Plant troubles affect us all – no matter if you’re new to plants or an experienced green thumb. Most recently, my Monstera deliciosa has been looking a little rough and needed a major overhaul in terms of its care and environment. I’ll be sharing things that have gone wrong with my plants on my Instagram page as part of #PlantFailFridays but here’s a recap of what happened to my Monstera and how I (hopefully!) have fixed it.
I bought my Monstera late fall 2020 as a reward for paying off all my student loans. I knew was signing up for a high maintenance plant but the dramatic highs and lows are throwing me for a loop!
After noticing draining issues, I changed the dirt and tried to poke more holes through the soil in the root ball to allow water and air flow. I should have recognized how much of a big plant I actually had shoved back into that nursery container but with the winter as a standard dormant period I figured I’d wait for warmer weather. I know now that I shouldn’t have tried to wait.
- Some leaves have yellowing around the edges
- New leaves are still drooping after unfurling
- Pot is heavy still a week after last watering
- Roots are becoming visible
What these Symptoms Mean
The Water Issues
Droopy, yellow-edged leaves often mean the plant is overwatered. I blame cartoons for telling us drooping flowers always need water to perk up. This may be true with leaves that are crisp around the edges and darkening/browning but not those getting lighter!
We need to remove the excess water and let the plant breathe.
Some analogies for you:
When thinking of light leaves (excluding shiny, new ones!!), you can think of mixing white and red paint. The white paint is like the water. The more white you add, the lighter the shade! The more water, the lighter the leaf.
Similar to when you’re outside on a winter day, your weaker extremities are affected first as your body protects the core. The water is pushed to the edges of the leaves as the plant tries to protect the stem to stay alive.
The Environment Issues
Part of why the water isn’t draining is because of the soil and the fact that there is just too much plant in one pot! The root system was pushing its way out of the pot because it had grown too big for its current home. The heavy weight of the potted plant came from the amount of water hanging out deep inside the soil.
We need to ensure the soil can drain and have air flow.
What To Do
Here are the steps I took to help my Monstera plant.
1. Remove the plant from the current pot and soil.
I started by holding the base of the entire plant and slowly wiggling to loosen the soil around it. I removed the plant from the soil (in of course the messiest way possible on my kitchen floor) and then discarded wet, foul-smelling remnants of the rotting roots. I did not reuse any soil either – out the door it went!
2. Divide the plant.
Plants need room to grow and thrive. The next thing to do is break up the plant into segments. Dividing by the roots must be done carefully to avoid fatal harm to the plant. For me, this was a challenge because of the root rot occurring. The plant was stuck in wet soil too long. As I would pull the plant apart and untangle the roots, there would be pieces that would easily fall off.
3. Wash the roots.
If roots are black or brown, they need to go! Removing them will prevent spread to the still-healthy roots. White or bright green roots are what I was looking for in this case. I’ll take the losses to ensure the root rot disease doesn’t spread.
I washed them in my sink and by using my hands to scrape off any decay (Plant moms need to get their hands dirty!). This was an incredibly tedious task and took quite a long time. More and more roots would break but, again, most needed to as they were rotten.
4. Put them in some water.
This may sound counter-intuitive but plants still need water. I started taking my plants apart at night, so they needed to stay hydrated while I slept. I used whatever glass vases I could find from my mom’s cupboard. Due to my Monstera’s large foliage, I needed tall ones to support the stems from toppling over with the weight of the leaves.
I had my Monstera in its original nursery pot with the intention of exploiting the large drainage holes but WOW this plant was way too big for the pot. I was able to divide it into six parts.
Not all of these segments currently have big strong roots. Some actually were just like cuttings because I went a little wild and cut too much off… oops! I’m hoping they’ll propagate in water.
5. Plant the segments with strong roots.
Some of my plants still had great white roots and dark green leaves. I grabbed some nursery pots and plastic white pots with many drainage holes to put my plants in. I then put these inside of larger decorative pots for a nice home decor aesthetic. For soil, I used a mixture of 75 percent tropical soil with 25 percent perlite to help with drainage. I kept some Monstera segments in water and will continue to watch them to see if they grow roots.
6. Continue monitoring growth.
Finally, it’s time to water the plants in soil sparingly and keep an eye out for root growth for the cuttings. I’m keeping them out of direct sun too. As the cuttings grow solid roots I will plant them too. No deaths yet across any segments! It has been about a week since my Monstera fiasco – it was a dirty war scene!
I now have so many potential Monstera plants after only getting my first one in the fall! It’s exciting to see my collection grow, despite the traumatic event of ripping my plant to pieces. I’ll keep you updated on my Instagram feed.