You know your Monstera probably needs fertilizer, but how much do you use? What kind do you get? Here is everything you need to know about fertilizing your Monstera.
Fertilize your Monstera during the growing season in Spring and Summer with a balanced fertilizer. Cut back or stop fertilizing during Fall and Winter when your Monstera slows its growth for the season. Whether you choose liquid or granular fertilizer, use it on your Monstera every 2 – 4 weeks.
Stick around if you want to learn more about how to choose the proper fertilizer for your Swiss Cheese plant. I will also cover the macro and micronutrients that it needs.
Lets get started!
Why does Monstera need fertilizer?
Plants, including Monstera, need more than just water and sunlight to thrive. Imagine trying to survive on just water and bread! You probably would be okay for a couple of days, but eventually, your body would start craving protein and vegetables.
Photosynthesis is your Monstera’s way of creating its own sugars for energy. Still, it also needs other nutrients to maintain healthy cellular function, just like we need to eat protein to maintain our strength.
Most plants absorb nutrients from the soil through their roots (some unique plants called epiphytes use their leaves for this purpose, but not Monsteras).
Outdoors, natural life cycles constantly replenish the necessary nutrients in the soil. But, when you keep plants like Monstera in a pot, it is up to you to make sure they receive all their necessary nutrients.
Best time to fertilize your Monstera
Fertilize during the growing season
The best time to fertilize your Monstera is when it is actively growing. If you live somewhere tropical, this may be year-round.
However, if you live somewhere with cold Winters, your Monstera will only grow during the warmer and brighter months of Spring and Summer.
Do not fertilize your Monstera when it is not growing in the Fall and Winter. During these months, the Monstera does not take up as many nutrients from the soil, and too much fertilizer in the soil can burn a plant’s roots.
Fertilize when you water your Monstera
It would be best if you fertilized your Monstera as you water it. Do not apply fertilizer, especially liquid fertilizer, directly to dry soil as this will burn the roots.
Liquid fertilizer should be diluted in the watering can (or whatever vessel you use).
On the other hand, Granular or slow-release fertilizers should be placed on or in the soil and watered right away.
Fertilization schedule: How often does Monstera need fertilizer?
How often you fertilize depends heavily on how fast your Monstera is growing. Monsteras grow the fastest during Summer and slow down almost to a halt in the Winter. It will need more fertilizer when it is growing and almost none when it is not.
This article assumes you live somewhere like me with four seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Of course, that is not the case for everyone! Monsteras are from a tropical area where it never snows and will grow year-round if the weather is good.
Pay attention to your Monstera’s growth habits throughout the year. Notice when it grows more and when or if it slows down its growth.
|Season||Monstera Growth Condition||Recommended Fertilizer Strength|
|Spring||Starting new growth||¼ to ½|
|Summer||Fast growth||½ to 1|
|Fall||Growth slowing down||¼ to ½|
|Winter||Dormant growth||stop fertilizing|
Start fertilizing your Monstera in the SpringSpring when you start seeing signs of new growth. It is just waking up from Winter, so it doesn’t need a full-strength fertilizer just yet.
Use ¼ to ½ of the recommended strength of your Monstera’s fertilizer about once a month until the weather starts really warming up for Summer.
Summer is when your Monstera will be growing the fastest, which means this is when it will want the most food! Your Monstera will appreciate being fed every 2–4 weeks in the summer at ½ to full strength.
If you are using a granular or slow-release fertilizer, place it in your Monstera’s pot at the start of Summer. These will release nutrients over 3 to 4 months.
Too much or too frequent of applications will over-fertilize your Monstera, leading to root burn.
Your Monstera will start to slow down its growth in the fall when the weather cools down. You should cut back its fertilizer accordingly.
Lengthen the time between feedings to mirror what you did in the Spring: feed every month or so. Also, decrease the strength of fertilizer to ¼ or ½ strength.
Do not fertilize your Monstera during its winter dormancy. If it is not growing, it will not need the extra nutrients. Adding too much will lead to burning your plant.
If you live in a warmer climate, your Monstera is still growing slowly during the cold months; so continue with infrequent ½ strength feedings.
If you live in a tropical climate where it does not cool off for the Winter, you can continue fertilizing year-round as long as your Monstera continues to put out new growth.
Nutrients in houseplant fertilizers
So what exactly is in fertilizer anyway? Let’s break it down.
The macronutrients in fertilizers—Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium—are the main thing you need to look at. These three compounds are essential to plant growth and health.
They each have their own biological function for plants. Different fertilizers have different ratios of these three macronutrients, which is something to consider when picking out plant food for your Monstera.
When you look at a bottle or jar of fertilizer, you will notice three numbers posted on the front, such as 20-20-20 or 1-2-2. These three numbers represent how much of each macronutrient is in that fertilizer as a percentage by weight.
N, P, and K stand for Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), and Potassium (K). So a 20-20-20 fertilizer has 20% nitrogen, 20% phosphorous, and 20% potassium. The rest of the weight is either water or some other filler substance.
