The variegated monstera is a hard-to-find but gorgeous houseplant. Its large leaves are splashed with white or yellow, making it highly photogenic, and therefore, highly in-demand. But if you’re able to get your hands on one, it will become the centerpiece of your plant collection!
A variegated monstera consistently generates leaves that have shades of white or yellow splashed on their foliage in an all-over marbled pattern or just in certain sections. The variegation is part of the monstera’s genetics and is not caused by viruses, pests, overwatering, sunburn, or other environmental factors. Variegated monsteras tend to be relatively slow-growing, and in most cases, adequate light is necessary to keep the colored leaf portions from fading back to green.
In this article, you’ll learn where monstera plants as a group come from, what variegation actually means, and how to care for one of these brilliantly beautiful foliage plants.
The plant family known as Monstera is native to tropical South America. The Latin name of the genus literally means “monstrous” or “abnormal,” and refers to the very large, somewhat holey leaves that are monstera hallmarks.
The parent plant of variegated monstera, Monstera deliciosa, is native specifically to southern Mexico and northern Panama, where it grows as an evergreen shrub suspended between the earth and the sky.
Monstera seeds germinate in the canopy of the tropical forests. These seedlings grow into large climbing vines that use aerial roots to attach themselves to the trees, similar to epiphytes, or “tree-loving” plants.
Here’s a visual of what epiphytic roots look like:
But monsteras also send a larger root down to the ground to eventually make contact with the soil. In botany, this growth habit is known as hemiepiphytic, which roughly translates to “partially tree-loving.”
The leaves of the monstera are so large because they are designed to be able to collect as much sunlight as possible in the filtered conditions of the tree canopy. This, plus their aerial roots that can very efficiently absorb nutrients, makes monsteras of any kind well-suited to dim indoor conditions as well.
Plain green monsteras have been a houseplant staple since the seventies, but recently, variegated subspecies of monstera have been making quite a splash on Instagram and plantfluencer blogs.
Depending on the type of variegated monstera, the variegation began either as a spontaneous genetic mutation by a specimen or was developed in a lab. Either way, the big, flashy leaves show up well in pictures and make a big visual statement on social media.
What Makes a Monstera Variegated?
Now let’s talk more about variegation–there’s a bit more to it than simply a colored leaf.
Variegation is an absence of color in a leaf that is caused by the absence of chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll is a green, nitrogen-rich substance that enables plants to produce their food through photosynthesis, and it also gives leaves their vibrant green color. This lack of chlorophyll in areas of the leaf results in a plant that has a showy multi-colored pattern, which is called variegation.
Variegated plants almost always grow more slowly than all-green ones, because those white-painted leaves are not capable of photosynthesizing as many sugars as a green leaf could.
There are two kinds of variegation patterns:
- Marbling is when the green and white patches are mostly evenly distributed across the leaf.
- Sectoral variegation means that large portions of the leaf are white, with less than half being green.
Monstera Subspecies That Have Variegation
- Monstera Deliciosa Thai Constellation: Lab-created, super-beautiful, and probably the most common variegated monstera.
- Monstera Deliciosa Borsigiana, aka Monstera Albo: Slow to mature and not as vigorous as other monsteras, it is still highly sought after due to its dramatic variegation.
- Monstera Deliciosa Variegata: Only occurs through spontaneous mutation.
- Monstera Adansonii Variegated: Difficult to find but striking, with large blocks of white on leaves with lighter marbling.
Monstera Albo vs Thai Constellation
Monstera Albo and Thai Constellation are two of the most popular variegated monsteras on the scene right now, so let’s look at them in a bit more detail.
Here’s a photo that shows both varieties, with the Albo on the top and the Thai Constellation on the bottom:
Monstera albo is the outcome of a natural mutation. As a result of this, the variegation is highly variable from leaf to leaf but tends to have an overall blocky look and pure white color.
Monstera albo can have mostly-green leaves with white accents or leaves that are almost entirely white. Without the proper care, a Monstera albo can revert back to an all-green color.
Monstera Thai Constellation was developed in a lab in Thailand. Its creamy, Milky-Way-like variegation is quite stable and consistent across all its leaves, and it will not revert back to a green-leafed form. It is also bushier and fuller than the Albo.
Can Any Monstera Spontaneously Produce Variegation?
