There is some confusion about Monstera plants and Philodendron plants, and what the differences are between these two. Are they the same plant or different plants? It’s important to find out before you buy one so that you know what you own and how to take care of it properly. So, let’s find out what the difference is!
Monstera plants and Philodendron plants are not the same thing. Some varieties are very easy to tell apart, but others are harder, and there is a lot of confusion on the subject. Some nurseries even mislabel the two plants, and others say that split-leaf Philodendron and Monstera plants are the same thing. They are not, so let’s look at why they are different.
What Is A Monstera Plant?
Let’s start at the beginning and understand what a Monstera is. This plant originally came from Mexico, but it is also found in many tropical climates in the USA, such as Hawaii. It has delicious fruit, and very iconic split leaves that many people associate it with.
Sometimes, the plant is known as a Swiss Cheese Plant because the holes in its leaves remind people of Swiss cheese. There are several kinds of Monstera, and more than one is nicknamed Swiss Cheese Plant, so be aware of this.
Monstera plants are related to quite a few other kinds of house plants, including the peace lily. They have huge, dark green foliage, and they love to climb – so make sure you provide a vertical surface suitable for climbing.
What Is A Split-Leaf Philodendron Plant?
Split-leaf Philodendron plants come from Central America. They are native to southern Mexico and Panama, and they will grow in tropical climates. Unsurprisingly, they also have iconic split leaves that are very beautiful and attractive.
Instead of being a climbing plant, most Philodendrons are trailing plants. It might seem that is a clear enough distinction to tell the two apart, but this is not always the case, because split-leaf Philodendrons have trunks and are often more upright than other kinds.
How Are The Two Similar?
Part of the confusion arises from the fact that both plants are large, with big, broad, flat leaves that have splits in them. These splits are thought to help maximize the plant’s light-gathering ability by letting the light down to lower leaves.
Both also have leaves with a round shape and a similar color. They also grow in the same regions, which makes it harder for people to correctly identify them and learn the differences.
A further similarity is that both are poisonous. You need to keep them away from pets and young children because they contain calcium oxalate crystals that will cause major irritation and swelling if swallowed.
How Are The Two Different?
Despite their similarities, these two kinds of plants are quite different in a lot of ways, which we will cover below.
Difference One) Leaf Shape
The Philodendron plant’s leaves are much more deeply lobed than the Monstera’s leaves, and the overall shape is less rounded, making it narrower. Philodendron leaves tend to be more heart-shaped, too. Although they are similar in color, it is not hard to tell the plants apart when placed side by side.
Philodendrons rarely grow leaves that are as large as the Monsteras. Instead, they look more like Pothos plants.
Unfortunately, many nurseries mislabel the plants when they sell them. This increases the confusion and the problems with people misidentifying the plants.
Difference Two) Genus
Monstera plants and Philodendron plants do not come from the same genus, which is why they have different names. They are both members of the Araceae family, which may be why they bear some physical similarities, but they are not genetically the same. From a scientific perspective, the two plants are very different.
Difference Three) Behavior
Monstera plants are climbers, and many Philodendrons do not climb. However, the split-leaf can climb, and both plants will use aerial roots to climb upward. This can make the plants harder to tell apart, but you can tell the difference between most Philodendrons and Monsteras because very few Philodendrons will climb.
The aerial roots on a Monstera are often bigger than the aerial roots of a Philodendron, which may give you a clue even if you are comparing two climbers.
Difference Four) Leaf Fenestrations
Monstera plants have fenestrated leaves, and a Philodendron does not. Even a split-leaf Philodendron does not have proper fenestrations. This is because the Monstera develops holes in the center of its leaves, but the Philodendron only splits at the edges. You will not see holes that are entirely encased by leaf on a Philodendron.
They also grow their leaves in slightly different ways, in that a Philodendron leaf is protected by a sheath when it first starts to grow. This is called a cataphyll, and Monstera plants do not have these on their young leaves.
Difference Five) Texture
A Monstera plant’s leaves are very smooth and flat, which makes them easy to distinguish from a Philodendron because the latter has more ruffled leaves with ridged edges to its leaf splits and a more chaotic aesthetic.
Monstera plants tend to be popular because of their rather neater look, whereas people who prefer a rustic look go for Philodendron plants.
Difference Six) Lack Of Fruit
A Monstera plant is known for growing delicious fruit – especially the Monstera Deliciosa (unsurprisingly!). The Philodendron does not produce fruit, so this is another easy way to tell the difference between the two plants. If you have been sold a Philodendron and it starts fruiting, the plant was missold.