The function of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, & Potassium
Nitrogen boosts your plant’s growth, color, and foliage. This is what helps your plant grow big and beautiful. Since Monstera are prized for their foliage, a fertilizer higher in Nitrogen would be useful.
Phosphorous is essential to healthy flowers and fruit. Fertilizers with a higher percentage of phosphorous are advertised for flowering plants like orchids and violets. Since Monstera is not a houseplant known for its flowers or fruit (which are usually only produced in its natural habitat), a high-phosphorous fertilizer will not necessarily be useful for it.
Potassium doesn’t have a glamorous function like Nitrogen or phosphorous. Instead, it works behind the scenes to promote the overall health of your Monstera. Potassium supports strong roots, a sturdy plant, and disease resistance.
Most suitable NPK Ratio for Monstera
Monstera’s best NPK ratio is either balanced (the same number for each) or one heavier in Nitrogen to support full foliage. I use fertilizer with 5-2-3 NPK ratio for my Monsteras.
Secondary nutrients in fertilizer include Calcium, Magnesium, and Sulphur. They are called secondary ingredients because plants need less of these compounds than the big three NPK.
The function of Secondary Nutrients
Calcium provides structural support to plants’ cell walls. A calcium deficiency will cause new growth to die, weak stems, and/or very dark leaves.
Magnesium is essential to photosynthesis; chlorophyll is made of one magnesium and four nitrogen atoms. A magnesium deficiency will cause your Monstera’s leaves to begin yellowing, but the leaf veins will remain green.
Sulphur is used by plants when creating chlorophyll and proteins. A Sulphur deficiency will cause baby leaves to turn pale green or yellow, and growth will be stunted.
Plants use micronutrients in even smaller quantities than secondary nutrients, but that doesn’t make them any less important! Each of these micronutrients has a specific function in your Monstera’s cellular function.
Function of Micronutrients
Boron supports the structural integrity of your Monstera’s cellular membranes.
Copper acts as a catalyst in several important plant growth reactions and processes.
Chlorine has multiple functions in the plant that relate to water. It helps plants regulate water loss from their leaves. It helps break down water into oxygen and hydrogen during photosynthesis. It also helps transport other nutrients within the plant.
Iron helps your Monstera process nitrogen and transfer energy.
Manganese assists with photosynthesis and other metabolic reactions.
Molybdenum is essential for nitrogen availability in the soil.
Nickel is essential for urea conversion, a part of the plant’s “digestion” of Nitrogen.
Zinc is vital for your Monstera’s growth and metabolism.
|Nutrients Type||Nutrients in Fertilizers|
|Secondary Nutrients||• Calcium|
Organic vs Synthetic fertilizer: Which one is better for Monstera?
When it comes to NPK, your Monstera won’t know the difference between organic or synthetic fertilizers.
Synthetics fertilizers usually have higher concentrations, so they will always need to be diluted to half their recommended strength. Organic fertilizers are generally less potent and less likely to burn your Monstera’s roots.
The significant difference between organic and synthetic fertilizers has to do with secondary and micronutrients. Organic is more likely to contain more than just Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium.
As we just discussed, it is important that your Monstera has access to these tiny molecules! Some organic fertilizers and soil amendments contain beneficial soil fungi and bacteria. When in doubt, check the label on the back; everything will be listed out in detail.
In short, go organic.
Different kind of Fertilizers
There are different kinds of fertilizers you can use for your Monstera. Don’t let the variety confuse you! Let’s break it down.
Liquid fertilizers are the most common for houseplants like Monstera because they are the easiest to use. They come in a bottle already in concentrated liquid form.
All you have to do is add a few drops to your watering can (more specific measurements are written on the bottle) and then water your Monstera like normal.
Liquid fertilizers can be either organic or synthetic. As described above, the synthetic fertilizer will have a higher concentration of NPK, while organic fertilizers will likely have more micronutrients.
Using liquid fertilizer is an excellent way to feed your Monstera because you can easily adjust up or down how much food you’re giving it. If you live somewhere where it gets cold for the winter, you want to easily reduce how much fertilizer you give your Monstera during those months.
Granular fertilizer is similar to liquid in its application. It comes in a powder or granular form, which is then mixed with water before watering your Monstera. Like liquid, it is easy to measure and control how much fertilizer your Monstera receives.
Granular fertilizers are usually synthetic, only containing macronutrients Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. Because they are synthetic, they will also be stronger.
Always use half the recommended concentration when feeding your Monstera with water-soluble granular fertilizer.
Granular fertilizer can be used during the growing season, but you may want to consider another soil amendment, such as worm castings to increase micronutrients in your Monstera’s soil.
Slow-release fertilizers can come in a couple of different forms. First, there are synthetic slow-release grains that are 1–2 mm in diameter. These release NPK over the course of 3 to 4 months every time you water your Monstera.
