If you’re looking to add a true touch of the jungle to your home, Monstera adansonii is a perfect choice.
Monstera adansonii, also called Swiss cheese plant, makes an eye-catching houseplant with hole-filled foliage, beautiful green color and long stems. It is a fast-growing vine that grows naturally in low-lying areas and riverbanks of Central America, South America and the Caribbean Islands. As a houseplant, Monstera adansonii can grow up to 2 feet every year and reach a maximum length of 10 feet. The long vines can either climb a support structure or trail from a hanging basket or high shelf.
Today, we’re taking a deep dive into how to take good care of this interesting plant, including creating the proper conditions in your home, how to propagate even more Swiss cheese plants and troubleshooting some potential problems.
Let’s get started!
Monstera Adansonii Background
The key to keeping any houseplant healthy is understanding its native growing conditions and imitating those as closely as possible in your home. With that in mind, here’s a look at where Monstera adansonii originates and its natural growth habits:
Botanical Name and Native Habitat
This plant’s official botanical name is Monstera adansonii, but you may also see it going be a few other aliases besides the already-mentioned Swiss cheese plant:
- Monkey mask Monstera
- Adanson’s Monstera
- Five holes plant
- Swiss cheese philodendron
- Swiss cheese vine
The genus name (Monstera) is Latin for “monstrous” or “abnormal” and refers to the very large size of the full-grown leaves, as well as their unusual holey or split appearance. The species name (adansonii) references the name of Michel Adanson, a French botanist who was among the first to observe and record data on Monsteras in the 1700s.
You’ll find Swiss cheese plants growing in the wild in tropical South and Central America, as well as several islands in the Caribbean. It typically prefers to grow along riverbanks and the floor of tropical forests.
This plant grows like a vine and uses aerial roots to attach itself vertically to trees. Because its roots also dig into the soil, botanists classify Monsteras as hemiepiphytes or “root climbers.” But aerial roots also serve another purpose- they absorb moisture and oxygen directly from the air.
Monstera Adansonii Characteristics
What’s the first thing you notice about this plant? Its top distinction is definitely those amazing holey leaves!
Monstera adansonii is one of the most well-known plants with holes within its leaves. Botanists and plant geeks call these holes fenestrations. We’re not exactly sure why some plants have adapted to form fenestrations, but there are a few ideas:
- They let breezes blow through, lessening the chance of wind damage
- They allow more light to reach the lower leaves
- New research suggests that the holes may increase the plant’s ability to absorb sunlight
Whatever the reason, they certainly add a fun flair to your home!
In its natural habitat, Monstera adansonii can get quite large. The vines reach a maximum length of 60 feet, and the leaves can be as wide as 30 inches.
But don’t worry- this won’t happen in your home. As a houseplant, you can expect your adansonii to top out at 10 feet long, and the leaves typically don’t get much bigger than about 6 inches in width. The vines can grow as much as 2 feet per year, with multiple leaves unfurling on each stem.
Even as houseplants, other members of the Monstera family (especially the Monstera deliciosa) can grow aerial roots a few feet in length. But aerial roots on an adansonii houseplant typically stay much smaller, only getting a few inches long.
RELATED: We’re looking at the all-green version of Monstera adansonii here, but plant breeders occasionally produce a variegated version. To get a look at one of these rare beauties (and some other multi-colored cousins), stop by our post on variegated Monsteras.
Monstera Adansonii Care
Now that you know more about the lovely Monstera adansonii, let’s move on to how to care for one.
Appropriate Pot Size and Type
Monstera adansonii will tolerate a tight pot for a time, but it really prefers to let its roots stretch out to support all that vigorous stem growth. Choose a pot that’s at least 1-2 inches larger than the root ball, but don’t go any larger than 4 inches bigger.
Thanks to its aerial roots that already assist in moisture absorption, this plant does not like wet feet (we’ll talk more about that in just a little bit). Because of this, a pot that’s made of porous material that lets air in and excess moisture out is ideal. These are some great choices for pot types:
- A basket with a coco coir or peat liner
- Terra cotta
- Unglazed ceramic
Nonporous materials, like plastic or glazed ceramic, will also work. But you’ll have to commit to carefully monitoring soil moisture and watering appropriately.
