People consistently confuse Monstera with Philodendron and often use the terms interchangeably. In fact, it is not uncommon to find Monstera mislabeled as a split-leaf Philodendron at your local nursery or plant shop. Even the internet cannot seem to come to a conclusion as some plant care blogs and threads claim Monstera and split-leaf Philodendron are the same plant while others do not, and looking up images is no help, either. If you, too, are confused about whether or not a Monstera is a type of Philodendron, you are not alone.
Is a Monstera Deliciosa the same as a Split-Leaf Philodendron? No, they are two different plants. Although they might look similar, especially when they are young, Monsteras and split-leaf Philodendrons are of a different genus and species despite being of the same scientific class, order, and family.
While a lot of people use the terms interchangeably, the two plants are scientifically different. Learning what differentiates a Monstera from a split-leaf Philodendron will not only contribute to your knowledge of plant taxonomy but might stop you from accidentally purchasing the wrong houseplant. Keep reading to learn what makes Monsteras and Philodendrons similar and what sets them apart.
What Is a Monstera?
A Monstera is a climbing plant native to Mexico, but can also be found in tropical climates like Hawaii. Monstera is also known as the “swiss cheese plant” due to the iconic holes in its heart-shaped leaves (not to be confused with the Monstera Adansonii, which is also nicknamed “swiss cheese plant”). The Monstera is also known for its delicious fruit.
Scientifically, the Monstera is part of the Arales order and the Araceae family. It is related to several other common houseplants, including the peace lily.
What is a Split Leaf Philodendron?
Most Philodendrons are trailing plants, similar to a pothos, and are also in the Araceae family. Supposedly, the name Philodendron actually translates into “love tree” due to their heart-shaped leaves. Philodendrons are also found in tropical climates like the Americas and Hawaii.
While a lot of Philodendron species vine, true split-leaf Philodendron (Thaumatophyllum Bipinnatifidum or formerly the Philodendron Selloum) do not. Thaumatophyllum Bipinnatifidum has trunks and deeply lobed leaves that are not as smooth or as round and heart-shaped as the Monstera deliciosa.
Why The Confusion?
“Split-Leaf Philodendron” is a common name applied to both Monsteras and true split-leaf Philodendrons due to their physical similarities. It also does not help that nurseries often use the names interchangeably, further contributing to the confusion around the subject. A lot of people think a Monstera is a type of Philodendron when, in fact, a Monstera is its own genus.
While plant enthusiasts might have a lot of knowledge on actual plants, many are not up to date on plant taxonomy and often do not realize that Monstera and Philodendron, in general, are not the same plant. Split-leaf Philodendron and Monstera just happen to have a similar shape, split leaves, and are native to the same areas. They also both contain member species that vine and have spadix and spathe flowers.
What Is The Difference In Monsteras and Philodendrons?
While both Monstera and Philodendron come from the Araceae family, they are of a different genus, which makes them two completely different plants. This means that Monsteras and Philodendrons cannot cross-pollinate to make new plant hybrids.
There are also a few physical differences between split-leaf Philodendron and Monstera. The most important one is that Monsteras are fenestrated while split-leaf Philodendrons are not. Fenestration refers to the holes in mature Monstera leaves, and while a split-leaf Philodendron has, well, split-leaves, they lack fenestrations.
Although many Philodendrons climb, true split-leaf Philodendrons do not. Monsteras do, and they are known for their huge aerial roots that cling to trees. Monsteras also produce fruit while Philodendrons do not. Another minor difference is that new Philodendron leaves are typically protected by a sheath called a cataphyll.
True split-leaf Philodendron has an entirely different leaf texture than a Monstera. Monsteras are smoother and flatter, while Thaumatophyllum Bipinnatifidum tends to look ruffled.
What About Tetraspermas? Where Do They Fit In?
Tetraspermas are vining, split-leaf trailing plants that starkly resemble Monsteras, so much so that they are often referred to as a “miniature Monstera.” Since Monsteras get wrongly identified as a Philodendron, Tetraspermas, too, are incorrectly referred to as Ginny Philodendron or Philodendron Piccolo despite not being a Philodendron at all.
A Tetrasperma is its entirely own genus but, like Philodendron and Monstera, belongs to the Araceae family. Unlike Philodendron and Monstera, Tetraspermas are not native to Central and South America but are instead endemic to southern Thailand and Malaysia.
These vining plants are a lot smaller than either Monstera or Philodendrons, but still contain the beautiful split-leaves that every plant owner knows and loves. However, like Philodendrons, Tetraspermas are not fenestrated and have thinner, more flexible leaves than Monstera.
Tetraspermas are considered rarer to find for sale than its South American cousins, but are just as easy to grow, making them an excellent houseplant addition to any home.
It is easy to confuse split-leaf Philodendron with Monstera, especially when plant bloggers and even nursery employees use the names interchangeably. However, understanding the scientific differences between plants helps clear up any confusion caused by common names. The next time someone asks you if a Monstera is a type of Philodendron, you can now tell them no, they are not. They are two species separated by genera.