Monsteras are fantastic houseplants. One primary reason for their popularity is that they can grow beautifully in various conditions. However, they can be a bit picky about overwatering. The easiest way to avoid accidentally giving your plant too much water is to plant it in the right pot with the right soil.
Monsteras are sensitive to being overwatered, so they need to be kept in soil that doesn’t retain too much moisture. You can buy a free-draining potting mix in stores or online or create your own. Monsteras need a container that isn’t too large and must have drainage holes to drain excess water.
It can be overwhelming to try to choose the right potting soil and even more confusing when you start thinking about mixing your own. Keep reading for some suggestions on what to consider when it comes to pots and soil to keep your Monstera looking its best.
Important Factors In Choosing Soil for Monsteras
Drainage is the most crucial aspect when choosing a potting soil for Monsteras. Container plants need the right balance since they live in confined spaces, and it is harder to regulate moisture levels. Monstera deliciosa (along with most other houseplants) can be damaged by soil that doesn’t drain.
We don’t usually think about it, but roots need to be able to access oxygen. If the soil is too damp and too dense, there is no way for oxygen to circulate around the roots. They eventually start to get soft and die off, often the result of a fungal issue. This condition is called “root rot,” and it is difficult to reverse once it starts.
Nutrients are absorbed through the plant’s roots. In nature, a Monstera deliciosa would be growing in soil that had constant infusions of organic nutrients from plant debris and animal droppings. Since indoor plants don’t get the same natural nutrients, we have to supplement them via the potting mix and fertilizers.
Soil pH often comes up in discussions of appropriate soil for different types of plants. The ideal range of soil pH for Monsteras is around 5.5-7. This puts it in the range of slightly acidic to neutral, and the vast majority of commercially-available potting mixes will already fall into this category. For Monsteras, you should not need to add any soil amendments to change soil pH.
Soils to Avoid When Planting Monstera Deliciosa
It’s never recommended to use dirt from the ground for potted plants. Potting mix is actually a soilless mixture (which is confusing since the term “potting soil” is so commonly used). Ingredients can vary, but it is generally composed of moss (sphagnum moss or peat moss) and perlite or vermiculite as the base. Other components like sand, pine bark, coco coir, and compost are also frequently used to create a potting mix for specific plant needs.
On the other hand, soil from the ground (you may see it labeled as garden soil or topsoil in stores) is heavier and denser than potting mix. It tends to hold a lot more moisture than potting mixes. It also doesn’t contain sufficient nutrients to keep container plants healthy.
I recommend avoiding commercial potting mixes that are labeled as “moisture control.” These contain water-absorbing gel beads that are supposed to take in water and slowly release it to protect against under- or over-watering. Unfortunately, the technology does not seem to work well and can give plant owners a false sense of security. It’s better to understand your plants’ water needs and control their moisture levels through your watering habits.
A Quick Note on Watering Monsteras
You probably have the idea by now that over-watering your Monstera is one of the worst things you can do. I usually check moisture levels in the soil by sticking my finger in to judge how dry it feels. If the top inch or two is dry, I go ahead and water. This works out to about once a week during the summer and every 2-3 weeks when the weather is colder.
The frequency with which you water your Monstera will depend on the size of the pot, ambient temperature and humidity in your home, and soil type. There’s no one answer to how often to water a Monstera except for: when it is dry. A
When you water, make sure you give the plant a thorough soak (ideally until about 20% of the water you put in comes out through the drainage holes). Don’t let your plant sit in water – if any remains in the saucer after 30 minutes, throw it out.
In general, it is better to give a Monstera too little water over too much. A dry Monstera might wilt a bit but should perk back up once it is rehydrated. Root rot, the result of overwatering, is much more difficult to fix.
In-Store Options for Monstera Potting Mix
The easiest soil to use for Monstera deliciosa is obviously going to be the one you can buy right off the shelf and use as-is. Not everyone has the time or patience to mix their own potting mix, and that’s completely fine! Monsteras can thrive in a regular potting mix.
If you are concerned about overwatering, a succulent and cacti potting mix could be a good option. These drain very well since they are made for desert plants that hold moisture inside their leaves and stems. Succulent and cacti mixes usually contain sand and perlite or pumice to make it more coarse.
You’ll want to be extra careful not to let your Monstera dry out if you choose this type of potting mix. Succulent mix could be a bit too dry for a tropical plant like a Monstera. It depends on the humidity in your home and your watering habits. Since normal potting mix can be too wet and cacti mix can be too dry, many Monstera owners like to get the best of both worlds by mixing the two (in equal parts) to create a happy medium.
When it comes to the potting mix I recommend, I like to use Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Soil. If you want to go the route of combining a regular potting mix with a succulent mixture for quicker drainage, this one is my go-to succulent soil.
How to Mix Your Own Monstera Soil
Although it’s a bit more work, mixing your own soil will give you the optimal environment to grow Monstera deliciosa. I find that the best combinations are about half regular potting mix and half a chunky material like orchid bark, pumice, perlite, or coco chips.
Monsteras are not picky about what you mix in to increase the drainage of your potting mix, so you can use whatever you have. I usually put in a thin layer of worm castings as fertilizer.
The process of mixing the soil is pretty simple. Use a container to measure out equal parts of your two ingredients, then stir them together with a garden trowel until evenly mixed. I usually just mix the amount I need for the job at hand, but you can store your custom potting mix to use later.
