You’ve finally done it. You found a healthy variegated Monstera Deliciosa, brought it home, and tended to it carefully until it began to grow and flourish. But now you’re worried, because you’ve heard that your plant might lose its variegation in spite of your hard work. Is it true? Could your variegated Monstera revert to green?
Unfortunately, yes — a variegated Monstera can revert and lose its distinctive coloration. You can often prevent this by keeping it well-lit and healthy, as well as pruning reverted growth when it appears. Propagating your Monstera occasionally can also ensure you have a steady supply of plants in case one does revert.
Good overall plant care is your friend here too. A stressed-out Monstera may be more likely to lose its variegation. This article will provide some specific tips on how to preserve your plant’s unique look while explaining what causes Monstera variegation and why it doesn’t always last.
Why Is Monstera Variegation Unstable?
To understand why some variegated Monsteras revert to a more limited color palette, you need to know where variegation comes from in the first place. Those beautiful patches of white, mint-green, and lemon-lime color are the result of random genetic mutations. They interfere with the normal production of chlorophyll, distorting the normal coloring of the plant.
Some kinds of plants, like Calatheas and Marantas, have variegation in regular patterns that look the same across all of their leaves. These lovely adornments persist from generation to generation because they’re encoded in the genome of particular cultivars. This is known as pattern-gene variegation.
Monstera Deliciosas don’t have this form of variegation. The genes coding for partial lack of chlorophyll aren’t threaded through their genomes — instead, they’re scattered at random throughout the plant. You’ll have clusters of variegated cells sitting next to clumps of “regular” cells, leading to the patchwork look that so many of these plants display.
This is known as chimeral variegation. It’s named after the chimera, a legendary monster (how appropriate!) that looked like several fearsome animals fused together.
Chimeral variegation won’t persist when you propagate a Monstera from seed. It’s found in the plant’s leaves and stems, not in the germ cells that produce offspring. The only way to reproduce the patterns in these plants is through cuttings.
In addition, chimeral variegation is virtually always less stable than the pattern-gene type. That’s partly due to its random distribution. If your Monstera’s newest stem segment happens to be growing from a node that doesn’t contain any variegated cells, it will grow solid green instead.
One other factor is that plants have built-in mechanisms for altering their gene expression to raise or lower chlorophyll production. They will sometimes do this in response to environmental stress, causing a loss of variegation.
What About The Thai Constellation?
There’s one major exception to the above: a type of variegated Monstera known as the Thai Constellation. Its name comes from the frequent occurrence of small white speckles appearing all over its leaves, though it can also display much larger patches of cream-colored or pale-green variegation.
Unlike most variegated Monsteras, the Thai Constellation has its patterning built into its genes. It’s considered quite stable, and reversion in this cultivar is practically unheard of.
This is especially surprising because the patterning certainly looks like the kind of random splashes characteristic of chimeral variegation. It’s not clear why exactly this plant is so different from others of its kind. The Thai Constellation was created through genetic engineering, and the precise method is a closely guarded trade secret.
Why Is My Variegated Monstera Turning Green?
Okay, so you can understand the theory behind why some Monsteras revert. But why is it happening to your Monstera now?
In some cases, it’s simply a random event caused by the uneven distribution of variegated cells. However, it’s also possible that your Monstera Deliciosa is reacting to poor growing conditions. The most common cause is a lack of adequate sunlight.
Because variegated leaves have less chlorophyll than normal, they’re less efficient at absorbing sunlight. They need more illumination to get the same amount of energy. Failing to provide enough sun can make a variegated Monstera revert. The plant will sense that it’s taking in too little energy and boost its chlorophyll production, leading to greener, less variegated leaves.
Other kinds of stress can cause a similar response. Plants tend to try to take in as much energy as possible when they’re responding to an apparent crisis. Overwatering, sun scorch, lack of key nutrients, and excessive heat or cold could all potentially lead to reversion.
Finally, using too much fertilizer, especially if it has a high proportion of nitrogen, could cause a variegated Monstera to revert. An excess of this nutrient often triggers a burst of dark green, leafy growth. You should still fertilize regularly, but make sure not to overdo it if you have a variegated Monstera.
