When house plants look similar it can be very easy for them to get confused with each other. This issue can be further complicated if inexperienced staff at nurseries miss-label plants and sell them under the wrong name.
With the growing popularity of the Monstera house plant, it is increasingly confused with the Split-leaf Philodendron. Both are often referred to as the “Swiss cheese plant” as well as a few other shared common names, making the issue even more confusing.
However, Monstera and Split-leaf Philodendron are two different plants. Philodendron is closely related to the common house plant Photos, is easier to find and often more affordable, and is slightly easier to take care of. True Monsteras are less common, often more expensive, and have slightly different sunlight and care requirements.
Monstera vs Split-leaf Philodendron
Some key differences are covered in the table below:
|Monstera||Monstera deliciosa||Fenestrated leaves with holes or fully separated sections, smooth edges||Every 1-2 weeks||Bright direct light||13-28 degrees Celcius||Light, slightly acidic, well-draining soil|
|Split-leaf philodendron||Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum or Philodendron selloum||Deeply lobed leaves with wavy edges||Every 1-2 weeks||Medium to bright indirect sunlight||16-21 degrees Celcius||Rich, well-draining soil with organic matter|
Although these species are very similar and easy to confuse, there are some key differences that set them apart.
A well trained eye and educated plant purchaser will be able to tell them apart and make the right choice for the species that fits their needs best.
Read on to learn more about these two species, their similarities, differences, and how to properly tell them apart and take care of them.
Is Split-leaf philodendron the same as Monstera?
Split-leaf Philodendron, Swiss cheese plant, and many other common names are often used to refer to multiple different species of plants, including a few species of both Philodendron and Monstera.
Although Monstera and Philodendron are both in the Araceae family, they are two different genera of house plants.
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This means that although they look alike, they are not able to cross-pollinate and reproduce together or produce hybrids.
These species can be difficult to tell apart visually, and knowing some of the key differences can help when trying to determine which species you are looking at.
As mentioned before, Philodendrons are related to the very common Pothos house plants, while Monstera is more closely related to Peace Lilies.
Many Philodendron species are vine-like and will climb, however, Split-leaf Philodendron will not. This species is more upright (up to 10 feet tall) in its growth with large, deeply lobed leaves that can grow up to four feet long.
Philodendrons are also typically smaller in size and have smaller leaves than most Monstera plants. The deeply lobed leaves are also more irregular in shape, not rounded or heart-shaped like Monsteras.
Is Monstera different from Philodendron?
Monstera plants are native to Mexico, and can also be found in other tropical climates like Hawaii. There are over 50 unique species of Monstera, however, Monstera deliciosa is the one commonly confused for Split-leaf Philodendron.
As mentioned before, Monstera leaves are truly fenestrated, meaning they have holes or perforations in their leaves.
This is not a feature unique to Monsteras and occurs in a few other species of house plants. It is theorized that this fenestration is an adaptation that allows the leaf to cover more area while reducing the energy needed to grow it due to the reduced leaf tissue.
This may help species like Monstera capture more light in low-light environments. If Monstera plants are not grown in the proper conditions, they may develop a stunted growth form and lose the fenestration of their leaves, causing them to be more easily confused for a Philodendron.
Also check: Monstera Aerial Roots Care
Monstera plants can also produce aerial roots and can be prompted to grow up a post and climb if desired, something a true Split-leaf Philodendron will not do.
Because of this, Monstera can grow up to 10 to 15 feet tall indoors. Monstera can also produce fruit, although this is rare for a houseplant. Split-leaf Philodendron does not produce fruit, even if growing in the wild.
There are some similarities between these two genera as well. As mentioned before, these two species are part of the same plant family.
This is where much of the confusion between these species comes from, as some species of Philodendron have traits typical of a Monstera and vice versa.
Each genus can also hybridize with other species within the same genera, producing even more varieties of species with a wider range of physical characteristics.
The shape of the flower of both the Split-leaf Philodendron and Monstera is also very similar. Called a ‘spadix’ the flower is a fleshy, spear-like stem surrounded by a ‘spathe’, which looks like a petal but is actually a modified leaf.
If given the proper growing conditions, both species will flower even when grown indoors. Only Monstera will produce fruit, although this is rare in houseplants as it requires a lot of energy from the plant.
Both Monstera and Philodendron species have a ‘cataphyll’ that protects new leaves as they grow. In most species of Philodendron, this will dry up and fall off once the new leaf has grown, but in Monstera the cataphyll remains on the plant.
Some species of Philodendron will also retain their cataphyll, making them appear more like several Monstera species.
Finally, both Monstera deliciosa and Split-leaf Philodendron are mildly toxic to both humans and other animals, like dogs and cats.
