Monstera Vs Philodendron

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A common misconception amongst even the most avid of houseplant collectors is that Monstera and Philodendron are the same types of plant. The two terms are often used interchangeably with many Monstera Deliciosa being labelled as Split Leaf Philodendron. 

There is a lot of debate about whether they are the same plant, but even though they look very similar when young and come from the same family of plants, they are different species.

What is a Monstera?

The Monstera is a climbing plant native to tropical climates. It’s sometimes called the ‘Swiss Cheese plant’ because of the large holes in the leaves. The name Monstera Deliciosa comes from the large fruit and leaves they produce. 

These leaves can be plain green, but often come in impressive variegated displays that create white to pink patterns all over the leaf. They are a popular houseplant because of their unique leaves and easy to look after nature.

What is a Philodendron?

The Philodendron is another tropical plant that can be found in most regions around the equator. The name philodendron comes from the Greek words for ‘love tree’ because of their heart-shaped leaves. Unlike the Monstera, the Philodendron is a climbing vine, and has much smaller leaves. Much like the Monstera, there is a lot of variety in the leaves of a Philodendron with some species having crinkled or even sword-like foliage.

What is the difference between a Philodendron and a Monstera?

Both plants come from the Araceae family of plants which share the characteristics of large foliage and hooded flowers. It is because they share so many characteristics that they are often confused. 

The main difference between the two plants is the way that the leaves are split. Monstera leaves are fenestrated. Fenestration refers to the holes that develop in the leaves as they mature. 

Whilst Philodendrons do have split leaves, they are usually a split through the entire leaf unlike in a Monstera where it is a hole that cuts some of the way through. You can also tell the difference by feeling the texture of the leaf, a Philodendron leaf has a slightly rough and bumpy feel whilst a Monstera leaf is smooth and glossy. 

New Philodendron leaves are also protected by a small sheathe called a cataphyll that will slowly brown and fall away whilst monstera leaves will slowly unfurl. Philodendron plants also do not fruit whilst Monsteras do.  

There is also the fact that Philodendrons are climbing houseplants whilst Monstera’s are not. Both plants have Aerial roots, but only the ones on a Philodendron will grab hold of objects near them and begin to climb.

Monstera vs Philodendron: which one is best for me?

Both of these houseplants would be great in your collection, and each brings something different to the space. 

The Monstera is ideal if you want a more space-filling display that will dominate the room. It is an easy to look after plant that loves a sunny location but needs to be kept away from cold draughts. Water lightly since overwatering will cause the leaves to droop or turn yellow. Too little sun will cause the leaves to lose their patterns if they are variegated.

The Philodendron is the perfect choice for adding height or trailing decoration to your space. It can tolerate lower light than a pothos and will sunburn if put in direct sunlight. Varieties like the heart leaf philodendron or variegated species may also blister if overexposed. A Philodendron also requires more water than a Monstera, and if under-watered, it will begin to brown and wilt. 

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