Fast-draining soil with a light, fluffy texture is a must for Swiss cheese plants. As long as you meet those requirements, this plant isn’t too picky about soil richness or a specific pH.
You’ve got a few options here for giving your plant the fast-draining conditions it needs:
- Buy a specially-made potting mix for monsteras
- Use cactus/succulent soil
- Mix high-quality potting soil with several handfuls of perlite or orchid bark mixed in
Place your plant where it will get a moderate amount of medium-bright indirect light. A couple of good places to set your plant are a north-east facing window or a few feet back from an east or south-facing window.
If natural light is lacking in your home, you can supplement with an indoor grow light. This one from Frenan is a nice size for houseplants and offers several adjustable settings.
Although Monstera adansonii is an evergreen plant that won’t drop leaves in winter, it will go through a seasonal dormant phase in the late fall and winter.
During this time, your plant will grow much more slowly and demand fewer resources. As much as possible, avoid moving your adansonii from one place to another during dormancy; the change can stress your plant out at a time when its least able to recover.
This is where your Monstera adansonii care can get a little tricky.
“When it comes to caring for Monsteras, watering may be a real pain in the neck,” says Emma Sophie of Evergreen Seeds. “They want soil that is regularly damp but not waterlogged.”
Speaking from my personal experience, this plant can quickly respond to watering either too much or too little by producing sickly, yellow leaves:
Fortunately, the adansonii is also a hardy plant, and it can recover just as rapidly when you get the moisture balance right.
Emma shares her advice for watering your adansonii, “Before watering, make sure the top inch of soil is completely dry by dipping your finger into it. But be careful not to overwater the plant to the point that the top layer of soil becomes permanently damp.”
So the real key here is to give your plant water on an as-needed basis instead of on a strict schedule. Every few days, stick your finger into the soil to gauge the moisture. If you feel any dampness before your second knuckle, wait a couple of days and check again.
And when it is time to water, use room-temperature water and thoroughly wet the entire root ball. You’ll know you’ve given enough water the when the excess runs freely through the pot’s drainage holes.
If you’ve got your pot in a dish or saucer to catch drips (and you should!) make sure to pour away the excess water. Leaving your plant sitting in a puddle of water is a surefire way to over-saturate the soil and end up with unhealthy leaves.
Also, keep the current season in mind for watering needs. During dormancy, your plant processes water at a slower pace, typically about 50% slower than during the growing season. So if you normally have to water every week in the active growing phase, plan to water every 2 weeks or so during dormancy.
And always check the soil moisture first no matter what the season!
This care point is much easier: Normal room temps between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit are fine for this plant. If you’re comfortable, it is too!
But outside that range, your plant can suffer from stress. In the winter, keep your plant away from drafty, cold windows. And keep in mind that in the summer, it can feel downright frigid right next to the air conditioning vents. Move your plant to a different location, or use an air deflector to direct the cold blast in a safer direction.
Monstera adansonii will benefit from a slightly-above-average indoor humidity, with a range of 50% to 60% being ideal.
A plant humidifier is one of the best ways to do that, especially if you live in a very dry climate.
In the absence of a humidifier, you can also mist the leaves every few days to give your plant some much-needed moisture. Other tricks that help boost humidity are:
- Keeping a bowl or large jar of water nearby
- Filling a tray with pebbles, adding water and setting your plant on top
- Grouping it with other houseplants to create a microclimate
Monstera adansonii appreciates regular feedings during the active growing season in spring, summer and early fall.
There are specially formulated Monstera fertilizers on the market, and they can be an easy way to give your plant a balanced nutrient boost. This liquid formula from The Grow Co. is a great choice.
However, if you already have an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer on hand, you can use that once a month. Just make sure to dilute it half strength and give plenty of water along with the fertilizer.
Don’t give any fertilizer at all during dormancy. Your plant absorbs nutrients much more slowly when it’s resting, so feeding could lead to chemical build-up and burns. Wait until your plant wakes up in the spring to give the next dose.
Swiss Cheese Plant Pruning
Pruning Monstera adansonii is helpful for a few reasons:
- Control its enthusiastic growth (given the chance, this plant will take over your home!)
