Should I Cut Off Damaged Monstera Leaves?

Should I Cut Off Damaged Monstera Leaves?

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The vast majority of Monstera leaves experience damage as they age, either naturally through exposure or by other factors when kept indoors – in our case the swishing tail of a pet dog!

As such, you’ll likely deal with damaged and dying Monstera leaves on a somewhat regular basis. 

Snipping off any unsightly leaves immediately is incredibly tempting to maintain the asthetic look of the plant, but how might this affect its overall health?

It is generally a good idea to cut off significantly damaged Monstera leaves. This can help to preserve the plant’s growth and development while maintaining its aesthetic value. However, minor damage does not need pruning. Incorrect or overzealous pruning practices can worsen the situation or create new problems for the plant.

So what differentiates the damage that should be cut from the that which can be left alone? And how can you ensure that you don’t accidentally harm your Monstera in the process of trying to save it?

We’ll answer these questions below. 

A mature Monstera deliciosa leaf that has been damaged and is missing approximately half of leaf blade

When should I cut off damaged Monstera leaves?

The strongest reason why you should cut off damaged Monstera leaves are that many causes of damage are contagious and can spread from leaf to leaf. Infection, rot, and pests have a much easier time developing on damaged leaves as dead and dying leaves have little to no natural defense against these problems.

Fungi and bacteria easily feed off the remaining nutrients in damaged and dead leaves of even robust foliage such as Monstera.

You may spot mold and other issues beginning to form on dying leaves and so removing the affected tissue will prevent these problems from spreading throughout the plant.

But, of course, not all damaged leaves have these problems. In that case, should you still cut them off? 

The answer lies in the Monstera’s growth and development. Dead leaves cannot photosynthesize and help the plant gather energy or resources. Dying and damaged leaves are also likely to demand more energy from the plant than they are able to contribute back.

Cutting off severely damaged leaves will allow the plant to focus its resources on the healthy parts of the plant so they can flourish and so no energy is wasted on leaves that are long gone and cannot be rehabilitated.

A Monstera leaf that has been damaged by disease
Image of a diseased Monstera leaf by Annie Spratt

Should I cut off Monstera leaves with minor damage?

Minor tears are not as much of a problem, and you’ll see the leaf seal itself with a browned edge to “heal” the cut area. This does not put the plant at risk, and you do not have to cut the leaf off.

Monstera, like other plants, need their leaves to photosynthesize. If you cut off too many healthy leaves, your plant may be unable to develop normally as it cannot gain enough energy and resources to sustain itself and new growth, thus stagnating its development.

With that being said, some people who are confident in the health of their plant may cut off mildly damaged leaves to preserve the plant’s aesthetic value. If you choose to do this, be careful and err on the side of caution, taking things slow and only cutting one leaf first.

A mature Monstera deliciosa leaf that has been damaged and is missing approximately half of leaf blade
This Monstera deliciosa leaf has been physically damaged but healed over nicely. If you don't mind how it looks, leaving it attached will bring about no harm to the plant.

How many Monstera leaves can I cut at once?

As part of routine pruning, removing all notably damaged Monstera leaves is usually safe. However, there are exceptions to this. Monstera plants that are extremely damaged and consist of half or more of their leaves requiring cutting should not be pruned in their entirety – at least, not right away.

Once again, this is because of a Monstera’s need to use its leaves for photosynthesis. Cutting off  many leaves at once will prevent the plant from gaining the resources it needs to survive, recover, and push new growth. This even applies to very damaged plants.

If your Monstera plant is severely damaged, use your best judgment to determine how many leaves to cut off. Start with the most damaged leaves, leaving leaves with clear green parts remaining, and wait for the next pruning cycle to cut off more. In some cases, you may be able to determine a good time in between to trim off a few extra leaves. Again, use your best judgment and err on the side of caution.

When should you prune Monstera?

Monstera plants need regular pruning, even when they are not damaged in any notable way. This is because the plant is extremely fast-growing and can quickly get leggy and out of control if not kept in check!

The best time to cut off damaged Monstera leaves is during your regular pruning sessions, which will be right before spring is in full swing. This is because most growth happens for Monstera plants during the spring, so pruning right before this will enable the fastest regrowth of new leaves for your Monstera.

This is not to say that you can’t cut off damaged leaves at other points. It just means that if you want quick and easy regrowth after pruning, you should prune right before spring! However, if you plan to prune a lot of the Monstera, this is more important to prevent stunted growth.

Do note that there is nuance to this. Leaves infected with fungus or another contagious condition should be cut off immediately to prevent spreading.

Every time you water and fertilize your Monstera, you should be checking for signs of damage of this variety so that it can be addressed immediately.

Take home message

Monstera leaves with severe damage – or that are yellowing a lot – should be cut off with your regular pruning cycle just before spring. In addition, any infected leaves should be cut off immediately as soon as you notice the problem. However, mild or minor damage should not be cut off, as this will affect the plant’s ability to photosynthesize and continue to grow.

When cutting Monstera leaves, be sure to use sanitized, sharp tools that make the process effortless. Be careful not to cut off the growth node, and don’t cut off too many leaves at once! As long as you’re cautious, the process of pruning and cutting off damage should be simple and straightforward.

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