Discover the Secret to Keeping Your Swiss Cheese Plant Healthy and Happy
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Swiss cheese plants originally became popular in the 1970s and they are enjoying a revival now because, as a houseplant, swiss cheese plants are very easy to care for. These plants quickly grow and will easily become tall plants. They are also good air purifiers for your home. I actually have several Monstera, with my biggest plant currently being around 6ft tall. Swiss cheese plants are incredibly easy to look after, and it all starts with providing them with the right location, somewhere warm in indirect sunlight, and being careful with how much water they receive.
Here’s what you need to know about the necessary conditions you need to provide for your swiss cheese plant to keep it thriving, happy and healthy.
Different types of Swiss cheese plants
The overall plant category (genus) for these plants is Monstera, but within these are several popular species. Monstera deliciosa is the most common cheese plant found in people’s homes and my personal favourite. It has long, lobed leaves and elongated holes in the adult leaves.
Monstera epipremnioodes look almost the same as Monstera deliciosa, but instead of holes in the leaves, it has long slashes coming in from the outer edges. Monstera adansonii is somewhere in the middle with heart-shaped leaves with holes in them.
Whichever variety you have, caring for your Swiss cheese plant is the same.
Make sure they receive enough light, however, avoid direct sunlight light because this burns the leaves and turns them yellow and brown
Caring for a swiss cheese plant involves providing them with the right amount and kind of light. These are tropical plants that are used to growing underneath huge trees. They do require sunlight, making sure it is bright and indirect light, although they will tolerate a little shade too. The leaves burn easily if they are exposed to too much direct sunlight, which, aside from watering, is one of the reasons the leaves on the Monstera sometimes turn yellow.
Create indirect sunlight by placing the plant a few feet away from a window that’s covered by a net curtain, or alternatively position them away from a window where they still receive plenty of light, just not direct sunlight.
Swiss cheese plants can handle some direct sunlight in a day, but not more than a couple of hours of it in the morning. On the other hand, if swiss cheese plants don’t receive enough light, they will still grow but won’t develop their signature leaf holes which gives them the name swiss cheese plant.
Choosing the right soil for your Monstera
Swiss cheese plants aren’t too fussy about the pH of the soil they grow in, be it acid, alkaline, or neutral. However, a pH of between 5.5 and 7 is the best environment, so using a general houseplant compost is usually ideal.
These plants grow well in a wide variety of soils if you grow them outdoors in a mild climate. Clay, loam, sand, and chalk are all fine soils for their growing environment. The key here is that the soil should be moist but well-drained because they don’t like having wet feet.
The same conditions apply to growing the swiss cheese plant indoors as a houseplant, as I do. In your pot use a peat-based potting mix. This ensures good drainage after you water the plant. Don’t use bark or compost in the mix as, although they provide nutrients to the plant, they hold onto too much water which in turn will lead to root rot.
Water correctly and avoid under or overwatering
Swiss Cheese plants like consistently moist soil, but not soil that is too wet. It is incredibly important to be consistent in keeping the soil moist rather than watering the plant to a strict schedule, for example, once a week. What I will say, is that I would rather have my plants getting a little dry rather than too wet because I have always managed to recover them when they have been a little dry, however, when too wet they can get root rot and die.
To tell if your plant needs more water, reach your finger down about 3cm into the soil. If it feels nearly dry when you touch it, it’s time to give the plant more water. To give some context, I usually water my established plants once every week or two.
Water the plant thoroughly until the water runs out the bottom of the pot. (You should have quite a few drainage holes in the base of the container.) Make sure that all the excess water drains out of the container before you return the plant to its location. A waterlogged plant can encourage root rot to move in. See our Swiss cheese plant pests and diseases guide for more details about this problem.
You will find that your plant doesn’t need as much watering in the winter as it will in the summer. This is down to the fact that they aren’t growing as much, and the room it’s in is likely cooler unless you have the central heating on. In this case, read the next section where you will find information on humidity.
