The Monstera deliciosa, also known as the Swiss Cheese Plant, is a tropical climber native to the Central and South American rainforests. In the wild, the Monstera has its particular needs met perfectly: just enough sunlight, plenty of humidity, and lots of nutrients. But indoors, what exactly are the light conditions that are best for a Monstera deliciosa?
Monsteras need bright, indirect sunlight for a minimum of six hours a day. Too much sunlight can result in burnt leaves, ultimately harming the plant long term. Too little light can slow growth significantly, resulting in yellowing or browning leaves with few-to-no fenestrations.
Keep reading, and I’ll cover the light needs of the Monstera more in-depth to make sure that you have a strong grasp of what kind of care your plant needs. Monsteras can be exceptionally hardy even when placed in less-than-ideal circumstances, but you can improve the overall health and growth of your plant by paying attention to its light needs.
Does a Monstera Deliciosa Need Light?
The short answer here is yes! Nearly all plants need sunlight. It’s vital to the many processes that go into a plant’s growth and development. Without going too much into biology, sunlight is the vital ingredient that allows a plant to properly photosynthesize. Photosynthesis involves converting a combination of water, carbon dioxide, and light into oxygen and glucose.
Glucose is the sugar that plants use to fuel their various functions, including growing, phototropism (the neat thing plants do when they move to follow sunlight), and fending off diseases and pests. Without glucose, a plant can’t complete these biological needs and probably won’t survive for very long.
The photosynthesis process and how plants use glucose is a lot more in-depth than that, but hopefully, my brief overview sheds some light on why plants actually need to access sunlight. Without understanding the scientific reasoning behind it, getting enough sunlight for your Monstera can seem less urgent.
How Much Light Do Monsteras Need?
The question of how much light a Monstera needs comes down to the individual plant. Depending on the region you live in (and how close you are to the equator), your Monstera may require more or less access to light. It’s important to consider this when planning care for your Monstera because generalizations may not apply!
If you live in an area far above or below the equator, the strength of light you receive is not equal to that in the tropics. For this reason, your plant may need longer access to bright, indirect light to be healthy. If you live near the equator, the opposite is true.
The general rule, however, is that Monsteras need bright, indirect sunlight for a minimum of six hours each day. If you can give it extra while still maintaining a regular daytime/nighttime schedule, the more, the better. But beware, not all light is created equal! A Monstera needs bright light – but never direct light.
What’s the Difference Between Direct and Indirect Light?
The difference between direct and indirect light is pretty straightforward. Direct sunlight is sunlight that falls directly on the plant. If your plant is directly in the face of the sun and is covered with uninterrupted sunbeams, it’s in direct sunlight. In most cases, this can be damaging to your Monstera. Direct sunlight can cause the leaves to burn, resulting in yellowing and browning.
Indirect sunlight is the opposite. Indirect sunlight is generally broken up or diffused, and sunbeams don’t make extended contact with the plant. Indirect sunlight can be created using other plants, curtains and blinds, or just distance from the light source.
Indirect sunlight is what Monsteras are most likely to receive in the rainforest. Because of the dense canopy, sunlight is filtered through the branches and leaves above the Monstera. This is part of why they also grow to such enormous heights—the lack of sunlight available on the forest floor has resulted in Monsteras adapting to climb taller trees to reach more available light.
Not sure which type of light is in a specific spot in your home? There is a simple test! Place your hand between the area and the nearest window. If you can feel the warmth of the sun on your hand, and the shadow you’re casting is dark with hard edges, this area receives direct light. If you cannot feel the warmth and your shadow is softer with fuzzy edges, congrats! You’ve found the perfect spot with indirect light for your plant.
What Happens When Monsteras Receive Too Much Light?
A Monstera can receive too much sunlight if left in direct sunlight for too long. This happens during the summer, when windows get harsher light from the sun, or when a plant is left outdoors for maintenance or watering. In both cases, the plant will show signs of distress.
When a Monstera has received too much sunlight, you’ll see yellowing and burnt leaves. The tips will start to yellow and then turn crunchy and brown. Older leaves seem to be able to handle this stress a little bit better, but any new or still unfurling leaves can be devastated by too much light. A Monstera left in these conditions for too long will wilt and die.
Which Windows are Best for Monsteras?
For a Monstera, the best windows are any south-, east-, and west-facing. If you’re confused about what that means or why it matters, I’ll explain a little bit about the different directions windows face and how that can impact a plant’s growth.
North-facing windows generally receive the weakest light in the house and usually spend the entire day in the shade. A window like this will work well for a low-light plant in the summer but can become too dark in the winter.
South-facing windows, despite seeming like they would receive the same lack of light, actually get the most light in the house (as long as you’re in the northern hemisphere.) That makes these windows ideal for plants that need a lot of light.
East-facing windows face the direction that the sun rises, so they get a lot of bright and somewhat gentle light for the sun first thing in the morning. The rays aren’t quite as harsh as they are in the afternoon, so this works well for plants that need a lot of light but can’t handle the strength of sunlight later in the day. While it’s not something you often see with houseplants, some plants used in gardening will specifically call for morning sunlight.
