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Monstera Leaves Not Splitting? Causes & Tips for Encouraging Splits

My Monstera leaves won’t split, no matter how long I wait! It’s healthy, but the leaves won’t develop those slits. Why? Monstera is a popular houseplant with exotic, split leaves. And the true charm of a Monstera is undoubted “that split leaves.”

This article will thoroughly investigate why Monstera leaves won’t split! Also, in the latter half, we’ll introduce four remedies for when your Monstera stops producing split leaves. 

Unsplit Monstera leaves

First, let’s take a look at Monstera leaves that haven’t split. The Monstera leaves have no distinct splits (see photo above). 

So, why aren’t the Monstera leaves splitting? Or do the splits develop as the plant grows?

By the way, all the unsplit leaves were small (less than 8 inches in width). There seems to be some relationship between leaf size and splitting.

What Are The Reasons for Monstera Leaves Splitting?

There are various theories about why Monstera leaves split, and I’ll introduce some of them here.

Monstera Leaves Became Larger to Capture More Precious Sunlight

Monstera leaves are large. But why are they so large?

Wild Monsteras are understory plants in the jungle (surrounded by dense, towering trees). As a result, it’s challenging for wild Monsteras to get sunlight in an environment surrounded by such trees (due to the shadows they cast).

“I want to capture as much of the precious sunlight as possible…”

Increasing the leaf surface area is effective in capturing more light.

Thus, it’s believed that Monstera leaves gradually became larger over time (although there are various theories).

Disadvantages of Large leaves

However, there were disadvantages to having large (or too large) leaves.

  • Their own leaves cast shadows, preventing sunlight from reaching lower leaves
  • Poor air circulation hinders photosynthesis
  • The weight of the leaves may cause the plant to topple over
  • Leaves are more susceptible to damage from raindrops falling from the towering trees
Monstera crawling up, entangling a large number of aerial roots

So, what happened to Monstera leaves to compensate for these disadvantages caused by their large size?

Monstera Leaves Developed Slits to Counter The Disadvantages of Their Large Size

  • Sunlight is blocked from reaching lower leaves by their own leaves’ shade → Slits in the leaves allow sunlight to reach the lower leaves
  • Poor air circulation hinders photosynthesis → Slits in the leaves improve air circulation
  • The weight of the leaves may cause the plant to topple over → Creating slits and holes in the leaves can reduce their weight
  • Leaves are more susceptible to damage from raindrops falling from towering trees → Slits in the leaves help disperse the impact

Thus, it is believed that Monsteras overcame the disadvantages of having large leaves by developing slits and holes (although there are various theories).

In other words, Monstera leaves are split because they are “large and heavy.” By the way, the leaves of wild Monsteras can grow to about 3 feet in size.

4 Main Reasons Why Monstera Leaves Don’t Split

As a result of my research so far, I’ve found several reasons why Monstera leaves might stop splitting, and will introduce them here.

To be precise, it’s “leaves don’t split ⇒ split leaves no longer appear.

Basically, it doesn’t happen that “leaves without slits split during the growth process.

Cause ①: The Leaves Are Young

Young Monstera leaves don’t split due to natural development; splits form as leaves mature

If your Monstera plant is still small, this reason applies. Young, small leaves have a heart shape without any slits.

Particularly, most Monsteras found at dollar stores are still in their ‘juvenile’ stage. As a result, they are sold with unsplit leaves.

Young Monstera leaves do not have slits

Monsteras do not have splits in their leaves from the beginning. The characteristic splits gradually develop as the plant grows and the leaves get larger.

It’s important to note that ‘leaves without splits will basically remain unchanged (not split) in the future.

As the plant grows larger, leaves with unique splits will appear. Many people start seeing split leaves around the 5th or 6th leaf.

There are differences depending on the environment and how the plant is cared for, but my Monstera finally produced a split leaf on the 7th leaf. Additionally, the splits are often shallow or only on one side.

Cause ②: The Plant Is Not Strong (Weakened)

Even though the leaves aren’t young, split leaves never appear. Until now, the leaves were split, but now unsplit leaves are emerging.

In such cases, the cause may be ‘the plant is not vigorous (weakened).

When a plant isn’t vigorous, it’s less likely to develop large, thick leaves (wider than 8 inches), and as a result, the leaves don’t develop splits (there’s no need for them).

Etiolation due to insufficient sunlight

Monsteras are relatively cold-hardy and easy to grow compared to other houseplants. They also have strong shade tolerance, so they can grow indoors without wilting.

However, when there’s a severe lack of sunlight, ‘etiolation’ can occur. The stem grows tall and thin, the plant’s shape becomes disordered, and the stem starts to collapse.

This is one of the common symptoms seen in etiolated Monsteras. When a plant is etiolated, it weakens and becomes more susceptible to damage from pests, diseases, and environmental changes.

