Monsteras have become one of the most easily recognized houseplants around. You can find their giant swiss cheese leaves plastered on t-shirts, notebooks, and even wall art! They are filled with personality and add a unique touch to any home.
The world has undoubtedly fallen in love with Monsteras. But with almost 50 known species in this plant genus, it’s not always easy to tell them apart. Monsteras change quite a bit as they grow and sometimes can only be identified once they reach maturity. It’s so hard to tell young Monsteras apart that even nurseries frequently mislabel different varieties.
The easiest way to tell the difference between Monstera varieties is by the leaf shape, the type of holes, leaf color, and the way the plant grows.
Let’s look at some of the most common Monstera varieties and how to tell them all apart!
How Do I Know What Kind of Monstera I Have?
One of the most challenging things about distinguishing Monsteras is that they all look similar. Young Monsteras often don’t have very many unique features. It’s not until the plant matures and the leaves get bigger that you can genuinely tell what species it is.
Features like leaf shape, hole configuration, leaf color, and how the plant grows will all help you identify which Monstera you have.
Certain Monsteras, such as Monstera Deliciosa, have broad leaves with large perforations. Other Monsteras like Monstera Dubia have multi colored leaves with rarely any holes.
Once you identify a few of these key features, it’s pretty easy to know which Monstera you have!
Let’s look at some of the most common Monstera species available in nurseries.
Monstera Deliciosa is probably the most popular and sought-after Monstera species out there. Monstera Deliciosa can be recognized by its long, thick cylindrical stems with few or no branches. In the wild, these stems can grow up to 70 feet (21 m) high!
One other key trait of Monstera Deliciosa is its leaves. It has glossy, heart-shaped leaves that can grow up to 18 feet (5 m) wide.
Monstera Deliciosa also has a unique split leaf structure, unlike other Monstera species, which have distinct holes. These splits help the plant grow bigger by allowing more light to pass through to the lower leaves.
Monstera Adansonii is also commonly known as the ‘swiss cheese plant.’ It develops large holes called fenestrations as the plant matures.
Its leaves are not as broad nor as large as Monstera Deliciosa. They are also lighter green and have a waxy texture compared to Monstera Deliciosa’s shiny dark green leaves.
Monstera Adansonii are also notable climbers. They have downward-facing aerial roots, which help the plant push against supports to grow upward. In the wild, they grow on the sides of trees, and as a houseplant, they are often staked to help them grow upright.
If you like climbing houseplants, this species of Monstera is for you!
As a young plant, Monstera Dubia leaves are heart-shaped and display multiple shades of green. They don’t develop fenestrations until well into maturity and only on the topmost leaves, which experience the most sunlight.
When grown indoors, this species usually doesn’t reach higher than 5-6 feet (1.5-1.8 m). Unlike the more unpredictable Monstera Adansonii, Monstera Dubia grows straight upward in a neat line. The leaves uniquely lie flat, so it’s common for gardeners to stake them with a plank.
Like the Monstera Deliciosa, Monstera Pinnatipartita has large leaves with slots rather than holes. The slots on the Monstera Pinnatipartita extend to the leaf’s midrib, giving them a more dramatic appearance.
It can be challenging for even seasoned botanists to identify this plant as a juvenile. The leaves tend to be solid until the plant is mature only then the fenestrations appear.
Monstera Siltepecana is also known as silver Monstera due to its beautiful solid metallic leaves. This coloration only occurs during the plant’s juvenile phase. The mature plant looks completely different, with deep green leaves and fenestrations.
This Monstera can be recognized easily by its lance-shaped leaves, which are much longer and narrower than most other Monstera varieties. Monstera Siltepecana is also a great climber, so it’s the perfect candidate for a moss pole.
How Many Types of Monsteras Are There?
According to the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, there are currently 49 accepted species of Monstera that have been discovered.
Where things get a little blurry is when you start talking about variegated versions.
