The Monstera Deliciosa- also called the Swiss Cheese Plant- has become one of the most popular houseplants in the past few years, known for its large presence and huge, iconic split leaves. But did you know it has a minimature lookalike?
As its name implies, the Monstera Minima looks very much like the Monstera Deliciosa, just as a smaller version. A full grown Monstera Deliciosa can grow to 10 feet tall, making it difficult to grow for many people. If you like the look of the Monstera leaves but know you can’t grow a 10 foot plant in your home, keep reading to see how to care for its little brother!
Well, little brother isn’t completely accurate, because the Monstera Minima actually isn’t related to the Monstera plants. Monstera Minima, or Rhaphidophora tetrasperma, is technically in the genus Rhaphidophora. Although, it’s in the same Araceae family as Monsteras.
Regardless, the plants have similar needs and grow under the same conditions, so if you have any experience with Monstera Deliciosa you can apply that here. These plants are very easy to care for and are great for beginner growers.
About the Plant
Monstera Minimas, along with all the plants in the Araceae family, are tropical plants native to southeast Asia. This means they thrive with lots of light and humidity, and will only grow in warmer climates. They do best between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
This plant is toxic to house pets, so make sure to keep it well out of reach. It disturbs their digestive tract, so symptoms include swelling around the mouth, excessive drooling, or vomiting. It’s not severely toxic to humans, but you shouldn’t eat it just to be safe.
Contrary to the Monstera Deliciosa, this plant is actually a vine. You can put it up as a hanging plant or it can be trained to climb upwards or sideways along shelves. Either way, this helps it stay above the reach of pets.
It also has the heart-shaped, or cordate, leaves with large splits that Monsteras have. When they’re healthy the leaves are glossy and shine in the light, growing up to a foot long. Many people prefer to grow the Minima since its foliage is so similar to the Deliciosa, just smaller.
To get an idea of how much smaller the Minima is, here are some specs about its size. Fully grown, the vine can climb up to five feet. However, this takes about five years to reach.
With pruning, this plant can be kept to a more of a bush shape if you prefer. In that case, it grows to about 4 feet in height and 1 to 2 feet in spread.
New leaves grow about every 4-5 weeks. Once they have begun growing, the leaves take several months to split. However, the leaves do grow and split faster than the Deliciosa, as they’re much smaller.
You can only grow the Monstera Minima outdoors in USDA zones 10-12. However, this plant needs lots of humidity, so the hot regions of the southwest won’t suffice. Otherwise, it’s best to grow this plant indoors.
Planting & Placement
These plants will need lots of sunlight, so before you even get started, make sure you’ve got a nice window you can place this plant by. This plant is happy with, and actually prefers, indirect light, so you don’t need direct light.
The Monstera Minima also loves humidity, so, if you have space, your bathroom could be the perfect place for this tropical plant. As long as you get a bit of light into your bathroom, this plant could flourish as a bathroom plant.
It also really doesn’t like the cold, so keep the Minima away from air conditioning vents or drafty windows. Wherever you decide to place it, just remember to keep it out of reach of pets and leave enough space for it to grow, whether that’s hanging below or climbing up.
You’ll need a pot that’s 2-3 inches wider than the root ball. As it grows, you’ll want to repot the vine, but this isn’t needed until the second or third year. It’s very important that the pot drains well and has a drainage tray.
Monstera Minima plants need soil that’s a bit gritty and drains water very well. As with many tropical plants, it’s used to receiving moisture in the air, so it doesn’t need dense soil.
Also, Monstera Minimas are prone to root rot if there’s water sitting in the pot, so it’s quite important that water isn’t stuck in the soil. Along with fast-draining soil, they prefer soil that’s slightly acidic.
The recommended mixture is two parts peat moss, one part organic compost, and one part perlite. Perlite or coconut coir work very well for this mixture because they add a rougher texture that improves airflow.
Even with added material to open up the air flow in the oil, make sure the soil isn’t too tightly packed into the pot. If you pack in a ton of soil- or if the pot is too small for the root ball- this will also impede air and water flow and will disrupt the roots.
Since these plants are native to tropical regions, they need lots of sunlight. However, because they’re smaller plants, they naturally grow along the ground, under the tree canopy. This means that indirect sunlight is the best for them.
