Monstera deliciosa leaves are EVERYWHERE these days, used to advertise everything from coffee to beauty products. I might even say that the large, leathery leaves have become an icon of millennial culture (it’s close competition with the avocado – but I digress).
To keep your monstera’s foliage full and healthy, the best place to start is with your soil. Soil is often the culprit behind yellowing leaves, weak stems, droopiness and general ennui. Low-quality, poorly amended potting soil can make your monstera vulnerable to scale infestations.
We all know how heartbreaking this is to witness 💔
The soil needs of this popular indoor houseplant are often overlooked because they can survive just about anything, but they actually prefer a well-drained and nutrient-rich potting mix with good moisture retention. When the soil conditions aren’t right, there will be some telltale signs that will alert you to a problem with the plant.
Whether you think your Monstera is in trouble, you want to re-pot one, or you’re thinking about getting one, the right kind of potting soil will make a big difference in the health and appearance of your indoor Monstera Deliciosa.
What monstera plants need in potting soil
Monstera Deliciosa is an evergreen vine with very large leaves that have a distinct pattern of holes and separations along with each leaf, giving it the nickname “Swiss cheese plant”. They are native to Central America and grow several meters up trees in the tropical jungles.
Their vines and aerial roots have small hairs that help them cling to tree bark, moss, and branches, where they absorb moisture from rain and water vapor in the air.
The Monstera plant has shallow roots that grow several inches into the topsoil beneath their hosts, and in the wild, much of their water is absorbed by their vines and aerial roots. Despite the fair amount of rain in Central American forests, the plant is used to well-draining topsoil.
Mimicking nature is usually the best strategy for plant care, so these factors will be the reference when planning the soil and environmental conditions for your Monstera Deliciosa:
- Good drainage – Monsteras are used to topsoil in the topics, which will dry out relatively quickly from the heat, although the ground itself remains moist over the long term. You can recreate this at home by watering when the top inch or two of the potting soil is dry. The soil can be doctored with Leca or a little sand for good drainage, and terra cotta or nursery planters will prevent water from building up in the pot.
- Consistent moisture – Although Monstera plants like well-draining soil, they don’t want the soil to dry out. Mixing in peat moss or Leca pebbles will help hold moisture in the soil without retaining standing water in the pot. Monsteras like humid conditions, similar to the rainforest, and are happiest at around 50% humidity. You can use a humidifier near the plant to keep the plant moist or spray the leaves and vines with a water bottle in between waterings. Learn more: how often to water monstera plants.
- Nutrient-rich conditions – The ground roots of the Monstera plant are in the top several inches of the soil, which is the most bioactive level. The abundant organic material in the forest conditioned these plants to use a lot of nutrients to grow extra-large leaves with a deep green color. You can recreate nutrient-dense soil for your Monstera plant by adding peat moss to the soil, and fertilizing it during its growth periods in spring and summer: once every two weeks or once a month. Monsteras like their soil pH to be on the acidic side, between 5.5 and 6.5.
- Support – Monstera Deliciosa are climbing plants that need support to grow. In nature, they grow on trees, but in your home, you can add a moss pole for the plant to cling onto. This is inserted into the soil and absorbs water from the pot to hydrate the vines and leaves of climbing plants. Learn how to make a moss pole for your climbing plants here.
Signs that your monstera is in the wrong soil
When you notice yellowing, browning, or drooping of the plant, you should inspect the soil to see if there is something causing one of the following symptoms:
- Yellow spots – Monstera plants are from the rainforest, so they like to stay well hydrated, but too much water can stress them out as much as too little. When the leaves start yellowing, check the soil moisture from the top down with a moisture probe or a stick to see if the soil is too wet. If your soil is holding too much water, which inhibits nutrient absorption, it may need to be doctored with sand, clay, or bark to help the water flow through. Make sure the Monstera’s pot drains as well.
- Brown spots – If your Monstera leaves are developing brown spots, it likely means the roots have developed root rot. Usually by the time root rot starts to show on the leaves, the roots are already damaged, but root rot has a bad smell, which you may notice before the spots appear. Root rot is due to overwatering, so check to be sure the water isn’t standing in the soil.
