This unusual plant was once trendy as a houseplant in the 1980s and is now experiencing something of a revival in popularity. Its leaf shape with holes and slits is probably familiar to most people thanks to the foliage pattern being used on everything from bed linen to poster prints to tableware. If you like the look of the Swiss Cheese Plant, then you’re in luck, as this houseplant is easy to grow in most homes, creating a focal point wherever you put it.
This plant gets its common name of Swiss Cheese Plant from the holes in its foliage, which look similar to types of Swiss Cheese that also have holes in them. The holes and slits don’t appear on the plant until it’s a little older, so don’t be concerned if your young Swiss Cheese Plant only has heart-shaped leaves at the moment. The holes and slits in the leaves are suspected of having two possible functions. The widely believed reason for this unusual foliage shape is that it protects the plant from damage in heavy winds and downpours in the rainforest. Adverse weather will run through the gaps in the leaves, causing less harm than on plants with large solid leaves. The other suspicion is that the gaps on a leaf help it to spread out and cover more surface area low down in the rainforest, enabling it to reach as much light as possible.
Swiss Cheese Plant Overview
|Origin||South American rainforests|
|Scientific Name||Monstera Deliciosa|
|Type||Evergreen climbing shrub|
|Common Names||Cheese Plant, Swiss Cheese Plant, Hurricane Plant, Cutleaf Philodendron, Mexican Breadfruit|
|Ideal Temperature||65-80° F|
|Toxicity||Toxic to people and pets|
|Light||Partial shade to bright, indirect light|
|Watering||Allow soil to dry between waterings|
Caring for Your Swiss Cheese Plant
The Swiss Cheese Plant should be watered moderately, with the top few inches of soil being allowed to dry out before watering again. Like most plants, the Swiss Cheese Plant is susceptible to root rot, so avoid letting the plant sit in water or having its soil become saturated with water.
The best watering method for this plant is to give it a generous amount of water until it runs out of the bottom drainage holes of the pot. Give the plant a few minutes and then, discard all of the excess water that has drained from the plant. Keep checking the condition of the soil before watering it again.
When the top layer is dry to the touch, you can dip your finger into the soil to see if it is dry a little further down. If you feel moisture, then you don’t need to water the plant again yet. Once the top few inches of soil feels dry, you can give the plant another thorough watering and repeat the cycle. The Swiss Cheese plant is an easy-care plant in the right conditions and is not very needy. You shouldn’t have to water it too regularly, and a lack of water would be much more preferable than too much water, so if you are unsure about your watering schedule, then err on the side of caution to give your plant the best chance of a healthy life. Overwatering is a much bigger problem than underwatering, and if root rot sets in, then it usually signals the demise of the plant, from which it cannot recover.
If you are comfortable in your home, then your Swiss Cheese Plant will be too. For optimum health, the plant should be in a temperature range of 65º F to 80º F, which is typically where most homes sit. If your Swiss Cheese Plant is subjected to temperatures lowers than 65º F, it will remain in good health but will grow at a slower rate. In temperatures any lower than 50º F, the plant will stop growing completely. For this reason, to maintain a thriving Swiss Cheese Plant, try to keep your home temperature comfortable as much as possible.
Don’t sit the plant in areas that may experience cold drafts, such as in an entryway or by a back door, and keep it in a well-used part of the home. Some people keep their houseplants in guest bedrooms which are rarely used, forgetting that these rooms will not get heated throughout the winter, and the plants become too cold and struggle to survive. You will also need to keep the plant clear of air conditioning units or heating systems, as these are bad for the plants overall health (University of Oxford).
The Swiss Cheese Plant enjoys a combination of bright, indirect light and shade. In its natural habitat, it climbs up trees and therefore spends a lot of time sheltered from direct sunlight by the overhead canopy of the trees’ foliage. However, it also benefits from some indirect bright light shining through the leaves above, so it’s a good idea to try to recreate this environment as much as is possible within a home by placing the plant in a position where it will get a good amount of both filtered light and shade.
Young Swiss Cheese Plants look great on windowsills but will need to be protected from direct light by a sheer fabric blind. As they mature and become more sizeable the windowsill is not usually an option for this plant. They will happily live in the corner of a room which gets natural bright light at some point during the day. The plant is fairly easy going and is known to grow well even in full shade or artificial light, but it may grow slower in these conditions.
The Swiss Cheese Plant needs mid to high humidity to truly thrive. Its native home in tropical climates would be very humid, so it is accustomed to a good level of moisture in the air. If your home has regular humidity levels, or particularly dry air, then you will need to take action to counter this.
One option is to run an electric humidifier. This is the most costly option, but also the easiest. You can set your humidifier on a timer and almost forget about it, letting it do all of the work for you. There are too much more inexpensive methods, one of which is using a wet pebble tray. To do this, you would need to place your potted plant on a tray filled with pebbles and tip water on the pebbles to create a pebble bath. As the water evaporates, the humidity around the plant will be increased. This is a low maintenance option as you would simply need to top up the water level every now and again when it gets low. To make sure the water in the tray doesn’t get absorbed up into the soil and roots of the plant, you need to keep the water level lower than the pebbles; otherwise; if it comes into contact with the plant pots drainage holes, then it could negatively affect plant health by making soil too moist and causing root rot.
The other option for creating humidity is with the use of a misting spray. This is a simple but effective method in which you spritz the plant’s foliage with a misting spray bottle containing water. It takes just a few seconds and is a good method to use as long as you can remember to do it. It has the added benefit of giving your plant’s foliage a light clean, helping to prevent dust build-up on the leaves.
