Monsteras are trendy houseplants that have origins in South American tropical rainforests. Their unique, broad green leaves have captivated hardcore plant enthusiasts and new plant parents alike. To keep them looking their best, what better place to start than the soil you place them into? Here you’ll find the best soil mixes for monsteras, a homemade soil recipe, and 10 critical care tips to keep your plant looking healthy and happy.
Pre-made mixes are perfect for those who don’t want the extra steps that come with purchasing and mixing individual components. Not all soil mixes are made equally, so it’s important to get the right type for your monstera. Here are a couple that take the guesswork out of the equation:
This soil blend is made with tropical, climbing, or vining plants in mind. This not only includes the popular M. deliciosa, but other members in the monstera genus, such as M. adansonii or ‘Monkey Mask’ monstera. A critical feature of this blend is the moisture-retaining capabilities in addition to the perfect amount of drainage needed to encourage strong growth without risking root rot. The base of this mix is coco coir as opposed to peat moss, which has some sustainability concerns around harvesting.
FoxFarm soil features beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi which can help the establishment of roots in plants. With a more robust root system, plants can put out more foliage which will lead to a healthy, more vigorous plant. Additionally, this pre-mixed blend has a pH of around 6.3-6.8 which is ideal for monsteras which prefer slightly acidic soil.
Preparing your own soil mix doesn’t have to be daunting. In fact, once you already have the components you can likely make much more soil than you’d get buying premade. You also have control over what goes into it. Buying all the components individually also means you can make soil blends for other plants that might require different ratios. You will need the following to create the ideal soil for your monstera:
- Orchid bark or pine bark fines
- Coco coir or peat moss
- Perlite or coarse sand
- Activated charcoal
- Worm casings
In a large, clean container, prepare your mix by adding five parts of the bark and five parts perlite or coarse sand to four parts coco coir or peat moss. Then, add two parts each of the activated charcoal and worm casings. Be sure you’re using sterilized tools or clean, gloved hands when mixing. If there is leftover soil mix after potting up your monstera, be sure you can seal it in a container with a lid or a large plastic bag.
This soil recipe is the best for monsteras because it achieves a chunky texture that has the water-retaining and well-draining qualities needed by plants that thrive in tropical conditions. The bark and perlite or sand help keep the soil from getting compact. The coco coir or peat moss aids in water retention, and the activated charcoal helps to absorb unused water from your plant and also helps with the absorption of bacteria. The worm casings help provide food for the beneficial bacteria present in the soil.
All of these components help make a small ecosystem similar to what your monstera would experience in the wild, and that is the best way to ensure your plant will thrive!
Critical Care Tips for Your Monstera
1. Know when, and how much, to water
Overwatering a plant is the easiest way to kill a plant, and right behind it is under-watering. It can be difficult to find the sweet spot but once you get to know your plant a bit you’ll never have to guess again.
Monsteras and other tropical plants tend to enjoy consistently moist soil. This can be done by feeling the soil which consists of just sticking your finger into the pot! No fancy tools are required. If the soil is dry approximately 2-4 inches from the top, it is time to water. If you’re unsure, err on the side of caution and check back in another few days.
Watering deeply as opposed to offering your plant sips of water is critical. This will help guarantee the entire root system is getting water and also helps in establishing deep roots. To do this, water evenly over the top of the soil and provide enough water so you can see the excess water escaping the drainage holes.
Another method people like is called “bottom watering” where you fill up a tub or sink with a few inches of water and set your plant (in the pot) in the water. It then absorbs the water through the drainage hole using capillary action. Once the soil has moistened to the touch, you can remove your plant. This typically takes anywhere from 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the pot. Just be sure you don’t forget about it!
2. Humidity is key!
A large part of living in a tropical rainforest is the high levels of humidity. This is best achieved by using a humidifier, which provides even, controlled humidity. Misting using a spray bottle can also increase humidity levels around your plant but is more short-lived than if you had a humidifier placed nearby.
At least 60% humidity is needed, though monsteras often thrive in environments at 90%. You can use a humidity gauge to determine if you’re in the right range.
