Monstera Deliciosa - The Swiss Cheese Plant, or Mexican Breadfruit Plant
Key Information

This plant is a creeping vine that originates in tropical rainforests from Southern Mexico down to Panama. It can reach a height of 20m and has heart shaped leaves up to 90cm by 60cm with many splits and holes on older plants.

It has two distinct stages in its life, starting out as a seedling with entire, small, heart shaped leaves, and creeps along the ground heading for the darkest place. The plant at this stage is looking for a host tree to scramble up towards the light, It does not feed off the host tree, just uses it for support.

Once it has found a suitable support it starts to grow upwards. The leaves then grow larger and form the characteristic splits and holes.

The plant does best in bright filtered light, and a moist soil. It needs a support to climb up to be happy. They are gross feeders so need regular feeding for best growth. Officially they require a minimum temperature of 18C, but as you will read below, one of my plants is quite happy down to a staggering -2C! every year, and another has recovered from -6C.

The flowers are produced from about 4 years of age, but are not common on house grown plants. Generally it needs brighter filtered light than can be provided indoors. The flowers are typical Aroid form with a creamy white spathe surrounding the spadix. The pale green bud opens to reveal leathery cream Spathe which slowly opens to reveal the spadix inside. The flower can last for several weeks before the spathe dries out and falls leaving the fertilized fruitlet which turns green.

The fully grown fruit is 30cm long by 6cm wide. It takes about a year to ripen and the hexagonal scales start to peel off when it is ripe. Do not eat unripe fruit or any other part of the plant as it contains oxalic acid, which can kill if ingested,

The ripe fruit emmits a strong sweet perfume, and the ripe flesh is very sweet, tasting somewhat of pineapple. This does not appear to be grown commercially anywhere, so to taste one is a rare delight.

monstera deliciosa
Similar plant to Deli in 1968

My Mexican Breadfruit Plant 'Deli'

This was my first ever plant. Bought from Woolworths in Dartford in 1967. It set me back 5s 11d (5 and 11). It was like a small Elephants ear plant with plain heartshaped leaves. It was given pride of place in my bedroom on my wardrobe in a 5 inch pot, and was watched daily for growth. At the time I didn't realise that the leaves would change to be one on the most beautiful of all plants. Also I was not aware that this plant would prove to be much more hardy than claimed, in years to come. I still have it 39 years later, together with all its offspring.

The picture to the right is not of my plant as I didn't have a camera until 1970, but looks very like I recall the plant about a year after I bought it. A bit tatty and starting to sprawl. At that time I didn't know it was a vine, in fact when I think about it, I didn't know anything about it other than it was a Swiss Cheese Plant.

monstera delicosa
Deli taking pride of place in the sitting room, Xmas 1974,
with My Mum and Dennis, later to become her husband

I called the little Monstera 'Deli' derived from deliciosa. It grew away on the wardrobe for 3 years, until I read about the plant and realised the leaves should get bigger and have splits, and that it probably was not light enough in the North faceing room about 6 feet from the window. My mother then allowed me to place it in an alcove near the south facing window of the sitting room. It immediately started to grow far better and in October 1970 it grew it's first split leaf. It was only one split but was a major Truimph for me.

In December 1970 I went to Majorca, and that was when I caught the infection. It quickly spread and in no time at all I became a complete, and utter palm nutter, and exotics fruitcake. Deli was watched for new growth as it was the fastest growing plant I had seen. I even got up in the night with a ruler to check on growth. Deli quickly grew too big for the alcove and was moved to the corner of the sitting, as in the picture of Xmas 1974.

monstera deliciosa
Deli with my Fiancee and her Mother 1982
after the move to Singlwell

I had to cut the top off several times, over the years, which I planted up and grew on. When I moved away in 1981, Deli came with me and was stood in the corner of the lounge. Unfortunately the room was east facing so not a bright as at the old family home, but as you can see from the picture was still in good health.

I had problems with the heating on several occasions during cold weather and at one point Deli was subjected to 10C, but didn't seem to mind at all. Obviously it did not grow, but it didn't do much in the winter anyway.

I was surprised that the low temperature did not affect it as the books were quite adamant it should not be allowed to go below 18C.

monstera delicosa
Deli doing well in conservatory at Via Romana 1989

In June 1984 I moved to Via Romana and of course Deli came with me. It was put in the corner of the lounge, but being an altogether larger property, was 27 feet from the south facing windows. It didn't like that at all and reverted back to small jouvenile leaves. For 3 years Deli sulked in the corner until 1987 when the double glazed conservatory was built.

The dilema was Deli needed more light, but I was not about to heat the conservatory to 18C.

monstera delicosa
Deli in flower August 1989

The aim was to keep the conservatory at 7C which was colder than it had been subjected to before, but being in a poorly lit place had taken its toll, So I cut it back hard. Once again I was amazed that Deli didn't bat an eyelid about 7C, and moreso the low of just 2C during a power cut in 1988. So Monstera deliciosa is much more cold tolerant than the books said.

The new growth was much larger than had been achieved indoors, even near the south window back in the old family home. Deli was lovin' it, so much so, that it flowered in 1989! At that time I did not have the internet, and none of the books I had even mentioned flowering, See picture,

The spathes died off and the spadix turned green and started to swell. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I managed to get onto the internet from work and found that the fruit was edible, but only when fully ripe.

Monstera OC
Monstera in covered unheated courtyard drops to -2C
Picture taken 18th November 2006

Hardy Monsteras

One of the cuttings was rooted in a tub and placed on the North facing open porch. It was about 4 feet tall .I did not bring it in during the winter of 1989 and it was subjected to -6C. It looked completely dead. I moved the tub out of sight, and thought no more of it, however, when I tidied up the tub in the summer of 1990, the stem was still green with a new growth bud on every leaf axil. By the autumn of 1990 all 6 had grown 2 leaves, but in miniture. Having 12 leaves on a 4 foot plant made it very bushy. They were proper split Monstera leaves but only 6 to 9 inches across. It is a shame it cannot remain that way. it would be much easier to house. In summer of 1991 the leaves reverted back to normal size. Unfortunately I didn't photograph it with small leaves.

Monstera OC
Cold hardy Monstera

This plant is now planted in the covered, unheated courtyard, which drops to around -2C each winter. It is growing well, and not showing any signs of cold damage. This means Monstera deliciosa is cold hardy enough to be suitable for outside use in the uk for most of the year.

One of the top stems was cut off last year and thrown on the compost heap. That stem although badly frosted has now sprouted again. The rcovery rate is not fast enough to allow frosting every year, but if a plant does become badly frosted it does stand a chance of recovery. The fact that plant in the covered courtyard survives unscathed suggests that it could be used for shaded frost free use.