There are so many plants that it can become hard to figure out what you have or what you want. When it comes to houseplants, two popular choices are monstera and split-leaf philodendron. To help you discover which plant you prefer, check out this guide to the similarities and differences between them.
Monstera vs. split-leaf philodendron: Originating in tropical climates, monstera and split-leaf philodendrons are great options for house plants. They are easy to care for but need warm, humid conditions to thrive. Both plants have jagged leaves but while split-leaf philodendrons have rough edges, monstera plants naturally create holes in their leaves.
What is Monstera Deliciosa?
Native to Southern Mexico, the monstera deliciosa plant is known for its unique split leaves. These occur naturally so, unlike other plants with the same issue, this is not a sign that there is something wrong with the plant.
What is a Split Leaf Philodendron?
You can find split-leaf philodendrons in Central and South America. They have large leaves that are split along the side and if you are lucky enough to live in a large home, their grand size will prove to be an amazing décor element.
How do you tell the difference between Monstera Deliciosa and Split Leaf Philodendron?
Even though the monstera deliciosa and split-leaf philodendron are two completely different plants, they are actually sometimes sold under interchangeable names. This can understandably cause a lot of issues once you start caring for a plant, only to realize it isn’t thriving as you want it to.
If you are looking at a gardening center or have been gifted a plant, but your friend isn’t sure what it actually is, here are some ways to distinguish between the two types.
Both monstera and split-leaf philodendrons share a similar leaf design, which is one of the reasons they are mistaken for each other. Their leaves have a heart shape to them, starting at the stem to curve upward and then tapering at the bottom.
Unfortunately, this common characteristic won’t help you distinguish the two plants.
At first glance, you might think that the leaves of both split-leaf philodendrons and monsteras are the same. After all, they are not leaves that are perfectly rounded but instead have edges and holes to them.
Look closely, however, and you will see that their leaves are drastically different. Monstera leaves have holes in the middle of them.
These holes are made by the plant ripping in the middle of its leaves, usually to allow more light to filter to the lower parts of the plant. The process is actually called fenestration and can occur more regularly as the plant ages.
In contrast, split-leaf philodendron simply has jagged edges. You will notice that there aren’t holes in the middle of the leaves but rather the edges of the leaves open up, almost as if there are multiple leaves held together by a middle column.
Even if the holes of a monstera plant are large enough to reach the edges, the sides of the leaves are relatively smooth. Split-leaf philodendrons have edges that are quite jagged.
When you feel the leaves of a monstera plant, you will find a smooth, almost silky texture to them. Indeed, even if you look at them, you will expect a smooth quality of the leaves.
With split-leaf philodendrons, the texture will be rougher. This is true both on the surface of the leaves and around the edges.
A major difference between split-leaf philodendrons and monsteras is how they grow. Above all else, this is an easy way to distinguish between them.
Split-leaf philodendron plants will grow more horizontally. They will also grow very quickly and in less than a year they will double in size, both in height and width.
If left alone, and given the right growing conditions, split-leaf philodendrons can end up growing up to 15 feet wide. Not only do you need to have plenty of space in your home to accommodate them, but you also need to be prepared to repot these plants every year or two.
Those that are short on space in their homes will be more appreciative of monstera plants. Instead of growing out they grow up and will appreciate a trellis for extra support.
While they can grow a foot or two each year, this is much less than the super speed of split-leaf philodendrons.
It’s important to remember that in the wild, monstera plants use nearby trees to help them grow in order to reach better sunlight. This is also why their leaves have the ability to split, as it will allow them to grow taller and still ensure enough sunlight passes on to the rest of the plant.
Both monstera and split-leaf philodendrons are large indoor plants, so be sure you have plenty of space for them before planting. If you are worried about them overcrowding an area, then you will need to be diligent about pruning.
Monsteras can grow up to 10 feet indoors. They primarily grow upward so you don’t need as much space for their width.
Split-leaf philodendrons can grow between 10 and 20 feet when planted indoors. This growth is both tall and wide, so be prepared to give your plant plenty of space.
It’s not enough to simply say you want a monstera or split-leaf philodendron. In fact, there are dozens of varieties within each plant group.
While this is great, as you can find a plant that exactly matches your wants and needs, it can also be overwhelming. If you’re unsure about what you want, start with the major categories, such as size and color, and then work backward to find the variety you want.
It’s best to talk with plant experts to narrow down your choices. Whether it’s good or bad is how you perceive it, but there are actually new varieties of each type of plant that are crafted each year.
