The Monstera adansonii, sometimes called the “Swiss cheese plant,” is a tropical houseplant native to the rainforests of Central and South America. These fast-growing plants, known for their gorgeous heart-shaped leaves, filled with lacy holes, need to receive the right amount of light to thrive. But since these plants are typically grown indoors, Monstera owners often wonder what lighting conditions are best for their plants.
To stay healthy and strong, Monstera adansonii requires bright, indirect sunlight for at least six hours per day. If your Monstera receives too little light, it can result in a leggy or sickly plant. But too much light can burn the leaves of your Swiss cheese plant and may harm your Monstera adansonii.
While this may sound scary, caring for your Monstera is easier than it sounds. Keep reading for some helpful tips for providing your Swiss cheese plant with just the right amount of light to keep it looking lush and beautiful for years to come!
Do Monstera Adanosii Need Sunlight?
Unless you are looking to grow a mushroom, there really aren’t any plants that don’t need light. That said, some plants, like peace lilies, can live their entire lives in artificial light. Other plants prefer sunlight, but only when diffused. For this reason, it’s important to consider the specific lighting needs of your plant to keep it in the best possible shape.
As a tropical plant, wild Monstera adansonii is found climbing the trunks of trees, seeking light through the rain forest canopy. The result is a plant that is used to receiving sunlight but only filtered through the leaves and branches of taller plants. To soak up this diffused light, Swiss cheese plants have large, delicate leaves.
As they absorb sunlight, Monstera adansonii engage in photosynthesis – a term you might remember from grade school science class. Photosynthesis is the process through which plants convert sunlight into the energy they need to survive. This is important to remember because too little sunlight deprives the Monstera of the energy it needs for growth, resulting in an unhealthy plant.
However, too much sunlight can overwhelm the plant and can result in the burning of the plant’s fragile leaves. This burning can be especially harmful to a plant since – as we discussed – leaves play such an essential role in photosynthesis.
This means that too much light can result in damage that, in the long run, starves the plant of energy and nutrients. But this outcome can be avoided by following some simple advice for providing your Monstera with the best lighting conditions for a long and happy life.
How Much Light Does a Monstera Adansonii Need?
When it comes to exactly how much light a Monstera adansonii needs, each plant is slightly different. That is because environmental factors, such as humidity and the season, can influence the plant’s needs. However, it is safe to assume that most Monstera plants need bright, indirect sunlight for a minimum of six hours each day.
While that may seem like a lot of light, it is not that difficult to achieve.
Even in winter months, most locations in the U.S. will receive at least eight hours of sun a day. And since Monsteras don’t need or want direct light, a curtained window, even in the winter, can provide enough light to keep your Swiss Cheese plant growing strong.
Indirect Light vs. Direct Light
So, what is the difference between direct light and indirect light, and why does it matter so much for your Monstera? If you’ve ever received a sunburn, you’ve learned that the UV rays of the sun can dehydrate and damage your skin – often with just a short amount of exposure. The same is true for your plants.
While some plants, like aloe vera, love full sun, many houseplants are not able to tolerate unfiltered sunlight. In many cases, the difference can be found in the leaves. Many plants that thrive in full, unfiltered sun have thicker leaves with a waxy cuticle, which can act almost like a natural sunscreen. Many of these plants are also flowering plants, which require a great deal of energy to produce flowers and buds. Plants that thrive best in diffused or filtered light, such as Monstera adansonii, often have thinner leaves, susceptible to burning.
Direct sunlight produces a great deal of heat. In fact, on a summer day, it is not uncommon to register a difference of 20 degrees or more between a sunny location and one with partial shade. Since 65 – 75 degrees Fahrenheit is the preferred temperature range for a Monstera, this heat-producing sun can dehydrate the plant, resulting in burns on its delicate leaves.
Indirect or filtered sun does not produce the same degree of heat. That is because indirect light does not entail the same amount of UV exposure. Indirect light is the type of light your plant might receive from a curtained window or when placed 3-4 feet back from a window. This positioning allows the plant to experience bright light, and even a bit of radiant warmth, without overheating or leaf damage.
Where is the Best Location for a Monstera Adansonii?
Another way to provide bright light without exposure to the direct sun is to consider the placement of your Monstera adansonii within your home. Given the sun’s placement, some windows in your home will receive far more light than others. Depending on your plant’s needs, carefully choosing the windows near which you place your Monstera will help you achieve your goals for providing just the right amount of light.
The sun rises in the East, which means that windows facing the East will get direct sunlight every morning. Since the first rays of light can still be relatively weak, the potential for intense UV exposure is low. However, the sun will soon pass beyond the angle of an East facing window, potentially leaving the room in shade for most of the day.
Since the sun sets in the West, western-facing windows can receive a fair amount of hot afternoon sun prior to dusk – especially in the summer. Furthermore, even if curtained to reduce direct sun exposure, it is possible that a West facing window will only receive light for a short duration of time.
A North facing window will never receive direct sunlight. This may result in a room that is largely shady for most of the day and might not offer the bright light needed to produce hearty growth.
Windows that face toward the South will receive plenty of bright light throughout the day and are the best choice for your Monstera. That said, the light that streams in through these windows may be intense, so it is a good idea to place your Monstera a few feet back from the window, or use a thin curtain, to reduce excess UV exposure.
Also, be mindful of the temperature. Even indirect sunlight can produce heat, and rooms with South facing windows may get a little toasty in the summer. If the temperature in the room gets much above 75 degrees, your Monstera may begin to wilt. Consider ways to cool the space for your plants, such as air circulation and occasional misting, if the temperature is starting to rise.
What Happens When Monsteras Adansonii Get Too Much Light?
