From the big, gorgeous leaves of the Monstera deliciosa to the open lace of a Monstera adansonii, Monstera plants have used their tropical glory to make a big splash with interior decorators and avid plant fans alike. They’re a popular indoor choice, as they respond well to various indoor conditions.
But how much light do these South American glamazons really need? It can be confusing to understand how plant growth differs between the bright lights of the garden and the lower light conditions found indoors.
Here’s how to work out the right lighting conditions for your indoor Monstera plant and what to do if your natural light source isn’t enough.
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Do Monstera Plants Need Sunlight?
No matter what variety of Monstera you’re growing, they need sunlight. All plants, from the most humble moss to the largest, soaring redwoods, need sunlight to grow. They use it to power photosynthesis, the process that produces sugars within the leaves.
The green chlorophyll pigment in the plant’s leaves uses the sun’s rays to turn water and carbon dioxide from the air into sugars. Those sugars are used to fuel the growth of your plant. No sunlight, no growth.
Monstera, as a group, are rainforest plants and so don’t need as much direct sunlight as most. They evolved to thrive on the forest floor of their native forest habitat throughout South and Central America. Consequently, they don’t need much sunlight at all.
But less sunlight does not equal no light! While they start their lives in the dark understory of the forest, as they mature, the plants climb other rainforest trees to better reach the light. Even in the wild, they know the value of good illumination!
How Much Light Does a Monstera Need Indoors?
When grown indoors, Monstera species generally require as much bright, indirect light as you can muster – 6 – 8 hours of light is best. A room with more than one bright window, a good amount of light from skylights, or a glass patio door is perfect.
Bright, indirect light is the sort of illumination that will allow you to cast a strong shadow on a wall without any direct sun. It seems like a lot, but 6 – 8 hours of indirect sunlight is easy to achieve in well-lit rooms with many windows.
Monstera will also tolerate small amounts of direct sun, usually in the early morning when the rays are milder and less likely to cause damage.
There are a few signs your indoor Monstera is not getting adequate light. The first sign your plant suffers from a lack of light is leggy growth, with few new small leaves.
Low-light conditions prompt small, heart-shaped leaves with few splits or fenestrations – the elongated holes for which these plants are famed. You’ll need to increase the light intensity to correct the slow growth and get large leaves.
The good news is that a potted plant is easy to move into brighter light, and artificial lighting from grow lights is just as good if you’re in a pinch.
How Much Light Do Monstera Cuttings Need?
Propagating a whole new Monstera plant is energy-intensive, and Monstera cuttings need more light as a result. You’ll see growth from the same illumination you’d give an adult plant, but it’s a good idea to up the ante and add a few hours of direct light to the mix for best results.
Stem cuttings without leaves need even more – they must grow their new leaves from whatever chlorophyll is left in the stem itself. They’ll need a lot of light to get that first new leaf popping out.
I’ve had a lot of success growing cuttings on eastern-facing windowsills, where they can bask in a few hours of bright but gentle light. Likewise, a grow light placed a foot or two above the cuttings will also give them the boost they need.
How to Choose the Best Spot for Your Indoor Monstera
Placement for Optimal Light
The most critical aspect of choosing a plant’s location is light. Monsteras require as much bright, indirect light as you can manage. Too little light will result in slow to no growth. What new leaves they do produce will be intact, without any splits or fenestrations.
Good choices for Monstera include rooms with skylights or eastern-facing windows that catch the morning light. For those of us growing in the Northern Hemisphere, a southeastern- or south-facing window provides consistent, bright light.
In the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite is true, so Australians, Kiwis, and others down south will get the same results from a northeastern or north-facing window. Avoid placing them too close to western-facing windows, as the afternoon sun can be too rough.
Too much direct sun, especially late in the day, is a surefire recipe for burned leaves. Those big, glamorous leaves will burn to a crisp with too much light, bleaching them out and causing brown spots.
It’s unpleasant to look at and unhealthy for the plant, so keep an eye on where any direct light falls in the space. As the time of year changes, the direction of the light changes, too, so be watchful that your warm autumnal corner doesn’t become a summer scorcher later down the track.
It’s worth noting that the more light your plant has, the more water it will need. Monsteras do best with well-draining, moist soil in a pot with lots of drainage holes.
Excess water mustn’t be allowed to sit around the roots – too much water left to stagnate causes root rot no matter how much sun reaches your plant.
Placement for Temperature
Monstera are tropical plants, and if you want to see some good growth, you’ll need to keep them just as warm as their natural habitat in Central and South America. Most species will need temperatures between 15 to 30°C (60 to 85°F), with the upper end preferable.
Placement for Humidity
Rainforest plants like Monstera love a humid atmosphere. I’ve heard suggestions of 60 to 80% atmospheric humidity for Monstera, though personally, I’ve found any point above 40% will be fine.
