794 Monstera deliciosaCommon Names: windowleaf, ceriman, split-leaf philodendron, monstera, Mexican breadfruit, Swiss cheese plant Family: Araceae (arum Family)
Windowleaf is a popular foliage houseplant easily recognized by its large glossy leaves that are dissected with deep splits and perforated with oblong holes. In nature, windowleaf is an evergreen liana that climbs high into the rain forest canopy, attaching itself to trunks and branches and supporting itself above the ground with long tentacle-like aerial roots. The aerial roots grow downward out of the thick stem and take root where they touch the ground. The vines are only sparingly branched and a single vine can reach more than 70 ft (21.3 m) in length. The leaves of a young windowleaf are heart shaped and without holes. They often overlap and cling closely to a tree trunk, and plants in that stage are called "shingle plants." Older plants develop the characteristic split and perforated adult leaves that stand away from the supporting tree trunk.
The inflorescence is an 8-12 in (20.3-30.5 cm) creamy white Jack-in-the-pulpit-like spadix (Jack) and spathe. The spadix is the fleshy upright spike with tiny flowers on it and the spathe is the boat-shaped bract that surrounds the spadix (the pulpit). The spadix takes a little over a year to mature. It swells into an aromatic fruit that looks a little like a green corn cob. It is said to taste like a combination of banana, pineapple and mango. Flowers and fruits are rarely produced in house plants. The cultivars 'Variegata' and 'Albovariegata' have variegated foliage.
Monstera deliciosa occurs naturally in the tropical jungles of Central America from southern Mexico to Panama.
CultureWindowleaf is an easy houseplant to maintain. It tolerates dry air and semi-shade better than most plants. Add some liquid fertilize to the water every few weeks during the growing season. Direct the aerial roots into the potting medium to improve support for the weak stem. Wipe the dust from the leaves with a damp sponge periodically. Light: Windowleaf does best in half shade or a moderately bright position, but not in direct sun. Moisture: During active growth, water windowleaf plants thoroughly before the soil becomes dry. Water less in winter. Water with rain water or demineralized water. Windowleaf tolerates the dry air typical of most homes fairly well, but it appreciates a little misting when humidity is very low. Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 - 11. Windowleaf can be grown outside in tropical climates. In southern Florida they are often grown in half shade and allowed to climb large trees. House plants should not be exposed to temperatures below about 50ºF (10ºC) in winter or 55ºF (12.7ºC) at night in summer. Growth is best at temperatures of 70-75ºF (20-23.9ºC). Propagation: Start new window plants by cutting off a tip of stem just below an aerial root and potting the cutting. This can be done any time of the year.
In zones 10 and 11, let windowleaf climb palm trees or train on a pergola. Elsewhere, grow windowleaf as a house plant. Windowleaf and other climbing house plants such as ivies and philodendrons need some kind of support on which to climb. A "moss stick" (a.k.a. "moss pillar" or "moss totem") provides support for the vine as well as water and nutrients through the aerial roots. Roll a length of 1/4 in (0.6 cm) plastic netting into a tube and stuff with sphagnum moss; insert a dowel down through the center of the tube and into the pot. Alternatively, wrap sphagnum around a wooden slat or piece of bark, securing the moss in place by wrapping with nylon thread or monofilament fishing line; insert the stick into the pot. Water through the top of the moss stick.
Windowleaf was formerly grown in greenhouses in England for the edible fruits, called cerimans or monsteras, and is still cultivated for that purpose (outdoors) in parts of Central America, Australia, California and South Florida. Plants need especially ideal conditions, consisting of high humidity, constantly warm temperatures and bright, indirect light, before they will produce fruit. Plants cultivated for fruit are usually grown on the ground in half shade, like pineapple.
The genus Monstera is closely related to Philodendron, and windowleaf is sometimes called split-leaf or cut-leaf philodendron because it was formerly classified in that genus.
All parts of Monstera deliciosa are poisonous except the ripe fruits. The plant contains oxalic acid and even the ripe fruits may be an irritant to particularly sensitive people.
Steve Christman 9/7/00; updated 11/6/00, 3/15/01, 5/29/04