The Swiss cheese vine (Monstera adansonii) is a charming houseplant with unique foliage and a vining growth habit. With holes scattered throughout its leaves, it’s perfect for houseplant parents who are looking to add a bit of quirkiness to their collection. In this article, I’ll offer care advice for Monstera adansonii, along with tips for propagation and troubleshooting.
All in the family
Members of the arum family (Araceaem), Monsteras are tropical plants native to Central and South America. The genus contains over 40 different species, with two being grown as popular houseplants: Monstera deliciosa (known by the common name of the Swiss cheese plant) and Monstera adansonii (known as the Swiss cheese vine).
M. deliciosa produces the broad, thick leaves with deep lobes around the margin that you’re seeing all over social media these days. This species requires a lot of room to grow.
It’s close cousin M. adansonii, on the other hand, has much smaller leaves with a smooth margin and it takes up significantly less room. Both species have holes in their leaves (called fenestration), that attribute to their unique appearance.
This article focuses on the smaller cousin, M. adansonii – the Swiss cheese vine.
Meet the Swiss cheese vine
The distinctive perforated foliage of the Swiss cheese vine (also sometimes called Monstera monkey mask or the monkey mask plant) is the reason for the botanical name of Monstera which is Latin for monstrous or peculiar. In their native habitat, the holes in the leaves enable the plant to easily climb trees by lightening the plant’s weight (which is a good thing since the vines can climb over 50 feet up tree trunks!) without negatively impacting photosynthesis. They attach themselves to the tree by producing hook-like aerial roots that latch onto the bark.
When grown as a houseplant indoors, the Swiss cheese vine produces those same long vines, so it’s important to grow the plant in a manner that supports this growth habit. Later in this article, I’ll share two ways to grow this vining houseplant properly.
Round form vs narrow form of this plant
Botanists classify two forms of this species.
1. Monstera adansonii wide form (also called fat or round form)
2. Monstera adansonii narrow form
Plants of the wide/fat/round form have leaves that are crinkly and bumpy, with a “bubbled” appearance. The leaves are thicker and rounder than the other form.
Plants of the narrow form have leaves that are smooth and flat. Their leaves are more heart shaped and elongated with a taper at their point. This form is less common and may be more difficult to find on the market than the wide. It also tends to be more sensitive to drafts and mistreatment.
Regardless of which form of the Swiss cheese vine you grow, the care instructions in this article apply.
Two ways to grow!
To have the happiest plant, you’ll want to grow your Monstera adansonii in one of two ways.
- As a vining plant that drapes down over a hanging pot or a tall plant stand.
- As a climbing plant that rambles up a moss pole, wooden stake, or other structure.
Here are details on both options
Grow it as a hanging houseplant
A great indoor plant for hanging pots and baskets, Monstera adansonii specimens grown in this manner will produce long vines that tumble down over the edges of their growing pot. The aerial roots will still be produced, but they won’t latch onto anything for support. This is a great way to grow your Swiss cheese vine if you’re limited in space and don’t want to have to continually attach a climbing vine to some kind of support system.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a ceiling hook from which to hang a pot, you can place the plant on a tall pedestal or plant stand and let the vines spill out of the pot and grow down toward the floor. When grown this way, the vines often curl upward at the ends, continually in search of something to climb, but it is not detrimental to the plant in any way.
Growing Monstera adansonii on a moss pole or wood stake
To grow the Swiss cheese vine as a climbing plant, you’ll need to place a support system in the pot that mimics the tree trunks the plant would naturally climb in the jungle. Use a moss pole, a wooden stake, or branches of other plants or trees as a support by inserting and anchoring one into the center of pot. I like to use coir poles that come with multiple extensions so you can easily add height to the support as the plant grows. This keeps you from having to replace the support entirely with a taller one every time the plant outgrows it.
At first, you’ll have to fasten the growing vines to the support using plant ties or jute twine to encourage it to grow upwards, but after this initial “training phase,” the plant will naturally find its way to the support and grow upwards. You’ll still have to tie the vines to the pole from time to time, though, especially if they get too heavy to support themselves via their aerial roots.
