Monstera adansonii, also called the “Swiss cheese plant,” is a unique and beautiful houseplant, known for bright green leaves filled with delicate, lacy holes. A tropical plant native to South American rain forests, Monstera adansonii thrives in a humid environment with well-draining soil. The right balance of water is essential for your Monstera, and too much or too little water can prevent your plant from achieving its full potential.
Wondering how to give your Monstera adansonii just the right amount of water? Only water your Monstera adansonii when the top one to two inches of soil are dry. When you water, make sure you do so thoroughly, so that water runs out through the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot.
Since the right watering techniques are critical to the health and growth of your Monstera, you will need to be mindful of your watering habits, as well as container and soil selection. But with a bit of advice and a few helpful hints, proper watering can be much easier than you think. Keep reading for guidance on keeping your plant lush, full, and perfectly hydrated.
The Problem with Overwatering
Of all the mistakes a plant owner can make, one of the most serious is overwatering. But why is overwatering such an issue? Won’t it simply evaporate? It’s easy to assume that too much water is better than the alternative since many living creatures can regulate their water intake. For example, our bodies can shed excess water easily, so it’s hard for most humans to consume too much water.
But it is a much different story for plants – especially potted plants. Most plants cannot process water quickly. And while being planted outside can provide an opportunity for water to dissipate, plants in containers can become trapped in muddy soil. This can lead to plant shock, bacteria growth, insect issues, and permanent damage to the Monstera adansonii’s roots.
In fact, root rot can be fatal for a plant because the root system is responsible for absorbing water, nutrients, and oxygen. Like the human digestive system, when illness attacks the roots of a plant, it will quickly affect the entire organism.
How Can You Tell if Your Monstera Adanosnii is Overwatered?
One challenge with detecting overwatering is that its symptoms can mirror those of underwatering or other plant illnesses. Discoloration or dropping leaves, drooping or limpness, and an otherwise unhealthy appearance can be clear indicators of sickness in your plant. When these signs are accompanied by persistently damp soil, a musty smell, or mushy or blackened stems, overwatering is a likely culprit.
To know for sure, you will need to look at the roots of your Monstera adansonii by gently removing it from its container. While this may seem like a lot of trouble, it may be necessary to save your plant’s life.
If possible, turn the pot on its side and gently remove the plant by tapping on the bottom of the pot to loosen the soil. If you encounter accumulated water in the bottom of the pot, or a moldy smell, you have root rot. If not, carefully rinse the roots to see them more clearly. Healthy Monstera roots should be white or light-colored and firm. If the roots are dark, mushy, or slimy, or if the soil smells like compost, that is a sign that root rot, and decay, has set in. But you may still be able to save the plant.
If you don’t see signs of rot, but the soil at the bottom of the plant is soggy, and the plant looks unhealthy, you can attempt to dry the roots to halt the damage. To accomplish this, take the plant and the dirt around the roots, and place it on a baker’s rack to dry for a few days. However, if you see dark, mushy roots, you will need to cut them away. Using very sharp, sanitized pruning scissors, cut away any rotting roots, leaving only the firm, healthy roots behind.
If the root rot is severe, you should also consider pruning the rest of the Monstera, removing roughly 2/3 of the leaves and branches. This will reduce the stress on the roots and them to recover. Do not discard these cuttings. Instead, check out our article here for how to propagate these stem cuttings into a new Monstera adansonii.
If you choose to re-use your previous planter, scrub it thoroughly and allow it to dry. Make sure it has more than one unplugged drainage hole in the bottom to help your plant breathe.
Once the roots have been successfully trimmed, or once they have dried on a rack for a few days, repot your Monstera in a planter with adequate drainage holes, using a well-draining potting mix, like one with perlite and peat moss. During your Monstera’s recovery, avoid fertilizer and locate your plant in a humid space, away from any direct light. Once you begin to see new growth, you’ll know your plant is on the road to recovery.
But how can you prevent root rot from ever taking place? By adopting smart watering habits, you can help keep your Swiss cheese plant healthy and vibrant throughout its life.
