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A popular houseplant in the genus Adiantum - there are many species commonly sold with a reputation for being humidity-loving, "difficult divas". I'm only going to validate one critical point of maidenhair care: given the right light, the soil MUST remain evenly moist at all times. This means you must be vigilant in observing the moisture status of the soil - the moment it feels just a bit lighter than "fully moistened" soil, it's time to water again. If the potting medium goes beyond half dry (meaning, when you lift the pot and it feels like less than half has heavy as "fully moistened" soil), then EVERY frond will turn brown and crispy within a day. But the entire plant isn't necessarily dead - if you cut off all these spent fronds and give the soil a nice soaking and put the plant where it has a wide view of the open sky, you may get some new fronds to emerge. If you can maintain proper light and watering over the next few months, then you should have a bushy plant again.

One frond died. What's wrong with my maidenhair?

Do you really believe that with “proper care”, not a single frond will die?

People usually panic when they see one entire frond die back. Hear this: a few fronds dying back is perfectly normal and inevitable. If your light is good and you are able to keep the soil evenly moist, then new fronds will grow to replace the ones that had died - everything will be fine. You can only be comfortable with frond turnover if you are confident in your growing conditions, which starts with knowing good light. What exactly is good light? Bright indirect light is best for this plant (400-800 foot-candles for most of the day), which comes from giving the plant the widest possible view of the open sky. An hour or two of direct sun is tolerable if you are keen on checking the soil moisture.

Top right: My maidenhair fern has been living here for about 9 months: large west-facing window, mostly unobstructed sky and direct sun for around 2-3 hours. Yes, my maidenhair fern takes direct sun just fine - I just need to check the soil moisture every few days.

A testament to the hardiness of this fern: I found this maidenhair fern growing from a rock crevice while visiting Taiwan. Notice that the sun definitely shines directly on the plant and it grows just fine.

What about humidity?

Let me start by showing you that all through the winter, the humidity in my apartment was always around 30%. I never used a humidifier or engaged in pointless misting and my plant was just fine, with acceptable frond turnover (both death and new growth were generally the same). I think the whole humidity fear-mongering came about because of people thinking that fronds will never die “if I could only keep the humidity high enough”. Meanwhile, they put the plant in a windowless corner because that’s what they interpreted as being “low-light” and the plant inevitably shed more fronds than it grew.

My maidenhair fern has grown just fine at supposedly “low humidity” because the other, more important factors for growth (namely light and soil moisture) were optimal.

Know your humidity: Inkbird ITH-10 Digital Thermometer and Hygrometer

Humidity does have an effect on the biological system but it's not a simplistic path like: dry air directly leads to dry leaves. Instead, low humidity causes faster evaporation from the leaves and the soil. This leads to the soil becoming dry quicker, requiring you to water in time before critical dryness is reached.

Now, if you approach watering as a schedule, then you could easily miss that point of critical dryness, resulting in your entire plant turning into a crispy mess. But if you use the appropriate soil moisture observation strategy, in this case "keep evenly moist", then you will just be checking the soil every few days (or possibly every day). And remember: if your plant doesn't have a wide open view of the sky, then just keeping the soil evenly moist won't do anything - the plant isn't working (photosynthesizing) and will eventually die.

Think about this: if you are dehydrated, would it help to raise the humidity so that you are breathing more humid air? No, you need the moisture where it will have the most direct benefit - drinking water. Plants drink water from their roots.

How is it that these maidenhair ferns can thrive right next to this patch of Haworthias? Simple: the patch of Haworthias uses a rapidly draining soil (probably mostly sand), letting most of the water flow down to settle near the base of the big rocks. That high moisture area is perfect for maidenhair ferns. Moisture at the root level is what matters. Humidity doesn't have as much of an effect on the plant when the important factors (light and soil moisture) are taken care of.

One more thing: if you are successful in keeping a maidenhair fern happy for several months, you will be rewarded with spores! That's the fern reaching puberty. The spores are brown dots that form on the undersides of fronds - don't confuse this with a scale infestation!

