We listed both Philodendron and Monstera (and Rhaphidaphora - we'll get to them) on this care guide, as if to say that they are different, and that is because they are. While the care for them is the same, in most cases, there is a difference in the taxonomy of the two that has a very simple explanation Most people think that Monstera Delicioso is a Philodendron. That's easy to understand, especially when the common name given to it is 'Split Leaf Philodendron'. The difference is simple, but not always seen in houseplants, because it takes maturity and years of the correct growing conditions to see. While many Philodendrons and all Monsteras have 'split leaves', only Monsteras will fenestrate. You can look that fun word, and others, up on our Plant Jargon page, but we'll spell it out for you here too.
Fenestration is a long word to describe the holes and splits in the leaves of a Monstera. Your traditional Golden Pothos, when grown vertically, will produce leaves many feet in length, and will, in fact, split. They won't, however, fenestrate, or produce leaves with holes in them. Below is an example of a more mature Monstera Delicioso leaf. The difference between a Monstera and a Philodendron is those holes. That's it.
Now, let's talk about Rhaphidophora. The most common Rhaphidophora is the Tetrasperma, knick-named 'Monstera Minima'. The "minima" portion to that is exactly the difference between Monsteras and Rhaphidophoras. The meaning of 'Monstera' is monstrous, large, huge, big! While Rhaphidophoras will fenestrate, they are smaller leafed species.
Philodendron - Leaves may split with maturity. Do not fenestrate.
Monstera - Large leafed species that split with maturity and fenestrate.
Rhaphidophora - Smaller leafed species that split with maturity and fenestrate.
Easy enough, right? Let's get on with the care!
Philodendrons, Monsteras and Rhaphidophora all like bright light. Some want more sun than others, but they all like light. Filtered, indirect is generally fine for them, as they are pretty easy going, but you may notice that they tend to grow, reaching for more sunshine. In many cases, most Philos, Monsteras and Rhaphs can acclimate to tolerate a few hours of full, direct sun. In their native living conditions, many of these amazing plants climb up trees to get to more sun. We've seen Monstera Delicioso and even Golden Pothos in full Florida sun, all day, and love it.
Philodendron, Monstera and Rhaphidophora all enjoy their water. While they don't want to be soggy, they do not want to dry out. Leaves will wilt, brown and wrinkle pretty quickly. Checking the soil on your plant every 3-4 days is good practice until you figure out your watering schedule. If the top inch or 2 of the soil is dry, it is time to give it a drink. Because they do not like to sit in murky, stagnant water, planters with drainage are preferred to allow excess water to escape.
Because all three of these types of plants are strong growers, we recommend a regular feeding program of high quality, water soluble fertilizer all year, diluting the fertilizer to about 50% strength. Fish Head Farms soil conditioner is a great option to use year round, with the fertilizer, to provide essential nutrients and promote strong, healthy growth.
While a general purpose, organic, high-quality commercial mix is typically fine for Philodendrons, Monsteras and Rhaphidophoras, it is just that. Fine. We like to mix a very chunky mixture of Coco, peat, big Perlite, Vermiculite and maybe even some Sphagnum moss. This mixture will dry out fast, so regular watering is essential, however, these plants love a light, airy mixture.
Our Philodendrons, Monsteras and Rhaphidophora are typically in a pot size that is appropriate for them for a while. We only recommend repotting once a year, and even then, you only want to move up 2" or so in pot sizes to reduce stress. This should be done in the Spring or early Summer months. If you have just recently purchased your plant, do not repot it for at least 6 months.
If you are growing your Philo, Monstera, or Rhaph vertically, there is typically no need to repot, as the roots in the soil are there for some water absorption and stability. If you are using a moss pole or totem, you should also be watering that a few times a week because the aerial roots will drink it in.
The most common pest issues for Philodendrons, Monstera and Rhaphidophora are Mealy Bugs and Red Spider Mites, however, Scale and thrip can cause issues. It is always best practice to isolate any new plants you bring in to your home for a few weeks to watch for little pests. For help and tips on prevention and treatment of pests, see our At Home Pest Recipes here!
If you have any more questions, or need further assistance, please feel free to give us a call or shoot us an email!