How Can I Get Monstera Leaves To Split? (SOLVED)

If you buy something using the retail links in our articles, sometimes we earn a small affiliate commission. This does not impact the products we recommend.

Unsurprisingly the distinctive fenestrations on Monstera deliciosa leaves develop in response to a number of factors including genetic profile, the age of the plant and growing conditions. 

The signature perforations of a Monstera leaf arise through programmed cell death very early in their development and so once a leaf has unfurled it will not develop any new splits or holes. 

It is possible however to take steps that encourage a mature Monstera Deliciosa plant to develop future leaves with more fenestrations by providing optimal growth conditions which for the Swiss Cheese plant means more warmth and humidity.

Aim to provide a higher humidity through regular misting and a support for aerial roots made from moisture retaining organic material. Ideal growing environments should have a temperature between 65-80ºF (18-27ºC).

To help recreate an optimal environment that encourages larger leaves and larger fenestrations we provide recommendations below for how to apply:

  • water
  • heat
  • light
  • nutrients
  • support structures

Not all Monstera species develop splits and holes in their leaf tissue in the same way. Some, such as Monstera adonasii, display perforations and splits on all leaves (even newly developed leaves of young plants) whilst Monstera deliciosa produces solid green foliage without splits until the plant has produced at least five leaves.

Image by Chelsea Peyton Robinson on Canva Pro

This post will address the steps you can take to ensure that your new Monstera plant will display the signature leaf splits and holes that the plant is known for.

If instead you are interested in propagating your Monstera to multiply your plant collection and try out more than one check out our guide on how to do so here.

Why do Monstera fenestrations occur? 

If we understand why Monstera evolved to produce fenestrations we’d be able to optimise our man-made growing environments to encourage them to maximise the leaf style we desire. 

The problem is that the evolutionary advantage provided to Monstera plants that have holey leaves is still a point of much contention amongst botanists

Some believe the absence of plant tissue allows the passage of more rainfall to the plant’s root system. However seeing as the plant is epiphytic and uses aerial roots to climbs its way to the canopy this theory doesn’t hold much water (ahem!)

A further theory states that the splits and holes being used to generate turbulence whenever wind passes over the leaf surface, thus cooling the whole plant. 

The broken shape of the leaf is even thought by some to have arisen as a means of camouflage to offer protection against herbivores. 

The current most accepted hypothesis for why fenestrations have evolved  relates to the plant enabling light to pass to lower leaves for energy production purposes, which as a climbing plant present in shady understories makes sense. 

See Our Favorite Monstera Plants And Supplies On Etsy

At what age do Monstera fenestrations first occur? 

Individual plants can take years to generate their first splits, but fenestrations can occur in plants as young as 4 month old when growing conditions are optimal. 

Do Monstera fenestrations develop further after leaves have unfurled?

Brand new leaves produced by mature plants will unfurl with inner and outer fenestrations already fully formed. If your Monstera plant has produced solid green leaves then these will live out their lives without changing morphologically and will not go on to develop any new splits.

So technically it’s incorrect to ask “when do Monstera leaves split?”, because there is no ‘splitting event’ as they don’t change after being produced. 

The signature perforations and splits of a Monstera leaf arise through programmed cell death very early in their development. Once unfurled they will not develop any new splits or holes.

This 2 minute timelapse shows the process of new Monstera deliciosa leaves unfurling in all their glory – note the thin connecting tissue between splits tears when the leaf initially expands to its full size.

How to encourage Monstera fenestrations to occur

You likely chose a Monstera deliciosa to complement your office because of its hardy nature (they’re pretty hard to kill, if we’re being honest) in addition to its gorgeous foliage. 

While it is true that your Monstera plant can thrive in a multitude of environments and conditions, if you want to see those huge Swiss-cheese leaves sooner than later, it is best to grow your new plant in conditions that mimic their natural habitat as closely as possible. 

There are a few key things that you can do to ensure beautifully fenestrated leaves on your Monstera plant.

