Published: Tuesday, May 28, 2013

LOVING AND LIVING WITH PLANTS

For the Beginner – Start with Monstera

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike: John Muir

When the world around us becomes so complex and everything is going beyond our control, seeking the refuge of a mother’s embrace provides solace to mind and body. These days, you must have noticed the new leaves and trees; so green, so shiny, looking at them just make us feel happy — they are the symbols of life and hope.  The recent episodes of rain rejuvenated nature and made it fresh once again. I am sure it also inspires our plant lovers to think fresh.

Page 802Today I shall tell you about a very sturdy plant — Monstera, a very poetic name and its appearance also reveals much. Monstera is a popular houseplant all over the world. As vining houseplants, they can easily and quickly reach a height of several feet with big leaves (if given the opportunity to grow that way, otherwise it remains within your desired size). This plant also helps purify the air in our home or office by absorbing carbon-dioxide and emitting oxygen. The Monstera is a strong plant that does not require great care. Regular watering and a periodic feed with a pinch of fertiliser are sufficient for a healthy flourishing plant. It can survive both in dark and light places. However, direct sunlight is not good for it as in nature, it grows under the thick foliage of tropical trees. Direct morning sun or late afternoon sun is also fine.

Planting and Caring of Monstera: get it from a good nursery
You may get it in medium-sized earthen pots or collect a healthy branch of it from someone and plant it in regular rich soil, water it regularly for a few days to keep the soil moist and let the roots grow and settle down in two-three weeks. All these help the plant in its initial growing stage to get a grip and vine strongly. One can use something like coconut husk or compost to retain water. The main purpose of this mixture is to make the soil aerated and capable of retaining water without making it too soggy or claustrophobic for the plant. You will need to re-pot your Monstera plant every three years or when it becomes root bound. Completely replace the old soil with new soil. If you want to grow it outdoors you need to provide solid support to climb.

Keeping Monstera in good health
Watering- once a week, preferably the same day every week, if you have to water more than that, its time to transplant. For the first couple of days it needs more water, then gradually it will need less. Fertilising is good at regular intervals in a very small amount but you should halve the portion during winter. Remember, burnt foliage tips or leaves indicate over-fertilisation. Keep your plant moist but not waterlogged. In winter allow the top 1 to 2 inches of soil to dry out before watering again. Make sure the plant has good air circulation, otherwise it can be susceptible to insects, fungus, etc. If the yellow is showing up in the mid vein the plant is over-watered — you follow this up with the finger test (more later).

The roots are drowning and they are shoving the excess water up to the leaves — the plant knows that it can recover if the roots live — think of it as a survival mechanism.

Once a month, gently wipe your Monstera leaves, top and bottom, with a moist cloth to remove dust. Prune the top and sides of the plant if it becomes too large for the space it is in. In general, Monstera plants have no major insect or disease problems. Good luck!

Please feel free to send me emails to share your thoughts, feedback, and photos of your garden, or to tell your story; or ask a question on the garden issue. Email:lifestyleds@yahoo.com