In conclusion, I’d like to summarize the care for maidenhair ferns around the HPJ philosophy (understand your conditions, do your best with care, and let Nature take its course):

  • Conditions: bright indirect light, which means the plant must have a wide view of open sky. Direct sun is tolerable but you’ll need to be extra vigilant in checking soil moisture.

  • Care: keep the soil evenly moist; never allow to dry out completely.

  • Nature: expect older fronds to die back as newer ones grow in.

The Silver Dollar maidenhair fern (Adiantum peruvianum)

I have no idea what this one is called but I’m loving the ultra-small leaflets - as if the maidenhair fern wasn’t delicate enough, now there’s a mini version!

I wrote ‘The New Plant Parent’ because I believe that a positive plant care experience comes from understanding what growing conditions matter most to your plants and setting realistic expectations. I think you’ll discover a deeper joy when you appreciate how plants grow as opposed to just how they look right now.

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A popular houseplant in the genus Adiantum - there are many species commonly sold with a reputation for being humidity-loving, "difficult divas". I'm only going to validate one critical point of maidenhair care: given the right light, the soil MUST remain evenly moist at all times. This means you must be vigilant in observing the moisture status of the soil - the moment it feels just a bit lighter than "fully moistened" soil, it's time to water again. If the potting medium goes beyond half dry (meaning, when you lift the pot and it feels like less than half has heavy as "fully moistened" soil), then EVERY frond will turn brown and crispy within a day. But the entire plant isn't necessarily dead - if you cut off all these spent fronds and give the soil a nice soaking and put the plant where it has a wide view of the open sky, you may get some new fronds to emerge. If you can maintain proper light and watering over the next few months, then you should have a bushy plant again.

One frond died. What's wrong with my maidenhair?

Do you really believe that with “proper care”, not a single frond will die?

People usually panic when they see one entire frond die back. Hear this: a few fronds dying back is perfectly normal and inevitable. If your light is good and you are able to keep the soil evenly moist, then new fronds will grow to replace the ones that had died - everything will be fine. You can only be comfortable with frond turnover if you are confident in your growing conditions, which starts with knowing good light. What exactly is good light? Bright indirect light is best for this plant (400-800 foot-candles for most of the day), which comes from giving the plant the widest possible view of the open sky. An hour or two of direct sun is tolerable if you are keen on checking the soil moisture.

Top right: My maidenhair fern has been living here for about 9 months: large west-facing window, mostly unobstructed sky and direct sun for around 2-3 hours. Yes, my maidenhair fern takes direct sun just fine.

A testament to the hardiness of this fern: I found this maidenhair fern growing from a rock crevice while visiting Taiwan. Notice that the sun definitely shines directly on the plant and it grows just fine.

What about humidity?

Let me start by showing you that all through the winter, the humidity in my apartment was always around 30%. I never used a humidifier or engaged in pointless misting and my plant was just fine, with acceptable frond turnover (both death and new growth were generally the same).

My maidenhair fern has grown just fine at supposedly “low humidity” because the other, more important factors for growth (namely light and soil moisture) were optimal.

Know your humidity: Inkbird ITH-10 Digital Thermometer and Hygrometer

Humidity does have an effect on the biological system but it's not a simplistic path like: dry air directly leads to dry leaves. Instead, low humidity causes faster evaporation from the leaves and the soil. This leads to the soil becoming dry quicker, requiring you to water in time before critical dryness is reached.

Now, if you approach watering as a schedule, then you could easily miss that point of critical dryness, resulting in your entire plant turning into a crispy mess. But if you use the appropriate soil moisture observation strategy, in this case "keep evenly moist", then you will just be checking the soil every few days (or possibly every day). And remember: if your plant doesn't have a wide open view of the sky, then just keeping the soil evenly moist won't do anything - the plant isn't working (photosynthesizing) and will eventually die.