How Often Should You Water a Monstera Adanosnii?
Many plant lovers believe that they should water their plants on a predetermined schedule. And while it may seem organized and responsible to water a plant once a week, this can be a recipe for disaster.
Because indoor humidity, exposure to light, whether a plant is in its growing season, and other factors, can impact the amount of water needed, watering on a schedule can lead to overwatering. Instead, regularly check the moisture by inserting your finger into the soil. If the soil feels moist, do not water the plant until the soil feels dry 1-2″ down.
You may also consider using a moisture meter to help assess the dampness of the soil. You can find these devices at affordable prices at many stores and online retailers, and some models can also test lighting conditions and the pH balance of the soil.
Quality Over Quantity
In addition to watering your Monstera adansonii only when the soil is dry, the amount of water you use is important. While this might seem obvious – the actual technique may be different than you think.
Many people think that, by watering their plant regularly with small amounts of water, they protect their plant from root rot. But this approach never allows the soil to dry completely, which can reduce the amount of oxygen and nutrients the plant can absorb. And the lower portions of the roots may never receive enough water to supply the plant with what it needs to thrive.
Instead, it is best to water thoroughly until roughly 20% of the water added to the container flows from the bottom of the pot. While this might seem excessive, it indicates that the soil has been watered enough to hydrate your plant thoroughly.
The plant must never be allowed to stand in water, however. Always empty any trays or saucers beneath the plant and wipe up any water accumulated right beneath the pot.
Ensuring Proper Drainage
Even the best watering habits won’t protect your plant from root rot if there is moisture accumulating in the bottom of the planter. With this in mind, always select a pot with at least one unplugged drainage hole, and more holes, if possible. It is also important to check the holes periodically to ensure that they have not become blocked by debris or compacted soil.
Another important tip is to avoid choosing an excessively large container. Though it might seem that choosing a large planter will decrease the likelihood of overwatering and give your plant plenty of room to grow, it actually allows water to accumulate in the bottom of the pot, beyond the reach of the roots. Even if the roots are not soaking directly in muddy soil, the bacterial growth that results from persistently damp potting mix can still sicken your plant.
Choosing a more moderately sized container may mean that you must repot your Swiss cheese plant more frequently, but it is better for the long-term health of your Monstera adansonii.
Top Watering vs. Bottom Watering
If you look at the term “bottom watering” with confusion, you are not alone. Most plant owners water their plants by pouring water into the pot or container, using a pitcher or watering can. And this strategy can be perfectly successful. But, it is not the only way to water a plant.
Bottom watering involves placing your Monstera adansonii pot in a shallow dish filled with water and allowing water to soak into the soil through the drainage holes. When this strategy is effective, the top of the potting mix will soon become damp as the water is pulled upward by the dry soil.
There are a couple of advantages to this approach. First, bottom watering doesn’t expose fragile leaves to streams of water that can be damaging, resulting in leaf drop. Second, it doesn’t allow water to accumulate on the stems and leaves, leading to the growth of bacteria. But on the other hand, top watering can flush toxins and unnecessary minerals from the bottom of the pot.
Ultimately, you will want to pick the strategy that works best for the size and fragility of your Monstera adansonii. But if you suspect that your plant’s foliage is too delicate for top watering, or if the soil is not receiving adequate saturation, bottom watering might provide a safe strategy to water your plant without harming its foliage.
Summer Watering is Different Than Winter Watering
Your plant’s watering needs will vary depending on whether or not the plant is in its growing season. For a Monstera adansonii, this season extends from late spring to early fall, followed by a period of dormancy that extends through the winter.
During their dormant period, the plant will largely stop growing to concentrate energy on its roots’ health. This allows the plant to engage in a period of rapid growth during the height of its growing cycle.
However, if the plant is not focusing on growth, it needs much less water than when it is actively producing new leaves and stems. The best way to adjust for this decreased need for water is to heed the previously discussed watering advice. Always check the soil for dryness before watering, and then watering thoroughly, allowing the top 1-2″ of the soil to dry completely before watering again.
