In the true spirit of ‘House Plant Journal’, here is a complete account of my relationship with my Monstera deliciosa:
And now, here’s the typical “plant care” rundown with not-so-typical-but-more-helpful instructions:
Light: monstera is a big plant so make sure you can provide enough light. Use your eyes: can you see at least a bit of the blue sky on a clear day from where your monstera lives? If yes, then read “Growth Strategy”. If no, then skip ahead to “Survival Strategy”.
Growth Strategy: with bright indirect light, your monstera will happily use up water so you can give the soil a good soaking whenever it becomes dry to a depth of 2 to 4 inches. If you see several new leaves growing, then you can safely apply some fertilizer for the next few weeks (I’ve used 10-20-10 at the recommended strength) but don’t overdo it – follow the mixing instructions on the package. Soil structure is usually pretty good (nice and loose) so I just aerate the soil occasionally – maybe every third or fourth watering.
Long Term Relationship: although I have not yet reached this point, I know the soil will eventually be depleted of nutrients but since I sense that my pot is large enough, I will opt for a “top dressing” instead of a complete repotting. Top dressing is when you remove some of the old soil from the surface (maybe 2-3 inches down) and add new soil WITH SIMILAR DRAINAGE PROPERTIES as the current soil. Gently mix in the new with the old – it doesn’t have to be perfectly mixed like you’re baking cake.
Survival Strategy: I can only speculate how one might care for a barely growing plant as I would never knowingly place a plant in a dark corner. IT JUST DOESN’T LOOK RIGHT! Still, it’s possible to starve it gracefully and not kill it because you followed instructions for a growing plant. Definitely keep the soil on the dry side and once a week or so, you should loosen it with a chopstick so the roots don’t suffocate. When the leaves look really floppy and thin (because they are finally dehydrated), loosen the compacted soil and pour in just enough water to cover the entire surface to a depth of about 2 inches (I’m assuming the pot is at least 8 inches in diameter) – if the plant is thirsty enough, you shouldn’t get any water running down to the bottom of the pot where it may linger for weeks. Be prepared to cut off older leaves as they yellow – this is the plant abandoning them as the food reserves are depleted without being replenished. New growth will be small, weak and if the soil happened to be too moist at the time, it may have dark brown tips. Weak plants are also more susceptible to illness. Overall, if monstera is living in a dark corner, I’d say it has several months to a year to a long drawn out death with lots of disappointments (leaf loss) along the way. I hope you understand that I’m writing in this morbid fashion so at least some of you plant newbies will decide to hold yourselves to a higher standard of plant parenthood…