Think about this: if you are dehydrated, would it help to raise the humidity so that you are breathing more humid air? No, you need the moisture where it will have the most direct benefit - drinking water.

How is it that these maidenhair ferns can thrive right next to this patch of Haworthias? Simple: the patch of Haworthias uses a rapidly draining soil (probably mostly sand), letting most of the water flow down to settle near the base of the big rocks. That high moisture area is perfect for maidenhair ferns. Moisture at the root level is what matters. Humidity doesn't have as much of an effect on the plant when the important factors (light and soil moisture) are taken care of.

One more thing: if you are successful in keeping a maidenhair fern happy for several months, you will be rewarded with spores! That's the fern reaching puberty. The spores are brown dots that form on the undersides of fronds - don't confuse this with a scale infestation!

In conclusion, I’d like to summarize the care for maidenhair ferns around the HPJ philosophy (understand your conditions, do your best with care, and let Nature take its course):

  • Conditions: bright indirect light.

  • Care: keep the soil evenly moist; never allow to dry out completely.

  • Nature: expect older fronds to die back as newer ones grow in.

The Silver Dollar maidenhair fern (Adiantum peruvianum)

I have no idea what this one is called but I’m loving the ultra-small leaflets - as if the maidenhair fern wasn’t delicate enough, now there’s a mini version!

I wrote ‘The New Plant Parent’ because I believe that a positive plant care experience comes from understanding what growing conditions matter most to your plants and setting realistic expectations. I think you’ll discover a deeper joy when you appreciate how plants grow as opposed to just how they look right now.

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House Plant Journal by Darryl Cheng - 2M ago
I took a stroll through Allan Gardens in the morning, prior to the gardeners making their daily rounds to see how many visible plant imperfections I could find.

I’m doing this so you have a starting point to make a much needed change amidst this houseplant trend. Traditional houseplant care is heavily focused on looking at visible plant imperfections and suggesting some change in your care routine. This perspective gives the impression that any and all signs of decay are “bad things”, which are preventable and correctable. On a higher level, it also creates the illusion that your actions have a larger role than the environment in determining the plant’s fate/success. Notice how we casually say “I killed the plant” or “she has a greenthumb”, which are human-centered statements as opposed to “it died” or “the conditions are ideal for growth.”

So what’s wrong with that?

It sets unrealistic expectations that lead to unsatisfied, self-blaming plant parents. This is the reason for the decline in houseplants towards the 1990s - because houseplants were just seen as decor that required maintenance. Once the tasks of caring for plants became a chore and the heartaches of losing plants too frequent, people simply gave up.

There is hope!

Showing you these photos can stir up some possible thoughts. If plants growing in a conservatory can look like this even with professional gardeners at work then either:

  1. These gardeners aren’t doing their job right (human-centered approach), or…

  2. This is a normal and natural part of long-term plant life (holistic approach)

Older maidenhair fern fronds die off because of low soil moisture or nutrient reallocation. The gardeners will cut this off and you would never know.

If you find “imperfections” on the oldest leaves, how about changing your perspective to: here’s a leaf that has paid its dues. I get that the loss of a Ficus lyrata leaf can be especially heartbreaking because they are so big but hoping that every leaf could stay on the plant and look perfect forever with “proper care” is unrealistic and unhealthy.

This image is proof that low humidity does NOT directly cause brown tips - literally every leaf on this Calathea zebrina had them. The plant was hard at work, transpiring the water that was given to it. The minerals/impurities will eventually wear out the leaf tips - that’s just how it goes. This planter will soon be replaced by another plant - such is the cycle of gardening.

Focusing on the imperfect leaf tips? You’ll miss the fact that this Monstera has FRUITS!!!

Normal and natural: the oldest leaves must become yellow to reallocate their nutrients to newer leaves. [Left] Older leaves bear the marks (brown leaf tips) of hard work (transpiration). [Right] Newest leaves are perfect and pristine - they will inevitably become brown.

