Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa): Care and propagation

Know in one minute about the Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa)

  • The Swiss cheese plant is an evergreen climber with splits and holes in leaves and resembles Swiss cheese.
  • This plant is easy to grow and maintain outdoor as well as indoor.
  • It purifies the air by absorbing formaldehyde from the air.
  • Water only when the top few inches of soil are dry.
  • Mild fertilizer is enough to obtain the best growth.
  • Keep the plant in indirect bright light or for one or two hours under direct light.

Introduction

Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa) plant is an evergreen, fast-growing herbaceous or woody, scrambling or climbing shrub that can grow 20 meters or more (1). This plant gets its name of Swiss Cheese Plant from the splits and holes in its foliage that resemble Swiss cheese  (2)

Botanical description 

The stem is cylindrical, heavy, rough with leaf scars, and produces numerous, long, tough, fibrous aerial roots. In the wild, the Swiss cheese plant produces flowers and fruit, but that’s rare as a houseplant.

They produce edible fruit that tastes like a combination of banana, pineapple, and mango fruit salad. Young or baby plants start with smaller heart-shaped leaves with no lobes or holes.

Although mature leaves and plants soon produce broad leaves with deeply cut strips or oblong holes of various sizes. M. Deliciosa has larger leaves, enclosed leaf holes than M. adansonii, and has edible fruit that makes an equally good houseplant.

The plant is a climber and will require some support which they will climb. Although low light, plants without at least some sun per day will lose their holes and revert to their juvenile heart-shaped form (3).

Common Name

Swiss cheese plant is also known as Monstera deliciosaM. adansonii (botanical name), Ceriman, Breadfruit-Vine, Philodendron, Delicious Monster, and Fruit Salad Plant. Hurricane-plant, Mexican Breadfruit, Monster Fruit, Monstera, Locust and Wild Honey, Cut-Leaf, Pine Fruit Tree, Split-Leaf Philodendron, and Window-Leaf, are other common names. It is also called Adanson’s monstera, Swiss cheese vine, five holes plant, Custard plant, and Indian ivy. 

The geographical distribution

This plant is native to Central and South America, 

Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosasa) care

The Swiss cheese plant is very easy to grow, and it loves to climb. If you give it a stake or frame to grow upward and produce larger leaves with those unique holes. Let’s look at some of the conditions to obtain good plant growth.

Light

This plant needs bright indirect light (partial shade) where they grow under the coverage of trees. Direct sunlight more than a few hours per day, may burn and cause yellow in the leaves. The plant also grows well in full shade or artificial light, but it may grow slower and will not develop the characteristic leaf holes in these conditions.

Soil

This plant grows best in peat-based potting soil because it helps to trap moisture in the soil without extra waterlogging. 

Water

This plant needs water in a moderate amount every 1-2 weeks when the top few inches of the soil allow drying out between watering. Overwatering may cause root rot, so avoid water that has drained from the plant or having its soil become saturated with water. 

Temperature

Swiss cheese plants grow well in very high humidity and 65°F-85°F (18°C-30°C) temperature. However, this plant will remain in good health at lower

than 65°F but l will grow at a slower rate. Moreover, the temperature below 50 °F the plant will stop growing completely. To obtain high humidity you can use a humidifier or misting the plant but it’s not entirely necessary.

Fertilizer

Applying a mild fertilizer solution monthly in early spring to late summer is helpful for its growth and doesn’t over-fertilize it. 

Repotting

Repotting of Swiss cheese plants should be done in 1-2 years and keep up the humidity. Repotting should be done in a bit bigger than the existing pot with fresh potting soil placed at the bottom. During the repotting, transfer the root with care without disturbance and don’t feed for at least three months. Prune the swiss cheese plant (due to climber) is necessary to obtain the best shape and to keep it under control. It should be done in spring to autumn by removing dead or damaged leaves. Cuttings can also be rooted simply by inserting the ends in water for a few weeks. Once a network of roots appears, plant the cutting in potting soil.

Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa) propagation

Swiss cheese plants can be easy to propagate by seeds and using stem cuttings. Cut the stem that includes at least two nodes and dip in a glass of water until roots form and then plant the cutting in soil. Remember to change the water every day to keep it fresh and prevent rot or mold, and wait for roots to appear. 

Toxicity of Swiss cheese Plant 

The Swiss cheese plant is moderately toxic to both cats and dogs because it contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals (needle-like). This crystal may cause injury to the mouth, tongue, and digestive tract if bitten, chewed, or eaten. Symptoms of exposure include an intense burning sensation of the mouth, throat, lips, and tongue; choking and swelling of the throat, inability or difficulty swallowing, vomiting, itching of mucous membranes, and loss of voice and may lead to death (3). It also causes dermatitis by direct contact with cat and dog skin (4).

The fruit can be consumed only when it is thoroughly ripe since immature ones will cause swelling and irritation of the throat. Consumption of the fruit also causes sometimes allergy or anaphylaxis due to the presence of needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate (5).

Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa) as an indoor air purifying plant

Swiss cheese plants can clean the indoor air from harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde (6).

It absorbs formaldehyde from the air that irritates the nose, mouth, and throat, swelling to the larynx and lungs. Thus this plant acts as an indoor air purifier, they are an effective way to reduce pollutants indoors (7).

Other health Benefits

  • Traditionally, several societies in Mexico and Peru use the roots as rope and basket weaving material.
  • Antioxidant properties– Swiss cheese plants contain a high amount of phenolic compounds. This compound helps to remove harmful radicals from the body and protect from various diseases (5).
  • Antidiabetic properties– Swiss cheese plants can help the pancreas to make and release (or secrete) insulin. Thus this plant acts as a natural resource for antidiabetic compounds. 
    • In China, this plant is useful for the treatment of cough, flu, bruises, infections, fever, and even some cancers. 
    • The leaves or root infusion drink daily by Mexican people for relieving arthritis (8).
    • Martinique’s use the roots to make a remedy for snakebite
    • In Brazil, leaves are heated and mash them to cauterize wounds (9)

    Q&A

     

How do you care for the Monstera Swiss cheese plant?

Swiss cheese plants are easy to care and need relatively low maintenance. The plant needs warm interior temperatures, moderately moist soil, and high humidity. Also, it needs water-soluble fertilizer, bright indirect light, and a moderate amount of watering.  Repotting and pruning are also necessary to keep this plant under control of their size and growth.

Is Swiss cheese plant toxic to cats?

Yes, the Swiss cheese plant is mildly toxic to cats because it contains a needle-like crystal of calcium oxalate. it may cause oral irritation, pain and swelling of mouth, tongue, and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.

Can the Swiss cheese plant grow outside?

Yes, Swiss cheese plants can grow well outside in sheltered locations and produce flowers readily. This plant can live in a tropical climate and need something to climb on, preferably a tree. 

How do you grow Swiss cheese?

Swiss cheese plants can grow easily by seeds and using stem cuttings.

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