There are also synthetic and organic fertilizer sticks, about the size of a finger or smaller. You stick one into your Monstera’s soil (maybe two if the pot is huge), and it will dissolve over a few months as the fertilizer is absorbed into the soil.
If you want to use a slow-release stick, go with the organic one, as synthetics tend to cause a high salt concentration, and burn the roots.
Slow-release fertilizers are great if you tend to forget about fertilizing your Monstera regularly. But, you need to be careful and only apply them at the start of its growing season. A late application in Fall or Winter can release too much fertilizer into the soil!
How Much Fertilizer should I use?
Every fertilizer you buy will have instructions on the bottle. That is our starting point.
For potent, synthetic fertilizers, only use half that amount during the active growing season. Organic fertilizers are more gentle and can be used at the recommended strength written on the bottle.
In Spring and Fall, when growth is slower, you will need to use even less fertilizer. For synthetic fertilizers, that means using ¼ the recommended strength and ½ dose for organic ones. Do not fertilize your Monstera in the winter when it isn’t growing.
It’s always better to err on the side of caution. Your Monstera would rather have too little fertilizer than too much.
If your Monstera needs more fertilizer, it may slow down its growth or shed a couple of leaves. This is much more preferable than overfertilization, which may seriously injure your Monstera.
How to use fertilizer
How to use liquid and granular fertilizer
You should mix your fertilizer with water before putting it in your watering can so that you can measure it correctly. Most fertilizers will indicate how much product to mix with a gallon or liter of water, so having a vessel that size dedicated to your Monstera is ideal.
Take your gallon (or liter) of water. Measure out one dose of fertilizer (based on what you just read in the last section) and mix it into the water. Make sure it is evenly mixed, then pour it into your watering can.
Water your Monstera well until you see some water drain out of the bottom. If there is a lot of fertilizer water left in the drip pan at the bottom, make sure to dump it out, so your plant doesn’t sit in it for too long.
Repeat every 2 to 6 weeks, depending on the growing season. Water normally in between fertilizing.
How to use a slow-release fertilizer
Your Monstera will not need slow-release fertilizer to be applied as frequently, closer to every 3 to 4 months.
Place fertilizer beads on top of the soil at ½ recommended dose. Or, place fertilizer stick into the soil near the roots. Water well until it comes out of the bottom of the pot. Do not reapply for another 3-4 months.
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. It is very possible to over-fertilize your Monstera.
Too much fertilizer built up in the soil will burn your Monstera’s roots. The salts in fertilizers will suck moisture away from your Monstera’s roots, leaving it thirsty.
These salts also affect the soil’s pH, leading to decreased bioavailability of nutrients—the opposite of what we want to happen!
Signs of Overfertilization
There are a few signs that your Monstera is getting too much fertilizer.
Brown, crunchy leaf tips and edges
Brown, crunchy leaves indicate that something is too salty in the soil and burning your Monstera. This can be caused by extra hard water, but it is more likely to be caused by excess fertilizer.
White, crusty soil
If your soil starts to look white and crusty, it is because your Monstera’s soil cannot hold any more fertilizer!
Too much fertilizer will lead to an imbalance in your Monstera’s soil pH so much that it won’t be able to absorb the nutrients in the soil. Not taking up those nutrients will cause the plant to slow down its growth.
Yellow, wilting, or dropping leaves.
Monsteras communicate through their leaves, and it is no different when they are getting too much fertilizer. Your plant’s leaves may begin to wilt, turn yellow, and even fall off if it receives too much fertilizer.
It is easier to prevent over-fertilization, but it can still be fixed.
How to fix over-fertilization
Step one: Don’t panic!
Once you determine that your Monstera has been overfertilized, it is time to go about removing all that extra fertilizer from the soil.
If there is a white crust on top of the soil, gently remove it from the pot. Please don’t take more than a quarter of your Monstera’s soil; you don’t want to disturb its roots too much when it’s stressed.
Next, you need to flush the soil. Think of this as an intense watering. Flushing your plant’s soil is easiest to do in the shower or tub or outside with a hose, places where there’s plenty of water and drainage!
Your Monstera’s pot must have adequate drainage for this to work! They are prone to root rot if they stay too wet for too long.
Water your Monstera until it starts coming out the bottom of the pot, and then keep going. This deep, deep watering will flush all the extra fertilizers and salts out of the soil. Give it enough water for 3 or 4 deep waterings.
Once all the water has drained, replace the top few inches of soil with fresh potting soil and put your Monstera back where you usually keep it. Don’t fertilize again for at least another month.
My Personal Choice of the Best Fertilizer for Monstera
When choosing a fertilizer for your Monstera, look for organic options as they tend to be gentler. Look for a fertilizer that contains micronutrients for the long-term happiness of your Monstera. I recommend a liquid fertilizer for ease of use.
If you’re having trouble deciding, I recommend this brand. This fertilizer is explicitly formulated for Monsteras. It is gentle and has a higher concentration of nitrogen for big, beautiful leaves.