Which Monstera is it? Guide to the top 10 Monstera varieties
Monstera - especially Monstera Adansonii - can be a confusing bunch. The Monstera genus has at least 48 species. But which Monstera have you got? Swiss Cheese? Monkey Mask? Obliqua? Confused much?!
Here’s a short(ish), simple(ish) guide comparing some of the most popular and best-known Monstera, from Albo to Obliqua, to introduce this fantastic family and help you work out which Monstera you have.
Starting with the big boys, the OG Monstera deliciosa, the Thai Constellation and Albo, then the various Monstera Adansonii (which is where it can get really confusing), including #itsneverobliqua, and photos to go with each one.
Let's jump in...
The OG Monstera, spotted everywhere from home magazine photo shoots, to growing wild in NZ back-yards. Huge, holey moley leaves when mature. Also called the ‘Swiss Cheese Plant’. Rumoured to come in small form or large form. You might see the small form also called Borsigiana. A bit of controversy about whether that's actually a different variety though (have a read of the Real Truth about Deliciosa vs Borsigiana article by Ohio Tropics, or What is Monstera Borsigiana if you want to get into it - essentially the conclusion both come to is that Deliciosa and Borsigiana are the same).
Monstera Thai Constellation
Stable variegation that's usually speckled and evenly scattered. That doesn't mean you won't get bigger patches of sectoral variegation - like the Albo is famous for - but not as likely, or as large, with the Thai. Variegation colour varies from yellow (especially on younger leaves), to creamy-white. Leaves can get bigger than the Albo. The length of the stem between leaves (called internodes), is a lot shorter versus the Albo (handy 'parts of a stem' diagram here showing nodes, internodes, axillary buds and more). If you do get the occasional leaf with less variegation, no need to cut it off, as the next leaf's variegation isn't dependant on the previous leaf like it is with the Albo. A Thai won't revert and turn full-green like an Albo can.
Unstable variegation. When variegated, will be a more creamy to pure white rather than the sometimes yellow variegation of the Thai. Variegation is also much more likely to be sectoral, covering larger sections of the leaf compared to the Thai. Variegation pattern also more marbled than speckled. Smaller mature leaf size than the Thai also but with a much longer stem length between nodes. Albo tends to grow faster and more leggy. A support pole is a good idea from young.
Sometimes mistaken for a Philodendron, and called a 'Philodendron Cobra'. Monstera Standleyana have thick, glossy, darker green leaves that do not fenestrate. Most leaves will shown some level of variegation, from yellow to creamy white in colour, but often just appearing as light speckling and flecks. Occasionally they put out some more variegated leaves, including the prized half-moon (a half-and-half green and white leaf), which have been selectively propagated and given various names to describe the colour and level of variegation. The form of the plant however doesn't change, and they can revert back to the green form (typically requiring cutting back to the last more variegated leaf). Standleyana Albo Variegata is the name most often given to highly variegated examples with half-moon leaves. Aurea is sometimes used to name the more yellow variegated varieties.
The classic Monstera adansonii you’re most likely to find in garden centres, also called the regular form. Large, oval, slightly pointed leaves when mature. Quick to vine or climb. Fenestrates (or perforates, to be exact), quickly when young. Fast growers. Easy peasy to propagate too. Love these guys. Some also call the immature form adansonii friedrichsthalii.
These guys are most often called ‘Monkey Mask’ in NZ. You might also hear 'Swiss Cheese Plant' used to describe the Deliciosa (above), vs 'Swiss Cheese Vine' used to describe the narrow form adansonii (below). A heads up that stores sometimes label the regular form adansonii Obliqua! More about that - and the hashtag #itsneverobliqua - coming up.
Fun fact to add to the confusion (sorry), is that 'Monkey Mask' can sometimes also turn out to be Monstera lechleriana, and not an adansonii at all. Lechleriana tend not to have as many or as large holes as adansonii, so if you're seeing lots of larger holes like the pic above, it's more likely you've got a variety of adansonii. Lechleriana and adansonii also have differences in the petioles (diagram here showing where the petiole is). Lechleriana have the potential to grow a lot larger leaves than adansonii, have more even shaped leaves, with smaller holes that tend to form closer to the middle vein of the leaves, and younger leaves may not have any holes.
