Most people think of Monsteras as having large, glossy, impressive leaves with big fenestrations in them, but this isn’t always the case. If your Monstera seems to be producing very tiny foliage, you may be able to take action to fix the problem – so let’s look at why Monstera leaves are growing small (and how to make them bigger).
Monstera leaves can grow small for a range of reasons. Your plant may be getting too much or too little food, it may be in an unsuitable container, or it might be growing in the wrong kind of soil. Alternatively, it’s possible that your Monstera is growing badly because the temperature is unsuitable, the air is too dry, or it’s getting too much or too little water.
Reason One: Too Much Food
If you have over-fertilized your Monstera, it might respond by producing very small leaves. That may sound surprising, as usually, plants that have plenty of food produce lots of foliage and new growth.
However, too much food is a problem because it will lead to a buildup of nutrients and salts in the plant’s soil. This can burn the Monstera’s roots, making it more difficult for it to access these nutrients, and stunting its growth.
You may be able to see that you have over-fertilized your plant by looking for a buildup of yellow or white crystals on the surface of the soil. This indicates that salts and other nutrients are present in excessive quantities.
What To Do
You shouldn’t be fertilizing your Monstera more than every 2-4 weeks in the summer, and if your plant’s growth seems to be slowing down and its leaves are small, decrease the frequency and quantity.
Rinse your plant’s container with some fresh water to get rid of the excess nutrients, and your plant should start to grow healthy leaves again.
Reason Two: Too Little Food
Of course, the opposite situation can also be an issue. If you never feed your Monstera and it hasn’t been repotted for a while, it will start to struggle to find food. Without food, it won’t have the nutrients necessary for building large new leaves, and will instead produce small ones.
What To Do
Make sure you do fertilize your Monstera from time to time. Although too little is generally better than too much, fertilizing your plant every month or so will help to encourage good growth and keep the leaves healthy.
Reason Three: Unsuitable Container
Your Monstera’s container can also have an impact on how well it is able to grow large new leaves, so choose with care. If the container is too small, this will restrict the plant’s growth and prevent it from getting larger, because its roots will be constricted.
You also need to think about the material and the drainage of the container and make sure these are suitable.
The porousness of the pot will make a difference to your watering routine. Plants in terracotta pots need more frequent watering because the pots will lose water to the surrounding air. However, these pots allow for better drying and more oxygen exchange, so many people prefer them.
If you have your Monstera in a plastic pot, you will need to be more careful about how frequently you water it and how compacted you let the soil get.
Similarly, check the drainage that the pot allows. Even a porous pot needs good drainage holes, or your Monstera will end up sitting in marshy soil, which will make it unhappy and prevent it from growing properly.
What To Do
Assess whether your plant’s container is suitable, and consider repotting it. Think about size, material, and drainage when choosing the next container, and make sure that your plant has enough room and the right environment.
Most Monsteras will benefit from being repotted every two to three years. They like to be a little pot-bound, so don’t rush to get a new container every time your plant grows, but don’t leave it struggling in a really cramped pot.
Reason Four: Wrong Soil
Monsteras love a loose, airy potting mix. They prefer it to drain well but retain some moisture, and you shouldn’t just stick them in pure compost if you want them to be happy. Compost will compact around the plant’s roots and stop them from getting enough oxygen.
This will prevent the plant from growing properly and may affect its foliage.
What To Do
Purchase an aroid soil or make your own using a mixture of coco coir, perlite, compost, and pine bark. Monsteras like richness and looseness, so mimic this as much as possible, and their new leaves should grow large and impressive.
Reason Five: Poor Temperature
If the temperature is unsuitable for your Monstera, it will not grow big, healthy leaves. These rainforest plants despise the cold and will respond by ceasing to grow entirely or producing only small, unimpressive foliage.
You don’t want your plant to be permanently hot, either. In the natural world, temperatures drop at night, and this sends signals to the plant to grow new tissues. If your Monstera never experiences any cool air, it may struggle.
What To Do
Ensure that your plant is kept at around 75 degrees F during the day and at least 65 degrees F during the night. Monsteras will tolerate an occasional dip below this, but if your plant is constantly too cold, it will start to struggle and will no longer grow well.
Similarly, don’t keep your plant in an extremely hot environment, or it won’t produce healthy new foliage.
Reason Six: The Air Is Too Dry
Monsteras are native to rainforests, where the air is very often damp, meaning the leaves are wet most of the time. This dampness keeps the moisture levels within the leaves consistent and helps them to grow well.
Most homes are too dry for Monsteras, so it’s a good idea to humidify your plant occasionally if you want it to grow properly. This will encourage it to produce large leaves.
What To Do
Either purchase a humidifier or regularly mist your plant’s leaves and soil to increase the humidity. Putting other plants nearby may also help to boost the humidity levels.
Reason Seven: Over-Watering
Many people over-water their Monsteras in their determination to look after them well. Although these plants do prefer a damp environment, being over-watered will seriously hamper their ability to grow.
Being over-watered will damage your plant’s roots, affecting its ability to take in water and nutrients. Without enough of these resources, it will not be able to produce large leaves. Small foliage may be an early symptom, but this will get worse if you continue to over-water your plant.
What To Do
Check your plant’s soil before you water it. If it isn’t dry to around two inches down, the plant does not yet need a drink. Be sparing with your water to reduce the risk of root rot.
If you think your plant has got root rot, you will need to repot it and minimize the damage. To do this, remove your Monstera from its container, and brush or wash the remaining soil from its roots. Compost this soil, and then focus on getting the roots dry.
You can use paper towels to blot at the roots. As you do so, inspect them. They should be light and cream in color, and firm to the touch. If they have turned brown or mushy, they have started to rot.
