Some of the most popular houseplants out there are the species in the genus Monstera, especially Monstera deliciosa and Monstera adansonii. Luckily these show-stoppers are pretty easy to care for, but problems can unfortunately always pop up. What should you do if your Monstera is struggling?
Let’s go into 12 of the most common problems with Monstera, their causes and what you can do to help your plant.
Note: Before we start, let one thing be clear. Plants are not always picture perfect. Sometimes they just shed their lower leaves, their leaf tips dry or some unsightly spots form. Don’t freak out too easily!
Monstera leaves turning yellow
Problem: Yellowing foliage
Causes: Various, review all care aspects
It can be pretty worrying to see your Monstera leaves turning yellow. Unfortunately this is also a very generic symptom. Yellowing of the leaves is a pretty standard reaction to a range of problems, so you’ll really have to review the care you’re providing your plant.
Monstera yellow leaves can be caused by any of the following:
- Overwatering. It’s easy to love your Monstera to death! The soil should be lightly moist and definitely never soggy, with Monstera leaves turning yellow meaning you might have to take it a bit easier. Your plant needs less water during the winter months.
- Improper drainage. If your soil mixture is not suitable for a Monstera, it can unintentionally lead to overwatering. These aroids need a nice and loose mixture that allows excess water to drain freely.
- Too little light. Although Monsteras can survive in low light areas for quite a while, eventually they’ll start to suffer. This can manifest in yellowing leaves, especially on the lower end of the plant.
- Bugs. There are various nasty pests out there that can infest your houseplants. Many of them drain the plant’s sap or gnaw at its roots, causing yellowing leaves. Skip to the last paragraph for more information about pest identification and treatment tips.
- Natural progression. Unfortunately, houseplant are not always Instagram perfect. It’s perfectly normal for a Monstera to drop some of its lower foliage if it has grown new, better leaves.
A few Monstera leaves turning yellow at the lower end of the plant is completely normal. Let your plant reabsorb the nutrients from these leaves and then remove them when they’re crispy.
Tip: In order to figure out where you could improve your Monstera care, it’s handy to go back and have a look at a care guide. Check out the Monstera deliciosa care guide and the Monstera adansonii care guide to fine-tune your plant parenting.
Monstera leaves curling
Problem: Leaves curling inward or outward
Causes: Thirst, low humidity, heat
As with all issues that can pop up with your plant, Monstera leaves curling can have a bunch of different causes. You’ll have to review the care and environment you’re providing to see if you can pinpoint where the problem lies. Then, it should be easy enough to adjust your care and help your plant perk back up!
Monstera leaves curling can be caused by:
- Underwatering. Hey, we’re all guilty of forgetting about our plants sometimes. Monstera leaves curling means you might want to keep a closer eye on your Monstera’s soil humidity levels and don’t forget that houseplants like more frequent soaking during the warm summer months.
- Low air humidity. Monstera species naturally occur in tropical areas where humidity can be very high. Our homes, on the other hand, can be very dry places. You might need to start running a humidifier, group houseplants together or place your Monstera in a more humid area such as the bathroom.
- Drying out too quickly. If you’re using a soil that barely holds any moisture at all, you can end up accidentally underwatering your Monstera. Always include a moisture-retaining element like sphagnum moss! A root-bound plant can also dry out too rapidly, causing leaf curl due to lack of moisture.
- Root problems. An example is root rot due to overwatering: the roots rot and die off, leaving your Monstera unable to soak up moisture. Overfertilizing can have a similar effect. It can seem like your plant is drying out and needs more water, while in reality you’ve actually been overwatering!
- Excessive heat. This especially applies if you move your plant very suddenly to a much sunnier and warmer spot. Placing it too close to a heater can have a similar effect. The soil dries out much quicker, air humidity drops and your Monstera’s leaves start curling.
Monstera root rot
Problem: Roots are rotting, plant is declining
Causes: Overwatering, drainage issues, low light
When it comes to Monstera health issues, probably the most serious one is root rot. This is because rot can spread fast and is irreversible. It can travel up from the roots, eventually turning your entire, previously gorgeous houseplant to mush.
In general, root rot is caused by excessive moisture (‘wet feet’). Overwatering, using a planter without a drainage hole and poorly draining soil can all contribute. Low light is also a contributor, because your plant won’t be able to use any water you give it as efficiently without plenty of light.
Symptoms of root rot can be very varied: yellowing, browning, blackening, leaf spot, drooping and curling are all possible effects. That’s why, if any of these issues pop up, it’s always worth reviewing your watering schedule and checking the soil moisture levels. If you’re suspicious, you’ll have to take your Monstera out of its planter to check the roots.