New leaves are created at the ends of the vines, while larger leaves are found toward the base of the plant. This creates the lush, tropical look that so many houseplant enthusiasts covet.
Light requirements for Monstera adansonii
Once you’ve decided which growth habit you prefer, it’s time to consider the best light level for the Swiss cheese vine. These plants evolved in the sub-canopy of tropical rainforests, so they are used to the filtered sunlight beneath the canopy. If they are placed in a location with too much direct sun, the edges of the leaves may turn brown and crispy. Trim off any of these “burned” leaves and relocate the plant to an area with bright indirect light instead.
Finding a place with the ideal amount of sunlight may take a bit of experimentation. Harsh, direct sunlight is a big no-no, but so is insufficient low light. I have found the best location for a Monstera adansonii to be in an east-facing window where it will receive bright light for a few hours in the morning. Alternatively, place it in a west- or south-facing window but keep it several feet back from the window itself, so the strong bright light never hits it directly.
Low light conditions result in overly elongated growth, pale leaf coloration, spindly vines, and perhaps fewer holes in the newer leaves.
How often to water a Swiss cheese vine
Swiss cheese vines prefer moist soil that is allowed to dry out in between waterings. Just because the plant is tropical does not mean it likes very wet soil. The roots will rot if the soil is kept too wet. To determine the best time to water your plant, feel the weight of the pot every few days and insert your finger into the soil down to the middle knuckle. When the pot is light and the soil is dry, it’s time to water.
How to water Monstera adansonii
There are three ways to water a Swiss cheese vine:
- Move the pot to a sink or tub. Turn on the water to a steady but slender stream. Room temperature water is best. Let the water hit the soil and soak down in. Rotate the pot a quarter turn every minute or two. Allow the water to fully flush through the soil and drain out the holes in the bottom of the pot.
- Lift the pot and put it into a large plastic bin or bowl filled with a few inches water. Let the plant absorb the water up through the pot’s drainage holes. Allow it to sit in the water for 20 minutes, then remove it from the water bin and let it drain. This is called bottom watering.
- If your plant is too large to move, slowly pour water into the top of the pot using a watering can and allow it to run through the soil and collect in the saucer beneath the pot. Keep the water in the saucer for 20 minutes so it can be absorbed back up into the soil if needed. After 20 minutes pass, use a turkey baster to remove any remaining water from the saucer. Never let water sit in a saucer beneath a houseplant as it will cause root rot.
Signs of over- and underwatering
Overwatering has undoubtedly been the death of many Monstera adansonii specimens (and plenty of other houseplants, too). It can be challenging to determine the proper amount of moisture needed by these plants. Here are a few signs of both over- and underwatering to help you diagnose any issues you may be having:
- Overwatered plants:
• leaves fall off easily
• plant is wilting despite soil being wet
• yellow and brown on the same leaf; lower leaves yellowing
• a black blotch on the stem where it meets the soil
- Underwatered plants:
• new growth is brown and/or crispy
• newer leaves are yellow or stunted and weak
• pot is light and soil is pulled away (shrunk) from the edges of the pot
• the vines are limp and soft
Temperature and humidity
As natives of tropical climates, it stands to reason that Monstera adansonii plants prefer high a humidity level. While most homes certainly have lower humidity than a jungle (especially during the winter months), there are a few ways you can increase the humidity around the plant.
- Use a cool vapor humidifier. Run it for a few hours every day near your houseplant collection. This is not a necessary practice, particularly in the summer, but it can help keep your Swiss cheese plant happy.
- Place the plant on a tray filled with pebbles that is filled with water. The bottom of the pot should not be in direct contact with the water in the tray; it should rest on top of the pebbles instead. As the water evaporates from the tray, it raises the humidity around the leaves.
- Grow tropical plants in groups. As the leaves transpire (release water vapor from their pores), it will naturally raise the humidity in the immediate area. When placed in groups, their collective transpiration is surprisingly helpful for encouraging plant health.
- Spraying a fine mist on the plant’s foliage, stems, and the moss pole or other support can also raise the humidity, but it is only temporary. Still, the practice won’t harm tropical plants, though it should be performed multiple times a day for the best results.