As a humidity-loving plant, the Swiss Cheese Plant should always be kept away from anything that could dry it out, such as fans or heating vents.
This plant will benefit from a monthly fertilizer from early spring to late summer. A balanced fertilizer or one with a higher proportion of nitrogen will help to encourage lots of new foliage growth. Liquid fertilizers are generally considered a good choice for houseplants, as you can dilute them as needed depending on how your plant reacts.
For the Swiss Cheese Plant, a liquid fertilizer diluted to half of the recommended strength is advisable, though this can be increased if necessary. Houseplants are susceptible to fertilizer burn, so it is always better to err on the side of caution and give your plant too little fertilizer rather than too much. A plant that has had no fertilizer at all will be healthier than a plant which has been over fertilized.
The Swiss Cheese Plant can grow rapidly when in the right conditions, and if left to its own devices can become quite unruly. In some areas where the plant has been introduced, such as Hawaii, it has become mildly invasive. Once the plant reaches maturity, usually at around three years, you will need to regularly prune it to keep it under control.
You can prune the plant at any time of year, whenever it is getting too large or too full, and the plant should respond well. You don’t need to waste your pruned stems by discarding them; if you wish to grow more Swiss Cheese Plants, you can put these stems to use and propagate them. To prune stems that will be viable for propagation, make sure you are cutting the stems just after a leaf node, leaving a leaf node still visible on your cut stem.
To gain the tall upright look that Swiss Cheese Plants usually have once mature, you’ll need to supply them with some support. In the wild, they grow up the side of trees, using their aerial roots to support themselves as they climb upwards. You can imitate this support with a moss stick when the plant is grown outside of its natural environment.
You can create your own moss stick very simply. You will need a stake which is around the same height as your Swiss Cheese Plant, planted directly into the soil alongside the plant. Then, take a fine mesh wire and wrap it around the stake, securing it in place with clips, ties, or staples. Then, soak some sphagnum moss with water and push it into the gaps between the stake and the mesh wire, covering as much of the stake as you can. The Swiss Cheese Plant will use this to climb upward, supporting its weight on the moss pole the same as it would use other plants or trees as support in the wild. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own moss pole, you can buy them from garden centers or online (Gardeners World).
Without support, the Swiss Cheese Plant stems will start to bend under the weight of its large and heavy leaves. The arching stems will eventually reach the floor, looking messy and unkempt. The weight placed on the stems can also cause them stress, even snapping if the plant grows large, causing irreparable damage. As soon as your plant becomes a few feet tall, it is time to offer it the support of a moss pole.
The plant will need to be trained initially, to grow in an upright manner. To do this, strap some of the stems to the moss pole, encouraging the plant to grow upwards. You should only need to do this very occasionally, a few times a year at most. The only maintenance that the pole itself will need is to be sprayed occasionally with a water mist. Keeping the sphagnum moss moist will encourage the plant's aerial roots to take hold of the pool, resulting in a more upright plant.
Swiss Cheese Plant propagation can be done from seed, but it is most commonly achieved with stem cuttings as they tend to root quite quickly and easily. Simply take a stem cutting from your mature plant, just after a node, so that a node is still intact at the bottom of your stem. Remove any lower leaves from the stem and then, if you wish, dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone. This step is not essential, but it will likely increase the chances of your stem taking root.
At this point, you can then decide whether to propagate your stem in water or directly into the soil. To propagate in water, simply place your stem cutting in a glass or jar half filled with water and place it in a warm environment without direct light. Change the water every day to keep it fresh and prevent rot or mold, and wait for roots to appear. This process typically takes two or three weeks. Once you have a few roots growing, you can transplant the new Swiss Cheese Plant into a small pot of soil and continue usual care. Make sure you don’t leave the cutting growing roots in the water for too long, as established root systems will be harder to transplant successfully into soil.
To propagate directly into soil, simply dip a pencil into some moist potting soil to create a small hole and bury the cut end of your stem into it, pushing the soil up against the stem to support it. Keep it warm, ideally with heat from the bottom, and wait for it to root. The time taken to root will be similar to water propagation at two to three weeks. You will know when the plant has grown roots because it will also start to grow new leaves. You can also check if roots have formed by lightly tugging on the stem. If there is a little resistance, then it means roots have grown. If the stem slips right out of the soil when you pull on it, you need to give it some more time. When roots have formed, you can move the new plant to a more permanent home in a slightly larger pot, and continue care as usual.
This plant will need to be repotted roughly every three years, depending on its growth. To repot the plant, gently lift it out of its current pot and place it in a new pot which is one size bigger with fresh potting soil placed at the bottom. Gently working the old soil out of the roots will help the roots to spread out in the new pot and continue growing successfully. Fill around the root ball in the new pot with fresh soil, making sure the top of the root ball reaches the same height within the new pot as it did in the old pot.
Water it well to encourage the plant to settle in its new home. When the plant is relatively small, repotting is done to ensure the roots have enough space to grow and to refresh the soil and supply the plant with new nutrients. As the plant grows taller, repotting becomes even more important, as if the plant is in a pot of an inadequate size it can topple over. A full-grown Swiss Cheese Plant can be quite a weight, and it will likely be top heavy. The pot it is in must be quite large and heavy in order to support the weight of the plant.
Have you tried growing Swiss Cheese Plant? Let us know how it’s doing or if we can answer questions by leaving a comment. And share this post with friends who might be interested!