Novice plant lovers are prone to making two mistakes with plants – too much water and too much light. This comes from the common misunderstanding that all plants need a lot of water and sun to survive.
Unfortunately, too much sun is one of the fastest ways to cause lasting harm to a Monstera. Thankfully, there are some signs that you can use to tell if your Swiss cheese plant is experiencing too much sun before lasting damage can occur.
One of the first signs of sun damage can be the appearance of black or dark brown spots on your plant’s leaves. While these spots can be a sign of other issues, if their presence is accompanied by noticeably dehydrated soil, and you observe that the plant is in the path of direct sun exposure, your Monstera is likely receiving too much light.
If the issue is not addressed, you will soon see yellowing and browning leaves on your Swiss-cheese plant. This discoloration is a big concern since leaves that have started to turn yellow and brown will soon die and drop from the plant.
As mentioned earlier, leaves play a central role in the Monstera’s ability to produce energy, and as the leaves begin to drop, the plant will become increasingly sick. Failure to move the plant to a better location with indirect light will result in continued leaf drop and the eventual death of the plant. But keep in mind that, while too much light is a sure way to harm your plant, too little light can result in some health issues, as well.
4 Signs Your Plant Needs More Light
Even though plants can’t talk, they can use visual cues to ask for help when needed. Below are some indications that your Monstera adansonii needs a bit more indirect light to improve its health.
The term “leggy” is used to describe a plant that is growing tall but has few leaves, often with a thin, top-heavy appearance. Legginess results from an attempt to seek sunlight and can cause a plant to grow taller and thinner than it can sustain, leading to collapse. While you can use a trellis or moss pole to add additional support to a leggy Monstera, this is just a short-term solution.
If your plant is looking leggy, it is not receiving the light it needs to sustain healthy growth. You may wish to relocate your plant to a brighter space or consider using a grow light to help your plant obtain the light needed for successful photosynthesis.
Slow or No New Growth
Under the best growing conditions, some Monstera adansonii plants can climb to heights of 10 feet inside while, as a vine, they can develop trails of 13 feet.
Furthermore, while many plants can achieve heights of 6 to 12 inches a year, Monstera adansonii can grow up to 2 feet in a single season. This impressive growth is one of the many reasons this plant is so popular. However, lack of light can slow growth dramatically, resulting in reduced height, as well as reduced leaf output.
While other issues can slow the growth of your plants, such as improper watering and dormancy, you would be wise to check for other signs of light insufficiency. If your plant is leggy, has damp soil, or shows other signs that light is needed, you should move your Monstera to a brighter location right away.
Consistently Damp Soil
Assuming that you are not overwatering your Monstera and that its pot has adequate drainage, one sign of inadequate light is soil that takes longer than usual to dry.
Why would lack of light affect the soil? Since plants require sunlight to process nutrients and water, continually damp soil indicates that your plant’s roots and overall “digestive system” aren’t working well enough to consume the water you’ve provided.
This creates a cycle in which your plant cannot process the water and nutrients it needs due to a lack of light, which leads the plant to become waterlogged, which further impedes its ability to properly process nutrients and water.
Moving your plant to a brighter location will help it begin to photosynthesize, grow, and process water and nutrients. However, make certain that you are only watering your Monstera once the top 1-2″ of the soil has become dry. Any overwatering will continue to harm your plant, possibly leading to root rot and decay.
Leaves That Don’t Fenestrate
Fenestration is a scientific term for the beautiful, lacy holes in the leaves of a Monstera plant. While these holes are not evident in an immature plant, which is typically a plant that is under three years old, they should develop in the leaves of mature plants.
Producing healthy leaves requires energy on the part of a Monstera, and if the plant does not have enough light, it will not be able to produce fenestrations. If you notice that your plant is producing fewer leaves with characteristic holes, it is time to find a new and brighter location.
Grow Lights: Great Options for Dark Homes or Apartments
So, you might be thinking, “What if I don’t have a brighter spot in my home for my plant?” Don’t worry, with the help of modern technology, you can provide your plants with the bright light they need, without the power of the sun.
Grow lights are an excellent solution for offering consistent light for plants located in dark apartments, homes, or offices. These lights come in different sizes, offer full-spectrum light exposure, and can even clip onto the side of the planter. Furthermore, since these lights are designed to offer bright light with low heat, they don’t need to be diffused with curtains or screens.
Grow lights are usually quite affordable, as well, and are available from most garden centers, as well as some online retailers, such as Amazon. However, it is important to use an actual grow light, as opposed to a desk lamp. Indoor lamps can produce too much heat for your Monstera, burning the leaves.
Remember that while your Swiss cheese plant needs at least 6 hours of light each day, it also needs time to rest. Leaving your grow lights on all day and night is too much of a good thing and will harm the long-term health of your plant. For best results, automate the light turning on and off with an outlet timer.
For more information about grow lights, check out our article here.
Putting It All Together
Light is a critical ingredient in the overall success of your Monstera plant. However, the secret isn’t necessarily more light; it’s about creating the right combination of bright and indirect light to help your Swiss cheese plant produce new, healthy growth.
Placing your plant in a room with bright but filtered light is a great strategy, as is using a grow light in a darker space. The goal is to offer at least six hours of light without allowing direct UV rays to cause damage to the leaves.
Also, keep in mind that, since Monstera adansonii absorb light through their leaves, it is important to keep their leaves free from dust and build-up, such as residue left behind after misting. Gently wiping your plant’s leaves with a clean and soft cloth can help keep the surface clear of debris that would make it harder for your plant to absorb light. This step, combined with the tips above, will help keep your plant healthy, vibrant, and ready to grow!