The Swiss cheese plant is one of the most popular indoor plants, and people love it not only because it's beautiful and unique, but also, because it can grow quite big (but without taking up too much vertical space as ferns do), and it's easy to take care of.
Know your plant - where is the Monstera deliciosa from?
First of all, the Swiss cheese plant has nothing to do with Switzerland! Its name only refers to the resemblance of its holes to the holes of the famous Swiss delicacy.
Instead, Monstera species live in Central America, and their natural habitat ranges from Mexico to Panama. Mostly, they can be found in rainforests, where they climb up onto larger plants. This means that they almost never live in habitats where there is full sunlight - which means they can do pretty well in the more shadowy places of your home.
But back to the plant itself; according to monsteraplantresource.com, there are several Monstera species, which are relatively closely related with peace lilies and calla lilies - plant species that are also popular due to their beauty.
The scientific name of the cheese plant literally means "delicious" and "monster". Monstera refers to the large size of the plant, while deliciosa is probably given to it because of the fruits the plant produces.
Its fruits are said to taste like a mixture of different fruits, and is called Mexican breadfruit. Due to this fruit, the plant is sometimes also called a fruit salad plant.
How to grow and care for your beloved Swiss cheese plant?
Swiss cheese plant is an ideal house plant for even beginners. You can put it to places where there's indirect sunlight, and usually this plant will do just fine even in the shadier places. Yet, too much direct sunlight is clearly something that you should avoid! Cheese plant can survive in most potting soils, yet a soil pH between 5.5 and 7.0 seems to be the most ideal choice.
Monstera deliciosa (leaf). Location: Maui, makawao - 31 July 2008 - Source: By Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6151216
When watering your Monstera plant, make sure that the soil is not too wet, nor dry. If you sprinkle your plant with some water or wash its leaves with a wet towel occasionally, your plant will also be thankful.
Another important factor is temperature - there must be at least 15°C in the room where you keep it, because colder temperatures can cause considerable harm to your plant. Also, when you buy a new cheese plant in the winter, try to avoid long journeys outside when you bring it home, because even shorter periods of cold - like, being outside in the winter for half an hour or so - may cause a temperature shock to your plant.
Monstera deliciosa. Common names: Fruit Salad Plant. Window Plant. Swiss Cheese Plant. Mexican Breadfruit. Ceriman. Tarovine. Called 'Fruit Salad Plant' because the ripened fruit has a pineapple-banana odour and fruit salad taste (avoid eating it though because when it's not ripe yet, the fruit is very poisonous). This plant is commonly wrongly labeled as "Split-Leaf Philodendron", but in reality, is distinct from Philodendron bipinnatifidum (Split-Leaf Philodendron, or Lacy Tree Philodendron). The Philodendron bipinnatifidum does not climb trees, and has a thick trunk with "fish eyes" that grows on the ground. The leaves look slightly different as well. - Trivial: This plant is featured on the 5-cent coin of Singapore's 2nd series coin set. See: http://www.mas.gov.sg/currency/circulation-currency/coins.aspx - Source: By Mokkie - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32805943 - 15 May 2014, 18:26:58
To propagate your Swiss cheese plant, you can plant the cuttings in growing medium, or just place them in water until the roots appear. Yet, warm temperature can be an important factor if you want to succeed.
Is the Monstera deliciosa safe with pets (and children)?
If you have cats, dogs or small children, you probably want to know whether the plant is safe with them.
Unfortunately, both the roots and leaves (and also, the flowers and the unripe fruits) of the Swiss cheese plant are poisonous to dogs, cats and humans as well, and the main toxins of the plant are calcium oxalates.
Most of the time, chewing small bits of the plants is not fatal, but it can cause kidney failure and death especially if it's eaten in larger quantities.
The most common things one may experience after swallowing the parts of a Monstera plant are an upset stomach and excess saliva might also be produced. In more serious cases, your pet or child may start to vomit or have seizures. If there's any chance that your baby or your animal has eaten from your Swiss cheese plant, make sure to immediately seek medical help, or in case of the animals, bring them to the vet immediately.
When the plant causes skin irritation, you can handle the skin rash and irritation by washing the exposed body part with water, but if the symptoms stay even after that, you may also need to plan a visit to the vet/doctor.
Wait - Do I actually have a split leaf philodendron or a Swiss cheese plant?
Many people don't really know what the difference is between a swiss cheese plant and a split leaf philodendron. Well, to start with, they are completely different plant - they're two different species. You already know the scientific name of the Monstera plant, while on the other hand, scientists have named the split leaf philodendron Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum. As you can guess from their names, they are not even that closely related to each other - even their genus is different.
You can tell the difference quite easily if you know what to look for.
The split leaf philodendron's leaves don't have any holes on them, but there are deep "cuts" that go all the way through, almost to the centre line of the leaf. The Swiss cheese plant, on the other hand, has these holes on its leaves, and the leaves are not as deeply cut as in the case of the split leaf philodendron. Also, split leaf philodendrons have heart-shaped leaves most of the times, while Swiss Cheese plants usually have more of an oval shape (but of course with a pointy end) when it comes to their leaves.
The other important difference is more visible in their own habitat than at your home, but from an ecological point of view, one of the biggest differences of the two plants is that the Monstera does vine up other plants, while the split leaf philodendron doesn't really do that.
Does the Swiss cheese plant clean the air?
Having plants indoors is a good way to improve the air quality inside your home, which is important because millions die early due to poor air quality and air pollution each year. And even if you can't change the air outdoors, you can change it indoors, and it's good news, because you probably spend at least half of your life in your home.