Cause ③: The Leaves Are Small (Insufficient Sunlight)

Having ‘small leaves’ can also be considered one of the reasons why Monstera leaves don’t split. Wild Monstera leaves can reach up to 3 feet in width, so even an 8 inches wide leaf is considered ‘still a baby leaf.’ Moreover, if the leaves don’t grow large, it might mean that ‘the plant is not vigoriuos (not thriving).

A possible cause of small leaves is insufficient sunlight

A likely cause of small leaves is, of course, ‘insufficient sunlight.’ If the stem grows long and thin, but the leaves remain small, the plant may be experiencing etiolation due to lack of sunlight. Overwatering can also lead to etiolation.

Cause ④: Support Has Been Lost

As Monsteras grow, their leaves become larger and heavier, making the plant prone to falling over. It seems that when a Monstera collapses under its own weight, the leaves gradually become smaller. As a result, leaves without splits may emerge.

Monsteras are ‘climbing’ plants

In their natural habitat, Monsteras grow by creeping horizontally and winding their aerial roots around large trees, making them ‘climbing’ plants. In the wild, Monsteras can stretch up to 65 feet in height in search of sunlight.

As Monsteras reach the tops of large trees by winding their aerial roots, their leaves begin to droop when they run out of climbing space and gradually become smaller.

Smaller leaves = no need for splits. This is one way to consider the situation.

4 Solutions When Monstera Leaves Stop Splitting

So far, we’ve learned that for Monstera leaves to split, they must be ‘large.’

So, how can we encourage the growth of ‘large leaves (at least about 8 inches wide)’ with a higher likelihood of having splits?

Here, I will introduce some solutions for when your Monstera stops producing split leaves.

① Ensure sunlight and strengthen the plant

Monsteras are prone to ‘leaf burn‘ which causes leaves to turn brown and appear scorched when exposed to direct sunlight or the intense western sun in the summer. A dappled shade is ideal.

Place the plant indoors as close to a well-lit window as possible. (If it’s been in a dark area, gradually acclimate it to the light)nb

What is dappled shade?

  • The shaded area is right next to a sunny spot
  • A location where sunlight filters through, like sunlight through trees

(Lux values of about 10,000 to 15,000)

Areas like these are called ‘dappled shade’ or ‘bright shade.’ For reference, the lux value of a bright indoor spot is about 8,000, which may be slightly insufficient.

Occasionally, wipe the leaf surfaces with a damp cloth

Monstera leaves are large, so they collect more dust than expected.

Accumulated dust can obstruct sunlight, so gently wiping the leaves about once a week is a good idea.

② Water When The Soil Is Dry

Overwatering can also cause Monstera plants to grow leggy. Water generously when the surface of the soil is dry.

However, during the colder winter months, it’s safer to water just enough so that water doesn’t flow out from the bottom of the pot.

Monstera slows down its physiological activities during cold periods, and the roots’ ability to absorb water decreases.

As a result, excess water that isn’t absorbed can stagnate in the pot for an extended period, increasing the risk of ‘root rot’ and ‘withering due to cold roots.’

Monstera watering timing guidelines:

Spring to fall (temperature above 20°C/68°F)… Water generously when the soil surface is dry

in Winter (temperature below 20°C/68°F)… Water modestly when the soil surface is arid.

*Monsteras prefer well-draining soil.

Mix 1 part high-quality peat-based potting soil for nutrients and moisture retention, 1 part perlite or pumice for improved aeration and drainage, and 1 part orchid bark or coco coir for additional aeration, moisture retention, and organic matter.  You can add activated charcoal or horticultural charcoal to help prevent root rot by absorbing excess moisture and impurities.

Using a moisture meter can make management easier!

Using a soil moisture meter that shows the timing of watering by simply inserting it into the soil can help prevent watering mistakes.

If you find it challenging to consistently check the soil’s dryness, feel stressed when the plant wilts, or would prefer to prevent the plant from wilting, using a moisture meter could be a helpful option for you to consider.

③ Fertilize During The Growing Season

Monsteras grow more robustly when given fertilizer. It’s recommended to utilize fertilizer during the growing season, from spring to fall.

Monstera fertilizing guidelines:

Growing season from spring to fall → Apply slow-release solid fertilizer once every two months, and give diluted liquid fertilizer about once every two weeks.

Winter → Do not give fertilizer

④ Keep Your Monstera As Warm As Possible

Monsteras are relatively cold-resistant among foliage plants. While they won’t immediately wither if the temperature doesn’t drop below 5°C (41°F), if you want to strengthen the plant and encourage large leaves to unfold, try to maintain a minimum temperature of 15°C (59°F) even during winter.

The ideal temperature range is around 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F).

