Newest Review: ... 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; typicall... more
Mostrously large houseplant
Swiss Cheese Plant
Member Name: worst_trip
Swiss Cheese Plant
Advantages: Very easy to grow & propagate; spectacular indoor plant
Disadvantages: May grow too large for human habitations (mine did!)
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.
Summary: Deservedly popular houseplant
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