Swiss cheese plants (Monstera deliciosa) are grown for their lush, glossy leaves. They add a contemporary, jungly feel to a room and are good air purifiers.
The leaves are heart-shaped when young, then become perforated (or Swiss cheese-like) as they mature. This process is known as ‘fenestration’ and it’s thought that plants do this in the wild to let as much light as possible through to the lower leaves.
Cheese plants are actually vines – they’re native to South America, where they grow up trees, clinging on with their roots. The Latin name, Monstera deliciosa, means ‘delicious monster’. Monster refers to its size – in the wild they can reach 20m high and wide. Even in the average home, cheese plants grow fast and need plenty of room – they can reach at least 2m high and 2.5m wide. In time they will need to grow up a moss pole or stick for support.
Swiss cheese plants are easy house plants to care for and are generally pest- and disease-free. They can live for years in the right conditions.
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How to grow Swiss cheese plants
Cheese plants are low-maintenance plants. The main thing to remember is to provide them with the right amount of light –a bright spot, out of direct sunshine, is ideal. And don’t water too much – it’s better for the soil to be on the dry side.
More on growing Swiss cheese plants:
Cheese plant: jump links
- Where to grow Swiss cheese plants
- How to plant a Swiss cheese plant
- How to care for Swiss cheese plants
- How to propagate Swiss cheese plants
- Swiss cheese plant problem-solving
Where to grow a Swiss cheese plant
It’s important to find the right spot for your Swiss cheese plant. Too much bright sun and the leaves will scorch. Too much shade and the leaves won’t perforate. A spot that’s a few feet from a window, in bright light, is ideal. Do not put it near a radiator or an air conditioning unit. Give it plenty of room as it will grow to be very large.
Swiss cheese plants will only grow in temperatures over 18°C but can survive at temperatures as low as 10°C.
How to plant a Swiss cheese plant
Plant into a deep pot that has drainage holes, filled with peat-free, multi-purpose or house plant compost. There should be at least an inch of compost around the root ball.
Caring for a Swiss cheese plant
Swiss cheese plants are easy to look after. How often to water your Swiss cheese plant depends on the time of year and the conditions in the room. Rather than water to a timetable, water whenever the top inch or two of compost is dry – stick a finger into the soil to see. Be sure to let the water drain away completely afterwards. Plants need less watering in winter, especially if they are in a cool room. Feed the plant with a house plant feed once a month in spring and summer.
As the plant grows it will become floppy, so you’ll need to tie the stems into a support such as a moss or coir pole. You can find these in garden centres or online.
The plant will also grow aerial roots – long, white roots that grow from the plant’s stems. In the wild these help the plant cling to trees. Your plant will be getting its nutrients from the roots in the compost, so it’s fine to trim the aerial roots off if you find them unsightly. Alternatively you can tuck them into the compost, or let them grow up the moss pole to help support the plant.
Repot in spring into a slightly larger pot if the roots are beginning to bulge out of the pot – use plant compost or multi-purpose compost. If the plant gets too big for you to do this easily, scoop out as much of the compost from the top of the pot as you can and replace with fresh.
The big leaves can attract dust, so give them a wipe from time to time with a damp cloth to keep them looking glossy and to help the plant to breathe. If your plant is in a warm room, it will appreciate a misting of its leaves.
How to propagate a Swiss cheese plant
It’s easy to take cuttings from a Swiss cheese plant. In spring or early summer, select a stem that has an aerial root beginning to grow lower down – look for a white/brown bud opposite a leaf. The new roots will grow from this. Using a sharp knife or secateurs, cut about an inch below the aerial root. Place the stem in a clear, deep container filled with a few inches of water, checking that the aerial root is submerged. Place in a bright spot that’s out of direct sun and refresh the water every few days. New roots should start to appear within a week or two. After about six weeks, the cutting should have formed a decent bundle of new roots that are about four inches long. The new plant can now be planted into a pot of fresh, multi-purpose or house plant compost. Water, letting any excess drain away.
Growing Swiss cheese plants: problem-solving
If the leaves on your Swiss cheese plant aren’t perforating, this may because the leaves are still young – it’s normal to have some uncut and some cut leaves on a plant. If the larger leaves are not perforating, it is due to lack of light – move to a brighter spot.
If your Swiss cheese plant is ‘crying’ – it has ‘tears’ of water at the edges of its leaves – you have over-watered it and the compost is too wet. Only water when the soil is beginning to dry out, and let excess water drain away. Make sure that the compost is not sodden – it should be just damp.
Yellow leaves can be a sign of overwatering, especially if the leaves are wilting too. It can also be a sign that the plant needs feeding.
Brown patches on the leaves are likely to be due to scorching from the sun. Move the plant out of direct sunlight.
Wilting leaves can be a sign of under-watering or over-watering. If the compost is beginning to dry out, the plant needs a drink. If it’s sodden, you’ve watered too much – let the soil dry out. It can also be a sign that the plant is becoming root-bound and unable to take up water – if roots are beginning to grow out of the bottom of the pot, it’s time to pot it into a large one.
If your plant has got too big or out of shape, the simplest solution is to prune it by cutting some stems away at the base. Wear gloves as the sap can be toxic. Alternatively, take a cutting or two and give the original plant away to someone who has more space in their home.
Mealybugs can be a problem – look out for insects that look like white, fluffy blobs on the undersides of leaves. Wipe them off with a damp cloth or cotton bud that has been soaked in an insecticide that contains fatty acids or plant oils. Keep checking the leaves, as mealybugs can be hard to eradicate.
You may also spot scale insects – small, brown sap sucking insects that are around 6mm long. Wipe off as with a cotton bud or cloth soaked with an insecticide containing fatty acids.
Varieties of Swiss cheese plant to grow
Monstera deliciosa ‘Variegatum’ is a variegated variety – the leaves look as if they have been splashed with white paint.