- Remove older, spent leaves
- Remove unattractive leggy stems
- Stimulate new growth
- Obtain cuttings for propagation
It’s best to prune in spring or early summer when your plant is bursting with new energy to put into fresh growth. Later in summer or fall can be ok too, but it’s not as ideal as springtime.
But if it happens to be the middle of winter right now, wait a couple of months for your pruning project. Pruning during the winter dormancy just adds unnecessary stress at a time when your plant is least able to recover from it.
If you want to remove some excess length, use sanitized scissors or garden shears to clip back stems to a leaf node. However, this will only work for a while- your plant will send out a brand new growth point from the end node. You can see how that happened on my adansonii:
Monstera adansonii can also suffer from legginess, which is the term for long stem sections with sparse amounts of leaves or small, sickly looking ones.
Trim these stems off at the base of the plant, near the soil line. This helps encourage a fuller, lusher appearance since it forces your plant to direct its attention to producing new growth from the base.
One word of caution: If you have multiple leggy stems, don’t cut them all off at once. Foliage is essential for converting sunlight into food, and pruning away too much at once can severely weaken your plant. Limit yourself to trimming one entire stem at a time, and wait until your plant produces several inches of healthy base growth before cutting off another.
Whether you’re pruning an entire stem or just the ends, wait a few days after pruning to water– this allows the cuts to seal over and prevents bacterial infection.
And don’t throw those pruned sections away! They’re perfect for propagation, which we’ll cover in more detail a little later on.
As we know by now, this Monstera climbs!
You can use a bamboo trellis to give your plant some support, and that certainly gets the job done.
But if you’re wanting to mimic the adansonii’s jungle home as closely as possible, a moss pole makes a great stand-in for a tree. Besides looking realistic, the permeable surface also makes it easy for your plant to attach its aerial roots. This one from Befano is modular, so you can start with a small one and add another unit when your plant grows taller.
This video from Carmen Whitehead shows the process of attaching vining plants to a moss pole. Carmen demonstrates on both a Rhaphiophora tetrasperma and a Monstera adansonii, so start the video at the 9:12 mark to skip directly the adansonii portion:
Propagating Monstera Adonsonii
As a vigorous grower, Monstera adansonii is easy to propagate from stem cuttings and air layering, and some adventurous people attempt to grow it from seed.
Keep your newly-propagated plants for yourself to make a true mini-jungle, or give them away to family and friends. The choice is yours!
How to Propagate Monstera Adansonii from Stem Cuttings
Monsteras root very easily and quickly from stem cuttings, and you’ve got a couple of options of how to go about it:
- Rooting your stem cutting in water
- Rooting your stem cutting in soil
Both methods are easy and effective. First, let’s cover how to take a good cutting, then we’ll go over the details of how to get your cutting to root in soil or water.
Take a healthy cutting. Sanitize a sharp scissors or pruner with alcohol, then clip off a stem section that’s about 4-6 inches long and has at least 3 leaves. Make your cut about 1/2 to 1 inch below a node, like the photo shows:
Remove the bottom 2 leaves, cutting them off as close to the stem as possible without actually nicking the stem. What you’re doing here is exposing the nodes, which is where the new roots will emerge. Now you’ve got a cutting that’s ready for the next propagation step.
To root your cutting in water, put your cutting into a clean glass and add enough filtered water to fully submerge the bare nodes under the water line.
Place your cutting in a warm spot that gets indirect light. Top the water off as needed to keep the nodes submerged, and change out the water completely when it starts to look cloudy.
You should see new roots forming in a few weeks. Once they are at least 1 inch long, plant your cutting in a pot of moistened soil and treat it as an adult plant.
To root your cutting in soil, fill a pot with fast-draining potting soil and moisten it lightly. Dip your prepared cutting in rooting hormone (this one from Garden Safe is a good option) and insert your cutting into the soil. Make sure the bare nodes are completely covered by the soil.
Check the soil every day and keep it consistently moist (a spray bottle works really well for this). New roots should emerge in a few weeks; you can test this by gently pulling on the cutting. If you feel resistance, your propagation is successful! If you still feel wiggle room, wait another week and try again.
Continue keeping the soil moist until you see new growth, then treat your cutting like an adult plant.
How to Propagate Monstera Adansonii by Air Layering
Air layering is the process of stimulating new root growth from a node while the stem is still attached to your plant. The beauty of this method is that you can confirm new root growth and successful propagation before making any cuts to your plant.