My goal for writing “The New Plant Parent” is to free you from the guilt and unrealistic expectations caused by the old ways of houseplant care. By taking a more holistic approach and focusing on the most important factors/actions for plant life, you can have a more rewarding plant parenthood experience!

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You hear these all the time:

  • Overwatering is the number one killer of houseplants

  • It's better to underwater than to overwater

  • If your leaves are yellowing, you might be overwatering

The constant use of the term ‘overwatering’ is destroying your potential to learn how plants work because it puts the focus on the act of watering and makes you think that all there is to do is be more careful with watering.

Root rot is the reason for all the warnings about 'overwatering' but overly moist soil is not the sole contributor to it. Water mold bacteria in the genus Phytophthora are the agents of root rot - they thrive in

  • High moisture

  • Low oxygen

  • They infect weak roots

The concept of 'overwatering' only addresses the "high moisture" that Phytophthora like. Low oxygen comes from poorly aerated soil - the way to mitigate this is with regular soil aeration (gently poking the soil with a chopstick) and using porous/well-draining components in soil, such as perlite. The last point, weak roots, is a much longer term condition to get to. Just like a starving person is more susceptible to illness, a starving plant will be at higher risk of root rot whenever the soil becomes moist and stale. A plant starves when it is in prolonged conditions of poor lighting. So when you water a plant in this condition, the soil moisture lingers. Put the same plant where it has the widest possible view of the sky, roots will be strong as the entire plant is working. So when you do moisten the soil, the roots will take up the water and use it to make sugars to feed itself. Therefore, good light is the key to preventing root rot.

Side note: please also stop thinking of fertilizer as "feeding" the plant. Fertilizers are like a vitamin/mineral supplement. A plant makes its own sustenance by photosynthesis. There is no replacement for light!

So warning about 'overwatering' should really be replaced by advice on where you should put your plants to prevent poor plant nourishment. My guideline for plant placement is this: ask #whatmyplantsees - make sure your plant has the widest possible view of the sky and check for its tolerance for direct sun (i.e. number of hours it can tolerate). In this position, assuming your soil is compatible with the particular plant, you can safely bring the soil to saturation because the plant will be receiving enough light to use up the soil moisture before root rot can take hold. This is the fundamental principle of plant care. It’s not even enough to use all the most porous soil with the best drainage and terracotta pots - all you’re doing is getting the soil to dry out by evaporation. You want the soil to become dry because the plant is using it for photosynthesis - therefore, proper light is the prerequisite of proper plant care.

I realize a change in the approach to house plant care won’t happen overnight. You’ll definitely still encounter the term ‘overwatering’ but, instead of thinking “Oh, I need to be more careful with watering”, you should consider whether you are giving your plant the best possible light in your home. Be your plant and analyze #whatmyplantsees - have you given it the WIDEST possible view of the sky? There’s more to light than just having a direct view of the sun and quite frankly, most of your tropical foliage plants merely tolerate seeing the sun for an hour or two (different story for cacti and flowering plants). Start with a better understanding of light and you’ll have a more rewarding experience with house plant care.

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House Plant Journal by Darryl Cheng - 6M ago
Creating a fern garden in my shower

I had always dreamed of creating a wall-mounted garden in my shower with a mixture of humidity-loving ferns. Two people's daily shower (my wife and I) would provide ample moisture to the planting medium and since there are no windows, the LED grow light would drive the photosynthesis. Since the bathroom has no windows, I made the on/off cycle go opposite from the actual day/night cycle - in this way, the light would be on overnight, acting like a night light and off during the day.

Ferns used for the project:

  • Silver lace fern (Pteris ensiformis 'evergemiensis')

  • Heart fern (Hemionitis arifolia)

  • Dwarf Japanese Holly Fern (Cyrtomium fortunei - I think)

  • Ribbon fern (Pteris cretica)

  • Maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris - I think)

Clockwise from top-left corner: Heart fern, silver lace fern, maidenhair fern, ribbon fern, dwarf Japanese Holly fern, and another silver lace fern.