While it’s rare, a monstera developing variegated leaves spontaneously does happen. That’s how the Monstera Deliciosa Variegata came into being, after all.
However, sometimes when spontaneous variegation happens, it’s temporary. You might get a variegated leaf or two, but your plant won’t start pushing out all-variegated leaves.
Here’s a photo that shows what spontaneous variegation often looks like:
There are small patches of white coloring, but the majority of the leaf is still green.
An experienced and diligent plant propagator may be able to produce a heavily variegated plant from a spontaneous mutation like this. But it takes a lot of know-how and persistence.
Where to Buy Variegated Monstera
It can be tough to find a monstera variegata for sale. And when you do, you may notice some pretty high prices tags! That’s due to three main reasons:
- They can only be propagated, not grown from seed, to maintain the variegation.
- Thanks to the reduced levels of chlorophyll in a variegated plant, they are much slower growers than other plants.
- They are very, very popular right now, and supply can’t quite keep up with demand.
Most of the time, buying from an online specialty shop is your best bet for getting your hands on one of these beauties.
Etsy is our favorite place to buy live plants online. You can check out several Etsy shops here who have variegated monstera in stock right now. Some of our personal favorite shops who had variegated monstera available when this post was published are:
As we already mentioned, these stunning plants are highly sought-after right now. So if you can’t find one right away, don’t get discouraged. Just keep checking back!
Variegated Monstera Care
Now that you know what kinds of monsteras there are, where they come from, and where to find them, it’s time to learn about how to care for a variegated monstera.
Choose the Right Pot Size
All-green monsteras are fast growers, and the usual recommendation is planting them in a pot that’s about 4 to 6 inches larger than the root ball. But variegated plants grow at a slower pace, so they do better in smaller pots.
An easy way to choose a pot size is to find one that is about 2 or 3 inches wider than the root ball of the plant and isn’t more than about 12 inches deep. This smaller pot size eliminates the possibility of waterlogged soil causing root rot.
A more precise way is to measure your plant from its tallest tip to the top of the soil line. Divide that number by three to find the diameter, in inches, of an ideal pot.
We prefer terracotta pots for houseplants. Their porous nature allows for airflow to the soil and prevents moisture from getting trapped.
But plastic, cement and ceramic pots can work well too. Just make sure every pot has drainage holes at the bottom to prevent standing water.
Use Well-Draining Soil
In their native habitat, monstera grow with their roots exposed to the air, so they do not tolerate wet, dense soil.
All variegated monsteras need very well-draining potting soil. This specially formulated Monstera soil can be a good choice right out of the bag.
Monstera plants are native to tropical rain forests, so they’re adapted to light that’s been filtered through the forest canopy.
Mimic those conditions by placing your variegated variegated monstera a few feet back from a south or east-facing window.
Most houseplants that are watered too often will either develop discolored leaves that drop or a bad case of root rot, which is incurable. Monstera, in particular, is very sensitive to high soil moisture, so you’re better off watering a bit too little than you are watering too much.
Let the first inch or so of soil dry out between waterings. Use your fingertip to push into the top of the soil and check for dampness or dryness; don’t just try to judge the soil moisture by how it looks.
You can also use a moisture meter to get a more precise soil reading, like this popular one from XLUX.
Comfortable Room Temperature
A variegated monstera will be comfortable in an average room temperature, anywhere from 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. But don’t let things drop below 60, as this tropical plant can’t take a cold snap like that.
Proper Ambient Humidity
With its large leaves as origins as a rainforest tree climber, variegated monstera benefits from a humid environment. Too dry, and those big beautiful leaves will end up brown and crispy.
Here’s how you can raise humidity around your variegated monstera:
- Avoid placing the plant near HVAC vents, which emit very dry cold or hot air.
- Place the pot on a small dish filled with pebbles and a small amount of water.
- Place a bowl or jar of water right beside the plant.
- Cluster your monstera with other houseplants to create a tiny microclimate.
- Place it in your kitchen or bathroom. These rooms are the most humid in the house because they have a lot of running water.
- Use a plant humidifier to add moisture to the air.
Monsters are not heavy feeders, and the variegated varieties are no exception. Feed monthly through spring and summer with a balanced liquid plant fertilizer, and refrain from fertilizing in fall and winter.
This liquid formula is specially blended for monstera plants.
