The Monstera Subpinnata has beautifully lobed, pinnate leaves that resemble a fern. Its playful leaves give it a tropical look we love. 🙂
Caring for the Monstera Subpinnata is easy. It is relatively hardy and low-maintenance. Give it an airy potting mix, high humidity (>80%), and ample bright indirect light for best growth.
Pay attention to your watering practices so that your plant isn’t overwatered, but its roots are well-nourished.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to grow a thriving Monstera Subpinnata!
Table of Contents
Your Monstera Subpinnata’s native range is the rainforests of South East Colombia to Bolivia.
Caring for your Monstera Subpinnata
Your Monstera Subpinnata needs at least 6-8 hours of bright, indirect light daily. The plant should cast a shadow under these lighting conditions but have a shadow that has slightly blurry edges.
Crisp black margins indicate that the light may be a tad too bright. On the other hand, a faint shadow means you should consider relocating your plant to a brighter spot.
Watering your Monstera Subpinnata is much like watering any other Monstera.
Rule #1 is, Check that the top 2 inches (5cm) of soil is dry before watering. If it’s still slightly moist, hold off and check back in a day or two.
Don’t stick to a fixed watering schedule as changes to seasons and growth rate dramatically impact how often your plant needs watering. So blindly following a schedule often leads to over or underwatering.
Instead, do the work and check the topsoil before watering. It’s an easy check but one that saves SO MUCH GRIEF down the line… 😛 Water slowly and deeply, then empty the saucer when you’re done.
Signs of overwatering and underwatering
You will know your Monstera needs watering when the leaves curl inwards and develop brown, crispy tips.
On the other hand, yellowed leaves with soft, droopy stems are a sign of overwatering. Use your finger to check the soil moisture to confirm.
Being a tropical plant, your Monstera Subpinnata loves humidity! While its hard to mimic the extremely high (95-100%) humidity levels of its native rainforest, aim for >80% for best growth.
Having said that, your plant can tolerate average room humidities… it just won’t grow as fast or as vigorously. Its leaves will also tend to be a little lackluster under drier conditions.
The easiest way to increase humidity is to invest in a humidifier, or to use a pebble tray – here’s our guide on how to do it!
Monstera Subpinata hail from Ecuador, where they bask in warmth and humidity. As such, they are not cold-hardy. However, they can be grown outdoors year-round in USDA hardiness zones 10 through 12.
Opt for temperatures between 65-80 degrees F (18-27 degrees C). Drops below this range will lead to slow growth, and, over time, may lead to plant death.
If your winters dip below the ideal range, don’t risk it! We like keeping our Monstera Subpinnata indoors, so the temperatures are warm and stable year-round.
Flowers are considered small and insignificant.
Blooming rarely occurs outside its native environment… and if we are honest, aren’t particularly pretty compared to its exotic foliage!
The Monstera Subpinnata starts off with whole, green oval leaves when young. It develops lobes and its fern-like look as it matures.
When fully grown, it can reach heights of 4-6 feet (1.2 – 1.8 meters) tall.
Its growth rate depends on its growing conditions.
The 3 most important aspects are: sufficient bright indirect light, high humidity >70%, and mild and stable temperatures. Once these aspects are in place, your plant will likely grow rapidly. 🙂
Soil or Growing Medium
For a well-draining potting mix ideal for our Monstera Subpinnata, we like using:
- 1 part Miracle-Gro indoor potting soil
- 1 part perlite
- 1 part orchid bark
- a handful of charcoal
Orchid bark and charcoal create air pockets in between the soil that allows excess water to drain and roots to breathe. Charcoal also is known for fighting impurities in the soil, warding off pests.
Perlite retains some moisture and lightens the mix. We are fond of using the Miracle-Gro indoor potting mix for a nutritious organic base for our Aroids.
This mix is also slightly acidic, which is the ideal pH for your Monstera Subpinnata to absorb nutrients.
There are several different options for fertilizing. We are fans of using a balanced liquid fertilizer once a month, at half strength during the growing season.
The only thing to note is to choose a gentle and urea-free fertilizer to protect sensitive roots. (one such option is Dyna-Gro Grow.)
Hold off watering in winter so that your plant can rest.
Generally, you need to either repot or refresh your Subpinnata’s soil every 2-3 years or when you see signs of it getting root-bound, whichever is earlier.
