ISSUE 92  |  Tree Huggers

Splitleaf Philodendron: Temporary Houseplants for the Commitment-Phobe

October 02, 2013 3:00 PM

BY Erin Boyle

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I can be something of a commitment-phobe when it comes to bringing large plants into my tiny apartment, to say nothing of trees. I think of large plants as existing in the same category as large dogs. You don’t just buy a large houseplant and forget about it. You need to nurture it and care for it, and most important, live with it. Every day.

New to gardening? See more of Erin’s Small Space Garden and check out all our Novice Gardener columns.

Photographs by Erin Boyle.

Monstera Deliciosa–also known as the splitleaf philodendron, Swiss cheese plant, and monster plant–is native to the balmy tropical tropical rain forests of southern Mexico and Central America. There it climbs into the tree canopy, attaching tentacle-like aerial roots to tree trunks and branches. The leaves and stems of the plant are poisonous, but the strangely shaped fruit is perfectly edible–and sounds delicious, with a flavor that’s a combination of banana, pineapple, and mango.

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If you haven’t explored the tropics lately, it’s likely you’ve seen Monstera deliciosa more often in offices and homes with impressive plant collections. The plant has been creeping into interior design styling with increased regularity and while I don’t think it’ll edge out the Fiddle Leaf Fig in the race for most coveted houseplant, it’s a contender. The large glossy leaves are deeply lobed with elongated holes, and they make impressive additions to rooms in need of a good dose of greenery. Despite its rain forest roots, the plant is fairly tolerant of dry air and indirect light and does well in indoor containers. But its leaves can grow up to 3 feet long, so you’ll need to make sure that you’ve got plenty of floor space to spare. A Monstera deliciosa Plant in a 6-inch pot is $25 from Pernell Gerver.

For those less inclined to enter a long-term relationship with a houseplant, a stop at the neighborhood florist might be all that you need to introduce a bit of the tropics into your home. Instead of hauling an enormous plant into your home, consider adding just a leaf or two.

I recently purchased two Monstera Deliciosa leaves from the corner florist shop for $4 each. I filled a large vase with a small amount of water, made a fresh cut on the end of the leaves, and plopped them into the water. With a water change every few days, my leaves lasted for more than three weeks. When they began to yellow and the stems weakened, I was able to toss them without feeling terribly neglectful.

Leaves purchased from the flower shop likely won’t root, but if you’re lucky enough to know someone with a plant and you’d like to root a cutting yourself, the process is fairly simple. Just make sure to start with a stem that has some of the aerial roots still attached. These will continue to grow in water and can be repotted if you decide you’d like a more permanent addition to the family.

In the market for something more permanent? See all of our Houseplant Posts. Do you have big apartment? Maybe you need one of our favorite Lofty Houseplants.