This "Swiss cheese plant" is an excellent example of why using common names with plants can be confusing. Various plants are called Swiss cheese plants, including Monstera deliciosa and this little beauty, Monstera adansonii (M. adansonii). To further complicate the situation, this same plant is sometimes labeled M. friedrichsthalii or even a philodendron. In truth, the M. adansonii is unique. These climbers have striking, perforated deeply green leaves that will make you the envy of any plant collector worth their sphagnum peat. But be warned: M. adansonii is an expert-level plant for most growers.
The Swiss cheese plant (Monstera) is a tropical ornamental that has aerial roots growing downwards from the stem. These roots easily reach the ground, giving this plant a vine-like tendency. The Swiss cheese plant gets its name from its large, heart-shaped leaves, which as it ages, become covered with holes that resemble Swiss cheese.
The best growing conditions for this lovely plant are the following:
- Light: Bright light, but not direct sunlight.
- Water: High humidity. Keep soil continuously moist throughout spring and summer, and reduce watering in the winter.
- Temperature: Prefers warm and humid conditions. Keep above 60 F if possible, but it can survive brief cold spells with some die-back.
- Soil: A very well-drained potting mix, including plenty of perlite. Uses almost an orchid mix.
- Fertilizer: Feed regularly with liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season.
Propagation is best by using stem cuttings with a rooting hormone. Keep cuttings warm and protected until new growth emerges. Remember, it can take a little while for new cuttings to root, so be patient and keep them in a moist, warm area. Many gardeners choose to bag their cuttings to seal in moisture and improve chances of survival.
In nature, M. adansonii are climbers, scooting up rainforest trees into the canopy and enlarging as they grow. Most growers, however, use them as trailers or hanging plants, which necessitates less frequent repotting. Repot every other year as needed, and refresh potting soil annually. Failure to keep them in nutritious soil will hurt these plants.
There are actually 41 species of Monstera, including the M. adanonsii. 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.
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 temps. Adult plants are also climbers, so they can be aggressive if grown correctly. 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. Move them outside in the summer and water daily along with ample fertilizer.