For the same reasons Monstera adansonii plants prefer high humidity, they also enjoy high temperatures. A range of 65° to 90°F is ideal.
Fertilizing a Monstera adansonii
These jungle plants are not heavy feeders, but they do require occasional fertilization to support their nutritional needs.
Alternatively, mix a water-soluble or liquid houseplant fertilizer with your irrigation water every 4 weeks during that same time period. Do not fertilize in the winter when the plant is not actively growing. I tend to use houseplant fertilizers at only half the recommended strength on the bottle because I find overfertilization is a bigger problem than under.
Signs of under-fertilization include blemish-free but yellow leaves at the base of the plant or older leaves that are turning yellow but only in between the leaf veins. Trim off the yellow leaves and start a regular fertilization program.
Overfertilization causes leaves to turn yellow and eventually brown around their edges. It may also cause brown and crispy leaf tips. If this occurs, flush the soil with a lot of water to remove the excess fertilizer salts. Do it again 3 days later. Reduce the frequency of fertilization.
From time to time you’ll need to repot a Monstera adansonii plant when it outgrows its existing pot. Choose a sterile, well-draining soil (a high-quality potting mix formulated for houseplants is best). Initially, your plant will likely come in a small pot that it will quickly outgrow. Each time you repot, bump up the pot size by 2 inches in diameter.
Some pruning of the roots may be necessary if the plant is pot-bound or there are brown or mushy roots present. Use your fingers or a fork to loosen any pot-bound roots before settling the plant into its new pot. Do not prune the air roots.
2 ways to propagate Monstera adansonii
Propagation of Monstera adansonii is super easy and can be done in one of two ways.
- Take stem cuttings by cutting off sections of the vines that are 4 to 6 inches in length. Insert the bottom inch of the cuttings into a jar of water that is cleaned and changed every week. The cuttings will produce roots within a few weeks and can then be potted up.
- Layer the plants by pinning the vines into a pot of soil while they are still attached to the mother plant. Use a hairpin-shaped paper clip or piece of wire to pin the vine against the soil at the location of a node (where a leaf meets the stem). The node generates a new root which heads down into the soil. Keep the pot watered whenever you water the mother plant. When the node is rooted (about 2 months later) cut the vine from the mother plant.
Pests and problems
While the Swiss cheese vine seldom falls victim to pests, occasionally spider mites, mealy bugs, thrips, and fungus gnats may become problematic. For the first three, use two applications of horticultural oil, neem oil, or insecticidal soap, spaced at an interval of 10 to 14 days apart. Be sure to spray upper and lower leaf sides and stems.
For fungus gnats, reduce the frequency of irrigation and allow the soil to fully dry out between waterings. Use Gnat Stix to trap the adult gnats.
More care tips for Monstera adansonii
- Move your plant outdoors for the summer and place it in a shady location. Be sure to move it back indoors when nighttime temperatures drop below 60°F.
- Keep the plant away from both cold and hot drafts.
- Inspect plants before bringing them home from nurseries. Look for pests, rotten roots, yellowing leaves, and other signs of potential problems.
- Use a damp, soft cloth to wipe dust from the leaves every few months.
- If there are dusty white “watermarks” on the leaves when you purchase the plant and they don’t clean off with a damp cloth, rub the leaves gently with a slice of lemon and then rinse them with fresh water. This removes this hard water residue.
- According to the ASPCA, like many other houseplants, Monsteras show toxicity to pets, including both dogs and cats. If you have a leaf-chewing pet in your house, avoid this plant. Symptoms include a number of adverse reactions, including vomiting, oral irritation, and excessive drooling.
Embrace the tropical vibe
Adding a Swiss cheese vine to your houseplant family is a must. These low-care, tropical plants won’t disappoint!
For more fabulous houseplants to add to your collection, please visit the following articles:
- Growing the nerve plant
- The Golden Goddess Philodendron
- String of dolphins plant
- The shingle plant
- What to do when your peace lily droops
- The best hanging succulent plants
Pin this article to your Houseplants board for future reference.