You will need to cut away all of the rotted roots using a pair of sterile scissors. When you have only healthy roots remaining, allow them to dry out as much as possible, and then repot your Monstera into well-draining soil.
Treat the plant very gently for the next few weeks, especially if you have removed a lot of roots. It can take months for a plant to recover from this sort of shock.
Reason Eight: Under-Watering
Of course, going too far the other way will also hamper your plant’s ability to grow well. Plants take in nutrients when they take in water, so if there is no water in your plant’s container, it will not be able to get the food it needs.
Your Monstera also needs water to develop healthy new leaf tissue, and persistent under-watering is therefore very likely to lead to small, limp foliage being produced.
What To Do
Regularly check whether your Monstera is ready for a drink yet. If the soil is dry to around two inches down, it is time to water it. This is particularly true if your plant is in a terracotta pot.
Your Monstera can also take in water through its aerial roots, so humidifying it regularly will help to reduce the risk of it being under-watered. Spray the aerial roots from time to time, and the plant will be happier and healthier.
Reason Nine: Poor Lighting
Lighting is a key aspect of growth for any plant; plants absorb energy from the sun and need this to build new foliage. If your Monstera isn’t getting enough light, it will struggle to grow and may put out leggy tendrils with small leaves in an attempt to capture more sunlight.
Interestingly, low light conditions can also affect the production of leaf fenestrations. If your Monstera is not getting enough light, the leaves it produces will lack the classic holes that so many people associate with these plants.
It is thought that these holes are produced specifically to let sunlight filter through to the lower leaves, maximizing the plant’s ability to take in light. If your Monstera isn’t getting enough light, you won’t see the fenestrations in its new foliage.
What To Do
Find a suitable spot for your plant and adapt the setup to ensure it is getting the light levels it needs. This can be challenging because Monsteras like to get plenty of bright light, but they will not cope with direct sunlight.
Because they evolved in rainforests, growing beneath dense canopies, they adapted to cope with only brief periods of filtered sunlight, rather than hours of direct sun on their leaves.
If you put your Monstera in direct sunlight, it will burn quickly. Equally, if you stuff the plant in a dark corner, it will produce small, weak foliage.
If you don’t have a suitable spot for your Monstera, you can increase the light levels by adding a grow lamp, or decrease them by hanging a thin curtain across a window. Make sure you adjust your setup to allow for the different seasons and keep your plant happy all year round.
Reason Ten: You Are Using Tap Water
Many people water their Monstera plants using tap water. It makes sense; the water is readily available and easy to access any time you need it, and if you don’t have a simple way of harvesting rainwater, it’s usually the cheapest and most straightforward solution.
Monsteras do not particularly like tap water, however. It contains chlorine, fluoride, and salt, as well as other chemicals that can make this plant unhappy.
This is a particularly big problem if you live in an area with hard water because it will lead to a buildup of chalk in the plant’s soil. This can clog up the roots, making it difficult for your Monstera to get the water and nutrients that it needs.
In turn, this will lead to reduced production of foliage and result in smaller leaves.
What To Do
If possible, water your Monstera with rainwater, at least some of the time. You can put a jug on a windowsill or balcony to collect this water, even if you don’t have access to a garden.
If you can’t get rainwater, distilled or filtered water will help. The lime can be removed from tap water by boiling the water, cooling it, and then giving it to the plant.
The level of chlorine in tap water can also be reduced by leaving the water in a bowl on the side for 24 hours before using it. This will allow the chlorine to evaporate off and leave the water suitable for use.
All in all, it’s simpler and easier for many people to use rainwater for their Monsteras, but if you can’t do this, there are workarounds you can use. You can use tap water some of the time, but the less frequently you do, the happier your plant will be.
Should I Prune Small Leaves?
Even when you have corrected the issue with your Monstera, you will still be left with some small leaves. These may get bigger of their own accord once the plant is getting everything it needs, but they may also stay small, and the plant might put its energy into producing new leaves instead.
It’s also worth noting that leaves will not produce fenestrations once they have unfurled if they don’t have them to start with. They either grow with the fenestrations or never develop them.
You can prune these small leaves off if you choose to. This may encourage your Monstera to focus its energy on new, larger growth instead. If you are going to remove the leaves, use sterile pruning shears and make a sharp, clean cut.
This will reduce the risk of introducing any infection that could harm your plant.
How Big Can Monstera Leaves Get?
Leaf size is very dependent on the plant’s age, but a mature Monstera plant can produce leaves that are around two feet wide – even indoors! This is relatively rare, so don’t be surprised if your plant doesn’t quite achieve this, but be aware that it is possible.
Leaves will only grow to this size on a mature Monstera that is growing in very good conditions. If you are meeting all of your plant’s needs, it may eventually manage to produce this sort of impressive foliage.
How Soon Will My Monstera Produce New Leaves?
This depends heavily on the plant and the conditions it is growing in. A healthy Monstera will produce many leaves in a year, particularly during its growth season, but it can take weeks for a single leaf to unfurl – or just a few days.
You will need to wait patiently for your plant to grow new leaves, especially if the conditions were very unsuitable for it. Your Monstera may spend some time reestablishing strong roots and putting energy into its core growth before it sprouts new foliage, especially if it has suffered from root rot or another serious issue.
Monstera leaves can reach amazing sizes, so it’s important to look after your plant well and give it everything that it needs. Small leaf growth is a sign that something is wrong, so check the plant’s major needs – light, soil, water – to make sure the Monstera is getting everything it requires. If it isn’t, adjust its conditions and it should soon produce large foliage again.