If the roots look mushy, black/brown and emit a foul smell, unfortunately your plant is in a bit of trouble.
Did you know? ‘Root rot’ is a pretty general term. The issues can be either bacterial or fungal – or both.
So what should you do if you find Monstera root rot on your plant?
- Assess the damage. Is it just the roots or also the stem? Either way, you’re gonna have to get a knife out.
- Remove ALL afflicted parts. If that means removing pretty much the entire root ball, so be it. Only the healthy parts of your Monstera can stay. Also remove any leaves that seem to be suffering.
- Repot into fresh, suitable soil. Make sure you mix a nice aroid soil and don’t forget to always use a planter with a drainage hole.
- Be patient. Place your Monstera in a well-lit location with proper air moisture levels (50% or up is good; use a humidity meter to check). Keep the soil lightly moist. With some luck, the plant will regrow its roots and the issues won’t come back.
Did you know? Even if the rot has affected your Monstera’s stem, all is not lost. Cut off the affected parts and use the Monstera propagation guide to find out how to hopefully successfully regrow your plant.
Monstera leaves drooping
Problem: Plant is wilting
Causes: Thirst, temperature, shock, infestation
A droopy Monstera can be a sign of trouble, but luckily the problem can generally easy be fixed. The causes are usually related to lack of moisture. They’re often similar to those of Monstera leaf curl.
Monstera leaves drooping can be caused by:
- Thirst. Did you forget to water your plant on time? Like other houseplants, a Monstera will let its foliage hang if it’s thirsty.
- Drying out too quickly. Does your Monstera perk back up after watering but returns to looking droopy just a few days later? Try to see if it’s too close to a heater or root bound.
Aerate the soil with a chopstick to make sure water can reach the roots and consider whether the soil mixture might need more water-retaining elements. And again, don’t forget your plant needs more water during the warm summer months!
- Too hot or too cold. Temperature stress can cause a droopy Monstera, especially if you suddenly move your plant to a much hotter or colder environment. Try not to let the temperature drop below 10 °C/50 °F.
- Repotting. Houseplants can be pretty fussy about change. Monstera leaves drooping is a common issue right after you repot or transplant a plant. No worries, as it’ll generally bounce right back after a few weeks.
- Root issues. As discussed in the section on Monstera leaf curl, root damage can make your Monstera appear dried out and sad. This can happen when root rot due to overwatering has set in, for example, or if you’ve fertilized too much or out of season.
- Pests. If your Monstera is looking droopy, it might be worth checking it for bugs. These critters can drain it of sap and damage the roots, causing the leaves to hang.
Monstera leaves turning black
Problem: Foliage blackening
Causes: Root rot, sunburn, fertilizer issues, infection
If your Monstera leaves are turning black, it’s time to take action quickly. Your plant isn’t doomed or anything, but blackening is an indication of issues on the serious side!
Monstera leaves turning black can be caused by:
- Root rot. Which, as we’ve discussed, is generally the result of overwatering and/or poor drainage. You might have to check the roots on your Monstera and if you spot symptoms of rot, take the necessary precautions (see the paragraph above on root rot).
- Sunburn. Did you suddenly move your Monstera to a much brighter location? A bit of sun is no problem, but it’s important to remember to acclimate your plant. Sudden, harsh sun can cause leaves to blacken.
- Fertilization problems. Monstera leaves turning black can indicate over- or underfertilization. Remember, if your plant is happily growing along during the summer months, it can definitely benefit from monthly application of a houseplant fertilizer. Nutrient deficiencies can cause discolored leaves, after all.
During the winter months it’s better to avoid fertilizing, as it can end up damaging the roots.
- Disease. It’s not very common, but a Monstera can end up picking up a bacterial or fungal disease. Bacterial leaf spot, for example, can manifest in black spots with a yellow halo. You might have to remove afflicted foliage and/or use a fungicide or bactericide.
Monstera leaves browning
Problem: Foliage browning
Causes: Overwatering, underwatering, low humidity
It’s not uncommon at all for tropical houseplant leaves to brown, especially around the edges. This is no exception. Monstera leaves browning can have different causes, but luckily the type of browning can tell us more.
Monstera leaves browning can be caused by:
- Overwatering. As discussed earlier, root rot due to overwatering can manifest in dark brown/blackish spots on Monstera leaves. You might also see some light brown crisping, which can pop up because the now damaged roots are unable to take up enough water. Check the soil moisture and your plant’s roots.
