Emily Stoffel’s Favorite Plant

close up of a large green leaf with holes in the leaf

Reiman Gardens’ Conservatory is filled with hundreds of unique and beautiful plants and I probably shouldn’t have a favorite…but I do. I love everything about this plant, from its versatility to its name. By the end of this post, I hope to have you convinced that this plant is as amazing as I think it is. So without further ado, the swiss cheese plant!

Found under many names including split leaf philodendron, swiss cheese plant, and scientifically as Monstera deliciosa, this tropical plant derives its names from the holes in the leaves (much like a slice of swiss cheese) and the edible fruit it produces. But the names aren’t the coolest thing about this plant. You’ve probably seen snapshots of its monster-sized leaves in many home decorating or garden design magazines. In fact, it’s a very common house plant.  It’s a great corner plant and is often put in a decorative pot and left to its own devices with the occasional watering (once every two weeks approximately).

These plants usually grow to be 5 feet tall and as wide with leaves about half the potential size in these environments, but that’s not even half the size it could reach. In the wild and in tropical climates where it can be grown outdoors, this plant is actually a vine and grows anywhere from 30-70 feet if there is something for it to climb on. I personally don’t have room for a 70 foot plant in my tiny apartment, but that’s the beauty of it — you can just as easily grow it in a container and keep it in your home where it will stay a much more manageable size.

So how exactly do you care for this unique plant? Here’s some tips:

Light: This plant is native to the understory of rainforests so it doesn’t appreciate full, direct sunlight. That being said, put it in a place that still gets plenty of indirect light (think the corner of your living room). The more light = the more holes in the leaves but remember, too much and the leaves will scorch.

Water: This plants likes water but it doesn’t like wet feet. Allow the top of the soil surface to dry out between waterings. In the winter, when light is scarce, reduce watering by a third. If possible, give the leaves an occasional misting.

Soil: Make sure the soil is well-draining in a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom. If you can find a mixture with high peat moss concentrations your plant will thank you!

Cleaning and Pruning: With such large leaves, they are prone to collect dust. Make a dish of soap and water solution and gently wash the leaves with a dish cloth to keep them clean and dust free. Since this is a climbing plant, it may start to ramble on you.  Feel free to tuck those unruly branches back into the pot, prune them off, or give them a trellis to climb up.

Important to note, while the name sounds delicious, all parts except the fruit are toxic to people and pets so keep that in mind in your placement.

-Prepared by: Emily Stoffel