If you find the leaves on your swiss cheese plant are turning yellow you are probably overwatering the plant.
Temperature and humidity. They like to be misted.
As tropical plants, swiss cheese plants have been used to warm temperatures and high humidity. Conditions such as these in the UK are found only indoors for most of the year. These plants thrive in a temperature range of 15˚C to 29˚C and their preferred humidity is 50% or higher. Your well-lit bathroom is probably a good spot for your cheese plant.
Heat is easier to provide to your cheese plant than humidity. Occasionally misting the plant with a water spray helps to introduce the moisture it needs, as does using a humidifier in the room in which the plant is located.
Taking the plant outside
You can take your swiss cheese plant outside during the summer months if it’s warm weather. If you do so, be careful though to put it in a sheltered, shaded location and keep track of what the overnight temperatures are going to be so that it doesn’t become too cold for the plant’s comfort.
If you live in a semi-tropical climate (such as Florida) you can consider growing your cheese plant outdoors as a garden plant. Be sure to bring it inside though before the cooler temperatures of early autumn nights kick in.
Caring for a swiss cheese plant also involves making sure it gets all the nutrients that it needs. When you first pot (or after you repot your plant) the new potting mix contains enough nutrients for the plant to thrive. Later on, start fertilising your plant monthly with a general purpose fertiliser.
Note that this only applies to the spring and summer months. In the autumn and winter the plant doesn’t grow and so won’t need any extra nutrients.
As your cheese plant grows, it becomes floppy. This plant is, by nature, a climbing plant so it’s looking for support to climb up. Place a wooden pole, perhaps covered with moss to make it look more attractive, in the pot with the plant. The plant then pushes itself up the pole. You may choose to help it by tying the stems with a strong thread (twine is okay to use) or twisting ties around the pole.
If you choose not to stake the plant, it will spread out and sprawl across the floor. This is not something I would personally do, although they look amazing growing in baskets. This is another look for the Swiss cheese plant.
Interesting note: In the wild, the plant uses its aerial roots to push it up trees that it then clings to. You can leave the aerial roots in place for just this purpose which will allow them to use the pole (this is how I grow mine) or choose to trim them off if you don’t like the look of them.
The Swiss cheese plant grows quickly and the leaves are large, so they attract dust. You can choose to lightly dust them by using a damp cloth from time to time. This keeps them looking glossing and it also helps the plant to breathe by removing the dust that’s clogging up the pores on the surfaces of the leaves.
And along these lines – don’t polish the plant’s leaves with furniture polish to make them shine even more. This does clog up the leaves’ pores and is unhealthy for the plant. Plus, it’s just unnecessary.
While pruning isn’t necessary for the care of the swiss cheese plant, you may need to do it from time to time if the plant outgrows its allotted space. The best time to prune the plant back is in the spring although this task can be done at any time if you are removing diseased or dying leaves or bits of stems.
Use a sharp cutting tool and sterilise it well. Cut back stems by less than 25%. Find a leaf node on the stem and cut the stem just above the node. This leaves a place for a new leaf to develop.
Pruning also lets you have some control over the shape your cheese plant grows in. If you want it to be taller than wider, don’t prune the stems in the middle but keep the side stems cut back. If you are looking for a wider shape, prune the middle stems down. This is also a good time to take cuttings for propagation because you can use some of the pruned stems as cuttings.
Make sure to wear gloves when you prune your swiss cheese plant because, just like the Euphorbia and Skimmia, the sap from the plant can irritate the skin. And if you’re cutting away diseased or dying parts of the plant, sterilise your cutting tool between each cut.
Like most other tropical houseplants, swiss cheese plants contain crystals of calcium oxalate. These are toxic to dogs and cats, so if your pets happen to nibble on the leaves of your plant these crystals will irritate their mouths, tongue, and lips and cause drooling and vomiting. They may also have difficulty swallowing. I have a pet cat and she has never shown any interest in our swiss cheese plant since the day we placed it in our home, but it’s just something to be aware of.