So the dilemma is…
You have just added a monstera deliciosa to your indoor garden. And you’re finally starting to see that new monstera leaf growing.
But the problem is that the new and existing leaves barely have any holes or splits (aka fenestrations) on them. Read more about the theories on why monsteras have holes in The Sill.
So the question is, when do monstera leaves split?
Monstera leaves will typically split between 2 and 3 years of age. Young monsteras will have a solid, heart-shaped leaves appearance, so if your monstera has yet to develop the characteristic holes, it is likely that you just need to wait a little longer.
What is green and make holes?
A monstera plant!
Or like my little nephew likes to call them, a plant with holes.
Everyone who has ever had a swiss cheese plant knows just how amazing that indoor plant can be.
What’s even more worthy than owning a monstera deliciosa is seeing their large, beautiful, luscious, green split leaves first thing in the morning. This is how I actually start my day along with a cup of coffee in my hand.
What is a monstera without holes in its leaves?
While it is likely that the leaves of your monstera plant will split in due time, there is a slight chance that you may not have provided the right growing condition for your monstera plant.
In order for your monstera to thrive, it will need 3 key conditions. I’ll get into them after answering the basic questions about this tropical plant’s fenestrations.
When do monstera leaves split?
Monstera leaves split once they reach the age of 2-3 years. Anything earlier, and it will stay looking like a heart-shaped leaf.
Don’t panic if your monstera leaves are not splitting from the start. They tend to split as they grow or matures. The reasons for the fenestrated leaf splitting are because of the impressive adaptations of the evolutionary process.
Monsteras are known for their tall, densely leaf plants that are native to southern Mexico. Domestic monsteras can grow up to be 8 feet tall, while monsteras growing in their natural habitat can far exceed this figure.
What causes monstera to split?
Each individual leaf can grow to be more than 2 feet wide. Imagine having a life-size leaf right in your living room?
So if you’re wondering if monstera leaves split as they grow? Then the answer is yes.
There are 4 main reasons why monstera leaves split as they grow.
1. Monstera’s split leaves evolved to let the sun through
As the monstera grows and the densely packed leaves expand, it becomes increasingly more difficult for the leaves that are on the lower end of the stem to receive the amount of sunlight necessary for proper growth, as the larger leaves near the top of the plant create a natural umbrella.
Because the huge leaves of mature monsteras can block needed sunlight for lower leaves, they begin to split to allow sunlight to pass through to lower levels of the plant.
2. Why younger monstera leaves may not be split?
With leaves the size of normal plant leaves in the monstera’s first couple of years of development, split leaves are not necessary to allow the transmission of sunlight.
Splitting only occurs after the more mature leaves have achieved sufficient width to block sunlight from other parts of the plant, which will usually take at least two years of growth.
In other words, your baby monstera plant will either have no holes in them nor will they go through the monstera fenestration process until they become more mature plants, like 2-3 years mature.
I was lucky enough that my holey leaves plant started splitting 2 years in. The biggest game-changer was putting this tropical plant near a window that provided plenty of bright lighting.
And of course, increasing the humidity level in the winter months.
3. Splits in the leaves create needed drainage
In addition to allowing the transmission of light, monstera leaves split as they grow and adapt to the water and wind. The large leaves of a mature monstera plant can also create little recesses, envelopes, and pools to hold water.
Standing water on the huge leaves can develop bacteria and fungi that lead to root rot, so the splitting of the leaves creates effective drainage that minimizes these concerns.
4. Monstera leaves allow air to pass through
Finally, large, fully developed monstera leaves would be veritable parachutes for wind if left unsplit. As such an effect may cause the leaves to be ripped off in tempestuous conditions
The holes in the leaves allow wind to pass through freely without significantly damaging the plant.
Why won’t my monstera leaves split?
The most likely reason that your monstera leaves won’t split is that the plant is still too young. If you bought a baby monstera plant without holes in the leaves directly from the nursery, expect to wait about two years to see the split.
The leaves need to grow to width in excess of a normal plant leaf (usually about 5 or 6 inches for the largest, unsplit leaves) before the benefits of a split leaf become necessary.
