Monstera is the only tropical plant that can compete with its bold, eye-catching leaves, which come in a wide range of colors, from bright green to the lush cream of beautiful variegated varieties.
However, no matter what type of Monstera you grow, the appearance of brown stems will be unwelcome news to all.
Brown stems are an indication of overwatering, disease, or pest infestation. To save the Monstera, quick action is required.
Some browning is caused by changes in how the plant is made or by the natural life cycle of each leaf.
Monstera may have originated in the wet forests of Central America, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s a low-maintenance houseplant.
The jungle has frequent downpours, but the ground doesn’t do an excellent job of retaining water.
They can even establish themselves on other trees, growing in the decaying leaf litter that accumulates in the crevices of large branches high above the ground.
So, Monsteras need small pockets of air and dry spots in their pots so their roots can grow strong.
Overwatering causes the entire pot to become soggy. They can’t get enough oxygen to their roots, so they get stressed and eventually die.
Check out your Monstera plant. Is the soil wet? Do saucers and drip trays contain any puddles of water?
Is it true that the leaves are yellowing and wilting regardless of how much water they have? If “yes” is the answer, you probably over-water the plant.
Here I give more detail on what happens to Monstera plants when they are overwatered. However, it is easy to overwater Monsteras because they require less water than you might think.
You need to assess the damage to your Monstera before deciding how to treat it.
First, empty all saucers and drip trays of any accumulated water. It won’t help if you leave the soil in a puddle; you must let it dry.
Tap the Monstera plant’s roots gently until they are free of the pot. Monsteras have solid and thick roots. Roots that are strong and healthy are white and often have a wiry appearance.
If the plant’s roots are healthy, you can let it dry out. Monsteras require watering when their growing medium’s top two to three inches become dry.
The frequency with which this occurs will be determined by several factors, including the time of year and the size of the plant itself.
Root & Stem Rot
Root and stem rot can develop on a Monstera that has been over-watered without intervention. Overly wet soil is a breeding ground for this disease.
Roots begin to suffocate as they cannot cope with the excessive water pressure. Fungi in the soil decompose the dead roots in the pot.
The fungi aren’t picky and will soon infest the plant’s upper tissues. From the ground up, the roots and stems rot.
Your monster probably has root rot if your brown stems are low to the ground, soft, and brown.
In general, a root-rotten plant requires new soil in a clean pot. However, once the rot has spread to the stems, little can be done except for reproduction.
Inspect the Monstera’s root system by first tapping it free of the soil.
You might be able to salvage some pale white or cream roots and a few healthy stems if you’re lucky.
If this is the case, remove the diseased portion of the plant and repot in fresh soil.
Use a loose potting mix with a lot of organic material to promote proper drainage.
My preferred recipe calls for all blended blending of equal parts potting soil, perlite, orchid mix, and coco coir or moss.
These four ingredients work perfectly to give optimal drainage to all Monstera varieties while retaining the right amount of moisture.
If the rot has spread into the Monstera’s stems, you can save the plant by removing the roots and any soft stems and starting over with the top half of the plant.
Though it may seem extreme, Monstera will root from a minimal cutting, even if the cutting isn’t very healthy. This is especially true of smaller Monstera species, such as Monstera adansonii.
Remove the dead roots and throw them away. Then, place the remaining plant in a clean water container and set it in a warm, bright area out of direct sunlight.
I prefer to use glass jars or big clear plastic tubs for my plant cuttings.
However, the rapid rate at which Monstera grows its roots makes it especially important to grow it in a transparent container.
It won’t be long before your sad lopped-off Monstera begins to produce new roots.
Once the roots have grown three or four inches in length, you can transplant the plant into a pot containing a potting mix that drains well.
Monstera plants are susceptible to disease even under the best of care.
Many different types of fungi can cause anthracnose, but Colletoctrichum fungi are the most common.
Anthracnose is a severe agricultural disease that can affect almost any plant, making it an issue for the indoor gardener.
These harmful fungi are common in garden soil and can quickly be brought on contaminated tools or gloves. It can also spread through the air from infected plants, compost, or mulch.
As the disease spreads, the leaves margins will turn yellow, and the entire plant will eventually turn brown.
Spores manifest as velvety specks on the leaves, typically in shades of pink or brown.
In addition, monstera plants can get sores or cankers that, if not treated, will kill the whole plant.
First and foremost, you must quarantine any sick plants. Then, move the Monstera out of your collection to prevent other plants from becoming sick.
Next, remove any diseased tissue and dispose of it in household garbage. Spotted leaves need to be removed, as they likely contain spores.
This may be all you need to do if you’ve caught the disease soon enough.
But for advanced cases, or in rare plants like the Thai Constellation Monstera or other variegated cultivars, it’s possible to treat anthracnose disease with copper-based fungicides (Amazon link).
They’re very effective but powerful and must be treated with respect. Always read the instructions, and wear protective gear like gloves and goggles during use.
Scale Insect Infestation
The tiny terrors known as scale insects love to make a home on the stalks of Monstera plants, where they feed off the plant’s sap.