How to Keep a Variegated Monstera From Reverting
Follow these recommendations if you want to keep your Monstera variegated:
Place Your Monstera Near an East-Facing Window
You need to give a variegated Monstera lots of light, but you also need to protect it from sunburns. One of the best ways to strike this delicate balance is to take advantage of the bright morning sunlight that comes from an eastern exposure. Your plant is much less likely to get scorched during the cool hours of the morning.
If you don’t have a spot that fits the bill, consider scooching your Monstera a little closer to a southern or western window. But keep it at least 4-5 feet away, or hang some sheer curtains. Otherwise, the light could be too harsh.
Use a Grow Light
Sometimes the amount of sunlight in your home just doesn’t cut it. If you’re not sure you can provide enough bright, indirect light to stop your variegated Monstera from reverting, placing it under a broad-spectrum LED bulb may do the trick. Use an outlet timer to make sure it’s getting at least 6-8 hours under the lamp each day, or 12-16 hours if it’s getting no natural light at all.
Remove Non-Variegated Leaves From Your Monstera
What if you’re giving your plant lots of light, but it pops out a solid green leaf anyway? The answer is simple: clip it off ASAP. This can often nudge a Monstera Deliciosa back to variegated growth.
To do this properly, you’ll likely need to snip off part of the stem as well. The node that’s producing this green growth will likely continue to do so — it probably doesn’t contain any of the mutant cells you need. (See here for an explanation of Monstera nodes).
You’ll want to cut back to the last node on the stem that was sending out variegated tissue. Use a sharp pair of pruning shears that you’ve disinfected with rubbing alcohol or a weak bleach solution. Cut at a 45-degree angle an inch or so above the node you’ve chosen. With luck, your Monstera should sprout variegated leaves again soon.
Fertilize Weakly But Regularly
During the spring and summer, you should be giving your variegated Monstera regular but mild doses of fertilizer. Use a balanced formula that’s not too heavy on the nitrogen, mixing it with your plant’s water once a month or so. You can often get away with diluting it to ½ or even ¼ of the strength recommended by the manufacturer.
Once the weather starts to get cold, stop fertilizing. Adding nutrients when your plant doesn’t have enough light to use them will do more harm than good.
Plant a Variegated Monstera in Coarse Potting Mix
This is good advice for any Monstera Deliciosa, but it’s especially important when your plant has less chlorophyll than normal. It will tend to grow more slowly, meaning it won’t absorb water as quickly. This increases the chances that the soil will get too damp, breeding root rot and causing added stress to your plant.
To avoid this problem, use a mix that contains lots of chunky pieces that won’t decay quickly. Common examples include orchid bark chips, perlite, lava rock, and pumice. These should constitute at least half the total volume of the potting mix.
Make Lots of Clones of Your Variegated Monstera
A Monstera can lose its variegation no matter how hard you work to keep it healthy and happy. If that happens, it’s best to have some fallback options.
So why not propagate your plant as much as possible? It’s less of a tragedy when one variegated Monstera reverts if you’re growing two or three others.
We’ve written a detailed guide to Monstera propagation, but the short version is that you’ll need to clip off a section of stem containing at least one node and root it in moist but fast-draining soil. To increase the chances that your plant will pass on its variegation, make sure to use a node from a part of the stem that’s visibly multicolored.
If possible, include a leaf or two in your cutting so that it can absorb some energy as it grows. Dipping the cut end in rooting hormone powder is an optional but helpful trick to increase your Monstera’s odds of anchoring successfully. Keep the clone humid, warm, and away from direct light as it’s taking root.
Don’t Lose Hope If Your Variegated Monstera Reverts
Remember that a reverted Monstera can also re-variegate. There’s no way to guarantee this will happen, but patience and attentive care will often be rewarded.
So keep on showing your Monstera TLC even if it goes green, making sure to give it plenty of light, water, and fertilizer without letting the soil get soggy. You might just see its bold coloration return.
Stable variegation is the exception rather than the rule with Monsteras. You’ll need to make sure your plant has everything it needs to grow if you want it to stay colorful. Sunlight is particularly important, but so are drainage, mild temperatures, and healthy nutrition. The happier your Monstera is, the more likely it will be to stay stylish.