty of room.

  • Pruning: A Monstera plant can be trimmed about two inches below the node. Pruning can encourage new leaves and healthier growth. It’s better to prune smaller leaves from young plants to shape your Monstera as it grows. Pruning large, healthy leaves from a mature Monstera can shock the plant.

  • Propagation: The Monstera can be propagated via a stem cutting. After you cut two inches below the node, the cutting can be put in a rooting medium. Monstera cuttings can be rooted in water, perlite, or potting soil. In no time at all, you will have a new Monstera plant!

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