If you’ve ever been suddenly seized with the urge to get another houseplant for your collection (and, let’s face it, who hasn’t), you probably have a particular one in mind at that point. And if the one you’re thinking of is one of those great big green plants with the holes in the leaves, then it’s definitely a good decision – as they look, frankly, spectacular.
But then the question arises…exactly which plant is the one with those super unique leaves? As you’ll see when comparing the split leaf philodendron vs Monstera deliciosa, you wouldn’t be blamed for confusing the two.
They do look pretty similar, it’s true. But knowing what’s the difference between a split-leaf philodendron and Monstera deliciosa is helpful for a few reasons, not least of which is because you’ll then be able to find out how to take care of your plant correctly.
So keep reading to see how you can tell if a plant is a Monstera, as well as some key points on philodendron vs Monstera care.
(Hint: This is a picture of a Monstera. You’ll see more about the differences soon but, spoiler alert, the “holes” in the leaves are the giveaway here.)
What’s the difference between a split leaf philodendron vs Monstera?
The main difference between the split leaf philodendron and Monstera is the shape and size of their leaves as well as the type of splits that form. Monstera leaves are rounder than the more feather-shaped philodendron and the philodendron splits go to the edge of each leaf, which isn’t the case with the Monstera.
You can see some more details on their differences below:
- Shape and size of their leaves – While both plants have what appear to be holes in their leaves, the leaves themselves are quite different. That is, the leaves of the Monstera are more heart-shaped. The split-leaf philodendron, however, tends to have smaller leaves that are rounder than those of the Monstera.
- Types of holes – When your Monstera leaves split, the unique holes that form are called “fenestration” and don’t tend to extend to the edge of the leaf (although they can when the holes get big enough as the plant matures and its leaves grow). On the other hand, while the philodendron also has leaves with gaps in them, these are always complete splits that continue all the way to the edges.
- Origin – The Monstera deliciosa originated in tropical areas like Mexico and Central America, reaching heights of 70 feet. The vines wrap around the trunks of trees in their native habitat. The split-leaf philodendron, on the other hand, expands without attaching itself to anything.
- Produces fruit – While the Monstera deliciosa fruit that this plant can produce is edible (and delicious!), the rest of the plant is toxic. The produce is typically only seen when Monstera grows in the wild. A split-leaf philodendron doesn’t produce fruit.
- Flowers – In the wild, a Monstera deliciosa grows a group of flowers encased and protected by a boat-shaped spathe. Eventually, the flowers transform into fruit. While still beautiful, the split-leaf philodendron has no fruit-bearing ability.
- Toxicity – Fruit that has not yet ripened and all other parts of the Monstera deliciosa contain oxalic acid, which is toxic. Conversely, the split-leaf philodendron has the poison calcium oxalate, which is dangerous to eat or possibly even handle. This means that one similarly between the split leaf philodendron vs Monstera is that both plants should be kept separate from pets or children given that both the split leaf and the Monstera are toxic to cats, dogs, other pets and kids.
Are Monstera related to philodendron?
No, the Monstera is not related to the philodendron. Although the two plants look somewhat alike, particularly in the early stages, they are different genera. While both plants are part of the Araceae family, the Monstera is in the Monstera genus, while the philodendron is in the Philodendron genus.
That is, while both the Monstera deliciosa and the split-leaf philodendron possess split leaves, each is considered distinct.
The fact that both plants are part of the Araceae family shouldn’t be interpreted as if the two are related, as this is quite broad. Just consider that this family of plants also includes the peace lily, the pothos, the skunk cabbage and the dumb cane (…some great names there, clearly).
In fact, the split leaf philodendron and the pothos are much more closely related than to Monstera. You can see it in the shape of their leaves, with the pothos having similar, smaller leaves which show a clear difference compared to the Monstera’s larger, darker leaves.
How can you tell if a plant is a Monstera?
There is confusion over identifying the split-leaf philodendron vs Monstera due to the similarities in the two plants, particularly during the early stages of life. Characteristics to look at to tell if a plant is a Monstera include the following:
- Leaves – Monsteras are unique with large, glossy leaves that feature a leathery surface with a size that can go as broad as one to three feet. Nicknamed the ‘Swiss cheese plant,’ each leaf has trademark holes or fenestration, along with deep grooves down the side.
