Few houseplants have the appeal of the lush Monstera plant, sometimes known as a Swiss cheese plant, which can be found in more than a dozen varieties from around the world. Monstera’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years thanks to the ease of caring for this plant and its intricate, Instagram-ready appearance.
But Monsteras, like all plants, are living things— and like all living things, they need care. They need to be fed properly using fertilizer. You can’t fertilize a houseplant quite like you fertilize your outdoor garden. You have to be careful and precise because indoor plants don’t have access to rainfall or natural topsoil.
So how do you fertilize a monstera plant? Monstera plants are relatively slow growing and it's unlikely that your indoor plant will bare any actual edible fruit. Luckily for us this means it doesn't require too much fertilizer. However, your monstera plant can suffer from a slow decline of nutrients in its potting soil.
In this guide, we’re will cover everything you need to know about feeding and fertilizing your Monstera
Why Does Monstera Need Fertilizers?
Think of fertilizer like vitamins for your plants. While plants use photosynthesis to convert sunlight into their primary energy source, they need nutrients from the soil to thrive. Your monstera plant, like many other indoor plants, is likely to remain in the same soil for most of its life. Because of this, the nutrient levels in the soil will rapidly decline over time and the only way to replenish these without changing the soil regular is to apply fertilizer.
In the wild, monstera plants have access to enough nutrients in their natural habitat in two ways.
Firstly, rainwater can have these nutrients in its chemical composition.
Secondly, natural soil is far more complex than potting soil and is packed with nutrients that, through the natural cycle of decay, are regularly renewed.
But the same isn’t true of potting soil. Initially, potting soil is fortified with nutrients perfect for your monstera plants healthy growth. But after six months to a year, your plant will deplete all the nutrients in this soil and run out of what they need to thrive. After this, your plant will struggle to grow unless you add a plant food fertilizer.
Furthermore, Monstera plants can get upwards of six feet tall. That’s a big plant, and big plants need lots of nutrients. Choosing to fertilize your Monstera plant will help to support its growth, as well as the development of its large, lush leaves.
The Nutrient Balance of Monstera Fertilizer
There are three primary macronutrients that all plants need: Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. These are labeled using their chemical abbreviations N, P, and K. Monstera plants, like other plants with leafy foliage, need a 3-1-2 N-P-K ratio. This means three parts nitrogen to one part phosphorus to two parts potassium.
These three macronutrients are vital for your plant’s leaves, stem, and root health. They also promote the characteristic split leaves seen on monstera plants. Your Monstera will use all three of these macronutrients in large quantities. But nitrogen, which is necessary for leaf growth, is more important than the other two for your Monstera’s health.
To find the N-P-K ratio on your fertilizer, look for a series of numbers. Any 3-1-2 ratio balanced fertilizer will have a first number that’s three times the second number and a third number that’s two times the second number. If that sounds confusing, here are some examples that all meet the 3-1-2 ratio:
The difference in these numbers is the concentration of nutrients. Higher numbers mean that the fertilizer has a higher concentration, and you need to dilute it. If it’s liquid plant food, you will need to mix more plain water into it to have a well balanced fertilizer.
With compost, it’s a little different. There’s not a lot you can do to compost other than change how much you add, so you need to make sure that you choose a well-balanced organic fertilizer.
If you have a home composter like Lomi, you can use the 3:1 green to brown compost ratio to create just the right balance. You can also use a 1:1 ratio to make things simpler; while the fertilizer won’t have as much nitrogen, compost is so full of nutrients that it will still be incredibly nourishing for your houseplants.
Good quality fertilizers will also have a micronutrient content. Plants need these as well but in much smaller quantities. Micronutrients are present in many liquid fertilizers, but if you fertilize using compost, you can rest easy knowing that your compost contains all the micronutrients your Monstera plant will need.
Signs Your Monstera Needs Fertilizer
Plants can tell you when they need to be fed! Knowing what changes in your Monstera’s appearance mean can help you keep your plant looking beautiful for years. There are two major ways you can tell that your Monstera needs fertilizer.
First it may have slow or stunted growth. In fact, your plant may stop growing completely if it doesn't have access to more nutrients.
