Why has the monstera family of plants taken the internet by storm? For most of us, a houseplant is a houseplant. Perhaps we need something to jazz up our space, add a bit of design, or give us something to care for. But for some of us, a houseplant isn’t just a houseplant.
Houseplant collectors have taken the internet by storm. Whatever the reason, millennials and old-timers alike are collecting and flaunting their leaves. Collecting plants is no ordinary hobby. With it comes a slew of responsibilities and learning curves. Nonetheless, the experience is exciting, rewarding, and competitive.
There is no plant family quite as famous as the monstera. Also known as the “swiss cheese plant,” the monstera deliciosa is a species of flowering plants in the Araceae family. Most commonly found in the tropical Americas, the name Monstera is Latin for “monstrous” or “abnormal,” while deliciosa is a nod to its edible fruit. From one look at its strange foliage, you can see why this plant has gotten its name.
In the wild, these plants are enormous. They grow up trees, shoot out aerial roots, and become massive
specimens. The monstera deliciosa produces fenestrations (the holes or splits) as the plant ages. So why are we bringing this giant plant into our home? And what is it about these split leaves that drive us so crazy?
Different Forms of the Monstera
Deliciosa vs Borsigiana
The monstera deliciosa has a smaller form that has made its way into most of our collections, the monstera borsigiana. The borsigiana is almost indistinguishable from the deliciosa, but the leaves don’t grow nearly as large. These smaller sized leaves make the monstera a much more feasible houseplant.
A true “deliciosa” will also exhibit these adorable ruffles on the top of there leaves where the leaf meets the stem. While the borsigiana grows more like a vine, it grows faster and has a smooth stem. These may seem like irrelevant differences, but for collectors, it is characteristics like this that make all the difference.
Variegated monsteras are where these differences shine. A variegated monstera deliciosa is much rarer than a variegated monstera borsigiana (aka albo borsigiana). The deliciosa tends to lose its variegation during propagating, making it harder to reproduce the plant. The borsigiana is much easier to multiply, and therefore there are more of them on the market. If you have a variegated monstera, you most likely have a borsigiana.
In case you are not sure what variegation is, it is a genetic mutation in the plant that causes white, yellow, or cream colorations to form on the leaf and stem. The variegation is often dramatic and creates a stunning specimen. For some plants, the variegation is not stable, and the plant either reverts to green or becomes so white that there is no more chlorophyll left in the plant for it to survive.
For collectors in the houseplant community, this means that your special variegated monstera may lose all of its beautiful variegation. Or may become so variegated that it can’t survive. Perhaps this is an exciting challenge for some collectors. Through pruning and propagating, you can pretty much manipulate how variegated your plant is. It certainly is not a beginner’s plant to care for, and that certainly adds to the rarity.
The monstera adansonii features even more holes than its borsigiana and deliciosa relatives. It grows more like a hanging or trailing bush, but it can also grow vertically. The adansonii has lacy and almost delicate leaves, making it a perfect specimen for social media. It is anything but your average houseplant, and pretty much every collector has one.
The adansonii also comes in a variegated form and is the current “unicorn” plant of the houseplant world. Finding a good specimen is hard, and paying for one is even harder!
The rarest and coveted of the monstera family, the elusive monstera obliqua, is pretty much a mystery. It is still up for debate what an obliqua is, and there is currently respecification and research going on to figure that out. Until then, we have what is commonly known as the “Peruvian form.” The monstera obliqua Peruvian form features extremely delicate and lacy leaves, and probably the most fenestrations or holes out of all the monstera types.
This plant is an advanced houseplant. It requires a constant 90% humidity to thrive and is not easy to propagate. These are primarily in the collections of serious collectors only. Finding a verified obliqua isn’t the most straightforward task since it can be mistaken for the adansonii. If you think you have one but you didn’t pay a small fortune for it, you probably don’t have one.
But wait. There’s more.
The above info doesn’t even begin to cover all the types of monstera, but these are the ones I deemed as most popular right now. This doesn’t even include the variegated monstera aurea (a yellow form of the variegated monstera), the monstera dubia, monstera pinnatipartite, monstera siltepecana, or the mini monstera/rhaphidophora tetrasperma. It’s safe to say that there is A LOT of monsteras. And pretty much all of them hold a high rank in the collector’s trophy of plants.
What’s the big deal?
So what is it about this plant that makes it so popular? I’m honestly not sure anymore! Maybe it is the fenestrations. The way that each plant is so different than any other because their holes are so specific. Making each plant a perfect specimen. No two plants look the same, and no two propagations turn out the same; it’s pretty much a gamble each time.
Especially when you get variegated monsteras in the mix, each one is a gamble. The next leaf could be perfect, or the next leaf could be entirely one color or the other. The entire thing may revert to green, or the whole thing may turn brown and die. Who knows! It could be part of this plant lottery that adds to the appeal.
Or perhaps it is their relatively simple care regimen for the more common varieties. When compared to plants like anthuriums or begonias, monsteras are relatively easy to care for. Once you find the right spot for them, they pretty much survive and thrive on their own.
Or, in contrast, maybe it is the more difficult care regimen for the more rare species such as the obliqua that makes the monstera so appealing. It certainly takes a specific skill set to get that plant thriving and to propagate it. Some of the keenest collectors are just here for the challenge of hunting down the rarest of species and fine-tuning the perfect conditions for them.
Or maybe it has to do with interior design. Monsteras certainly add a unique style to any space, making them significantly different from their usual houseplant counterparts. I mean, let’s face it, a large monstera climbing up a moss pole is undoubtedly a different effect than a fiddle leaf fig.
It doesn’t seem like there is one definitive reason why monsteras are so popular in the houseplant community. There is a myriad of reasons why the monstera plant family is so appealing. But one thing is for sure, the interest and social media sensationalization of this plant isn’t going away anytime soon.