Monstera adansonii Narrow Form
The narrow form is sometimes called 'Swiss Cheese Vine' and the wide form and regular form tend to get called 'Monkey Mask' - but not always! The best way to know what you've got is to compare those leaves, where the differences become much more obvious.
The narrow form has much thinner, more vine-like stems than other adansonii. Leaves are narrower, longer, thinner and smoother, and normally point slightly to one side at the tip. The narrow form tends not to fenestrate as easily when young until climbing and mature. If left to vine or in lower light, it may not fenestrate at all, or may only develop the occasional smaller, fewer holes. When it does mature, the narrow form has fewer holes than others, which are also smaller and more oval than other forms. Tends to be more delicate than other forms also. Quite elegant and 'tidy' compared to other more rambling adansonii.
Monstera adansonii Round or Wide Form
Round form and wide form are often used to describe the same variety. Wide form is also used to describe the laniata and sometimes the lechleriana! This form of adansonii has thicker stems and rounder, bigger, wider leaves with a more uneven, ruffled leaf surface compared to the smoother narrow form.
It also has rounder holes than the narrow form, but they still tend to be oval shaped holes. Leaves can be almost twice as wide as they are long, and are more heart shaped than the narrow form. Some differentiate round form and wide form by how symmetrical the two sides of the leaf are, some say they are the same. Laniata is also called wide form, and tend to have more uneven sides to their leaves.
Variegated Monstera adansonii
Variegation caused by genetic mutation. Could be a variegated version of any adansonii, but more likely to be the classic ‘Monkey Mask’ or wide form. Slower growers. Likely to get the stunning half-moon variegation, but if the white takes up more than half the leaf, that leaf's much more likely to brown and die early. Has been rumoured to revert, but generally considered stable.
Monstera epipremnoides 'Esqueleto'
Often just shortened to Monstera Equeleto, and also often mistaken for Obliqua. When these beauties get big in their natural habitat, stems can get 2 to 3cms thick and leaves up to 50cms long and up to 35cms wide. Not likely to reach those epic sizes indoors, but still has much bigger leaves when mature than the regular form Adansonii, and is much more holey!
A lot harder to tell the difference when young, but adansonii are smaller, smoother, and darker green than the esqueleto. Esqueleto can reach a good 2 foot long indoors. The holes on esqueleto tend to be more uniform vs the adansonii, and esqueleto have more of a mix of much larger holes, with some smaller holes near the midrib, which take up more of the leaf. The large holes also tend to start nearer the midrib than the adansonii, and extend right out to the edges, hence the confusion with obliqua, as you can end up with a mature leaf that's more hole than leaf.
The saying goes “it’s never obliqua” because this is one very rare plant, and often labelled incorrectly in plant stores. It even has its own Instagram hashtag #itsneverobliqua. The Peru is probably the best known variety of obliqua, which has such large holes there’s barely any leaf, but not all obliqua look like the Peru.
Generally more delicate with thinner, smaller leaves than most adansonii. Many a garden centre incorrectly labels the classic Monstera adansonii 'Monkey Mask' as obliqua (we all wish). Obliqua are notoriously high maintenance. They do well in enclosed, terrarium environments and need a good 80%+ humidity. Tends to be smaller, very slow growing, and typically won't climb when kept indoors. Very thin stems too (around 2mm).
I couldn't finish the obliqua debate without quoting both Monstera expert Mick Mittermeier: "...you're more likely to get struck by lightning than to find this species in your local nursery" and respected source Muggle Plants: "But trust me, as much as I want this to be true, you do not have a Monstera obliqua. It's a biological unicorn. So please, spread the word, change the name to the right one."
I hope you enjoyed sharing my Monstera journey and that it helped clear up rather than added to your Monstera confusion! A lot of the confusion stems (pun totally intended), from the same 'Monkey Mask' or 'Swiss Cheese' common names being used for more than one variety or subspecies. Sometimes any plant with fenestrated leaves gets called a 'Swiss Cheese Plant' and every adansonii gets nicknamed 'Monkey Mask' which really doesn't help. But I do hope this short'ish simple'ish guide did help. If it did, please do give it a share.