However, it is important to be aware that Monstera growth naturally slows down in the fall and winter, so don’t be alarmed if the growth slows down during these months. That doesn’t mean that the plant needs fertilizer. But if growth doesn’t pick back up from early spring to late fall - April to September - you may need to fertilize your monstera plants.
Yellow Spotting On The Foliage
Yellow spots, called chlorosis, can be a sign that your Monstera needs fertilizer. But there are many reasons that your Monstera might develop yellow spots, such as over watering, low humidity, dry soil, improper light, and pests.
Sometimes, depending on the age of your Monstera plants foliage, yellowing can be a natural progression of its life cycle. So it's important to pay attention to the whole plant and what changes are happening throughout.
Slow Or Stunted Growth
Outside of the slower growing season your Monstera should grow at a steady yet slow speed during the warmer summer and spring months. If you notice your plant hasn't grown at all it's possible it may need a little plant food boost.
A good rule to live by when feeding Monstera Deliciosa plants, is to feed them with Monstera plant food once a day during growing season and 1-2 times per month during its sleepier months.
Your Monstera also can tell you when to stop fertilizing. You can damage your Monstera’s roots through fertilizer burn, which is caused by too much fertilizer. Once the roots are damaged, the leaves may start to die as well. You’ll know that this is happening when they become droopy and eventually crispy.
Signs Your Monstera Deliciosa Is Over-Fertilized
Although it is important to ensure that Monstera Plants have access to enough nutrients to support their growth, its all to easy to give them too much fertlizer. This can be just as damaging to your Monstera Deliciosa as under fertilizing them.
White Crust On The Soil
One common sign of over-fertilizing is a white crust on the top of the soil. This crust is caused by a build up of salts found in fertilizers. It doesn't matter what type of fertilizer you are using - Organic fertilizer, granular fertilizer, or synthetic fertilizer will all cause a salt build up if used too often.
Wilting leaves are not only a sign of a lack of available nutrients. They can also be a sign you have been giving your Monstera Deliciosa too much fertilizer. If you have been regularly feeding your plant stop immediately to give it a chance to recover.
Yellow Leaf Edges
If your Monstera's leaves start to turn yellow at the edges and then turn brown it's highly likely you have been using too much fertilizer. If you spot this on your plant's leaves you will need to lower the dose of fertilizer you have been using or avoid fertilizing it all together for a while.
Another sign that can hint towards both too little and too much fertilization is seeing your actively growing Monsteras growth slow or stop altogether. Just like if its leaves start to wilt or show signs of yellowing at the edges, you must stop adding fertilizer to your watering schedule immediately.
Many of these signs are similar to the symptoms of other types of ailments a Monstera Deliciosa can experience. Such as root damage, like root binding, root rot and overwatering. This can be confusing, so make sure that you pay attention to how you care for your plant.
If you think that you’ve overfed your Monstera, you can flush the excess fertilizer out by running water through the plant’s soil until it drains. You may have to repeat this several times to make sure the excess fertilizer has been fully removed from the soil.
Make sure that the plant dries thoroughly and has well-draining soil before the next watering. It’s better to try to flush the fertilizer than repotting because, although the Monstera Deliciosa has very strong root systems, repotting can further damage to its already damaged roots.
How Often Should You Fertilize a Monstera?
Since Monstera grows so quickly and so large, your plant is going to quickly deplete the nutrients in the potting soil and will need regular fertilizing. So you need to replace these with a quality fertilizer to keep your plant thriving.
When determining when to fertilize your Monstera, you just need to pay attention to the seasons. During the lighter, warmer months of spring and summer, you will want to feed your Monstera more often. During these months, you will want to fertilize your plant a small amount every single day, depending on the size of your plant and the strength of your fertilizer.
As the days get shorter in fall and winter, you will want to reduce your fertilizing schedule to 1-2 times per month or you may stop fertilizing your Monstera altogether, as it will enter its dormant state.
The exception to this rule is if you use a grow light for your Monstera. Grow lights provide full-spectrum light year-round and you can keep the light/dark cycle consistent, which means that your Monstera plant will continue to grow in the winter months. If this is the case, you can fertilize year-round.
Key Considerations when Fertilizing Monstera
When fertilizing monstera, or any indoor houseplant, you have to be careful with the chemical ratios and concentrations of your fertilizer. Liquid fertilizers and inorganic fertilizers usually need to be diluted. If you don’t dilute, you will cause damage to your plant’s roots.
