Swiss Cheese Plant Profile

Monstera Adansonii on a nightstand

The Spruce / Cara Cormack

The Swiss cheese plant, Monstera adansonii, gets its name from its large, heart-shaped leaves, and as the plant ages, the leaves develop holes (called fenestration) that makes the leaves resemble Swiss cheese. Swiss cheese plant is a tropical perennial plant native to Central and South American that is typically grown as a houseplant. Swiss cheese plant is very easy to grow. It loves to climb, so provide a stake, moss stick, or trellis that it can clink to. A climbing Monstera adansonii produces larger leaves.

This is an excellent example of why using common names with plants can be confusing. Various species are called Swiss cheese plant, including Monstera deliciosa and this little beauty, M. adansonii. These plants have striking, perforated deeply green leaves that will make you the envy of any plant collector worth their sphagnum peat.

Botanical Name Monstera adansonii
Common Names Swiss cheese plant, Adanson's monstera, Swiss cheese vine, five holes plant
Plant Type Tropical vining perennial
Mature Size Up to 60 feet with proper support
Sun Exposure Bright indirect light
Soil Type Peat-based potting soil
Soil pH 5.5 to 7.0 (slightly acidic to neutral)
Bloom Time Spring (but usually only in the wild)
Flower Color Purple, cream
Hardiness Zones 10 to 11
Native Area Central and South America
closeup of monstera adansonii
The Spruce / Cara Cormack
closeup of monstera adansonii leaves
The Spruce / Cara Cormack

How to Grow Swiss Cheese Plant

The Swiss cheese plant is a tropical ornamental that has aerial roots growing downwards from the stem. The roots brace against the ground or against any available support, giving Swiss cheese plant a vine-like tendency to climb if they have support. Without support, they tend to sprawl or trail.

A Swiss cheese plant will need some support if you want it to climb. In the wild, it uses air roots to push itself upward on an adjoining tree or woody vine. When growing it as a houseplant, you can simulate this by inserting a moss stick in the center of the pot.

Swiss cheese plant has no serious disease or pest problems. Like most houseplants, aphids, mealybugs, thrips, scale or spider mites can occasionally be an issue. Insecticidal soaps are usually the best non-toxic solution to these pests.

Light

Monster adansonii plants are native to the jungles of Central and South America, where they grow under the cover of large trees. Therefore, the plants grow best in indirect sunlight. If direct sunlight is unavoidable, limit the exposure to just two to three hours of morning sun.

Soil

This plant grows best in peat-based potting soil in a pot that has a large drainage hole. The peat helps trap moisture in the soil without allowing it to become waterlogged. For strong growth, aim for a soil pH of 5.5 to 7.0.

Water

Before you water a Swiss cheese plant, do the knuckle test—stick your finger up to the knuckle into the soil to see how wet or dry the soil is. If the soil is nearly dry, water it. Don't let the soil dry out entirely.

Temperature and Humidity

M. adansonii is best grown in a conservatory or greenhouse where humidity, temperature, and light are all maximized. These are deep-jungle plants that thrive on very high humidity, lots of moisture during the rainy season, and high temperatures. The closer you can mimic the plant's natural conditions the better—choose well-lit, warm and humid bathrooms or kitchens or mist plants frequently. You could also place a humidifier near the plant to keep the air moist. Keep the plant above 60 degrees Fahrenheit if possible, but it can survive brief cold spells with some die-back. You can move the plants outside in the summer.

Fertilizer

Once you've potted or repotted the plant, don't fertilize within four to six months if you're using a general houseplant potting soil. These soils have slow-release fertilizer already mixed in. After this, fertilize when you water during the summer and spring months, then refrain from feeding during the fall and winter months.

Potting and Repotting

In nature, M. adansonii plants are climbers, scooting up rainforest trees into the canopy and enlarging as they grow. Many growers, however, use them as trailers or hanging plants, which necessitates less frequent repotting. Repot every other year as needed, and refresh the potting soil annually. Failure to keep them in nutritious soil will hurt these plants.

Propagating Swiss Cheese Plant

Propagation is best by using stem cuttings with a rooting hormone. Plant the cuttings in growing medium and keep them warm and protected until new growth emerges. Remember, it can take a while for new cuttings to root, so be patient and keep them in a moist, warm area. Many gardeners place a plastic bag over their cuttings to seal in moisture and improve the chances of survival.

Cuttings can also be rooted simply by inserting the cut stems in water for a few weeks. Once a network of roots appears, plant the cuttings in potting soil.

Varieties of Swiss Cheese Plant

There are actually 41 species within the Monstera genus, including the M. adansonii. All of them are native to Mexico, Central, and South America, although some of the species are likely extinct in their native habitat. Like many aroids, M. adansonii has two leaf forms—juvenile and adult. Most plants in garden centers will feature juvenile leaf forms, with the characteristic holes in the leaf. Much of the confusion surrounding this species is because the plant changes form several times as it ages and no two plants look the same.

Although other Monstera plants look similar to the adansonii, such as the M. obliqua, the latter is actually more rare than the Swiss cheese plant. It also has thinner leaves and larger leaf holes than M. adansonii.

Compared to Monstera deliciosa

Another Monstera species commonly grown as a houseplant is M. deliciosa. It also is sometimes called Swiss cheese plant, taro vine, or the split-leaf philodendron. It has somewhat larger leaves than M. adansonii. Its leaves are perforated, deeply cut, and it produces edible fruit. It makes an equally good houseplant.

Pruning

The Swiss cheese plant is a climber, so it might need to be pruned if it gets out of control. Prune in the spring to autumn by removing top growth as well as any dead or damaged leaves. Cut close to the main stem to avoid stubs.

Toxicity of Swiss Cheese Plant

M. adansonii is moderately toxic to cats and dogs because of its insoluble calcium oxalates. It can cause swelling, vomiting, or burning in pets.