Water

Adequately watering, but not overwatering, your Monstera plant will result in an optimum growth environment. Overwatering your plant is one of the biggest mistakes that new Monstera owners make.

Typically, your Monstera will need to be watered every one to two weeks or when the soil is arid (completely dry). You can check your Monstera plant’s soil moisture level by using a soil moisture sensor or simply with your finger.

The top inch of your Monstera’s soil should be light in color, mostly dry, and not stick to your skin. If your plant is ready for watering, pour the water slowly over the entire surface of the soil until droplets appear from the pot’s drainage holes.

Optimising humidity also falls under the banner of water management.

Our homes have an average humidity of 30%, which falls more than a little below the humidity experienced by Monstera in their natural environment (60-70%).  If possible raise the humidity around the plant itself with regular misting or picking up a humidifier for houseplants.

Heat

Growing a Monstera in a seasonal climate will risk exposing it to low temperatures which it isn’t naturally exposed to in a natural environment. Even indoors.

Sure they are hardy plants and won’t wilt to moderately low temperatures, but the chill will certainly slow the growth of the plant and delay the production of future leaves.

If you wish for the plant to generate leaves with the maximum amount of splits then an optimal temperature range to aim for would be between 65-80ºF (18-27ºC). This might mean moving your plant into a more insulated area of the house during the cold winter months, and away from a poorly insulated porch or grow room.

 

Light

Monstera plants prefer indirect, yet bright, sunlight. The Monstera plant is found in the rainforests of Mexico. It is accustomed to living in an environment where the hot sun is buffered by dense vegetation.

While too much shade will hinder growth, direct sunlight will result in scorched leaves. You have to find a happy medium to ensure the optimum development of your Monstera.

We recommend utilizing an adjustable-intensity growth light or creating an indirect sunlight environment by placing your Monstera in view of a north-facing window or behind a sheer, light-filtering curtain.

Nutrition

Your Monstera plant needs adequate nutrition to ensure proper growth. Monstera plants will grow best in a soil rich in magnesium, nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.

You can utilize a synthetic fertilizer, a natural fertilizer, or a soil additive fertilizer for your plant. Depending on which you choose and the growth medium you are using (Monstera-specific soil or a soil-less growth medium) for your Monstera will determine how often you should apply it.

A happy, healthy Monstera plant will have dark green, noticeably shiny leaves (even if they aren’t splitting yet). If your plant is displaying leaves that are yellow or brown, noticeably dull or crispy, you might need to re-evaluate the care you are giving your Monstera.

Mild or natural fertilizers can be applied with every watering. Strong or synthetic fertilizers can be used every three to four weeks. Soil additive fertilizers should only be applied every two to three months.

 

Support

Supporting your Monstera plant goes a bit beyond just feeding and watering it properly. In nature, Monstera plants are epiphytes, meaning they use the trunks of trees to support their growth. Monstera will grow aerial roots to enable them to climb the trees and reach their full potential.

While you may not have a tree handy for your Monstera to cling to for support, you can use a moss pole. Moss poles can aid your Monstera by providing adequate support for the plant, activating the development of aerial roots, supplying additional nutrients and water to the growing plant, and facilitating the growth of more extensive, mature, fenestrated leaves.

Yes, your Monstera can grow without using a moss pole, but if you’re looking to increase the chances of seeing those gorgeous, Swiss-cheese-like leaves at a faster speed, it’s the way to go.

Final thoughts

Genetic profile is nothing we can really tinker with and Mother Nature cannot be hurried along, so presuming your plant has been given enough to time to develop at least 5 leaves (apparently the earliest stage at which Monstera deliciosa fenestrations begin to show) the way in which M.deliciosa can be encouraged to produce foliage which includes their stunning architectural splits and holes is to cater as best as possible to its growing needs.

Chris Dosser

Chris Dosser

Co-Founder of Eden Indoors

Enjoys sharing solutions to problems encountered whilst building and improving his own home office over the past 8 years. Environmental graduate with a love for biophilic design at home and houseplants. Obsessive about making information easier to understand and simpler to digest.

More About Eden Indoor's Writers

Similar Posts