Monstera Deliciosa and Split Leaf Philodendron Care
Because monsteras and split-leaf philodendrons are tropical plants that are usually grown inside, they share a lot of similar care instructions. While you can technically treat them the same, knowing their individual preferences will allow them to thrive even more.
When planting your monstera or split-leaf philodendrons, always start with clean potting soil. Even if you have a bag of soil you want to get rid of, if it is old it may be contaminated and bacteria can transfer from the soil to your plants.
You also want to use potting soil that is specific to tropical plants. This will have a higher percentage of coconut coir, which will help keep the soil nice and airy.
The main takeaway for soil with either plant is that proper drainage is key. The soil should be consistently moist but not sopping wet.
If the water can’t drain properly, then root rot can set in. Always use a pot with drainage holes and then place it in a larger, decorative container to catch any water. You can also add a layer of rocks to the bottom of the pot to further help with drainage.
While split-leaf philodendrons prefer soil that is continuously moist, monsteras can go longer between watering and don’t mind soil that is slightly dry. Still, you should never allow the soil to grow so dry it becomes brittle.
Instead of water a little at a time, water each plant and observe if any leaks through the drainage holes. This is a sign that the soil is becoming saturated.
Then, allow the soil to sit like this for a few days or up to a week before watering again. In the summer, the water in the soil will evaporate more quicker, so you will need to increase the amount of watering.
Try to avoid watering so much that there is a lot of water left in a container. This water can stagnate and affect the health of the plant roots, leading to root rot.
If your potting soil doesn’t have many nutrients in it, to begin with, you will need to amend it. Use a general purpose, indoor plant fertilizer for both types of plants.
One area that monsteras and split-leaf philodendrons differ, however, is the frequency with that they need fertilizer.
You will want to apply new fertilizer to your split-leaf philodendron plants once a month during their growing period. Without these extra nutrients, the plants won’t be able to grow as they should.
With monsteras, you only need to fertilize once or twice a year. While they are fine without much more, you can increase the amount during their growing period to ensure their leaves are large and lush.
When it comes to caring for both monstera and split-leaf philodendron plants, they have many similar needs. They are both tropical houseplants, so caring for them is easier.
As for light, place them in areas that get direct sunlight. Indoors, this means areas near large windows. The goal is to get at least eight hours of sunlight.
However, too much sun can actually be detrimental. Instead of placing the plants in front of windows, where they will get direct sunlight, angle them away so they get indirect sunlight.
In particular, monstera plants are susceptible to sunscald and the bright light and heat through a window can be magnified, resulting in burnt patches on the leaves.
If you live in a southern area with a warmer climate, you may be able to plant both monsteras and split-leaf philodendrons in your garden. In this case, you can plant them in partial shade and they will still thrive.
As we’ve mentioned, monstera and split-leaf philodendrons are tropical plants. They can only survive outside if you live in an area that doesn’t have a winter frost.
Most people shouldn’t take the risk which is why both are popular as houseplants. Keep them in a room that has a warm radiant temperature.
Try not to place either plant too close to a window as in the winter, the glass can become too cold for the plants. Instead, leave a clearance of a few feet so the temperature stays steady.
An important climate aspect to consider with both plants is that a tropical environment is humid. It’s not enough to simply have a warm area to place the plants.
Most homes are not naturally humid as that is uncomfortable and damaging to furniture. Some houses even go so far as to run a dehumidifier.
While you don’t need to purchase a special humidifier for your new plants, you can still recreate the humid atmosphere. Keep a small spray bottle of water near your plants and gently mist them every day. This will keep the air moist and allow the plants to slowly absorb water.
Due to their large growth potential, be prepared to repot both your monsteras and split-leaf philodendrons. For monsteras, aim to do this every two years, and for split-leaf philodendrons, do this every one to two years.
Signs that your plants need repotting include slower growth, compact roots, and yellow or brown spots on the leaves. If there isn’t enough soil in the container, your plants won’t get enough water or nutrients to grow.
If you don’t want your plants to grow larger, you can keep them in the same size pot. However, you should still remove the root structure and replace the soil. This way you can start with fresh soil that has more nutrients in it and you can inspect the soil to see if there is any fungus in it, which can affect the health of your plants.
Both monstera deliciosas and split-leaf philodendrons are a type of tropical plants. They have large, green leaves but while philodendrons have split along the side of their leaves, monsteras will develop these splits in the middle of their leaves.