They gather in groups on stems and stalks to get their long, pointed probiscuses into the plant’s juicy parts.
Scale insects look like brown lumps that are no bigger than a sesame seed or a small sequin.
They often congregate together, giving the Monstera’s stems the appearance of being covered in a thick, textured brown mass.
If your brown stem has a lot of small round bumps, like a stack of small shields or hubcaps, you might have scale insects. Here’s more about pest identification and treatment.
The simplest way to get rid of a small bug problem is to get your hands dirty. Using a fingernail or a dull knife, you can easily remove them.
Unfortunately, their mouth parts are fragile; if removed, they will die.
For more extensive problems, buying an insecticide like neem oil is better (Amazon link).
Because scale insects can hide in crevices between vines and branches, it’s essential to treat the entire plant and do so again in 5-7 days.
You won’t miss any bugs this way, and you might even be able to catch some that have just hatched.
You owe it to your potted Monstera, which brings the glamour of the tropics into your home to maintain a warm environment.
But, unfortunately, even a light frost can cause severe problems for any variety.
Even before reaching freezing temperatures, low temperatures can cause damage to leaves, wilting, and even death to plants.
You’re in for a bumpy ride if you let your Monstera plant freeze solid. After defrosting, the frozen tissue will turn a vibrant green color before softening and becoming mushy.
Since it’s been hurt, it will probably start oozing water and eventually rot into a black or brown color.
The best treatment is prevention. Monstera must be kept between 60-85 °F (15-29 °C). They won’t be able to handle temperatures much lower than that.
In an emergency, like if the heating system breaks down in the middle of winter, the Monstera must be brought back to temperature as soon as possible.
Also, keep an eye out for the emerald-green spots; they indicate areas of severe damage.
To avoid rot and infection from fungi, you should remove any dead wood as soon as possible.
The soil acts as insulation, so a frozen stem does not necessarily indicate frozen roots, especially if the soil is not frozen.
Excess Fertilizer Application
Monstera belongs to the aroid family of plants, which consists of efficient, fast-growing plants that do well in the low nutrient environment of the jungle understory.
As a result, they are susceptible to too much fertilizer, particularly synthetic fertilizer.
Chemical burns to the roots and foliar imbalances can result from an excess of fertilizer in the soil.
This manifests as discoloration and “scalds” on the leaf. Another sign is a crust of fertilizer that forms on the surface of the soil, often looking like crystals.
Your first step is removing excess fertilizer from Monstera’s pot. To do this, take the plant from its saucer or drip tray and place it under a shower head or garden hose.
Water moving through the potting mix will dissolve and flush out excess fertilizer.
Monsteras love this treatment, which removes dust from the leaves, gives the soil a deep drink of water and makes the air around the leaves more humid.
After giving your Monstera an extended shower (about five minutes), let it dry out for a while before giving the plant a final flush.
This allows any lingering fertilizer to dissolve before being washed away.
Check on your Monstera several times throughout the day, and wait for the pot to drain completely before placing it back in its saucer or drip tray.
If your soil is slow to drain, you may need to empty the tray again.
Everything comes to an end, and Monstera leaves are no different. Because each leaf has a finite lifespan, it varies by variety, but older leaves will eventually lose their color and die.
This is especially true of Monstera deliciosa, which frequently sheds its older, unsplit leaves as it grows and begins producing its distinctive huge leaves with distinctive splits and holes.
If the leaf is at the plant’s base and the rest of the foliage is in good condition, it’s possible that time has caught up with the old leaf, and it’s simply beginning to age.
Like a crow’s foot or a laugh line, a brown stem on an old leaf is a sign of a well-lived life.
This is the simplest to treat because if the rest of the leaf is healthy, you can leave it alone.
It will produce food for your Monstera as long as there is green in the leaf.
If the leaf begins to lose its color, turning yellow or drying out to a crisp brown, cut it away neatly at the base with clean shears and discard as desired.
Brown Crust on Monstera Stem
Larger and heavier Monstera leaves may produce ridges of brown, crusty material that run down the stem from the leaf’s edge.
This material has a woody texture and appears in two streaks along the stem. It can be pretty perplexing – is it a scab from an injury, or is it an infection?
It is a sign of success because it is a naturally occurring substance that strengthens the leaf.
The woody material gives the stems structural support and prevents them from snapping under the weight of the thriving leaves.
The Monstera’s massive foliage requires all the assistance it can get!
There’s no need to apply this natural reinforcement to a leaf. These woody ridges indicate that the leaf is solid and healthy, and there is nothing to be concerned about.
It’s a sign that you’re taking good care of your Monstera and that it’s getting ready to grow big.
While it may be tempting to scrape it away, resist the urge. That sturdy material has a job to do: it must support your magnificent leaves.
Read this article to find out how to treat monstera leaves with brown spots.
How To Prevent Monstera Stems Turning Brown
- Only water when the top two or three inches of potting mix are dry.
- Maintain a comfortable growing temperature range of 60-85 °F (15-29 °C).
- Fertilize only in the summer and only at half-strength.
- Keep an eye out for pests and diseases, and always treat them as soon as possible.
- If desired, remove older leaves.