Monstera plants are unmistakable thanks to the distinctive splits and holes in their gorgeous evergreen leaves. These splits are known as fenestration and are unique to just a few types of plants, including Monsteras. In this article, we’ll explain why Monstera leaves split.
Why Do Monstera Leaves Split?
A plant’s ability to create splits or holes in its leaves is known as fenestration or perforate leaves. Most varieties of Monstera plants will display fenestration in the right conditions.
Although it’s not fully understood why Monstera leaves split, it may be linked to their natural environment. Monstera plants are native to Central and South America. In their native range, Monstera plants inhabit tropical rainforests.
Monstera plants grow on the jungle floor as hemiepiphytes. While their main roots stay within the soil, Monstera plants also use aerial roots to climb nearby trees. Underneath the dense canopy of the rainforest, Monstera plants are constantly battling to get enough sunlight, especially for their lower leaves.
Fenestration might be a way for Monstera plants to get more sunlight to their lower leaves. The gaps in the upper leaves may allow sunlight to pass through to reach other leaves below. This could enable a Monstera plant to develop faster, allowing it to climb higher.
Monstera leaves might also develop fenestration to protect the plant against sudden downpours, which are extremely common in the rainforest. If too much water collects on a plant’s leaves, it can be susceptible to rot. But fenestration may allow excess water to drain from Monstera leaves.
It’s also possible that leaf fenestration helps protect Monstera plants against high winds and other inclement weather. Large, flat leaves can act like sails when exposed to strong winds, which can uproot vulnerable plants. However, gaps in the leaves might diffuse the wind enough to prevent the Monstera plant from being uprooted.
How to Get Your Monstera Leaves to Split
Two main factors influence when your Monstera plant’s leaves split. These are the age of the plant and the amount of sunlight it receives.
Most Monstera plants will not develop fenestration on the leaves until they’re at least 2 to 3 years old. If you’ve recently propagated your Monstera plant, you’ll need to be patient if you want fenestration. However, if you buy a mature plant, new leaves should display fenestration when they unfurl.
Monstera plants also need lots of bright, indirect sunlight to develop leaf fenestration. If your Monstera is growing in low-light conditions, it’ll only be able to produce small leaves without any splits. Position your Monstera plant approximately 3 feet away from an east or south-facing window to provide enough sunlight. Avoid exposing your Monstera to direct afternoon sun as this can burn the foliage.
Monstera leaves may split for several reasons, but the exact reason is unknown. Fenestration may increase the amount of sunlight that reaches the leaves. Fenestration could also allow excess water to drain away, preventing rotting leaves. Most Monstera plants won’t develop fenestration until they’re 2 or 3 years old.
For more, see our in-depth guide to the uses and benefits of Monstera plants.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.
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