Although youth is the most likely culprit behind your monstera leaves not splitting, it is also possible that the growing conditions may not be ideal.
How do you encourage monstera growth?
While monstera plants can succeed in a number of environments, they will mature faster if the conditions are similar to their natural habitat.
The 3 fastest things you can do to get monstera leaves to split is to:
- Sunlight – Monstera plants prefer bright, indirect sunlight.
- As they are native to Mexican rainforests, they are used to being in conditions in which a hot sun is shining down on densely packed foliage.
- Too much shade will stunt the plant’s growth, while direct sunlight will scorch the leaves.
- Create indirect sunlight by placing your monstera in a north-facing windowsill or behind a sheer curtain that filters direct sunlight
- Water – Monstera plants typically need to be watered every time the soil dries out completely.
- This usually occurs every 1 to 2 weeks.
- Overwatering is one of the biggest mistakes for plant owners of any type, with too much water slowing the monstera’s development and causing the leaves to turn yellow
- Fertilizing – Monstera plants thrive on soil high in magnesium.
- They also require a solid balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
- Therefore, if you are unhappy with your monstera’s growth, be sure to add a fertilizer that contains these nutrients once a month
How often does a monstera grow new leaves?
A young monstera will typically sprout new leaves every four to six weeks. However, as the plant ages, it will grow new leaves more frequently.
Monsteras are a vining/climbing plant, and as the vine grows, new growth points, called nodes, sprout up. These nodes contain the cells necessary for leaf growth, as well as the growth of new stems.
As these stems grow, more and more nodes are created, with the byproduct being that new stems and leaves are grown with greater frequency.
Don’t be alarm if you see your new leaf furled. It’s important that you have the right growing conditions for your plant. The fenestrations will happen before your leaf unfurls.
How do you encourage monstera growth?
Although monstera plants do well in a number of environments, it is best to try and recreate their natural habitat to ensure that their growth is optimized.
While you likely do not want to turn your home into a tropical forest, it is actually not too hard to create an environment that monsteras will benefit from in your own living room. Just remember these basic facts:
- Providing plenty of bright indirect sunlight is the key ingredient to a thriving monstera. This is actually quite easy to achieve in the home. Any time that light has to pass through some sort of filter, it is considered indirect light. So even if the sun is shining straight on the plant, but it passes through a closed window first, your monstera will be perfectly happy
- Do not overwater. Although tropical forests are damp and humid, surprisingly, little watering actually reaches the forest floor. Therefore, only water your monstera every 1 to 2 weeks as the soil dries out
- Use a fertilizer containing magnesium, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium once a month
How do you know if your monstera is happy?
The easiest way to know if a monstera is happy is to look for holes in the leaves. If holes are present in a sufficiently aged monstera, you can be confident that the monstera is growing steadily and maturing as expected.
However, if the monstera is still too young to develop holes in its leaves, there are some other signs that you can look for to ensure that your monstera is happy in its environment:
- A happy monstera plant should have dark green leaves. They should also have a noticeable sheen. If the leaves become brown or yellow, dull or crunchy, it is evidence that you need to change your care routine.
- A happy monstera should see its leaves steadily grow. Even in plants that are still too young for the leaves to split, this is the case. Measure a couple of leaves weekly to ensure that growth has not stagnated.
- The monstera plant should grow both vertically and horizontally as new stems develop. Also, keep track to ensure that new leaves are budding with regularity.
Final thoughts on when do monstera leaves split
From one plant parent to the next, I encourage you to invest in a monstera plant.
While TheHealthyHouseplant suggests buying a monstera plant that already has fenestrated leaves, but it’s totally up to you on whether you want to grow them when they’re young or maintain their maturity.
I personally would choose them while they’re young only because I like to know that I can do this planting life. If you can get them while they still have juvenile leaves, it’ll so be worth the wait once the leaves start to split. Be sure to take a time-lapse video of it. Your heart will thank you for it!
So to recap really quickly, Monstera leaves will typically split between 2 and 3 years of age. While this is the timeline for healthy monsteras, be sure to continue providing the proper care for your monstera plants.
And that means getting plenty of bright indirect lighting, watering properly, and providing enough nutrients.