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Many years ago I 'rescued' an almost dead Swiss Cheese Plant from a family member. It only had four leaves left on it which were wilting and brown. She had kept the plant in her cool, windy hallway and neglected to feed it much. I took the plant, re-potted it, fed it and put it in the warmest room of my home where it still stands now, and has done for more than ten years at least, abundant with leaves (it has around 35 leaves now). The plant genuinely feels like a companion to me as it has been around for so long and has imposed it's grandeur and majesty on the household.
Often shortened to just 'Cheese Plant' these plants make for excellent, large houseplants. Mine just about matches me in height (it is around 5ft tall) and it is potted in a large, deep pot (around 11 inches in diameter) which is actually an outdoor ceramic style pot. The pot has a drainage hole at the bottom so it also has a ceramic plate underneath. These plants can actually grow up to 65ft but are unlikely to grow much higher than mine in indoor, potted condition.
The plant has rather loose, spindled branches which support very large, glossy heart-shaped leaves. Most of the leaves are lobed with the younger parts of the plant developing leaves without the distinctive lobe pattern which looks almost like striping. Some of the leaves on my plant are enormous and rather heavy. In wild conditions these plants will grow up against trees but in a pot they need to be carefully propped up and tethered to support poles. This can be rather difficult since the plant literally has no rigidity in its main 'stem'. I actually have several bamboo poles in one pot which support the plant at various heights. The stem literally has to be tied to the support poles to give the plant shape and structure.
As soon as I got my Cheese Plant I understood that it enjoyed warm conditions. My plant still grows towards the window and the light though, meaning all of it's leaves face the same way. It also prefers to be fed water that is not ice cold but lukewarm. I water the plant around every four/five days in all seasons but only provide an abundance of water in the summer. Otherwise I only provide enough around a half pint of water per feed. I keep the leaves clean from dust by wiping with a damp cloth every few weeks. The plants may need re-potting and I have re-potted mine twice. I recommend getting someone to help you with the plants re-positioning since they are so large it can be very tricky!
I would definitely recommend these plants to anyone looking for a large plant to fit a space in their home. They are a plant worth caring for and nurturing since they are so very attractive and they make any room look stunning.
The Swiss Cheese Plant, Monstera delicosa, was originally a climber from the tropics. It's a very easy to grow and propagate house plant in this country, and is generally unfussy about conditions, being able to tolerate relatively low light levels as in the wild, it typically grows in the understory of the forest.
The plant has large, glossy green leaves that are individually up to 60 cm long, which when mature have very distinctive cut edges, and natural rounded holes all over the surface - hence the 'Swiss Cheese' name (I believe this feature has something to do with the plants being adapted for rainforest conditions, where the cuts and holes allow water to quickly flow off the surface of the leaves). These grow up from the generally weak main stems of the plant, carried on long leaf stalks which themselves can be as much as 50 cm in length. As the plant is a climber in the wild, in houses the Swiss Cheese Plant grows best if given support; typically a stout moss-packed mesh pole is provided (securely anchored in the pot), to which the plant has to be trained to provide an upright growth habit. The plants also produce abundant long, flexible, brown aerial roots that hang down from the main stems (these are usually trained against the support for the plant to keep them out of the way).
Swiss Cheese Plants are long-lived, and keep growing indefinitely. In botanic gardens for example, it's not uncommon to see plants 8 metres or more tall, which indicates that as house plants, the main problem encountered with these is that they tend to grow too big. Though they undoubtedly need a lot of room to show to their best effect, the plants can however be pruned back quite successfully - and cut stems of the Swiss Cheese Plant produce ideal propagation material: even a two-inch section of main stem, with just one leaf attached is sufficient to propagate a new plant. If kept in water for a while, such a stem section will quickly begin to produce adventitious roots, and once these have appeared, the plant can be potted up in soil as a new pot-plant. Smaller specimens can be found for sale reasonably often in garden centres and DIY shops, costing around the £4 to £5 for a plant with perhaps three or four leaves, and correspondingly more for a large 'specimen' type example.
The 'delicosa' part of the Swiss Cheese Plant's Latin name refers to the plant's edible fruit, which have the appearance of a large, rounded green pine-cone. I understand that house-plant Monsteras occasionally produce fruit, and these are also available as curiosities in markets e.g. in Madeira, where they are sold to (mainly) tourists. The fruits may be edible - they have a faint, sweetish / sourish taste - but they also have a highly astringent character (something like extreme kiwi-fruit) which renders them not really worthwhile.
We have two Swiss Cheese plants (one a cutting from the other, and have the continual problem of how to support the very heavy stems & leaves. Canes in the pot are not sturdy enough, and other poles are not well enough supported by just a foot of compost. Any ideas? I'm considering a tripod of poles on the floor next to the pot right now.