West-facing windows get the strongest light in the house because the sun reaches its highest point at noon, which is when its rays are the strongest and slowly sets over the west. These windows won’t receive the same volume of light as windows that face the south, but they will get a lot of strong, intense sunlight in the afternoon.
While west-facing windows seem like they wouldn’t work for a Monstera, it’s important to consider the time of year that the plant will be in the window. The sunlight that comes in a west-facing window in the winter will be a lot less intense than in the summer and, depending on your location, may be ideal for your plants. Also, things like curtains or pulling the plant back farther into the room can diffuse the harsh light enough to suit Monsteras.
No matter which window you choose, be careful not to place your Monstera too close to it. Almost all windows will let in some direct sunlight, which is too intense for your Monstera. Most houseplants are best situated when pulled into the room three to four feet away from the window. This lets the plant absorb the light they love without potentially damaging its foliage with direct light.
What If I Have a Room With No Windows?
All of this makes it sound like a home with extremely low-light or no windows can’t host a Monstera, but that isn’t true. The best way to solve the problem of keeping a Monstera in a room with no windows, like an interior bathroom, is to get a grow light.
Grow lights are bulbs that mimic the spectrum of light put out by the sun. In situations where a plant isn’t receiving enough sunlight (or any at all), a grow light can be used to supplement the plant, allowing it to continue to photosynthesize despite having limited access to natural sunlight.
Grow lights may seem like they might be a hassle, but we have a great guide on how to use them, what grow lights work best, and other tips here. In summary: grow lights are not necessarily as complicated as they seem. There are plenty of affordable options as well as ones that are aesthetically-pleasing and easy to use.
Grow lights come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Conveniently, you can also purchase a grow light in the form of a bulb that can be screwed into regular lamps. This makes the process a lot easier than finding a nice-looking industrial lamp that can consume a room and make your houseplant collection look out of place.
My favorite grow light is the Sansi 15W LED bulb. This inexpensive bulb fits into the base of a standard desk lamp and can be automated with an outlet timer to switch off and on during the day and night. I was a bit skeptical of grow lights at first, but the Sansi bulb wiped away all my doubts. After just a few weeks with my new light, I saw significant growth and improvement in my plants’ health.
Can Monsteras Live in Low Light?
Monsteras can live in low light, but you won’t get the monstrous, gorgeous, and fenestrated leaves that make the plant so desirable. Low-light, which you would find in north-facing windows, is ideal for other houseplants like the ZZ Plant, but Monsteras won’t thrive in these locations.
On the flip side, if you’d like to keep a smaller, more manageable Monstera, low light can be a good solution. A Monstera that gets everything it needs and has the perfect conditions can grow very quickly and very aggressively. But when moved away from the bright, indirect sunlight that they love, a Monstera will grow much slower (if at all).
You should be prepared for some of the quirks that your Monstera may develop if you go this route, though. I’ll go more into it below, but some of the main issues that low-light Monsteras develop include legginess and a lack of fenestrations. If you want to read more about how to keep a Monstera on the smaller side, click here.
What to Expect From a Low Light Monstera
If you live in a home with low light, you can expect a couple of things from your plant. The main one being that the plant will grow very slowly. This isn’t always bad, but it is important to consider if your goal is to have a big and bold Monstera. Plants that don’t receive enough light will never thrive.
Another symptom of a Monstera that doesn’t receive adequate light is that it can become leggy. Monsteras, and many other houseplants, become leggy when they have to search for more sunlight, as growing longer is one way to do this.
Leggy Monsteras aren’t especially pretty to look at, but it is not a dealbreaker. Leggy Monsteras become stretched out and sparse with small leaves, quite the opposite of the Instagram-worthy plants you’ve seen online. Increasing the amount of light even slightly can make a big difference in how the plant looks and grows. For additional information on helping leggy Monsteras, click here.
The biggest problem with inadequate light is an aesthetic one—low-light Monstera lack fenestrations. Fenestrations are the splits and slits in the leaves that make Monsteras so distinct. They will only develop in older, well-established plants that have all of their needs met. If a Monstera is struggling in any way, it’s unlikely that the plant will put out a fenestrated leaf. This is especially true in Monsteras that get low light.
If your Monstera continues to put out leaves at all, and some low-light Monsteras don’t, they will probably be small, solid leaves. In some cases, these leaves may also fail to get dark green and thick, permanently leaving them the delicate and light green they are when they initially unfurl.
There are a couple of important things to take away from this. Namely, while a Monstera can survive in a low-light environment, it won’t thrive. If you live in a home that doesn’t meet the light needs of a Monstera, grow lights can be an inexpensive and easy fix.
There is a lot of variability in what a Monstera, or any houseplant, needs to thrive, especially when it comes to sunlight. Keep in mind that not all sunlight is created equal: your location and the season play a big part in what you need to consider when finding the ideal location for your Monstera.
Don’t shy away from Monsteras on the basis that they need more sunlight than you can provide. There are options that cater to this problem, especially as houseplants become more and more popular. Monsteras can also survive in some low light conditions, but you’ll need to be realistic when assessing your home for this.
If you’ve taken the time to consider whether or not you have everything a Monstera needs and realize that they may not be an option for you, there are low light houseplants that are well known for their ability to survive in darker homes. Don’t let your available light conditions deter you from becoming a houseplant owner!