Here’s how you do it:
Step 1. Identify a section of the plant with aerial roots or nodes (future aerial root sites) that you can eventually cut off from the mother plant:
Step 2. Wrap the roots or nodes in a layer of damp moss or coco coir, then a layer of plastic. Secure with twist ties:
Step 3. Mist the moss occasionally to keep it moist. In a few weeks, you should be able to see the roots fully entwined with the moss. Cut the section free, and pot it up in a new pot.
How To Start Monstera From Seed
Yes, it’s possible, but it takes more time and has a higher rate of failure than propagating by stem cuttings.
If you want to give it a try, here’s what to do:
- Soak your seeds for up to 24 hours in room temperature water. This step isn’t completely necessary, but it can help speed up the germination process by softening the outer seed coat. Make sure to do this in a warm room in your house, away from any chilly windows or HVAC vents.
- Plant your seeds in well-draining potting mix, about 1/2 deep. A seed-starting tray is ideal for this step since the small size helps prevent accidental overwatering. If you’d like to recycle a tray rather than buy one, I’ve had good results with planting seeds in empty paperboard egg cartons.
- Place a plastic bag or a humidity dome over your pot, and keep the soil consistently moist. A spray bottle is perfect for this task.
- Bottom heat is another way to encourage germination, like this one from SeedFactor.
- Seeds should sprout in a few weeks. Once they’re 2 inches tall, transfer them to 2-inch nursery pots filled with well-draining soil.
One word of caution: Double-check which species of monstera seeds you buy. Monstera deliciosa seeds are fairly easy to find, like these on Etsy, while those of Monstera adansonii are more uncommon, like these from Rare Palm Seeds. So make sure any seeds you’re buying are actually what you want.
Repotting Monstera Adansonii
On average, Monstera adansonii needs repotting every year or two. Repotting is essential for providing your plant with fresh, nutrient-rich soil, preventing soil compaction and giving your plant some extra room to stretch out its roots.
Spring is the best time for repotting, but you can also do it successfully in the summer or very early fall. A Monstera adansonii is ready for a repot when it shows these signs:
- Slow, stunted, or nonexistent new growth, even during the growing period
- Roots are breaching the soil surface or coming out the drainage holes
- It dries out quickly no matter how much you water
- White mineral deposits build up on soil or rim of the pot
- Signs of stress (yellow leaves, leaf droop) that are not from another problem
Here’s how to get your Swiss cheese plant into its new home:
Step 1. Water your plant the day before you plan to repot. This helps prepare your plant for the move and also makes the soil easier to work with.
Step 2. Cover your work surface with newspaper or something similar to make clean-up easier afterward.
Step 3. Lay your plant down on the ground to work it out of its pot. If it’s in a plastic nursery pot, gently squeeze around the sides to loosen the soil. If you’re having trouble getting your plant free, do not pull on the plant itself; this can snap off entire stems or damage leaves.
Instead, run a butter knife along the inside of the pot or gently poke up through the drainage holes with a pencil or a chopstick.
Step 4. Once your plant is out of the pot, examine the roots. Here’s what you’re looking for:
- Roots that are compacted or pot bound
- Signs of root disease (brownish discoloration or squishiness)
- Overgrown roots
Gently work the root ball open, starting at the root tips and moving upwards. Work any root compactions free, which may take a little time. If you see any diseased root sections, trim them away with a sanitized scissors or pruners. Also, if there are any overly long roots, trim them back by up to 1/3.
During the root exam, brush away as much of the old soil as possible, letting it fall down on your work surface.
Step 5. Add fresh soil to your new pot, enough to bring the top of the root ball about 1/2 to 1 inch below the pot’s lip. Then settle your adansonii into the new pot, filling in around the sides with fresh soil. Gently poke the soil with a pencil or chopstick to fill in any air pockets.
Step 6. Place your plant in its regular spot and wait a couple of days to give water. This encourages the roots to spread out in search of water, and it also gives any trimmed root sections time to heal before being exposed to moisture.