Planting medium: Sphagnum moss - the one I use comes as a compressed, dry block. Soaking it in a tub of water will get it to expand to several times its size.

Product Link: Sphagnum Moss (100 grams)

I made combinations of ferns for each planter:

  • Ribbon fern + Holly fern

  • Heart fern + Silver Lace fern

  • Maidenhair fern + Silver Lace fern

Root division: I had to divide the ferns in order to get combinations in each planter. With such crowded stems, it was easiest to just use a sharp knife to cut UPWARDS into the base of the root ball. Once I could gently pull the root ball apart, the foliage could be gently teased apart.

Planting: I created a bed of sphagnum moss in the caddy and placed the ferns into the crevice, after having shook off as much of the old soil as possible. I have no idea if these ferns can grow in pure sphagnum moss like my staghorn fern but I'm up for experimentation.

Once the ferns are in place, I stuffed more sphagnum moss to fill up the rest of the caddy. I'd say it was packed in snuggly as opposed to loosely.

Product Link: Bathroom Suction Shower Caddy - Pack of 3, Clear

LED Lighting: because of the shower glass, I could safely position the LED light on the outside of the shower and still deliver light to the plants on the inside.

Product Link: Grow Lights - Three Head Auto On/Off Timing 360° Flexible LED Plant Grow Lamp, 5 Adjustable Luminious Levels and 12 Switch Modes

1 Week: noticing some new growth from the Silver Lace fern

2 Weeks: the sphagnum moss gets moistened from deflected water droplets from the shower (the shower doesn't spray directly onto the planters) but this doesn't seem to bode well with the Maidenhair fern: the most exposed foliage is dying back...

1 Month: ...but not to worry, the Maidenhair is pushing up new fronds that sit farther away from the edge of the planter, protected from getting as much shower spray. Hopefully these ones will last longer.

2 Months: the Maidenhair has fully developed new fronds that sit away from the outer edge of the planter, a bit more protected from the water droplets.

Ribbon fern is also doing quite well after 2 months.

Light schedule: I turn on the lights in the evening at around 7pm. They stay on overnight until I shut them off at about 8am. Thus, the dark phase for these plants is during our daytime as the bathroom doesn’t have windows. In this way, the pink light acts like a night light so we’re not stumbling to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

I'd recommend this setup if you have a windowless bathroom with a glass-separated shower stall - this is necessary since you don't want the LED light fixture getting wet. I find the LED light, having only 2 strips of bulbs, was somewhat limiting since the light intensity drops off significantly even just six inches away. Someday, if I expand this shower planting, I might consider getting the 3-strip LED grow light. Overall, I'm happy with how the Shower Fern project turned out!

Thanks for reading!

Note: product links are affiliate links that help to support HPJ content.

P.S. Overwatering? This planting is a testament to my stance that the word “overwatering” is a misleading word, which has only served to confuse plant parents. The soil (or moss in this case) is a sponge that can hold a certain amount of water. The plant will use up that water if it receives enough light to drive photosynthesis. With each passing day, some moisture is used up in exchange for sugars produced by photosynthesis. A plant will die from root rot if the following conditions are met: roots are weak and suffocating in a stale, moist environment. So to prevent this, the answer is NOT to avoid the moist environment by watering less. We must address the weak and suffocating roots: adequate light = sugar production = plant health. Soil aeration = root health. Trying to be careful about watering an inadequately lit plant is useless - the plant is starving and on its way to die. Prioritize your light and your watering will work.

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Taming the Monstera

Look closely among the mass of vines/aerial roots and you'll see a metal trellis holding it all together.

I've been frequently asked about how I support my monstera so here are some details along with affiliate links to the products I'm using and enjoying.  Purchasing through these links goes to support this blog :)

Do I need to train my Monstera deliciosa?