What Water Is Best for Monstera Adansonii?
Most Monstera owners water their plants with tap water without any complications. And generally, if the water is safe to drink, it is safe for your Monstera adansonii. However, if you have exceedingly hard or soft water, or if you want to provide the best watering experience possible for your plant, there are other techniques you can employ.
Distilled or filtered water can provide a great alternative to tap water by removing chemicals like chlorine and other minerals. Over time, these compounds can build up in your plant’s soil, altering its pH balance and affecting its nutrient absorption.
Even soft water, which many people believe to be better for plants, can be high in sodium, which, in large quantities, is not ideal for plants. While distilled or filtered water can help address these issues, it may not always be convenient. Distilled water can become expensive, and filters need to be continually replaced to remove all toxins.
Rainwater provides an alternative to tap water and filtered/distilled water, and studies show that it is rich in nitrogen and oxygen. Rainwater is also typically slightly acidic, which helps release nutrients held in the soil. And while it may not seem especially convenient to use rainwater for indoor plants, there are several attractive rain barrel models on the market that are sized for residential use. You can even catch rainwater in a pitcher to use as an occasional “treat” for your plant. (Read more about the benefits of rainwater here.)
However, whatever type of water you use, be careful that it is always at room temperature. Using cold water, such as from a filtered pitcher in your refrigerator or hot water that has been boiled for purification, can damage your plant’s roots and stems.
4 Signs That Your Monstera Adansonii Needs a Drink
We’ve already discussed overwatering and strategies for preventing it. And while overwatering is more common than underwatering, both extremes can be harmful to your plant. So, with that in mind, let’s look at some indications that your plant needs a bit of extra hydration.
Sign 1: Dry Soil
Is your Monstera’s soil dry all the way to the middle or bottom of the pot? Are you seeing signs of the soil pulling away from the edges of the planter? When you water your plant, does the water immediately run from the drainage holes?
Dry soil is the first stage of underwatering and indicates that your plant is likely dehydrated, too. Thankfully, you have likely caught the issue early enough that there won’t be lasting damage.
Make sure that you are continually feeling the soil for dryness, to provide water when it is most needed. Also, if you choose to water your plant from the top, pour in the water gradually, allowing it to be absorbed slowly. Dumping the water into the container, especially when the soil is quite dry, can lead to the water running right back out of the bottom of the pot. This can result in continued dehydration, although you may feel like you just watered the plant.
Sign 2: Curled or Wrinkling Leaves
Another symptom of an underwatered Monstera is wrinkled, or wavy, leaves. While this can be a sign of other issues, if wavy or wrinkled leaves are combined with dry soil, this is likely an indication of significant dehydration. If unaddressed, leaves will likely begin to discolor and fall.
Water the plant thoroughly and wait until the soil is dry again before repeating.
Sign 3: Yellowing Leaves
Yellow leaves are almost always your plant’s way of asking for help. And while a yellow leaf may not feel dry or brittle, it can still mean dehydration. If other signs point to underwatering, act accordingly for the health of your plant.
Also, keep in mind that a yellow leaf will not return to green, even if the plant’s health improves. With that in mind, removing yellowing leaves will help your plant conserve its energy for new growth. Yellow leaves can also be a sign of overwatering, so always check the soil for dryness before adding more water.
Sign 4: Brown Leaves
Dry, crunchy leaves can be a sign of advanced dehydration, and that your plant may begin to die without action. If you see brown leaves or leaves starting to look dry at the tips, immediately check the soil with your finger. If it is dry, water your Monstera adansonii thoroughly.
When it comes to watering your Monstera adansonii well, you may want to consider setting a reminder to check your soil regularly, purchasing a moisture meter, or moving the plant to a more humid space. This is important because leaves play an important role in your Monstera’s ability to produce energy – as they drop, so will the longevity of your plant.
By paying close attention to the signals your Monstera adansonii is sending, you can quickly diagnose the nature of watering issues, provide the right amount of hydration, and keep your Swiss cheese plant on track for a long and happy life!