3. Find the best light
Finding good light for plants can be confusing: what exactly is diffused, partial, or indirect light even mean? Monsteras are usually found underneath a canopy of larger trees due to their vining nature. If you keep this in mind, finding the right light can be a bit less daunting.
Bright, indirect light is the best for these types of plants and you can achieve this by placing your plant in a window that gets east-facing light, or a few feet away from a window that gets south-facing light. You could also have it getting south-facing light through a sheer curtain. To determine what direction light you get, you can use the compass app on a phone (or a regular compass) or take note of which direction the sun rises and sets. Remember, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. From here, you can determine the south and north directions.
4. Feed well, but not too much
Fertilizer use, when used correctly, can do wonders for growing your plant. Balanced NPK fertilizers, such as a 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 solution, give the right amount of nutrients for a foliage-based plant like monsteras. Follow the dosage directions on your specific fertilizer and don’t overdo it! Typically, the best times to fertilize are through the spring and summer months when your plant is more actively growing.
5. Give it a trim (occasionally)
Pruning your monstera is beneficial in a few ways, with the first way being that it’ll encourage new growth. The second benefit is that it’ll keep your plant looking tidy and you can control its size. Try to prune during the winter when your plant is dormant. You can prune any scraggly leaves, dead or yellow leaves, or just prune to get it more to your liking in size and shape.
At any time, be sure you’re not pruning more than one-third of the total amount of leaves. Too much pruning can lead to stress and your plant might not recover.
Lastly, you can prune your plant to propagate it! Be sure to cut below a leaf node (the bumpy part of the stem) and you can place your cutting in water. Wait for roots to appear, changing out the water every few days, then plant in the preferred soil mix for your monstera.
6. Repot every other year to keep its roots from getting cramped
As your plant grows the soil will get old, and your plant will find it needs a bit more room to stretch. Mature monsteras can handle a repot once every two to four years. Younger monsteras can be repot every year if you notice it growing quickly.
Signs that your plant needs repotting are a sudden lack of growth, roots growing out of the drainage holes of the pot, or continuous loss of older (lower) leaves. The plant’s above-ground foliage can only grow larger if the root system grows larger to accommodate the extra energy and water required to support them.
If your plant is at a size you like and you don’t necessarily want it to get larger, you can remove it from its pot every year or two and trim the roots using sterile, sharp tools. Repot in a fresh soil mix so your monstera can get a boost in nutrition and you’ll be good to go.
7. Look out for your monstera
Pests can strike at any time, and to get ahead of the issue before it gets out of hand, you have to be on the lookout. Most pests that affect houseplants are scale, mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites. Aside from spider mites, which will leave behind “spiderwebs” around the leaves, you can find these sap-sucking pests on new growth, stems, or the undersides of leaves.
By regularly inspecting and wiping down your plant’s leaves with a damp, soft cloth not only will you remove dust and debris that can inhibit photosynthesis, but you’ll also be aware of any “guests” that have taken up residence on your plant.
To control pests, hand picking or using insecticidal soaps or sprays to get rid of them. This will usually need to be repeated once a week for a few weeks for bad infestations.
8. Be mindful of drafts
Drafts from open windows, doors, or air vents can stress your plant out and dry them up. Keep your plant in as climate-controlled of an area as you can. Make sure they’re not near any air conditioning vents or getting blasted with heat in the winter. This can cause leaf drying, drooping, or even loss of vigor in your monstera.
9. Provide support
Climbing plants love to, well, climb! Give your monstera the support it needs by getting a moss pole or stake so it can grow upwards and onwards. This is doubly beneficial if you’re growing a large plant in a small space: utilizing the vertical space can make your area feel less crowded while still allowing your monstera to thrive.
10. Have the best soil mix available to you to grow a strong, healthy monstera
While it’s the last tip on the list it is certainly not the least important. Well-draining, aerated soil is essential to making sure your plant can get everything it needs without being bogged down with extra weight or moisture. Either of the pre-made soil mixes or the soil recipe provided will give your monstera a head-start compared to ones that are potted up in a regular potting mix.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Damian Lugowski/Shutterstock.com
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