A young monstera deliciosa plant

Monstera leaves not splitting? Here’s why your Swiss cheese plant doesn’t have holes, and when they’ll appear

Posted by for Plants

Are you the owner of a Swiss cheese plant without any splits or ‘fenestrations’ in its leaves? Keep reading to find out why, and when you can expect those iconic holes to appear.

The monstera deliciosa’s tentacle-like aerial roots may be particularly eye-catching, but none of its features are quite so recognisable as its signature giant split leaves.

Indeed, besides the fact that it’s relatively easy to take care of, the Swiss cheese plant’s unique leaves are one of the main reasons why it’s so popular (especially on Instagram).

However, not all monstera leaves have these splits or holes – a fact that often leaves new plant owners wondering if they’re doing something drastically wrong. 

If you’re in that position right now, we feel your pain – but there’s nothing to fear. It’s completely normal for a monstera plant not to have splits in its leaves, and one of the main reasons why has nothing to do with how well it’s being looked after.

So, if you’re wondering why your monstera’s leaves aren’t splitting, and want to find out whether there’s anything you can do to encourage your plant to produce split leaves, keep reading to find out everything you need to know.

Why do monstera leaves split?

A monstera plant with fenestrated leaves
The monstera deliciosa is a tropical plant from central and southern America.

Before we dive into the reasons why your monstera’s leaves aren’t splitting, we need to consider why a monstera has holes in its leaves in the first place.

In the wild, the monstera deliciosa originates in the dense, humid and shady tropical forests of central and southern America, where the plant uses its aerial roots to climb nearby trees and access the light that fails to reach the forest floor. It’s this search for light that experts believe explains why the plant’s leaves split, too.

“The splits in a monstera’s leaves develop naturally so that light can reach the lower parts of the plant through the higher leaves,” Jo Lambell, founder of the online plant shop Beards & Daisies, explains. “It also makes them more resistant to strong winds.” 

What are the splits in monstera leaves called?

While the gaps in a monstera’s leaves are often referred to as ‘splits’ or ‘holes’, they’re actually called ‘fenestrations’. Try that one out next time you’re trying to impress your mates. 

When do monstera leaves split?

Let’s get down to business: the main reason why your monstera’s leaves probably aren’t splitting is because of its age and size.

Like other plants in the ‘Araceae’ family, the shape of a monstera’s leaves changes with age – while they start off by producing small, heart-shaped leaves (kind of like those found on a pothos), over time they begin to produce bigger leaves with an increasing number of splits. 

If your monstera plant is still relatively young, there’s not much you can do except wait until the plant matures enough to start growing split leaves. Indeed, when healthy, a monstera plant will begin producing split leaves when it’s about two or three years old. 

Of course, if you don’t want to wait, you could always pick up a mature monstera plant online or from your local plant shop.

How to get monstera leaves to split

A young monstera plant
Young monstera plants don't have splits in their leaves.

While age is the predominant reason why a monstera plant might not produce split leaves, it’s not the only one. If your plant is more than two or three years old and you’re yet to see any signs of a split leaf, you might want to review your care routine.

“Making sure your monstera is happy is key if you want it to produce split leaves,” Lambell explains. “You’ll want to make sure you give it enough light and water to grow so it can reach maturity, which is when you’ll see holes appearing on its new leaves.”

She continues: “You can encourage growth by removing the smaller leaves from your plant, coaxing bigger ones to come through.”

If you want to increase your monstera’s growth rate, you might also consider adding some fertiliser every other time you water it and making sure it’s not outgrown its pot. 

New to plant parenthood? Check out Stylist’s guide to buying, styling and caring for plants to get started.

You can find out more about the most common houseplant problems by checking out our range of plant care content, too. 

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.