Most homes and offices don’t even come close to that. The average HVAC system strips moisture from the air, and the typical suburban home will sit on around 20% or less. You’ll need to supplement your Monstera’s humidity if growing in a climate-controlled environment.
Dry air sucks water directly from the Monstera leaves, causing brown tips and crisps new growth as soon as it pops out. A low humidity level also leaves the plant vulnerable to spider mites and other pests. While it’s tempting to slap on some neem oil and call it a day, the best way to treat them is with prevention.
The most low-tech way to increase the humidity for your Monstera is to simply move it to a part of your home with naturally high humidity. Bathrooms are ideal, especially ones with skylights or big, well-positioned windows.
You can also increase humidity using a pebble tray. Fill a low tray or saucer with flat stones, then add enough water to the tray to cover them. When placed near tropical plants, the gentle evaporation from the tray will gradually increase the local humidity.
If you have a big collection of plants, you’re better off just breaking out an electric humidifier. These are consistent and reliable and are capable of providing the right atmosphere.
Using an Indoor Grow Light for Monstera
Grow lights are the plant lovers’ best backup when growing big tropicals like the Monsteras. Through the winter months, it’s hard to get enough sunlight indoors, and even the long hours of sunlight found in the summer will do no good if you’re in a room with bad aspect or few windows.
The best artificial light for growing your Monstera will depend on many factors, including what kind of light you already have, how many indoor plants will use it, and how long it will be left on. You’ll also need to consider your budget – both for purchasing the light and running it.
For most home growers, a full spectrum LED grow light bulb that plugs into a lamp or standard light fixture will hit the lower light requirements of a rainforest plant.
You can also get self-contained units that sit comfortably on stands or even on desktops by smaller plants. They can be bought for very little online or at your local garden center.
It’s worth noting that variegated plants require more light than purely green ones. Many fancy Monstera cultivars, like the ‘Thai Constellation,’ may need supplemental lighting as they mature. With limited pigment in their leaves, they struggle to produce the energy they need to grow.
If you’ve splurged on one, an indoor grow light is not a bad way to go. Choose one with a lower output – typically measured in foot candles – and you’ll be able to give these rare treasures the extra boost they deserve.
Monstera Varieties for Low Light Conditions
Monstera Deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Plant)
The big daddy of the Monstera family, Monstera deliciosa, is also known as the Mexican Breadfruit or Swiss Cheese Plant. It’s the most versatile and easy to grow of all the Monsteras.
Young plants produce small, heart-shaped leaves, but as the plant matures, they become larger until they reach a foot or more across, wide and multi-lobed with lots of fenestrations. They also love to climb and produce stout aerial roots to haul themselves up trellises and moss poles.
A standard M. deliciosa will cheerfully grow in most brightly lit areas of the home. More recent variegated cultivars will need more light than the standard variety, so be mindful of that if you want a flashy rare type with lots of white patches on its leaves.
Also known as Monkey Face and, confusingly, Swiss Cheese Plant, Monstera adansonii is a smaller Monstera with a vining habit and extremely fenestrated leaves. A mature plant sometimes produces leaves that are more hole than leaf!
Like their cousins, they need lots of bright, indirect light. They aren’t as tolerant of shade and will really struggle to produce their mature leaves growing under low light levels.
But give them good illumination, and you’ll be rewarded with a handsome vine capable of producing long, trailing swathes of radiant green leaves.
The Mini Monstera is not actually a form of Monstera but a distant cousin with the scientific name Rhaphidophora tetrasperma. This confusion makes it worth including them here, as it’s not unusual for unscrupulous sellers to pass them off as part of the family under the name Monstera minima.
They are also a vining plant with glossy foliage similar to a true Monstera’s leaves. Rather than producing leaves with splits, Mini Monstera has lobed leaves with clear splits running in from the perimeter. They produce more delicate vines than the Monsteras, but they have no trouble climbing if given an opportunity.
Minis have much the same requirements in terms of light as the true monsters. They, too, will produce undersized leaves with no splits if they don’t get enough light, and they’ll burn just the same if you give them too much time in the sun.
How to Display Monstera Indoors for Different Light Conditions
A moss pole is an upright structure made from a stake wrapped in peat moss or coco coir, designed to get that Monstera climbing! They’re inserted at the base of the plant, with the vine wrapping around so the aerial roots can take purchase. They’re a great way to get bigger varieties up into the air, where they can spread their gorgeous leaves.
On the other hand, smaller specimens are fantastic to display in hanging baskets. While they love to climb, they’ll trail just as well. Hanging baskets in a window with the right aspect will help provide that all critical light – be sure to shade them with a set of sheer curtains if the window is getting full sun. An east-facing window is perfect.
Along Shelves, Frames, and Window Ledges
Climbing plants don’t care what they climb on so long as they can get up high and spread. I love draping my Monstera along the top of bookcases in well-lit rooms, with spills of foliage falling in verdant cascades. It gives the plant the elevation they crave and helps soften the hard edges of shelves and other furniture.
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