Potential Problems with Monstera Adansonii
The good news is that Monstera adansonii typically recovers well from most problems it may encounter. Here are the most common ones you may run into:
Monstera adansonii does not hesitate to turn a few leaves yellow if it’s unhappy about its environment. Often, these yellowing areas then turn brown and crispy.
It takes a little investigating to find exactly what’s behind the discoloration, but watering issues are the most likely culprit. What’s most confusing here is that an adansonii will produce yellow leaves in response to either too much or too little watering. So check the soil immediately to assess the current moisture level and think about your watering habits lately.
For overwatered plants: If the soil is damp to the touch, let your plant dry out until the pot is light and easy to lift. If it’s possible to remove the root ball from the pot entirely, this will speed up the process. You may also need to cut away stems and/or foliage that have completely died.
For under-watered plants: If the pot is feather-light and the soil is completely dry, soak the roots in a bowl for water for several hours, until the soil is moist from the bottom of the pot to the top. This will hydrate the entire ball of soil and give the roots a deep drink of the water they need.
In either case, keep a close eye on the plant for a few weeks. Also, make it a habit to test the soil moisture every few days and give water only when needed.
Sometimes you can be doing everything right and your leaves still look like they want to die. What’s going on then? I had this problem right after I got my plant, and I learned there could be a few reasons behind this:
- Over-fertilization from the nursery
- Shock reaction from transplanting or from moving from a nursery to your home
- Stress from extreme cold or heat
Do what you can to make your home as hospitable to your plant as possible, and often this will help the plant to correct itself and restore its leaves to full health.
Legginess in plants is almost always due to poor lighting. But other factors that sometimes exacerbate this problem are:
- Inadequate nutrients
- Too small of a pot
- Rootbound plant
So move your adansonii plant closer to a light source as your first step. Then consider whether you’ve been fertilizing it often enough or if it’s time to size it up to a bigger pot with a fresh batch of soil.
Monstera in general are not pest-prone, but like other houseplants you may spot aphids, mealybugs, or scale insects.
Remove aphids by taking your plant into the shower or out into the yard and spraying off the foliage. This works best if you repeat the spray-down for three to five days in a row, or more if the aphids persist. Spraying your plant with insecticidal soap is another effective aphid-killer.
For mealybugs and scale, use a cotton ball soaking in rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to physically scrub them off the plant. Check back over the next week to make sure that there aren’t any holdouts.
Where to Buy Monstera Adansonii
The Swiss cheese plant is easy to find at garden centers or nurseries, and it’s usually pretty inexpensive too. When I was looking for an adansonii, I found one at the first greenhouse I stopped at, although it was mislabeled as a “Swiss Cheese Philodendron.” So don’t rely too heavily on labels!
However, a Monstera adansonii has a pretty distinctive leaf structure and vining growth pattern, and they’re quite common. If you think it looks like an adansonii, you’re probably correct. And you can always ask the staff if you have any questions.
Ordering online is another great way to get your hands on a healthy plant, especially if you live in an area that doesn’t have very many greenhouses or they don’t offer many tropical houseplants.
Etsy is my favorite place for ordering live plants online, and these sellers had Monstera adansonii in stock at the time of publishing:
You can even order one on Amazon:
Frequently Asked Questions about Monstera Adansonii
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- Monstera adansonii is a tropical vining plant that grows naturally in Central/South America and the Caribbean islands.
- This plant needs a moderate amount of bright, indirect sunlight. Make sure the potting soil has a light, airy texture with excellent drainage, and give water when the top inch of soil feels dry.
- You can display your plant in a hanging basket or a high shelf, or train it to grow on a support structure. Seasonal pruning in the spring helps the adansonii keep a full, lush appearance with healthy green foliage.
- Propagation can be done through stem cuttings rooted in water or soil, through air layering or via seed, although Monstera adansonii seeds can be very hard to come by.
- Common problems include leaf yellowing or browning, leggy stems and occasionally, pest infestations.
If you’re ready to take your houseplant game to the next level, it would be hard to find a better plant to do that with than Monstera adansonii. You just can’t beat those gorgeous leaves, and once you get the watering and lighting figured out in your home, the care needs are minimal.
Home jungle, here we come!
We want to hear from you! Do you have any other questions about Monstera adansonii plant? Or maybe you’ve discovered some other care secrets you can share with the class. We’re all ears- let us know in the comments!