Even if you’ve never heard of the term variegated, you’ve likely seen pictures of those beautiful marbled Monstera Deliciosa leaves. This mixture of green and white coloration is typically due to a cell mutation which causes some of the plant’s cells to lack chlorophyll.
This lack of chlorophyll results in unique patterns such as dots, stripes, or splotches. A plant’s leaves can become two-toned or even tri-colored as well.
Although they are not official Monstera species, growers have given certain variegations their own names. Popular variegations of Monstera Deliciosa include “Thai Constellation” and “Albo Borsigiana”.
Rare Monstera Species
Due to the rising popularity of Monsteras as houseplants, the rarer varieties can go for a pretty penny. One of the most sought-after and rare Monstera species is Monstera Obliqua.
This Monstera is so rare that you won’t find it in nurseries. And if you do, it’s likely a mislabelled Monstera Adansonii. You can only buy this plant from distributors, and it won’t come cheap.
So, what makes this plant so special? First and foremost, Monstera Obliqua is not as common in the wild as other Monstera varieties. Monstera Obliqua “Peru” also has unique fenestrations that take up 90% of the leaf. This results in an extremely fragile plant. This fragility makes growing and transportation difficult.
Part of its rarity is also because this plant is very slow to propagate. It can take 12-18 months just for a new leaf to form!
Why Does My Monstera Have No Holes?
There are two common reasons for Monstera leaves not to have holes. Either the plant is too young, or the plant is not getting enough sunlight.
Young Monsteras typically do not start with fenestrations. This is what makes identifying Monsteras at this age so difficult. Certain species like Monstera Deliciosa can take 2-3 years to produce fenestrations. Other species like Monstera Adansonii produce leaves with fenestrations early on, depending on the species.
If your plant is mature and still not producing fenestrations, it may be due to a lack of sunlight. Light helps produce the energy these plants need to develop their leaves. Monstera leaves are sensitive to direct sunlight, so make sure your plant only receives indirect sun. They should be getting 5-8 hours of light a day.
Can a Regular Monstera Become Variegated?
What makes variegated Monsteras so sought-after is that this genetic mutation is rare. The chance of having a variegated Monstera is 1 in every 100,000 plants. There is no way of knowing if a propagated or seeded Monstera plant will be variegated.
There are two main types of variegation: genetic and chimeric. Genetic variegation is passed down from plant to plant and is stable, meaning it won’t disappear. Chimeric variegation is random and not consistent. You can try to propagate the variegated part of a plant to replicate the effect, but there’s no guarantee the new plant will be variegated.
If you want a guaranteed variegated plant, it’s best to buy one from a reputable seller. A good seller will use cuttings from a genetically variegated plant.
Is Monstera Deliciosa the Same as Split Leaf Philodendron?
Although these names are often used interchangeably, Monstera Deliciosa and Split-Leaf Philodendron are two separate plants.
These two plants come from two different genera: Monstera and Philodendron. Despite this difference, they have very similar care requirements, are native to the same general area, and even look the same!
Split Leaf Philodendrons tend to grow smaller than Monstera Deliciosa. Their leaves have a ruffled texture compared to the smooth Monstera. Split Leaf Philodendrons also grow horizontally rather than upward, as Monsteras do.
It’s easy to see how this unique plant became a household darling. No matter which variety of Monstera you have, there’s always something intriguing about its leaves or growth. The easiest way to tell the difference between Monstera varieties is by the leaf shape, the type of holes, leaf color, and the way the plant grows.
Many young Monsteras lack defining traits, so they are tricky to identify. Because of this, it’s common for Monstera varieties to be mislabelled at the nursery, so you may even end up with a surprise!
Once your Monstera reaches maturity, you can usually tell which species it is by the shape of the leaf and its fenestrations. For certain species, the leaf color will also be a dead giveaway. Also, watch for how the plant grows and if it prefers a single stem like the Monstera Deliciosa or likes to climb, such as Monstera Adansonii.