Before we get to this week’s mystery plant, raise your hand if you like houseplants. I’ve got both hands raised. Have you ever wondered if you hollered at your plants instead of talking to them, would they grow troubled and insecure? If you sing a happy tune will they be well-adjusted and optimistic?
Do you know the name of this plant? It’s a native of the jungles of southern Mexico and Guatemala. It’s used as an outdoor landscape plant in warm climates. It wouldn’t last long outdoors in our northern winters, but we can enjoy the large, dramatic perforated leaves as an elegant houseplant.
This one needs plenty of space as it ages. Each leaf can become 12 inches long and the plant itself can easily reach ceiling-height. The plant starts out as a rosette of large leaves, but becomes more of a climber, seeking to imitate its native habit of using large trees for support as it clings and grows upward.
Like most plants, it has its list of wants:
- Young plants often have smooth, undivided leaves, but as it matures leaves develop wide slits.
- Because it’s a jungle native, it prefers average to high humidity – at least 40%.
- Potting soil should contain a high proportion of peat moss.
- Fertilize once a month in winter, and increase to twice a month during active growth of spring and summer.
- Yellowing lower leaves indicate overwatering, keeping the soil too constantly moist.
- Crisp leaves or leaf edges are a symptom of salt accumulation in the soil for excess fertilizer or salts in water.
- If leaves are produced that are smaller than normal and solid with no slits, it’s an indication of insufficient light. Increase light level, and future leaves should form normally.
- If aerial roots form along the stems, they can be attached to moss-covered poles.
- Supports structures are usually needed as the plant ages, to satisfy its natural inclination to climb.
Do you know its identity? It’s known by several common names like Swiss Cheese Plant and Mexican Breadfruit (in its native habitat it flowers and produces a very sweet fruit with a flavor similar to pineapple.) It’s probably best known simply as Monstera, from it’s botanical name Monstera deliciosa (after the delicious fruit.) Until next time, “Happy Gardening!”