Monstera plants, also called Swiss cheese plants, are beautiful tropical vines known for their unique hole-filled leaves. Native to tropical zones in Central America, the Monstera uses its vines to climb up trees in its natural habitat to get closer to the sun. It requires some daily sunlight to receive all necessary nutrients for its growth.
Although they behave this way in the rainforests, Monstera plants are hardy and can grow in low-light environments. However, they will not survive if provided with no light at all.
Nowadays, the Monstera has become a vibrant houseplant and, while it doesn’t need to climb any trees, it will still need to be in a room with a window to get that daily dose of sun.
What Happens to a Monstera in Low Light?
A Monstera in low light can survive and grow, but it won’t flourish. The Monstera is thought to have evolved its leaf splits to help it maximize its ability to capture sunlight. These splits, called fenestrations, increase the leaves’ spread on the forest floor without increasing the number of cells it needs to support.
Lack of sufficient sun will leave your Monstera with low energy. Low energy means your Monstera will grow at a slower pace and possibly be more susceptible to attacks from pests and disease.
You can counter these negative effects by helping your Monstera with the tips below.
How to Help Your Monstera Grow
Monsteras come from tropical environments but have been cultivated as houseplants across the globe. If your Monstera is placed somewhere with low light, there are some artificial light tricks you can use to help.
You can also help it flourish by supplying it with the appropriate soil, climate simulation, fertilizer, hydration, and care.
Monsteras tend to thrive with around 10 hours of bright to medium indirect light daily in the wild.
They can also acclimate to direct light, especially if it’s only during the early morning when the UV rays are lightest. Too much light can cause leaf burn, when the plant leaves begin to turn brown from the tips inward.
When your Monstera isn’t getting enough light, you can add LED lighting to help its growth. These lights should offer low heat, energy usage, and be color optimized for growth to provide better light for plants than their fluorescent or incandescent counterparts.
For example, the lights above, that you can easily buy on Amazon, are practical and you can choose to buy them with just blue and red LEDs or with full spectrum LEDs (which result in a slightly higher investment).
Make sure to rotate your Monstera every couple of weeks to ensure even growth.
Your Monstera should be placed in a pot with drainage holes. The best soil must have a good balance between water retention and drainage.
Quality potting soil with peat moss or coconut coir and perlite is a good option for homing your Monstera. You can also mix de potting soil with an extra part of orchid bark and perlite for better aeration and drainage.
Aerating your soil before watering your plant is also beneficial. You can do this by poking a chopstick or similar tool into the dirt a few times before watering your plant. Without aeration, the soil may become stale and lack proper airflow to the roots.
Monsteras come from humid conditions but they can grow in normal room humidity indoors. If you want to spoil your Monstera, consider using a fine-mister or humidifier to boost the humidity in the Monstera’s area. You can also opt for a DIY option by misting its leaves manually with a spray bottle every few days.
Most Monsteras will survive normal room temperatures between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit. They will respond negatively to sudden drops in temperature, temperatures under 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and direct airflow from heaters or air conditioners indoors.
Monsteras prefer slightly moist soil. Let your Monstera’s soil dry out between waterings. How often you water it will depend on the size of your Monstera and its pot.
Once the top 2-4 inches of the soil are dry, you should water your plant again. The more light the Monstera receives, the more often this will be.
Most houseplants thrive when fertilized throughout spring, summer, and fall. You can fertilize your Monstera once a month with an organic fertilizer created for houseplants, or choose a slow-release fertilizer if you prefer less work on your part.
Monsteras have large leaves that should be dusted and cleaned regularly.
If growing steadily, you should consider repotting your plant every 18-24 months, preferably in spring or summer. Repot the Monstera into a pot that is at least 2-4 inches larger than the current pot. If you don’t want a larger plant, repot your Monstera into the same pot with new soil and trimmed roots and foliage.
Can a Monstera Grow in Artificial Light?
Artificial light is recommended as an add-on if your Monstera is placed somewhere with low natural light. Monsteras can grow in artificial light, but they favor indirect sunlight.
While artificial light helps the Monstera’s growth, sunlight and artificial light have some distinct differences. More energy comes from the sun than from any other light source on earth, including artificial light. Sunlight also emits more of the light spectrum than other forms of light, which plants prefer.
If you can, put your Monstera in indirect sunlight whenever possible. Add artificial light to the mix to ensure it’s getting enough light, but don’t depend solely on artificial light if you’re looking for optimal growing conditions.
What Is Considered Low Light?
Low light is considered to be non-direct light hitting your plant. Placing your plant in a room with a window would constitute as low light if your plant can “see” the window but not the sky. Rooms with windows facing north or windows that are shaded by neighboring trees or buildings usually provide low light.
Placing your Monstera in low light could be a few feet away from the window, on a nearby surface, or even in an open area on the floor.
Some apps and mechanisms have been created to measure the brightness of different light, but these often yield differing and changing results. You don’t need to spend money to measure the light rays for your plants – human judgment should suffice for determining whether it’s low or bright light.
If it’s bright enough to read a book but low enough that you have to strain your eyes, it can usually be considered low light.
Warning Signs that Your Monstera is Unhappy
Plants can’t speak, so they let their appearance do the talking. You should look out for the following signs that your Monstera is not doing well in its current environment. The earlier you notice, the faster you can intervene and help your Monstera get back on track.
- Browning or yellowing leaves
This change of color reflects high internal stress in your Monstera. This could be caused by soil moisture or lack of light. Touch about 2-4 inches down into the soil to determine if it’s underwatered or overwatered. If neither seems to be the case, your plant may need more light.
- Drooping leaves
This is almost always a sign of underwatering.
- Dark spots on the leaves
Overwatered and stressed roots can develop root rot, allowing bacteria and pathogens to grow in and on the pant, causing these spots. The spots could also be caused by too much direct sun or hot artificial lights that have burned the leaves.
- White stem
This points to a fungal infection in your Monstera, caused by poor aeration and overwatering.
- Foul odor from the soil
This often points to root rot from overwatering. If you have a chance to pull up a root, you would also see that it has turned brown from this cause.
In short, monstera plants favor indirect sunlight, such as near a window with a curtain. In case you cannot provide it with enough light, it will survive but not flourish, growing at a slow pace.
One way around it is to provide artificial LED light, with a full light spectrum or with a spectrum suitable for the plant’s growth.