Monstera Deliciosa has been a favorite since we all became obsessed with house plants, but have you noticed that there’s a disadvantage to its popularity? The plant, also known as a Swiss cheese plant, sells out of nurseries within hours. Even if you can track one down, the price has increased year on year.
Now Instagram is full of monstera’s rarer, variegated cousin and it’s only getting harder to find one. But don’t lose hope. If you’re lucky enough to own a mature monstera, it’s not hard to propagate a new plant from scratch.
Pragmatically speaking, you should propagate because it’s a free way to get hold of one of your favorite plants. You can then spread the joy by sharing it with your friends. Propagating plants instead of buying new ones is also a great way of reducing your garden’s carbon footprint and saving money.
The best reason to propagate monstera, though, is to keep the plant under control. In its first year with me, my Swiss cheese plant tripled in height. The 6-inch leaves it had when I first brought it home are now 14 inches across.
My monstera deliciosa is a fast-growing plant and wants to take over my house. It’s also a vine, which means that it needs encouragement to get it to grow into a convenient shape. There will come a time when you also have to cut yours back, so why not grow a new one at the same time?
Propagation is a big word for a process that’s actually very simple. All it means is that you take a cutting from a large plant, encourage it to grow roots, and then place it in its own pot to grow.
The process requires minimal tools and only a few minutes of your time. Even better, the Swiss cheese plant is one of the easiest common house plants to propagate. If you follow these steps, you’re almost guaranteed to succeed.
How to propagate a Monstera leaf
1. Find the node
The first step to propagating Monstera Deliciosa is to locate the right spot on the stem. You can’t pull off a leaf and hope for the best. Instead, find a point on the stem where there are 1 – 3 leaves, a node, and an aerial root.
Remember that ‘node’ is the gardener’s term for a thickened, nub-like area of the stem. When your plant branches or puts out a new leaf, the new growth comes from the node.
The aerial root is a feature of the Swiss cheese plant that many growers dislike. In nature, they grow along with the new leaves to anchor the vine to the tree trunk it’s climbing. Indoors, they grow at odd angles and can look unsightly.
While it’s usually fine to cut the aerial roots away, you will not be able to propagate a cutting without them. This is because the first new roots will grow from the aerial root.
2. Make the cut
Using clean, sharp shears, remove your cutting from the parent plant. Try to cut at a 30 – 45-degree angle if you can, as this will maximize the surface area through which your cutting can drink.
If you’re pruning your Swiss cheese plant and take a larger piece, you should then use the shears to trim away any extra leaves. If your cutting has more than 3 leaves, it won’t be able to take up enough water to grow.
You should immediately place your cutting into a tall container of room-temperature water. Check the water level and top it up when necessary. If the water begins to look slimy, change it completely, but doing so will disrupt the new roots far more than adding a little extra.
You should see new roots emerging in less than a month. Wait until the roots are about 4 inches long before taking the next step.
4. Plant out
Within about 2 months, your monstera cutting should have a thick, healthy root ball. This means it’s time to get your potting supplies together.
Choose a pot with plenty of drainage holes for your new Swiss cheese plant. The size of the pot will depend on how big your cutting is, but for this first planting, it’s often better to go small.
Swiss cheese plants don’t mind being snug in their pots. As well as this, choosing a pot that is too large increases the chances that you will overwater the delicate new roots.
Monstera deliciosa thrives in peaty soil and most indoor potting mixes will do the trick. After 2 -3 months, you can start feeding your new plant in the same way as you would with the rest of your collection. Then, congratulations are in order, because you’ve just propagated a monstera!
Using blunt shears
It should go without saying, but if you use the wrong tools, you have much less chance of propagating your Swiss cheese plant successfully. The most common mistake people make is with their shears.
The shears you use to take your monstera cutting should be sharp, clean, and big enough to get around the vine of your monstera. If you find yourself sawing or using a lot of force to cut the stem, you’re doing it wrong and causing much more damage to the plant than necessary. Your cutting is less likely to root, and your parent plant is more vulnerable to infection.
Putting the monstera cutting in direct sunlight
Monstera Deliciosa is a jungle plant, which means that it does not enjoy direct sunlight. With mature plants, this isn’t usually a problem. They won’t fit on the windowsill so they sit on the floor and get indirect light.