- Drooping – When your leaves are drooping, it’s usually caused by too little water. A well-hydrated plant stands up firmly, so you should check the soil moisture first. If it’s too dry, be sure to add moist organic matter, and not too many non-absorbent solids like bark and sand; there should be a good balance between well-draining and moisture-retaining. Drooping may also be caused by too little fertilizer or an unbalanced pH, so do a soil test if your plant’s dropping doesn’t seem to be caused by a lack of water.
How to make the best soil for monstera plants
With lots of indirect light and the right Monstera soil mix recipe, your plant will stay happy with a once-weekly watering. If you want to make your own potting soil for your Monstera to make sure it drains well but remains moist and fertile, you can mix a few common potting materials to recreate the preferred soil conditions of your Monstera Deliciosa in a potting mix.
To make your own well-draining soil mix for your Monstera, you will need:
- Organic potting soil
- Orchid bark
- Sphagnum peat moss
- Indoor plant fertilizer
- Sand (optional)
- Leca (optional)
- Mix the regular potting soil with the perlite, in a 1:1 ratio, one handful of one for every handful of the other. The soil will hold some moisture and deliver nutrients to the plant, while the perlite, a type of volcanic glass stone, will help with drainage. Mix a few handfuls of these together to form the base of your Monstera’s soil mix.
- Since Monstera plants don’t like standing water, add a couple of handfuls of orchid bark or pine bark for large solids that will help the soil mix drain, which also provides more organic material for structure and eventual nutrients. These large solids will also give the soil good aeration.
- Sphagnum peat moss is used in many potting soils in a ground form, but adding a handful of the dried moss material gives the soil mix extra moisture holding capacity while also providing a source of nutrients as it slowly breaks down over the long term.
- Adding a little sand or some Leca pebbles can give a little extra help with the soil’s ability to drain in larger pots, and Leca, like the peat Sphagnum moss, will retain moisture without maintaining standing water. These solids will also help you avoid compacted soil.
- Applying fertilizer to your soil mix is an important way to keep your plant healthy. Monstera plants thrive in the nutrient dense rainforest topsoil, and you can recreate this by using fertilizers once or twice a month during the warm, bright growing months, and once every two months during cooler seasons. Even though the plant is indoors, the lower amount of sunlight will slow down its growth until the days get longer and brighter again.
Store bought monstera potting mix
If you don’t want to mix your own soil, there are products you can buy that meet the soil preferences of Monstera plants. The following products are formulated to be better draining than other potting soils, containing fibrous and nutrient-dense materials for healthy growth. These soils are all focused on good drainage, moisture retention, and nutrient delivery:
Miracle-Gro Indoor Potting Mix
This Miracle-Gro potting soil is recommended for Pothos and Monstera plants, both species that love well-draining soil. This mix contains perlite, sphagnum peat moss, fertilizer, a wetting agent, and coco coir.
Fox Farm Ocean Forest
The Ocean Forest potting blend has a soil pH range adjusted to 6.3 – 6.8, slightly acidic soil that your Monstera plant will love. This potent formula contains worm castings, sandy loam, and sphagnum peat moss, in addition to fish and crab meal (which can give the potting mix a strong odor, but the nutrients keep your Monstera big and green)
Noot Organic Indoor Plant Soilless Potting Mix
Noot potting mix is made especially for plants that like good drainage, like Monster, Orchid, and Fiddle Leaf Figs. It’s made with coconut husk, coco coir, and perlite, which keep the indoor plant’s roots well aerated with access to moisture.
more about monsteras
- Monstera plant leaf curling? Here’s what to do
- How to clean monstera leaves gently (and how often)
- how much light does monstera need?
- how to propagate swiss cheese plant (3 ways)
- plant experiments: which fertilizer makes plants grow faster
- scale on monstera: what to do and how to save it
- Monstera root rot: how to save your monstera plant
- Big Indoor Plants
what do you think of adding worm castings to my potting soil for monstera plant
Hi, Bob! Yes, definitely add some worm castings. A handful every few weeks is a nice way to top up on nutrition, though pay attention to how your monstera responds. If it shows any signs of stress, then stop feeding it the castings. One handful in your fresh soil mix could be enough to last you a couple of months.