Careful pruning can help a variegated monstera to keep its colors. The objective here is to strike a balance between the ornamental white patches and the necessary-to-life green patches.
If you have too many white leaves, trim a couple off. If you have too many green leaves and you know that your lighting is adequate, trim off a few green ones.
As a vining plant, monstera does like a little support. This can be as simple as a moss-covered pole or a bamboo stake.
All you have to do is gently tie the stem of the monstera to the support, making sure there is some slack in the tie material to allow room for growth.
For moss poles, we really like this stackable design that grows along with your variegated monstera. These plants can get quite large when they’re mature!
For bamboo stakes, this 2-foot length can be a good choice for moderately-sized monsteras. There are also longer stakes to choose from as your plant grows larger.
Seasonal Dormancy Patterns
The variegated monstera will go through a dormant period in winter. While it won’t drop its leaves, you may notice significantly slowed growth during this time. Don’t be alarmed! That’s a normal part of its life cycle.
Keeping Your Variegated Monstera Bright and Beautiful
In certain circumstances, most species of variegated monstera can revert, or lose their lovely white variegation to a shade of all-over green.
The white monstera plants with spontaneous variegation are the most prone to reverting, with Monstera albo and Monstera Deliciosa Variegata being the most common.
Reverting to an all-green leaf color is usually the result of inadequate light or, possibly, not enough fertilizer.
As mentioned above, a variegated plant by default has chlorophyll levels much lower than that of other plants. When they feel like they’re not getting enough photosynthesis done, they will compensate by sending out new leaves in green.
To maintain that vibrant variegation vibrant, keep your plant in strong, steady, but indirect light. This is the most important aspect for leaf variegation, by far.
If you don’t have an appropriate window, you can use a grow light. This flexible one from Amazon is a nice choice since it’s tall enough for a large plant like a monstera. Also, make sure to use the blue light option, since it’s the closest to sunlight and makes for healthy foliage. (Red light wavelengths are best for flower/fruit production.)
We’ve already mentioned that monsteras as a group don’t need especially fertile soil. Although that’s true, skipping monthly feedings during the growing season could potentially affect leaf color. So make sure to use a balanced formula to fertilizer regularly all spring and summer.
If you want the look of a variegated monstera but don’t want to have to worry about your plant losing its gorgeous color, choose a Thai Constellation plant. These plants are lab-created with white patches as part of the plant’s DNA. No reverting here!
How to Repot Variegated Monstera
Repotting a houseplant refreshes the soil in its pot, providing it with more nutrients, and also gives you a chance to check up on its root health. An annual springtime repotting is good, but other signs that it may be time to repot include:
- Little new growth
- Roots poking out of the drainage holes
- Always thirsty despite adequate watering
- Mineral deposits formed on the surface of the soil
When you need to repot your variegated monstera, here’s how to do so:
Step 1: Thoroughly water your plant a few days before you plan to transplant it. This helps the plant to slide out of the pot more easily.
Step 2: Firmly tap the pot on all sides to loosen the soil ball. Lay the pot on its side, tilted down slightly, and gently wiggle the root ball free.
Be patient and just keep working; it may take a little time to get your plant out of its pot. But always resist the urge to “help” the process along by pulling on the stem. This could cause serious damage to your plant, and that’s never good.
Step 3: Once your plant is free, examine the roots. What you’re looking for are any signs of root rot or overgrown roots. Diseased roots are brown or black in color, they have a soft, squishy texture and they may even smell bad.
If you spot any sections of damaged roots, use sanitized scissors to remove them. You can also trim back any severely overgrown roots or particularly aggressive aerial roots. If your plant is rootbound, you’ll probably have to wait until after step 4 to do your trimming.
Step 4: Gently separate any sections of roots that are rootbound. A rootbound plant has a densely compacted root system with roots crisscrossing each other, forming a circular pattern or growing upward toward the soil surface.
Here’s a photo of what a rootbound plant can look like:
Depending on how compacted the roots are, working the roots free may take some time. Just work on one root at a time, carefully working it free from the others.
Step 5: Once the roots are opened up and trimmed (if necessary), it’s ready to go in its new home.
Before putting the plant in, add enough soil to the new pot so the root ball is an inch to a half-inch below the pot’s lip. Place the root ball on top of the fresh layer of soil, then add more around the sides of the root ball to fill the pot in.