The Swiss Cheese plant (Monstera Deliciosa), as its more common name suggests, really was named after Swiss cheese! It acquired this name because of it's large, heart shaped leaves that are dotted with long holes from the edge to the middle of the leaf, thus a connection with the cheese. However, young plants tend to produce fully formed leaves, the holes only emerging with age. So if your own plant is looking more like a plain old cheddar than it's exotic cousin don't worry, given time it will soon start to look as though a giant moth has been to work on it. Originating from the rain forests of Mexico and tropical America, Monstera is a tall, climbing plant, that, in its natural environment, clings to the bark of trees with its pencil-thick aerial roots, and can climb up to thirty feet high, producing leaves that are more than a foot wide as it goes. As a houseplant it rarely reaches such proportions and the tree bark can easily be substituted for bamboo canes or, a more pleasing to the eye, moss pole. Any aerial roots that do not cling to its support can be directed into the plants compost, giving a much tidier appearance and helping the plant to grow stronger. Swiss Cheese plants are an easy plant to grow and care for, but because of the size they can eventually reach, anywhere from eight to twenty feet, they are not suitable to all homes. However, it does take a number of years for them to get to these giant proportions, and if the plant does become too tall it is easy enough to cut it back to the height that suits you best; this then directs the plants energies to producing bushier side growth. But before I go any further a word of warning. The Swiss Cheese plant is poisonous to cats and humans, if you have feline friends or small children this may not be the plant for you. The leaves of the plant contain calcium oxylate and if these, or the sap of the plant, are ingested it will cause intense irritation of the mucous memb
ranes, swelling of the tongue, lips and the palate. If, after coming into contact with the sap of the plant, any of these symptoms occur then seek medical help at once, for you and your pet. I myself don't have children but I do have four cats, by some miracle none of them have ever been interested in any of the many, many plants they share their home with. I have two medium size Swiss Cheese plants but I still make sure to keep them well out of the cats? way. If you really don't want to take the risk then there are plenty of other large growing houseplants on the market that are safe. Still with me after that?! Then read on, because to get a strong, healthy Swiss Cheese plant there are a few requirements. Being a tropical plant, Monstera loves a high humidity level, which can be provided through spraying regularly with a misting bottle or standing the plant on a container of moist pebbles. Year-round heat is preferred, with a winter temperature of no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but they can still do well in a warm room where the temperature does not fluctuate too much. Bright, but not direct, sunlight is preferred and getting as much partially shaded light as possible helps the leaves of an older plant produce more holes. You may think that being so big the Swiss Cheese plant would need plenty of water, but in fact it doesn't. Your plant should be moderately watered at all times, allowing the soil to dry out considerably between each watering. A regular houseplant feed, mixed with its water every two weeks, will be enough to keep it in good condition and producing more leaves. Propagation is also quite easy with this plant and should be done in the spring. Any sections of leaves that are producing aerial roots, or show signs of budding root tips at the base, can be snipped off and potted up in a standard potting compost mix, then kept in a warm place and watered sparingly. If you don't want to take cutting
s from the plant, but prefer it to increase in size, then you will still need to pot it on each Spring, using a large pot each time to take into account how big this plant can get. I have just cut one of my own Monsteras down, not because it was big, but because it had grown rather straggly. This is the first time I have tried cutting back and potting on this plant and three weeks after it is still growing strong and the babies are doing fine. However, always remember to keep away from the sap and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Another demanding aspect of the Swiss Cheese plant is the cleaning of its many leaves. Any plant left to gather dust can look very unattractive, not only that, it is also very unhealthy for the plant, which needs its leaves clean to 'breath'. I wash my large leaved plants with an old, slightly damp t-towel, although you can now buy various pre-dampened leaf wipes from gardening stores. I have also heard of a method of putting a very small amount of vegetable oil on your damp cloth to wipe over the leaves, but do be very careful with this method, as too much oil will block the pores of the leaf. Leaf shine sprays could also be used on this plant, but I tend not to, mainly because I find them very smelly! Now I know some people don't like to think about bugs in their home but, like outdoor plants, houseplants can fall prey to various creepy crawlies. Swiss Cheese plants are prone to Spider Mites, Mealy bugs and Aphids. Luckily they are all treatable with most houseplant insecticides, or a wash with tepid water that has had a very small amount of washing up liquid added. Repeat either of these treatments until all signs of the infestation have gone. The leaves of the Swiss Cheese plant, and their condition, are also a good sign as too how healthy your plant is. If exposed to drafts and fluctuating temperatures leaves become floppy and eventually turn brown. Moving the plant to a warmer are
a and cutting off the damaged leaves will soon restore your plant. Also, brown leaf spots, tears in the leaves and root rot show that the plant is being watered too frequently. Drain of any excess water and allow the plant to thoroughly dry out before watering again. If your new leaves are coming through on the small side or your plant looks stunted for its age, then it is not getting enough light. Whilst full sun is not a good idea for the Monstera, moving it to a partially shaded area will soon perk it back up. One amazing aspect of the Swiss Cheese plant is that it bears fruit! However, although the plant itself is easy to grow, it is very hard to actually produce the fruit. Ideally it needs a constant tropical climate or a very warm greenhouse. Kept in these conditions the plant will produce spear-like flowers, which are then followed by a fruit that looks like a cross between a pinecone and an ear of corn. Before it can be eaten the fruit has to be very, very ripe, and it is said to have a taste that is a blend of pineapple and banana. I have never seen a Monstera in flower, let alone bearing fruit! As well as the common dark green version, the Swiss Cheese plant also come in three other varieties, 'Albovariegata', the leaves of which have irregular, creamy white patches, 'Bonsigiana' an altogether more compact version, and 'Variegata' with a creamy yellow, marbled leaf. However, these three varieties are quite difficult to come by, but if you do find one please let me know, as I wouldn't mind a specimen or two myself! For anyone who is not put off by the poisonous aspect, or the large proportions of the Swiss Cheese plant, they are an ideal plant for beginners. With a degree of care as to its position, water and feeding requirements and cleanliness, a healthy, adult Monstera will make a stunning statement in your living room, hall or conservatory. -------------------- A picture of the Mo
nstera Deliciosa flower can be found at www.dur.ac.uk/~deb0www/dubg/monleaf.html A picture of Monstera Variegata can be viewed at www.plant-a-seed.co.uk/cheese.html To see the fruit of Monstera Deliciosa then go to www.connix.com/~wbrady/nocoment/arch_nc.htm