Also, fertilizer alone won’t lead to a healthy plant. You need to make sure that you don’t underwater or overwater your plant, and you also need to make sure that your plant gets the right amount of light.
However, Monstera does not like direct sunlight; too much sun and the leaves will go yellow and wilt. Monstera plants prefer medium to bright indirect light; no amount of fertilizer will replace correct lighting!
Best Fertilizer for Monstera
You have lots of options when you go to fertilize your Monstera. Such as compost, organic fertilizer, slow release fertilizer, granular fertilizer, and a synthetic fertilizer. Some options are better for your plants because not all fertilizers will give your plant everything it needs.
Also, some fertilizers are harder to get a hold of and you will want a fertilizer that you can easily source to maintain a good fertilizing schedule for your plants.
Compost is a great fertilizer for virtually any plant, and even if you don’t have a compost pile at home, you can still create your own fertilizer using food scraps. You can do this with a home fertilizer like Lomi.
A home composter is a small device that uses heat and abrasion to break down food scraps into rich, nutritious organic fertilizers. Compost lets you take food waste and keep it out of the landfill.
Instead, you can convert the nutrients into a form that your plants can use. Compost is safe to use on any plant, even fruit and vegetable plants in your garden.
One of the things that makes compost ideal is that you don’t have to worry about dilution. All you need to do is add compost to the soil as it is. You can just put it on top of your soil, or mix it into the dirt around your plant. You can also make holes and push the compost into the soil if you want, but you really can just leave it on top and not have to worry about it. It’s that simple!
Worm castings are the result of worms eating their way through compost. It’s essentially invertebrate manure. Not only do worm castings contain all the necessary nutrients your Monstera will need for healthy growth, it's a 100% organic fertilizer option.
The use of organic fertilizers is becoming more popular as we all try to be more eco-friendly and sustainable in our day to day practices and using worm castings can be a fantastic solution for plant lovers.
Even better, you can make worm castings at home, but if you don't have the time or space you can buy them at a home improvement or gardening store. There are two ways to use worm castings to give your Monstera its necessary nutrients.
First, you can simply add them to the soil. You can sprinkle them on top of the soil, or you can mix them in or push them down the side of the plant pot.
The second way to use worm castings is by making “worm tea,” which is made by steeping worm castings in water overnight. This creates a brew rich in nutrients and beneficial bacteria that can help fertilize your plants. Worm tea does not need to be further diluted, unlike synthetic liquid fertilizers.
If you have room for a compost pile or a vermiculture bin, worm castings are a great way to turn your food waste into fertilizer for your plants. While this can be harder to do in a smaller space, like an apartment, there are compact indoor worm bin designs you can use.
Synthetic Liquid Fertilizer
Synthetic liquid fertilizers are great for houseplants because they’re readily available and fairly inexpensive. You only need to use a tiny amount of synthetic fertilizer; most liquid fertilizers recommend mixing about a teaspoon into an entire gallon of water.
However, if you only have a few house plants that need watering you may end up mixing more water than you’ll likely need. But if you have a whole jungle in your living room, you might already be using more than a gallon per watering, anyways.
Some fertilizer comes pre-diluted or in foaming pumps for houseplants. These are more expensive per ounce than liquid fertilizer, but if you only have one or two houseplants, one container of pre-diluted liquid fertilizer might be all you need.
One other downside to synthetic fertilizers is that they aren’t as eco-friendly as compost or worm castings. When you use these fertilizers outside, they can leach into the groundwater and kill beneficial microorganisms in the soil. But if you keep it inside and only use it in small amounts, it’s not as harmful.
Monstera deliciosa is a beautiful plant that does great indoors. It can grow and thrive in your home, but you have to properly care for it. Your Monstera does need fertilizer, and you have to know when to fertilize, how much fertilizer to apply and what kind of fertilizer to use.
Including a fertilizer of your choice into your normal watering schedule for your plant is the one of two ways to ensure that it gets every nutrient it needs for optimal growth but we think a natural, organic compost is the easiest and most environmentally friendly solution.
There are many great fertilizer options, and while you could go with synthetic liquid fertilizer, for less stress and less mess you may want to think about using compost as the best fertilizer for Monstera or any of your house plant's— like the kind you can make at home with Lomi by Pela!