- Underwatering. If your Monstera is thirsty for some extra moisture, you’ll often see light brown spots and crisping of the leaf. If the leaves are also drooping or curling, it’s pretty clear that either you’re not watering enough, the soil is drying too fast or something is preventing water from properly reaching the roots.
- Low humidity. A very common culprit for Monstera leaf browning is lack of moisture in the air, which tends to lead to brown and crispy leaf edges.
Monstera not splitting
Problem: Monstera not reaching adult form
Causes: Normal, low light
If you love the look of a mature Monstera with those huge leaves as well as lots of splits and holes, it can be frustrating if your plant seems to just refuse to put out nice foliage.
So what can cause a Monstera to grow leaves without splits? Or leaves with splits that don’t develop properly?
- Your Monstera is a baby. It takes a few leaves before the first splits start to appear, and even then it might even be one or two. Be patient: plants are slow beings. With the right care, each new Monstera leaf will show more and more intricate fenestration.
- Lack of light. Monsteras are often marketed as very low light or even no-light plants. This is just not true. They can survive for a good while in low-light conditions, but in an ideal situation, they would receive plenty. Monsteras in low light areas won’t split nearly as well, so find a nice and bright spot for yours.
Still not sure? Have a look at the full article on when Monstera leaves split.
Did you know? The reason for Monstera leaves being fenestrated has been the source of some scientific discussion. It’s been suggested they help create air flow that assists in keeping the plant cool (Madison, 1977), and also that they help more rain reach the roots (Lubenow, 2011).
Bugs on Monstera
Causes: Mealybugs, thrips, spider mites & more
As discussed throughout this guide, bugs can be responsible for a range of symptoms in your Monstera houseplant. Unfortunately for us indoor gardeners, there are quite a few species out there. Bugs are often easily transmitted between plants and can be a nightmare to get rid of.
So how do you spot and identify bugs on your Monstera? And more importantly, how should you get rid of them? Let’s first go into some of the most common culprits.
- Mealybugs. In the author’s opinion, the worst one and definitely the absolute spawn of Satan.
Mealybugs are sticky and fuzzy dots that you’ll find on the underside of leaves or where leaves meet the stem. They suck the sap from your Monstera and are very difficult to eradicate fully. You can read more in the post on mealybugs.
- Thrips. Small, light brown and with tiny wings, these guys like to stick around the leaf vein area. They leave discolored spots and are not easy to deal with.
- Scale. They might just look like a bit of damage to your plant, but scale is actually an armored bug. They like to sit motionlessly on your plant’s stems and leisurely drain its life sap. Ugh.
- Fungus gnats. If you see little flies in and around your Monstera’s soil, you might be dealing with fungus gnats. It’s their larvae that do the damage, rooting around the soil in search of tasty Monstera roots to feast on.
- Spider mites. These tiny specks are easy to recognize from the trail of webs that they leave on the underside of your plant’s roots. They seem to pop up when the air is dry and an infestation can quickly really get out of control.
How to eradicate bugs on Monstera
If you checked your Monstera (which you should regularly do) and found some creepy crawlies, don’t panic. They’re not harmful to humans and they won’t suddenly kill your plant either. An infestation would have to be really bad for it to become deadly.
This all being said, it’s important to keep in mind that unhealthy plants are more prone to falling prey to infestations. Before you start using home remedies or commercial pesticides, think about whether your Monstera is getting enough light and whether you can do anything to improve your Monstera care.
Treatments vary per bug. For example, a mixture of water and 3% hydrogen peroxide, or the application of diatomaceous earth, can be quite helpful in eradicating fungus gnats. A brush dipped in rubbing alcohol is perfect to manually pick off scale and mealybugs.
In any case, your starting point should be to regularly hose down your plant in order to give the pests a hard time. Other than that, neem oil has proven to be helpful, and even water mixed with some dish soap can do damage.
If you’d really like to get out the big guns, a commercial pesticide is probably your best bet.
Tip: Seriously, don’t freak out too much about bugs. They’re just a part of having plants in your home. Over here at Houseplant Central we can sometimes not even be bothered to fight an infestation, only to find out months later that it has disappeared on its own.
If you have any more questions about these common issues with Monstera or if you want to share your own experiences, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Happy planting! 🌱
Lubenow, C. (2011). The adaptive function of leaf fenestrations in Monstera spp.(Araceae): a look at water, wind, and herbivory.
Madison, M. (1977). A revision of Monstera (Araceae). Contributions from the Gray Herbarium of Harvard University, (207), 3-100.