Monstera plants are popular houseplants known for the signature splits, or fenestrations, in their leaves. The leaves are also typically large and vibrant green in color, adding to their aesthetic and making them a great centerpiece for any living space.
If these signature splits are not present on a monstera’s leaves, it may be a cause for concern for the plant’s owner. Their absence can be due to a few possible causes, such as not enough light, the time of year, incorrect watering, or the plant might just be too young at the time.
In this article, we will discuss each of these causes, and what you can do to resolve the issue. So, if you are facing a similar issue and you wish to learn more about it, just keep on reading.
Why do monstera leaves have splits?
To tolerate high winds
The monstera’s natural habitat is characterized by a lack of wind, thanks to the tall tree canopies that provide protection to the growth below.
However, monsteras are also invasive plants that can adapt and thrive in most environments. Thus, when growing in your home garden, for example, leaf splitting allows these plants to adapt more effectively to windy conditions, and protects them from being knocked over by strong gusts.
Sunlight is better absorbed
Sunlight is essential for the healthy growth of green plants. It is an ingredient in the production of their food and also improves the roots’ absorption of water from the soil.
The fenestrations in the monstera’s leaves allow them to spread out, increasing the surface area available to capture the scattered sun rays that penetrate the dense rainforest canopy. The holes also allow the sunlight to pass through the upper leaves and reach the lower leaves of the plant.
Reduced water accumulation on the leaves
The monstera’s natural habitat sees a lot of rain, which makes it a great place for the plant to live. The splits on its leaves help to keep the rain from accumulating on them and weighing them down and diverting the water to the nodes and root areas instead.
Wet leaves are known to cause a great deal of trouble for a plant, including rotting, fungal growth, and bacterial diseases.
Why do my monstera’s leaves have no splits?
Not enough light
Your monstera is likely suffering from lack of light if it is mature enough to have produced split leaves in the past, but has since stopped producing them. Monsteras can survive in low light conditions, but they will not thrive. The development of their infamous fenestrations requires several hours of bright, indirect light per day, for several weeks.
When it comes to positioning your monstera, an east- or south-facing window is the best choice, although a north-facing window will suffice if that is your only option. West-facing windows should be approached with caution because they receive a lot of direct sunlight in the afternoon, which may cause the leaves to wilt. Ideally, you want to find the right combination of light and shade, but not direct sunlight, as this will cause the leaves to burn. You can also use a light meter to determine how much sunlight your plant receives at different times of the day.
If your home does not have enough natural light, or if you do not have a suitable location for your monstera that is close to a window, there is an alternative solution. You can use a grow light to supplement the amount of light reaching your plant. These can be purchased as fixtures in their own right, but you can also purchase grow light bulbs to insert into a lamp that you already own.
Time of year
While monsteras’ growth is largely halted during the winter months, any new leaves that do emerge will have few, if any, holes in them. This is simply due to the difference in light levels between the darker months and the brighter months of the year. Do not be concerned if your monstera produces solid leaves, or even if it produces no new leaves at all, during the winter months. This is completely normal and it will begin to thrive again in the spring and summer if given the proper care.
If you are concerned that light levels are dropping too low in the winter, an LED grow light is a good option to supplement natural light levels, though it is not required in most cases.
While insufficient light is the most common reason for your monstera’s failure to produce split leaves, improper watering or fertilization may also be a contributing factor. While you should ensure that your monstera receives adequate irrigation so that the soil does not dry out for extended periods, you must also be aware that it will not tolerate sitting in soggy soil, either.
You want to water your monstera when it is necessary, rather than when it is convenient, and to create an environment as close as possible to its natural habitat. Too much or too little water can be detrimental to its health and development, in which case it may never reach the level of maturity necessary to produce split leaves.
There are a few things you can do to ensure that your monstera is getting the proper amount of water, such as using a self-watering pot. These pots are perfect for people who do not have a lot of time to spend caring for their plants, as you can set them up once and then forget about them. The use of a water monitor can also help you determine when to water your monstera.
Clay and terracotta pots are much better for the health of your plant than plastic pots, as they allow some of the moisture to evaporate through their walls. Plastic pots, because they are not porous, hold all of the moisture in the soil.
When it comes to fertilizing the plant, only do so during the warmer growing period, as excessive fertilization during the winter months can stunt its growth.
The plant might just be too young at the moment
If you have a monstera that is only a few years old, do not be discouraged if the leaves do not have any fenestrations just yet. It can take up to two or three years for the plant to mature to the point where splits start appearing. Young monsteras have solid, heart-shaped leaves and thinner stems, while older plants have softer, rounder leaves. Just be patient and ensure that you are providing the proper care for your monstera, and it should begin to develop the distinctive splits when the time is right.
Monstera plant care
This plant likes bright, indirect sunlight and temperatures that remain consistently between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Too much direct sunlight can cause foliage to burn.
Monsteras can be grown in the full shade of deeply wooded areas or in the semi-shade of lightly wooded areas if grown outside in nature.
A peat-based potting medium is best for your monstera to become established in a container. It can be grown outdoors in light sandy, medium loamy, and heavy clay soils with pH values ranging from acid to neutral; however, it grows best in well-draining, moderately moist soil.
During the growing season, water your plant once or twice a week, depending on how thirsty it is. Fill the container with water until the excess water drains through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Between waterings, allow the soil to dry out a little before watering again. During the fall and winter, the plant will only need a small amount of water.
You can also use a spray bottle filled with demineralized water or rainwater to mist the plant’s foliage occasionally because monsteras prefer above-average humidity.
During the growing season, feed your plant every few weeks with a balanced liquid 20-20-20 fertilizer. Dissolve half a teaspoon of fertilizer in a gallon of water, and use this mixture instead of regular water when you water the plant.
Monsteras are a popular genus of houseplants known for their huge, green, distinctively-fenestrated, or split, leaves.
The splits on the monstera’s leaves help the plant absorb more light, make it able to tolerate high winds and help direct rainwater away from the plant’s foliage and toward its roots for better absorption.
One of the most common problems encountered by monstera owners is when their plants’ leaves do not develop their signature splits. The most common reasons for this are not enough light, the time of year, incorrect watering, or the plant might be too young to develop fenestrations.
It is up to you to determine which of these causes is at play in the case of your plant so that you can take the necessary measures to fix the issue as soon as possible.
Image: istockphoto.com / Techa Tungateja