This toxicity is caused by needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals within the sap of these plants. If consumed, calcium oxalate will cause burning pain and swelling of the lips, tongue, mouth, and throat.
These plants aren’t poisonous to the touch but you might irritate your mouth if you touch your face after handling broken stems and sap. Because of this both of these plants, and many other closely related house plants, should be kept out of reach of children and pets.
Where are Philodendrons and Monsteras from?
Monsteras and Philodendrons are both from tropical regions, native to the Americas and West Indies.
Many of the species in the Monstera and Philodendron genera are epiphytes, meaning they grow up the sides of other plants and trees but are not parasitic.
This type of growth is common in tropical regions where competition for resources among plants can be strong.
Monstera plants are popular in Mexico, where they are native, and grown for the fruits they produce. Split-leaf Philodendrons are more commonly found in Brazil, where they grow in the tropical rainforests, or even along roadsides as a common plant.
Although there are many differences between these species, it is possible that some of the similarities come from them originating from similar regions.
Both species have evolved and adapted to survive in reduced sunlight under the forest canopy, and in warm, tropical areas. This has likely caused many similar traits to evolve in both species in order for them to survive and thrive in the wild.
Philodendron vs Monstera care
Philodendrons and Monstera plants also require different care. Looking up the care requirements for these species can be confusing because the names and species are often mixed up.
Using scientific names (Monstera deliciosa and Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum) instead of names like Swiss cheese plant or Split-leaf Philodendron, which are used for both species, can help solve this issue in some cases.
Monstera plants typically require more sunlight than Philodendrons. They will grow best in bright areas and can even tolerate some levels of direct sunlight.
More: Best Soil For Monstera
Soil should be light and well-draining, and slightly acidic. A pH between 5.5 and 7.0 is best for these species. Monstera plants should be watered every 1-2 weeks, with the soil drying out between watering sessions.
Watering levels can vary depending on plant placement and the amount of sunlight a plant receives, so adjust watering based on when the soil is dry rather than following a strict schedule.
Philodendrons prefer lower light levels and do best in medium to bright indirect sunlight. Some plants may even tolerate low light under certain circumstances.
Soil for these plants should also be well-draining, with sand or perlite added to increase the draining capabilities of the soil. Philodendrons also require rich soils with organic matter as a key component in a soil mix.
Watering for Philodendrons should occur every 7-14 days and allowing your plant to drain out after watering is important to avoid root rot.
If you see leaves turning yellow, you are likely overwatering and should wait longer between sessions. If leaves turn brown, dry, and crispy on the edges you may be underwatering and allowing the soil to dry out too much.
Also, keep an eye on root development and re-pot your Monstera or Philodendron when needed, so the roots can continue to grow and support the large, above-ground growth of the plant. Prune back your plants as needed or desired, using clean, sharp shears to remove leaves.
Both of these species are also easy to propagate from cuttings. As with most other plants, they cannot be propagated simply by placing a leaf in water and instead need to be grown from a cutting that contains a node and axillary bud.
The node is the area where the leaf develops from the stem, and contains the proper plant cells needed for new growth. By selecting a cutting that contains 2 or more leaves, you increase the chance of success of the propagation.
This is because your cutting will be able to photosynthesize more than if only 1 leaf was present, allowing the plant to provide more energy for root production.
Monstera and Philodendron can both be propagated from cuttings by placing the node in soil and keeping it moist, or simply placing the cutting in a jar of water.
Each method has pros and cons, but placing your cutting in water has an advantage as it will be easily visible when (or if) your cutting produces roots. Then, transplanting into soil is easy as you know the roots have already developed.
As with any species of house plant, paying close attention to your plant and keeping an eye out for any issues is one of the best things you can do to take care of it.
General guidelines are helpful to know if a species is suitable for the conditions and level of care you can provide at home, but each plant is unique and may react differently to the exact conditions in your house.
Knowing what distress signs to look for (yellow or brown leaves, holes, wilting, etc.) is essential for being able to react appropriately and help your plant adjust to its new home and get healthy again.
Why is telling the difference between Monstera and Philodendron important?
While reading through the differences between Monstera and Philodendron species you might be wondering, what is the point?
They both have similar care requirements, have similar appearances lending to the same aesthetic, and are obviously so similar that they are difficult to tell apart.
As mentioned before, one of the key differences between these species is how common they are. Philodendrons, related to the very common Pothos, are much more widely available and easier to find than many species of rare Monstera.
If miss–labeled in a plant shop, you might think you are purchasing a rare Monstera variety but are really buying a Philodendron that looks a lot like a Monstera.
Being able to tell these species apart is important to people who want to know what they are buying, such as rare plant enthusiasts or collectors.
If you are planning on propagating your plant, either to give away or to sell, it is also important you are confident about the species you are sharing so you don’t mislead other house-plant growers.