To make your Monstera Minima happy and grow to its best, it will need several hours of indirect light per day. Direct morning light is okay, but as the day goes on, it’s better that they receive indirect light.
If these plants receive too much direct light, their leaves will get sunburnt and turn yellow or brown. If all you have is a south-facing window with intense direct light, no worries! Use a sheer curtain to protect your plants from the direct sun.
If the leaves on the bottom of the plant are yellow, this means your Monstera Minima isn’t receiving enough sunlight. Also, if you see the plant drooping or especially if it’s leaning towards the window, it needs more sun. The leaves won’t split if it hasn’t had enough sun.
If you need to move your Minima to give it more or less sunlight, remember to do so gently and gradually. If you move the plant too quickly, you could send it into shock, so move it around step by step.
The most important thing with the Monstera Minima is that the soil always has some moisture in it. This doesn’t mean watering it every day- in fact, that would be very bad for the plant. Just stay mindful of the moisture of the soil and water about once a week.
You don’t want to wait until the soil is completely dried out, but it should be fairly drained before you water again. If the soil is still pretty wet, definitely wait to water so it doesn’t become soggy.
Feel the top two inches to see how the moisture levels are. However, keep in mind that this can be misleading, because sometimes the top of the soil is drier than at the center of the roots. It’s generally better to underwater and then increase the water than to overwater- especially because of its vulnerability to root rot.
In the spring and summer, while it’s warmer and the plant is growing more actively, you want to water it roughly every 7 to 10 days. In the colder months, you can reel back to watering twice a month, but keep feeling the soil and monitor the plant.
You normally want to water slowly and deeply, until the water fills the drainage tray. You can also bottom water, where you fill the drainage tray with water and allow the plant to soak it up. For this you may need a larger tray or just water more often.
The tell-tale sign of root rot is if the stems turn brown and the leaves develop mushy brown spots. The one disease Monstera Minima is very prone to is root rot, so this is something you need to seriously look out for. If you do get root rot, water less often or repot the plant.
Because the Monstera Minima is a tropical plant, it will be at its best with constant humidity, preferably 50-60% humidity. It will grow with lower amounts of humidity, but it won’t grow as fast and the leaves may be limp.
One sign that the plant is suffering from lack of humidity is if the leaves curl down or if they become brown and frail. If they seem a bit frail, but it isn’t due to sunburn, then it’s likely caused by insufficient humidity.
The easiest way you can create extra humidity indoors for your Monstera Minima is by placing a humidifier next to it. You can designate a little area for your Monstera Minima and other humidity-loving plants (like the Fiddle Leaf Fig), and group them together around a humidifier.
You can also mist the leaves of the plant every couple days, imitating natural condensation and providing extra moisture. This isn’t the same as having humidity in the air, but it does create more moisture.
A passive way to create moisture is by using a pebble tray. With this method, place some small stones in the drainage tray. When you water the plant, the excess water will drain out and the stones will soak up some of the water, keeping moisture near the plant.
We’ve covered all the basic necessities for planting and growing a Monstera Minima and, since the plant is quite low maintenance, you can grow a fairly healthy plant just by following those guidelines. But there are, of course, several things you can do to take extra care and make sure the plant is in optimal shape.
For one, since this plant is a trailing vine, it likes having something to climb on or along. Unless you’re hanging the plant and letting it flow down, it would be helpful to use a trellis or guiding stick to give it some support. Or, place it on a shelf and allow it to use the shelf to grow along.
It’s also good to repot this plant as needed, which is standard for most plants, however this plant may outgrow its pot quicker than others. You’ll likely only need to repot it after the first two years, but if you see the roots sticking out of the drainage holes or out of the top, it should definitely be repotted.
Also, if you notice that the water takes a long time to drain, this could mean that the roots are too tightly bound from being in a pot too small. This will create drainage problems and will provoke root rot.
Take the plant out and shake it out a bit to loosen the roots, then repot it in a larger pot. Water a little less frequently to let it adjust, and keep an eye on how long it takes for the water to drain.
Thankfully, root rot is the only thing you really need to be vigilant of- Monstera Minimas aren’t vulnerable to any other diseases or pests. Just keep an eye out for Spider Mites, a common pest that is found with houseplants. If you notice these tiny white bugs on your plant, spray the plant with some soapy water and this will repel the bugs.