When your plant is root-bound, it means that its rootball has grown too large for the size of the pot.
Roots start to compact and press against each other until they become a single, overgrown mass. Because they are so tightly squeezed, they cannot breathe easily, let alone effectively draw water and nutrients from the soil.
Signs of a root-bound plant
These are the most common signs of a root-bound Monstera:
- The plant grows much more slowly than usual and has crispy brown or yellow leaves.
- Your plant appears as if it never has enough to drink, no matter how much you water it. Additionally, water takes a long time to drain through the plant. This points to a very densely-packed pot. In severe cases, however, water drains through immediately without being absorbed.
- Your plant has roots emerging from the bottom of the drainage hole or has roots appearing above the soil.
- In extreme cases, your container may be warped due to the pressure of the tightly-squeezed roots pressing against the container. (Of course, this is only applicable if you are using a malleable container).
Monstera Subpinnata is toxic to pets and children when ingested. This is due to the presence of insoluble calcium oxalate crystals contained within its stems and leaves.
Otherwise known as raphides, these needle-like crystals cause pain and a burning sensation. When ingested, it can cause nausea and gastrointestinal issues.
If you are pruning or propagating your plant, use gloves.
Propagating your Monstera Subpinnata is easy. Here’s how:
Water Propagation, using Stem Cuttings
- Identify a part of the stem that is around 5 inches (12cm) long, just below a leaf, that has at least 2 nodes.
- Using clean garden shears, cut just below the node.
- Remove any leaves from the bottom half of the stem cutting.
- Dip the cut end into a rooting hormone. This stimulates fast growth and reduces the risk of infection.
- Place the stem cutting in a jar filled with room temperature water. You should have at least one node below the surface of the water. No leaves should be submerged.
- Place the jar in a warm location, where there is plenty of bright but indirect light.
- Change out the water every few days to keep the water fresh and clear.
- In 3-4 weeks, you should see some new roots forming.
- Once the roots reach about 3 inches (7.6cm) long, you can replant your new plant in a well-draining potting mix in its permanent pot.
Using clean garden shears, snip off any damaged, yellow or diseased leaves to allow your plant to focus its energy on new growth. You can also prune off stems to give the plant a bushy look.
Pruning is best done during spring.
Wiping down leaves
Another part of plant maintenance is wiping down the leaves with a damp cloth. This prevents dust from building up, which attracts pests.
Then wipe dry. This ensures the foliage is not wet, as moist foliage encourages bacteria growth.
Common Pests and Diseases in Monstera Subpinnata
Leaf Spot Disease
Leaf spot diseases weaken plants by interrupting photosynthesis. Spots appear irregular and may be black, brown, tan, or yellow. Thankfully, the disease initially only affects a portion of the leaves, giving you time to stop its spread!
- First, gather and destroy fallen damaged leaves and dispose of them securely. Growth on affected leaves can re-infect other parts of the plant or new healthy plants it comes into contact with.
- Isolate your plant from other plants to prevent contamination.
- Trim off any damaged leaves, again carefully disposing of them. Make sure to sterilize your gardens shears using 70% isopropyl.
- Apply a fungicide that contains chlorothalonil to contain the spread of the infection. Chlorothalonil is an effective broad-spectrum pesticide.
Root rot is due to overwatering, or a soil mix that holds too much water. In both cases, roots cannot breathe, as air molecules in the soil are crowded out by water.
Roots suffocate and eventually decay, turning brown or black and mushy. They may also smell bad.
To prevent this:
- Make sure you have a porous potting mix. Amendments like orchid bark, perlite, and charcoal increase the air in the soil, helping your Monstera Subpinnata to breathe easy.
- Water only when the topsoil is dry.
- Water in the mornings. This reduces the risk that the water stays stagnant in the pot, as evaporation occurs throughout the day.
- Consider the light level. Low-light means low evaporation. Your plant loves bright, indirect light, and evaporation rates are better (higher) for it!
Spider mites are about 1/50 inch (0.5mm) in size, so it’s not easy to observe them directly without a microscope. Instead, look out for pale, grey stipplings on leaves or fine webbing on leaf undersides and near the stems as signs of an infestation.
These sap-sucking pests use sharp mouthparts to pierce plant tissue and feed on sugary sap. This deprives your plant of nutrients.