Yes!  The growth pattern of the Monstera deliciosa is much like a pothos - vines that just keep getting longer.  For pothos, because of its smaller overall size, they can be left to hang off the side of the pot.  Since the monstera's natural size is much larger, a few vines hanging out of the pot would quickly fill an entire room!  Therefore, you should affix the vines to a sturdy trellis so they can grow upwards.

What about using a moss pole?

The idea of the moss pole is to provide a medium onto which the aerial roots can grip, just like they do in the wild.  The only problem with trying to accomplish this indoors is that you need to keep the moss moist at all times - this is not recommended as the air doesn't move as much as it does outside or in a nursery.  Stale air and constantly moist conditions are breeding grounds for mould/unwanted bacteria.

Even if you manage to keep the air fresh, a monstera's vine can be quite heavy.  A single post will not be as sturdy as a multi-post trellis.
 

The Metal Trellis

The triangular shape of the trellis means there are three points of anchoring in the soil - very stable!

The method I use for training my monstera vines is affixing them against a sturdy metal trellis like the Panacea Garden Ladder.  The triangular profile makes it much sturdier than a flat, fence-like design.

Amazon Link: Panacea Garden Plant Support Ladder, Red

The horizontal cross beams provide excellent support against the tendency of the vines to slip down.

Soft Rubber Ties

Although the monstera vine is quite tough, I find that twine or wires will eventually dig into the plant's flesh.  That's why I use these Soft Rubber Ties - they're strong, won't slip once you've twisted them against each other, and won't marr the plant.  They can be easily cut to whatever length you need.

Amazon Link: Soft Rubber Tie (Brown) Amazon Link: Soft Rubber Tie (Light Green)

When your monstera is young, fresh from the nursery, the vines probably won't be hanging off the side of the pot for a few months.  Given good light and watering accordingly, those vines will seem to crawl outwards - this is the time to get them onto a trellis.

When you first tie up the vines, the leaves will seem to face awkwardly in all directions.  Don't worry about this!  In time, the newer leaves will sort themselves out by orienting towards the light source(s).  My monstera has been trellised like this for 3 years.

Click here for a video of me installing the trellis

I hope this has been helpful for all you Monstera deliciosa parents out there.  If you haven't already, feel free to read the full story of how I acquired and cared for my monstera.

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In the true spirit of 'House Plant Journal', here is a complete account of my relationship with my Monstera deliciosa:

September 17, 2014 - I responded to a classified ad for someone wanting to sell off this Monstera deliciosa because it was becoming too unruly for their small space.  Asking price: $10

November 27, 2014 - here's the monstera enjoying some bright indirect light (sun filtered through white blinds).  As these winter days become shorter, there's less photosynthesis going on - therefore, less frequent waterings.

January 30, 2015 - each individual monstera leaf has a predestined pattern, meaning that it does NOT develop more cuts/holes as it ages.  Instead, it is the NEXT leaf that may have a more complex pattern if the overall plant is happy.  How do you know if the plant is happy?  It starts with light: if the plant can see the sky and not necessarily the sun, then it is getting so-called "bright indirect light" - the ideal light for just about all tropical foliage plants.

May 12, 2015 - using a small bamboo trellis from the dollar store, I tied up the vines to give the overall plant a more compact look.  This is just how monstera grows - they are vines that want to grow along some surface.  So in a container, it will always become "unruly" as the vines grow past the edge of the pot.

It's not necessary for the aerial roots to actually attach themselves to something like a moss pole or tree trunk.  I'm just holding them against the trellis with soft rubber ties.  Just google "soft rubber ties" and you'll find them - they are super useful and you can cut them to the required length.

June 13, 2015 - it's a bittersweet day as I decided to move monstera to my church where she could have a room all to herself.  With the front seat all the way up, my monstera fits just right in my Honda Civic (bought it just a month before).  An important care routine change should be noted: I'm only at my church once a week (and it's far from where I live), which means that I would be forced to water at fixed intervals.  But since the light she will be getting is even brighter than in my home, I know that she will be thirsty within a week. PLANT WISDOM: problems of overwatering typically occur when there is NOT ENOUGH LIGHT for the plant to make use of all the soil moisture.  So instead of watering less (okay solution), increase the light (best solution).