By the way, wild Monsteras produce slender, banana-like fruits (shown in the top photo). Monstera fruit is quite sweet and delicious.

My Monstera Growth Journal

From here on, I will document the growth of the Monstera plant that I’m nurturing.

Rescuing a Sale Monstera [2021/12/23]

On Christmas night, I brought home a Monstera plant on sale. I suspected it might be root-bound, so I checked the bottom of the pot (see image below). It was indeed root-bound, so I decided to repot it.

As expected, the roots were severely compacted. I was concerned to see the roots in such distress, so I repot the plant despite winter. I carefully and quickly repotted the plant, not damaging the roots.

If you’re seeking ways to ensure your monstera flourishes through the winter, then this article contains all the essential information you need.

After repotting, I refrained from watering the plant for almost a month. I mainly cared for it by misting the leaves and placing them in a bright spot indoors to recover from transplant shock.

Monstera Survives The Winter [2022/2/15]

About a month after repotting, the Monstera seems to have survived the winter.

My care routine:

  • Place the plant in a semi-shaded area indoors
  • Mist the leaves once or twice a day (both front and back)
  • Ensure the room temperature stays above 68°F (20°C)
  • Utilize a circulator
  • Water the plant sparingly after the soil has completely dried and waited for about three days.

New Leaf Unfurls on Monstera [2022/4/18]

As the weather has warmed up, my Monstera has unfurled a new leaf. The large leaf has distinct slits, which is a relief. However, the aerial roots near the base seem quite cramped.

It’s probably eager to climb something. I will continue to care for the plant by keeping it away from direct sunlight and placing it in a well-ventilated area indoors.

Pruning and Propagation by Cuttings [2022/6/13]

My Monstera is growing well, but if left unchecked, it will continue to spread out horizontally. So, I’ve decided to prune it now, and I’ll propagate new plants using the cut stems as cuttings.

The success rate for Monstera cuttings is higher during the early growth period, which is right now. Let’s get started with the work.

I cut between the leaves with clean pruning shears, ensuring the aerial roots are left on the stem for cuttings, as they often root from these points.

After cutting the stem, I place it in water for a while and wait for the roots to develop. If all goes well, within about two weeks, new roots will emerge from the aerial roots, as shown in the photo above. It’s fascinating how roots grow from other roots.

Once the roots have grown a bit more, I plan to plant them in soil. I want to train this cutting into a “self-standing” Monstera.

A self-standing Monstera is intentionally planted vertically, allowing the aerial roots to grow and support the plant independently, encouraging vertical growth instead of horizontal.

New buds that will become leaves are emerging from the base of the existing leaves. The key to successful pruning is simply doing it at the right time.

This is the new growth point, which should continue to grow and produce many more leaves.

Three Months Have Passed Since The Pruning of My Monstera [2022/9/10]

I’ve kept it on the balcony all this time. The first new leaf after pruning didn’t have any splits, but the following leaves slowly developed splits.

Although some parts of the leaves have discolored due to direct sunlight, it seems to have survived the harsh summer.

At the base of the plant, the new buds that emerged after pruning have grown rapidly, producing three new leaves.

They also have slight leaf burn, but they seem to be able to make it through the summer. I’m training this plant to stand upright and set up a few support moss pole. Two new leaves have emerged, both with well-defined splits.

I plan to provide another update in three months, so stay tuned! Here’s my future care plan:

  • Water when the soil is dry (every two weeks, provide diluted Hyponex)
  • Avoid direct sunlight
  • Mist the plant to keep it moisturized when noticed
  • Move the plant indoors and manage it on the drier side when the temperature drops below 15°C (59°F)

It’s Been About A Year Since I Pruned The Overgrown Stem Of My Monstera [2023/4/26]

First, let’s take a look at the original plant.

I’ve cut the lower messy leaves and left only the top three leaves for a clean appearance. The overall shape is now well-organized and looks cool.

I repotted this one in late April. It’s growing rapidly and looks great with its well-defined split leaves.

To encourage the beautiful split leaves that are Monstera’s charm, addressing root-bound issues while providing adequate sunlight is essential.

In summary

I’ve introduced several reasons why Monstera leaves might not have splits and some ways to address them.

There are various theories about why Monstera leaves develop splits. However, knowing the reasons can help us reconsider how we care for our plants in the future.

Please use this article as a reference to help your Monstera grow strong and healthy.

Four possible reasons why Monstera leaves don’t have splits (various theories):

  1. The leaves are young
  2. The plant is not strong
  3. The leaves are small
  4. The support is gone

What to do when Monstera leaves stop splitting:

  1. Ensure adequate sunlight to strengthen the plant
  2. Water only when the soil is dry
  3. Provide fertilizer during the growing season
  4. Keep the plant as warm as possible (ideally between 68°F and 86°F)

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