Difference Seven) Size
Monstera plants usually get a lot bigger than Philodendrons do. Of course, this heavily depends on the conditions. If Monsteras are not grown in the right conditions, they will not achieve their usual great heights.
An indoor Monstera will not get as big as an outdoor one, but it can still reach heights of up to ten feet, with leaves up to three feet long.
Split-leaf Philodendrons can get quite large too, but they will rarely reach these heights, and their leaves tend to be much smaller. In general, an indoor one will only grow to around three or four feet tall, although wild ones can reach thirty feet.
Bear the height requirements in mind when situating your plant. If you have a Monstera, it will need more room to grow upward than a Philodendron will.
What Makes It Hard To Tell Them Apart?
With that number of differences, it may seem that there is no chance of mixing up Philodendrons and Monsteras. However, this does happen surprisingly often, and you may be wondering why.
Part of the problem, as mentioned, is mislabeling by nurseries and garden centers. This adds to the general confusion over the two plants and makes people misidentify them in the future because they think they have one or the other kind.
However, a few other things can add to the confusion, which increases the issue. For example, baby Monstera plants do not have leaf fenestrations. These only start to form when the plant reaches a certain height and age.
This makes them look a lot like Philodendrons, especially because most people associate Monsteras with the split leaves – so they are confused when they do not have them.
How Do You Care For Monsteras And Philodendrons?
You might be wondering whether it matters which plant is which, as long as you enjoy having it. The only real reason it matters is so that you know how to look after the plant, and although Philodendrons and Monsteras like similar conditions, they do have some differences. Let’s explore what they need in terms of care.
Monstera plants prefer more light than Philodendrons do. If you have a Monstera, you will want to keep it closer to a window or an artificial source of light to ensure that it grows well. If it doesn’t have enough light, the Monstera will not grow properly, and as it has big leaves and becomes a large plant, it is important to pay attention to this.
Philodendron plants prefer lower levels of light, and they will grow even if they are some way from a window. This is because, in the wild, they tend to be closer to the rainforest floor, where there is not much light.
By contrast, Monstera plants pull themselves up using other plants, and so their leaves are usually spread much closer to the rainforest canopy, where there is more light. To replicate these conditions in your home, you will need to provide the Monstera with a reasonable amount of light, although neither of these plants like direct sun.
A Monstera plant is more sensitive to being over-watered than a Philodendron, so you will have to be more careful with it. Avoid watering on a schedule, instead, check that the top inch of the Monstera’s pot is dry before you give it anything to drink.
If you over-water a Philodendron, it might get sick, but a Monstera is slightly more likely to die. Be careful with both and remember that although they enjoy being kept damp (as rainforest plants), they will get root rot if they are kept in very wet conditions and never allowed to dry out.
Both Monstera and Philodendron plants like to be kept between 65 and 85 degrees F, so you don’t need to worry about temperature differences. Given that they originate from similar parts of the world and both grow in rainforests, it’s no surprise that they prefer to be kept at the same sorts of temperatures as each other.
These plants again enjoy similar levels of humidity. Once more, this is not surprising, because the plants are both from the rainforests. If you own either one, you will need to mist it on a fairly regular basis, because otherwise, its leaves will dry out and turn crispy.
A Monstera plant is a climber, and most Philodendrons are not. That means a Monstera needs support of some sort. These plants use trees to haul themselves up into the canopy, and if they cannot find anything to hold onto, they will end up in a mess on the floor, which will make them very unhappy.
A Philodendron, by contrast, will not usually climb. If you have a split-leaf variety, you may wish to provide it with supports, but mostly, these plants prefer to trail, and their aerial roots tend to be smaller.
This is another reason that it’s important to establish whether your plant is a Philodendron or a Monstera because you will know whether or not to add stakes or other support to its container as it gets bigger.
Many people choose to grow their Philodendron plants in hanging baskets because these trailing plants enjoy an opportunity to hang down and twirl. This also encourages good airflow over their leaves, and because they don’t need a huge amount of light, they are quite happy being grown close to the ceiling.
A Monstera plant will not grow very happily in a hanging basket. It needs both more height and more light than will be provided by these conditions.
If you want to grow a Monstera plant, you need to put it in a proper container and give it plenty of height, as well as some support so that it can grow upward.
There are many differences between Philodendrons and Monstera plants, although the two are very frequently confused with each other. If you don’t know which you have, take some time to look at the leaf texture, the splits and how they form, and the plant’s behavior.
If you only have a very young plant, it may be a year or two before you can be sure which kind of plant it is, but you should be able to figure it out with a bit of time, especially once the leaves begin to split.