They also like to feed on chlorophyll, which accounts for the discoloration of leaves when they are present.
To kill off spider mites,
- Isolate your Monstera Subpinnata from other healthy plants to prevent contamination. These insects are highly mobile so can start to infect your other houseplants.
- Take a good look at your plant. Use a water jet to physically dislodge any visible spider mites.
- Spray a neem oil solution on your plant’s stem and foliage. Neem oil works as a broad-based pesticide to inhibit feeding and breathing, and kill off larvae. Check out our guide on how to make a neem oil solution and how to use and reapply this.
- Use sterilized garden shears to cut off damaged parts of the plant. Dispose of this securely; remember, you don’t want to contaminate other plants!
- Re-apply neem oil as necessary.
Like spider mites, aphids are also sap-suckers. They usually cluster on growth ends, where they use sharp mouthparts to pierce plant tissues to reach the sap.
They are usually light green and pear-shaped, about 1/8 of an inch (0.3cm) long. However, there are over 5,000 species of aphids that also come in black, pink, and white.
Kill off aphids the same way you would spider mites (see above!).
Mealybugs look like little bits of cotton wool. While easily recognizable, they like to cluster together in hard-to-reach corners of your Monstera Subpinnata. You may not notice them until the infestation is severe.
For this reason, inspecting your plants regularly is essential!
Thankfully, mealybugs can be eradicated exactly the same way as spider mites and aphids (see above).
Frequently Asked Questions
Should you mist your Monstera Subpinnata?
Well, we personally prefer not to. Use a humidifier if you want to achieve higher humidity levels.
While light misting is usually okay, you run the risk of wet leaves breeding bacteria and fungi spores. Leaf spot is a common disease that can be transmitted and bred through wet leaves.
Is the Monstera Subpinnata rare?
No, they are not particularly rare or hard to find. You should be able to find it easily on Etsy!
But they are a little pricey. A starter pot should cost around US$50.
How do I know if my Monstera Subpinnata is overwatered?
An overwatered Monstera typically has yellowing or brown leaves with soft, mushy stems that causes the plant to droop.
If the topsoil is moist, and remains moist over several days, your plant is overwatered.
- Take the plant out from its pot and examine the roots.
- Snip off any brown or black roots, and repot in fresh (dry) soil.
- Adjust your watering practices, making sure NOT to water your plant unless the topsoil is dry.
- Check out the soil section to make sure you are adding enough drainage elements like bark and charcoal to ensure excess water drains away quickly.
- Lastly, make sure your pot HAS drainage holes, and that you empty the saucer every time you water. This is a non-negotiable!! 🙂
Similar Plants and Varieties
A mature Monstera Pinnatipartita has similar green lobes to your Monstera Subpinnata. However, when young, you can easily tell the two apart.
The Pinnatipartita starts life as an appressed vine, hugging closely to a host tree. In its juvenile state, it has a leaf blade that is heavily textured with bumps and grooves!
Its transformation to an elegant, glossy and smooth palm-like frond is remarkable. 🙂
The Rhaphidophora Decursiva is an easy-going tropical plant from the same Aroid family. It is NOT a Monstera, though it’s easy to see why many people mistake it as one!
Like the Monstera Subpinnata, young Decursiva leaves grow whole and oval before developing long slits.
Another look-like is the lovely Monstera Spruceana. The Spruceana develops a similar palm-like frond when mature.
In its youth, juvenile leaves are whole, just like the Monstera Subpinnata.
Other Monsteras we Love
- Monstera Dubia, a Monstera known for its transformation from shingle plant to fenestrated mature leaf.
- Monstera Siltepecana, also known as the Silver Monster for its lovely silvery sheen on juvenile leaves.
- Monstera Esqueleto, the skeleton Monstera with double fenestrated leaves.
The Monstera Subpinnata is a beautiful tropical plant sure to bring a touch of the tropics to your home. Caring for it is easy:
- Provide it bright, indirect light for at least 6-8 hours a day.
- Water deeply to nourish the roots, but water only when the topsoil is dry.
- Fertilize lightly, once a month at half strength when the plant is actively growing.
- Keep humidity >80%.
- Keep temperatures between 65-80 degrees F (18-27 degrees C).
- Inspect leaves for common pests and leaf spot disease.
Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.