Many people are tempted to put their stem cuttings right next to the window, which can cause the leaves to become scorched. When propagating a Swiss cheese plant, one of the most important things to remember is that if the light is too strong for a large plant, it’s definitely too much for your delicate Monstera stem cutting.
One of the most common mistakes with this plant is overwatering, and the propagation process is no exception. If you’re rooting your cutting in water, it’s important to make sure that the aerial roots are always covered, but that the rest of the stem is exposed to the air. It’s much more likely to become slimy if the water in your container is too deep.
You should also be cautious with water after you plant you cutting out into soil. Remember that the new root system is very small and delicate. If you water it too frequently or give it too much water at once, the roots will be disturbed and you even run the risk of drowning your plant.
It’s best to water a young plant sparingly and to always check the soil before you water.
The Best Time to Propagate
You should always propagate at a time when your plant is growing vigorously. Monstera plants puts on a lot of new growth early in the spring. Taking your cutting then makes it easy for your parent plant to recover and gives your baby plant lots of time to get established before it goes dormant for its first winter.
The good news is that spring and early summer is also the best time of year to be pruning your plants, which makes combining the jobs nice and easy.
Propagating in Water or Soil
The Swiss cheese plant roots very easily so, whether you choose to propagate in water or soil, you have a very good chance of success. However, growers tend to fall into two distinct camps over this question.
Propagating in water
The main advantage of propagating in water is that you get to see exactly what’s happening with your cutting. Either you’ll get the delight of noticing that your aerial roots have sprung new roots, or you’ll be able to tell if your cutting is doomed.
The bad news about propagating in water is that you have to disturb your cutting, which isn’t great for its growth. Tipping out the water and refilling the jar is stressful for the baby plant, as is the day when you plant it in soil. In fact, planting out can cause the growth of your monstera to stall for a few weeks, which can be worrying.
If you’re propagating in water you should also take into account the size of your cutting. This will not be a small twig, but a statement piece on your windowsill. It will look beautiful and save you from buying flowers for several weeks, but you must make sure you choose a stable container in which you can properly position your cutting.
Propagating in soil
Growers who plant straight into soil tend to do so for convenience. You get to skip a step since your cutting will eventually have to go into a plant pot anyway. Although it takes longer for your cutting to establish its roots in soil, once it starts growing, you won’t have to interrupt it at all.
The drawback of planting in soil is that you have no idea what is happening with the roots. Tugging on the cutting to see whether it’s anchored itself will upset the new growth, and it will be several weeks before the plant gives you any outward sign that it’s happy. Because the leaves can only take up water through roots, a monstera cutting planted in soil might droop for the first few weeks, whereas new leaves will still unfurl on a cutting placed in water.
The Third Method: Air Layering
Although it’s easy to propagate your monstera plant in water or soil, there is a third method which many people swear by. Air layering is the process of getting your baby plant to grow roots while still attached to the parent plant and receiving nutrients from it. Only when the cutting is strong enough to survive on its own do you separate it from the stem.
To try air layering, you’ll need to add sphagnum moss to your toolkit, but you probably have all the other supplies you need already.
First, locate the section of the stem with a node and an aerial root, as you would for normal cutting. Then, make an incision in the vine, but don’t cut all the way through. After making the incision, wrap the stem and aerial roots in a layer of sphagnum moss about 2 inches thick.
You should cover the moss with a plastic bag and moisten it regularly with a misting gun. The humid conditions inside the bag are ideal for rapid root growth. In a few weeks, you should have an established root ball.
It’s then time to cut through the vine at the site of your original incision and plant your cutting out into soil.
Air layering allows you to enjoy some of the advantages of both water and soil propagation in one. You have the reassurance of watching the roots grow, while the blanket of moss reduces the shock to the plant when it’s introduced to soil for the first time. For these reasons, it’s said to be the most reliable method of propagating this plant.
Propagating Monstera Deliciosa is so easy that it’s a great project even for beginner gardeners. Given how vigorously this plant wants to grow, that’s hardly a surprise.
There are so many benefits to propagating your existing plants instead of buying new ones, not least for your bank account, the health of your mature plant, and the lucky friends who could be in line to receive a monstera of their own.
As plant people, we love nothing more than watching things grow. The propagation process is exciting to watch with any plant, but it’s even more satisfying with a Swiss cheese plant. In another year or two, the second generation monstera, which you grew from scratch, is going to be huge.