- Holes – As just mentioned, the Monstera is characterized by small, even holes called fenestration in the leaves. When the plant is young, there are clear-cut parameters, but as it grows, the edges of the holes become thinner and tear to the edge of the leaf.
- Habitat – Living in humid, tropical forests, the Monstera deliciosa grows from the ground, reaching high as it travels up a large tree. If used as a houseplant, the plant will only reach six to eight feet and won’t yield fruit or flowers. When placed outdoors in landscaping, the Monstera deliciosa will require lots of space and water and die in a frost situation.
- Roots – The Monstera produces roots that resemble tentacles that cling to nearby trees and branches. These roots become thick and unruly as they reach towards the forest canopy to grab sunlight. You won’t see these on a split leaf philodendron.
- Flowers – While it is rare to see blooms on houseplants, the flowers are creamy-white clusters that sprout from an erect, pulpy spike.
- Fruit – The Monstera deliciosa generally only bears fruit in its natural environment. The plant is often called the ‘fruit salad plant’ because the ripe produce has a mixed taste of banana, pineapple, coconut, guava, passion fruit, and strawberry. The appearance is like that of a large corn-on-the-cob but with green hexagon shapes that have a black center.
- Leaf joints – One of the most definite differences is that Monstera features an elbow or knee-like joint on the leaf, which is called the ‘pulvinus’ or ‘geniculum’. The hinged pulvinus assists with the leaf’s movement during breezy times or as it migrates towards the sun.
- Varieties – Other plants closely related to the Monstera deliciosa grow variegated leaves. The names include ‘Albovariegata’ (or simply ‘Monstera Albo‘), ‘Marmorata’, and ‘Variegata’. The drawback is these plants won’t always supply flowers or fruit.
Is Monstera Peru a philodendron?
No, the Monstera Peru is not a philodendron. Although the Monstera Peru is in the same family as a philodendron, it is in a different genus. This plant, which originated in Peru, doesn’t possess the traditional fenestrated eaves of other Monstera. Instead, it has much smaller, leathery leaves that have ridges.
This rare type of Monstera only likes a little light, and thrives in moist, well-draining soil. Putting your Monstera Peru in a bathroom should result in a happy plant as they love humidity. Beware, though, because this greenery is toxic so keep away from pets and children.
Find out more about the Monstera Peru in our article on this great little member of the Monstera family.
Philodendron vs Monstera care
Regardless of what plant you choose out of the split leaf philodendron vs Monstera, it will require care that is specific to the type of plant it is. Neither the philodendron nor the Monstera are particularly difficult to keep alive, although it’s still important to be aware of their soil, light, and water requirements.
Known for its love of hot, humid environments, Monstera really likes it when this is replicated in its home. This means that its needs include:
- Soil – The best soil for Monstera is slightly acidic soil that provides plenty of aeration for the roots and that drains well after watering. Regular all-purpose potting soil is too dense for Monsteras and can lead to compacting and lack of proper drainage.
- Light – This plant doesn’t like full sun but does require some bright, indirect sunlight. You can find out more about the Monstera light requirements here.
- Water – When it comes to how often to water your Monstera, you should do this when the soil begins to dry and decrease watering from fall to late winter. Otherwise, you may face waterlogged soil which can make it difficult for your plant’s roots to get the oxygen and nutrients it needs.
- Pests – Aphids, mealybugs, scales, spider mites and thrips enjoy Monstera and their munching can lead to your Monstera leaves turning brown. It’s best to treat this immediately if you start to notice brown spots appearing or even the bugs themselves.
- Propagation – Propagate Monstera by choosing a stem with a node on it, noting that you can’t propagate a Monstera without a node. This cutting should be placed in water until a long root appears and then transferred to a pot. The soil should be moist and the roots buried into the soil.
- Re-potting – Due to its strong aerial roots, the Monstera is prone to growing larger than its pot quickly. Re-potting should occur routinely to avoid root rot, to ensure you don’t have a root bound Monstera on your hands and to keep the plant healthy.
- Fertilization – Although the Monstera’s fertilizer needs are fairly reasonable, the soil’s nutrients will diminish over time. If your Monstera leaves start to turn yellow, the stems seem weak, or the growth is slow, consider if this is the cause and, if so, treat it with a 20-20-20 fertilizer.