After repotting, wait two or three days before watering, and check on the soil level in a few days. You may need to add a little more since soil settles over time and watering may compact it slightly.
RELATED: We’ve gone into great detail on the repotting process in our post on how to repot pothos. Even though it’s a different plant than a variegated monstera, many of the concepts are identical. And there are lots of photos to help you along the way, so stop by!
Potential Problems with Variegated Monstera
Monstera plants as a whole are pretty easy to care for, and the variegated ones are no different. But there are a few issues that may arise from time to time.
Aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, and scale can all attack a variegated monstera.
Regularly check the undersides of leaves and the center of growing points, where these pests like to congregate. If you do find them, quarantine your plant from any others you may have until the disinfection process is over.
Physically remove any visible pests. For mealybugs and scale, either use a cotton ball dipped in alcohol or a tweezers. For aphids and spider mites, use a hose or your shower to produce a strong stream to wash the bugs away.
After removing as many pests as possible, follow up with a dose of insecticidal soap, like this spray formula. Keep a close eye on your monstera for several days after treatment to ensure the pests don’t make a comeback.
If they do, repeat the process of removing the bugs and applying the insecticidal soap.
Overwatering or Under-Watering
Too much or too little water tends to be the main cause of houseplant death.
Use your finger to test the dampness or dryness of your monstera before watering, or use a moisture meter like we talked about earlier in the “Water Correctly” section.
Your monstera’s leaves will also give you a clue if the moisture level is ideal. Limp, yellowing leaves indicate too much moisture, and dry, crispy leaves or leaf edges signify too little moisture.
However, don’t let your plant’s leaves be your first clue to soil moisture. This will be a later sign of an ongoing problem, so keep good tabs on moisture levels through feel or a meter.
How to Propagate Variegated Monstera
Propagating variegated monstera cutting is easily done by one of the two methods:
- Rooting a stem cutting in water
- Air layering
Rooting a Stem Cutting in Water
Step 1: Sanitize the blades of a pair of pruning shears using a cotton ball soaked in isopropyl alcohol. Monsteras can have large, thick stems, and in these cases, scissors is unlikely to be strong enough to make a clean cut.
Step 2: Choose your cutting location carefully. Find a spot on a stem that is just below a leaf node. Here’s a picture showing leaf node junctures marked with arrows:
See the little bumps on the stem? Those are nodes, and that’s where your cutting will send out new roots.
On a monstera, you can propagate from just a single leaf, as long as the stem has a node for producing new roots.
You can also propagate a stem that has multiple leaves and therefore multiple nodes. This usually results in more sites for root growth and the higher likelihood of a strong new plant. But it also means fewer cuttings from one plant.
Step 3: Make a clean cut at your stem site, and place the cut stem into a jar or glass of clean, filtered water or a container of damp sphagnum moss.
This moss from Besgrow comes in a dehydrated brick. You can just break off a small amount and rehydrate it in water to expand it. Then store the rest of the unused brick for the next time you want to propagate.
Step 4: Within one to two months the cutting should be sending out new roots from the lower leaf nodes. Once those roots are about 2 inches long, pot the cutting using fresh soil and a clean pot.
At this point, you can treat your rooted cutting as a standard monstera plant, watering it normally and applying a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly during the active growth season.
If you’d like to see a video outlining the process, this one from Techplant provides outstanding information on a couple of different methods. Even though he’s working with a larger, all-green monstera, the techniques remain the same.
You can also propagate using the monstera’s aerial roots by air layering. This method provides a way to stimulate new root growth while the stem is still attached to your plant.
Air layering a simple process and it’s a safer, almost full-proof way to propagate without damaging your plant.
Step 1: Locate a stem that has an aerial root below several leaves, just like we talked about above. Instead of cutting the stem here, wind a clump of damp sphagnum moss around the roots and tie in place with twist ties.
Step 2: Keep the moss moist. In one or two months, the aerial roots should be visibly embedded in the moss. Now use a clean, sharp tool to cut the stem below the moss-root, remove the twist ties, and pot as usual.
Frequently Asked Questions about Variegated Monstera
Though expensive, these beautiful plants are guaranteed to add flair to any home (or Instagram feed), and their care is genuinely not complicated. With enough light and not too much water, this plant will thrive and reward you with its beautiful, multi-colored foliage for years.
So now that you know all about how to take care of a Monstera variegata, it’s time to go on the hunt and find one!
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