How to Choose the Right Container for Monsteras
Aside from choosing the right soil, the next most important factor in getting drainage right for your Monstera deliciosa is to have it in the right container. It might not seem important, but actually the pot you choose for a Monstera can directly affect your plant’s health.
SIZE: When it comes to pot size, less is usually more for this plant. Since Monsteras do not like to have moist soil, it’s important that the ratio of roots to soil in the pot is correct. If there’s a lot of soil, the plant will not dry out quickly enough and can lead to root rot. If there’s not enough soil (i.e., roots are filling most of the pot), you will find you have to water too frequently.
Being kept in a small pot will restrict how much the plant grows, but it should not directly cause any damage. Monstera roots are strong, and they can break plastic pots when they outgrow them. It’s also common to see roots emerging from the drainage holes when the roots get too big.
When you are repotting your Monstera, it is generally best to just go one size bigger (from a 6″ pot to an 8″ pot, for example). It is easier for your plant to adjust to a new pot that isn’t significantly larger than the current one.
MATERIAL: Monsteras are usually sold in plastic nursery pots, and those are generally fine for a while. The problem with plastic pots as the plant gets larger is that they are fairly lightweight, and a big Monstera deliciosa is heavy. If your plant is too top-heavy, it might fall over (or be knocked over). Also, many people dislike the look of plastic pots and prefer something more decorative.
Terracotta pots are another option, but they have the opposite problem. As your Monstera gets larger and you have to size up the pot, the terra cotta pot will be quite heavy when filled with soil and your plant. Terracotta gives your plant a sturdier base but can be difficult to move around when you need to.
Note that terracotta can be useful to help prevent overwatering because it absorbs moisture from the soil. Plastic pots do not “breathe” in the same way as terra cotta does, so they tend to keep all the moisture inside.
Glazed ceramic pots (with drainage holes) are another excellent option for indoor Monsteras. These come in a variety of styles, but larger ones can be quite expensive.
DRAINAGE: Regardless of the size and material of your pot, it is vital to have drainage holes in the bottom for excess water to leave the pot. If you really want to use a container that does not have drainage holes, there are a couple of options.
You could drill holes in the bottom of the pot using specialized drill bits (masonry bits work for unglazed ceramic, while glass and tile bits are best for glazed ceramic). There is a possibility that the pot can break, so be sure to use safety equipment and follow directions.
The other option would be to put a layer of gravel or another material at the bottom of the pot so that excess water collects and doesn’t get absorbed into the soil. Some people have good luck with this method, but I don’t recommend it. There is too much chance of collecting too much water in the pot without realizing it.
My favorite pot for Monstera deliciosa is a plastic pot inside a decorative cachepot. This setup allows me to have the best of both worlds: the plastic pot is relatively light, and it’s easy to repot, but the ceramic cache pot provides stability to keep the plant from falling over. If I decide to change my decor, I can easily switch up the cache pot without repotting my plant.
When Should a Monstera be Repotted?
Although they grow quickly, Monsteras can usually go 2-3 years before needing to be repotted. There are a few signs that your Monstera is ready to move to a larger pot. The first is that you have to water more frequently, and the water seems to run through the pot very quickly. This indicates that many roots are taking up space in the pot and not a lot of soil to absorb the water.
Another sign of a Monstera that’s ready to be repotted is roots extending outside the pot – either out of the drainage holes at the bottom, or growing up above the surface of the soil. If the roots crack or break their way out of the pot, that is a sure sign that you should give them more space.
It is best to repot Monsteras and other plants in the spring or early summer, during the growing season. Although you might see new growth year-round depending on the conditions in your home, the increased sunlight and warmer temperatures of the warmer months spur even more activity. If they’re provided more space and refreshed nutrients in a larger pot, Monsteras will make the best use of them during the growing season.
How Do You Repot a Monstera?
After you gather all your supplies (the plant, new pot, and potting mix), place a layer of potting soil in the bottom of your new pot. Remove the Monstera from its current pot, making sure to minimize damage to the roots. Tease the roots out from the root ball, and remove old soil that might be clinging to the roots if you can do so easily.
Then place the plant into the new pot and fill around the root ball with your potting mix until the soil line is an inch or two below the rim of the pot. Water thoroughly and fill in more potting mix if needed.
If your Monstera is especially large, consider requesting help from a friend. These plants can be heavy and hard to handle. It would be better to ask for help than risk dropping, breaking or damaging the plant.
For a more in depth, step-by-step guide to repotting Monsteras, read this article.
Does a Monstera Deliciosa Need a Moss Pole?
If your Monstera is getting large and top-heavy or is no longer growing vertically, a moss pole (or another support, like a trellis) can help. It is best to add a moss pole while you are repotting the plant since there will be room in the pot for the pole.
Since Monsteras naturally grow on trees in the wild, your indoor plant will eventually need some kind of support as it gets larger. I find it easier to add the support when the plant is small, so it can be trained to grow up the pole from the beginning. You can read my article about moss poles for Monsteras for many more details on how to do it.
Monstera deliciosa is not a particularly finicky houseplant and is generally easy to grow in most indoor environments. The two primary needs for this plant are adequate light and not to be overwatered. By providing your Monstera with well-draining, loose soil in a pot that is correctly sized, you will be a step ahead in minimizing your chances of giving it too much water.
Unlike some other houseplants that can be tricky to keep happy, Monsteras are forgiving of a certain amount of neglect and mistreatment. Providing the right growing medium and pots can help a Monstera reach its potential in growth and appearance, but it is not an exact science. Feel free to experiment with soil mixes to see what suits your plants best!