Don't worry, monstera!  I'll be seeing you every week - this place has more space for you to grow and better light.  LEFT: a west-facing windowed door.  BACK RIGHT: a large north-facing window.

October 11, 2015 - just like kids outgrow their clothing, monstera has outgrown her first trellis.  I'm glad I decided to pick up one of these sturdy vegetable trellises before the winter since the big box stores close up their gardening centers - would have had to wait until spring!  This was at Rona Home & Garden.

Again, I'm just tying the vines against the trellis with rubber ties.  As aerial roots reach down, I gently direct them into the pot so they can enjoy some soil moisture.  I'm honestly not sure if that does anything for the vine but I would imagine that those roots would contribute to water/nutrient uptake.

January 6, 2016 - wow, this is the first leaf with a full set of cuts and a couple of holes along the midrib!

May 23, 2016 - and here's a newer leaf with a full set of holes along the midrib

September 26, 2016 - at this rate of growth, I may need an even taller trellis next year.

December 25, 2016 - correct light is the first step to house plant success.  Second is watering.  Third is soil structure (aerating occasionally).  Fourth is fertilizing.  Fifth is getting rid of dead foliage and not crying about it.  Remember, BOTH light and water are fundamental requirements for plant growth.  Don't focus on watering while ignoring the light!

And now, here's the typical "plant care" rundown with not-so-typical-but-more-helpful instructions:

Light: monstera is a big plant so make sure you can provide enough light.  Use your eyes: can you see at least a bit of the blue sky on a clear day from where your monstera lives?  If yes, then read "Growth Strategy".  If no, then skip ahead to "Survival Strategy".

Growth Strategy: with bright indirect light, your monstera will happily use up water so you can give the soil a good soaking whenever it becomes dry to a depth of 2 to 4 inches.  If you see several new leaves growing, then you can safely apply some fertilizer for the next few weeks (I've used 10-20-10 at the recommended strength) but it's not absolutely necessary for growth.  Soil structure is usually pretty good (nice and loose) so I just aerate the soil occasionally - maybe every third or fourth watering.

Long Term Relationship: although I have not yet reached this point, I know the soil will eventually be depleted of nutrients but since I sense that my pot is large enough, I will opt for a "top dressing" instead of a complete repotting.  Top dressing is when you remove some of the old soil from the surface (maybe 2-3 inches down) and add new soil WITH SIMILAR DRAINAGE PROPERTIES as the current soil.  Gently mix in the new with the old - it doesn't have to be perfectly mixed like you're baking cake.

Survival Strategy: I can only speculate how one might care for a barely growing plant as I would never knowingly place a plant in a dark corner.  IT JUST DOESN'T LOOK RIGHT!  Still, it's possible to starve it gracefully and not kill it because you followed instructions for a growing plant.  Definitely keep the soil on the dry side and once a week or so, you should loosen it with a chopstick so the roots don't suffocate.  When the leaves look really floppy and thin (because they are finally dehydrated), loosen the compacted soil and pour in just enough water to cover the entire surface to a depth of about 2 inches (I'm assuming the pot is at least 8 inches in diameter) - if the plant is thirsty enough, you shouldn't get any water running down to the bottom of the pot where it may linger for weeks.  Be prepared to cut off older leaves as they yellow - this is the plant abandoning them as the food reserves are depleted without being replenished.  New growth will be small, weak and if the soil happened to be too moist at the time, it may have dark brown tips.  Weak plants are also more susceptible to illness.  Overall, if monstera is living in a dark corner, I'd say it has several months to a year to a long drawn out death with lots of disappointments (leaf loss) along the way.  I hope you understand that I'm writing in this morbid fashion so at least some of you plant newbies will decide to hold yourselves to a higher standard of plant parenthood...

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