In the Greek language, philo means ‘love’ and dendron means’ tree’, so the philodendron became the love tree. So make sure you’re showing it the right love with the following:
- Soil – Philodendron enjoys well-draining soil mixed with sand and perlite to avoid root rot. Using a pot with drainage holes will ensure the plant doesn’t stay too wet.
- Light – While a resilient plant that will survive in almost any environment, the best lighting for a philodendron is the same as a Monstera. That is, it enjoys lots of light but not direct sunlight.
- Water – The philodendron plant doesn’t require a lot of water, so limit it to once every 1 to 2 weeks. In between waterings, allow the top inch of soil to dry out completely before watering again.
- Pests – Aphids, spiders, scales, and mealybugs like to prey on philodendrons. To prevent pests on your Monstera, keep the plant well and free from overwatering, underwatering, or other nutrient draining issues.
- Propagation – A philodendron is fast-growing, so propagation is essential. To do so, cut off 3-6 inches of the stem and remove the bottom leaves. Plant 2-3 inches deep in moist soil, taking care that the leaves don’t become buried.
- Re-potting – As most of these houseplants sell as mature plants, you shouldn’t need to re-pot it. Propagation will also help to keep the split-leaf philodendron from overgrowing.
- Fertilization – If new leaves appear pale-colored, use a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer. This will replace calcium and magnesium, which the plant is lacking.
Which one to buy out of Monstera vs split leaf philodendron?
It is somewhat challenging to locate a true Monstera, and you will find that nurseries and plant blogs often group the two and even outrightly confuse them with one another. However, overall, the split-leaf philodendron may be easier to find and is less fussy.
If you purchase a Monstera, allow plenty of space as they crave elbowroom. Since sunlight is necessary for the spectacular split leaves to develop correctly, place your Monstera in a bright area (although not with too much light!). If your Monstera is drooping or its leaves begin to yellow, move the plant to a sunnier location to preserve this sometimes rare and more fragile greenery.
The split-leaf philodendron is a lower maintenance choice and is sensitive to overwatering. Busy plant parents will gravitate towards this plant for its easy-going personality. They do grow and spread quickly though, so propagating and pruning are vital unless you want a jungle in your house!
Health benefits of the Monstera deliciosa vs split leaf philodendron
As mentioned earlier, the philodendron doesn’t produce any fruits. And while you could argue that both plants have health benefits just from their calming effect to any room, the fact that you can eat from Monstera gives it an advantage on this front.
Specifically, the fruit of the Monstera deliciosa is useful in smoothies, ice cream, jams, fruit salads, baked goods, syrups, and sauces. It is important to note that some people react to the fruit with gas, stomach cramps, and diarrhea, so it is best to try just a little at first.
High in vitamin C and potassium, the fruit is low in calories, so a healthy choice. In addition, while there is no scientific proof, some say the fruit is helpful for arthritis pain. Additionally, the roots come in handy in Martinique for snake bites.
However, it’s worth mentioning that if you manage to grow and harvest fruit from a Monstera what it’s your houseplant, you’ll be extremely lucky as, unfortunately, these are usually only seen growing on Monstera in the wild.
Final thoughts on split leaf philodendron vs Monstera deliciosa
The Monstera deliciosa is a complicated but interesting plant. When used as a houseplant, your results will be completely different from if the plant grows naturally in its hot tropical climate. Just like you can’t get blood from a turnip, you can’t get delicious fruit from a Monstera houseplant – at least, not normally!
But there’s no question that it looks pretty spectacular. After all, there’s a reason that so many brands were pushing Monstera leaves into every design they could find. Just check Etsy these days and you’ll see how many Monstera leaf prints or accessories you can choose from (although you may also notice that many of them are actually split leaf philodendrons…).
That’s not to take away from the beauty of the philodendron though. Although a completely different plant, as we now know, the splits running up each of its leaves could be just what you need if you want something different from the more “hole-y” style of the Monstera.
One final warning is that just because a plant nursery or hardware store puts a tag on a houseplant that says “Monstera deliciosa” doesn’t mean it is one. People report online having bought one plant and then later discovering they actually have the other.
So safe to say, you’re not the only one confused about what’s the difference between a split-leaf philodendron and Monstera deliciosa. And ultimately, if the worst case scenario is that you buy a plant thinking it’s a Monstera and it’s actually a philodendron (or vice versa), it probably wouldn’t be the worst outcome in the world.