One more thing to optimize the growth and looks of this plant is wiping off the leaves. When fully healthy, the plant has dark green, glossy leaves. However, over time dust will collect on the leaves which blocks sunlight from being soaked into the leaves and makes them less glossy. So, from time to time, just wipe them gently with a towel.
Fertilizer is very helpful for these plants because they grow so quickly, so they need to eat more nutrients! You can do this in many ways, from using homemade liquid fertilizer, to using organic compost or worm castings.
It’s just important to give your plant a little extra nutrients. It’s a good idea to start fertilizing the first month after getting the plant, so that you get off to a good start.
In the warmer months, it will be growing more and will need to be fed more often. This depends on what method you’re using for fertilizer, but generally fertilize once a month in spring and summer.
In the fall and winter, as the plant becomes less active, you can tone down the fertilizing and just feed it two or three times for the whole season. The plant isn’t entirely dormant during the winter, so you still want to encourage growth but this isn’t its peak growing period, so over fertilizing will confuse it.
Pruning is also optional, the Monstera Minima doesn’t need to be pruned and will livel just fine if left on its own. Pruning is mostly for the sake of aesthetics, but it does help the plant focus its resources.
As with any plant, you want to trim off or take out any dead and damaged pieces. You may notice some leaves that have become sunburnt or just wilted on their own, and these can be removed so the plant can focus on the rest of its healthy leaves.
You can also prune with the purpose of shaping the plant- depending on your space, you may want to keep it small or grow in a certain direction. If you are going to prune, it’s best to prune in mid spring with sharp scissors or shears. This jump starts its growth early and prepares it for growing all throughout the summer.
If you’re clipping off stems to keep it small, remember to only cut back 25-30% of the stems. If you go in and zealously chop off half of the plant’s stems, you will send it into shock.
If you’re clipping off stems for size management, remember that you can keep them and propagate them for more Monstera Minima plants! It’s actually super easy to propagate this plant, so once you get the hang of growing it, you can propagate and grow many more.
Just take the healthy clippings from pruning it and see if any have leaf nodes. Place the clipping in a glass with shallow water and make sure the bottom 2 to 3 inches are in the water. Add to your propagation station and watch them grow!
The roots will start to grow in the water and after 1 to 2 months they’ll be developed enough to plant the clipping. Once the roots are a few inches long, they’re ready and you can just plant the clipping in potting soil as you did with the original Monstera Minima plant.
One thing that’s really cool about the Monstera Minima, and actually all the plants in the Araceae family, is that their roots are very loose and easily separable. This means that you can literally take the plant out and separate it in half, and have two plants!
The Monstera Minima’s roots aren’t very tightly bound, and especially because this plant is a vine and doesn’t have a single base, it’s very resilient to separation. Lots of plant owners do this to keep the plant’s size smaller and more manageable.
Plus, then you have two plants, for free! And this process is faster than propagating, since you’re not growing a new one, but rather repotting an existing plant.
To get started, turn the pot on its side and start to wiggle the plant out by grabbing the base and gently scooting it out of the pot. You don’t want to pull it out too quickly and damage any roots.
Then, start to untangle the roots a bit by loosening them and spreading them out. Of course, you don’t need to completely untangle every root, just generally loosen up the root ball. If the root ball is very tight, you can also take a sharp knife and cut some of the roots to open it up.
Once the roots are more spread, start to section them off to create two or more plants, however you’d like and can do with what you have. Once you have these sections, just repot them as you did in the first place!
Note that it’s normal for the plant’s leaves to be a bit droopy after this, because the plant will need a few weeks to get adjusted to the new pot and root arrangement. For this reason, wait about one month after separation until you fertilize again.
If you fertilize while the plant is still healing and adjusting, it will be confused and may take even longer to heal, just be patient!
Monstera Minimas take minimum effort, as long as you get them off to a good start. With the right kind of soil mixture, these plants will be happy and grow steadily for years to come. As long as you don’t overwater them, you won’t have any problems and will have a beautiful trailing vine climbing around your home!
Plus, considering how easy it is to propagate and separate these plants, they’re a fantastic one-time purchase that keeps growing- literally! These hanging houseplants are a pretty addition to any room and are a great alternative to the monstrous Monstera Deliciosa.
I hope this article is leaving you feeling fully prepared to start caring for the Monstera Minima and convinced you that it’s a great houseplant to start growing!
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.