That’s a Monstera. Isn’t it? | MCM Plant ID

This is quite an embarrassing revelation, but I believe that it is time to come clean.

I have only just discovered the difference between a Monstera and a Philodendron.

Shocking, I know.

For almost two years now I have been babbling on about amazing mid-century modern style and plants that are iconic to this style.  One of these plants that I have frequently mentioned is Monstera deliciosa or Fruit Salad Plant.  They look great with their large glossy green leaves and their sprawling form that create an amazing feature to a mid-century courtyard.

Boyd House II - View of parents' block from courtyard
From Boyd House II – Part I – With a lovely Monstera in the background… or is it?

Monstera this, Monstera that.

Until my lovely wife Amy finally pointed out that a plant I was drooling over was actually something different!

So what is a Monstera?

Monstera deliciosa is also known as the ‘Split-leaf Philodendron’ or even the ‘Swiss Cheese Plant’.  These common names are a great pointer towards identifying this great plant.  The leaves do in fact have holes in them!

Monstera deliciosa (via Zoom's Edible Plants)
Monstera deliciosa clearly displaying its holey leaves (via Zoom’s Edible Plants)

 So what is this other plant that I have been mistakenly calling a Monstera?

The other plant is Philodendron bipinnatifidum or ‘Tree Philodendron’.  While the large glossy green leaves are very similar to the Monstera, they do not have any holes but long deep lobes.

Philodendron bipinnatifidum and its non-holey leaves (via Secret Gardens of Sydney)
Philodendron bipinnatifidum and its non-holey leaves (via Secret Gardens of Sydney)

So why does this matter?

I guess it doesn’t, as both species are fantastic focal plants for your Australian mid-century garden.  Monstera are more of a climbing rambling plant, while Philodendron is an upright shrub.

Both are from warmer climates so they do need a bit of protection from extremes of weather in Melbourne, but otherwise there is no reason why you can’t give them a go in your MCM garden!

And  while I won’t be handing back my LA qualifications just yet, at least now I won’t make such a fool of myself with false identification!


8 thoughts on “That’s a Monstera. Isn’t it? | MCM Plant ID

  1. Thanks Jason – I had a Monstera in a pot, which I released into the garden. It is fairly vigorous and is at risk of taking over everything, so needs a firm hand. Isn’t it only the fruit from the “female” that is edible?


    1. Hi Alistair! They do make for very good potted plants (and are probably better indoors than out in Melbourne). You’ve revealed more holes in my knowledge however! I’m not sure about the gender of the plant affecting its edibility. The link below the image above does discuss that the fruit is not really eaten outside of S America. I have never known anyone to eat it!


      1. Hi Jason
        We ate fruit off my grandmothers every year as kids. In fact both my grandmothers fed them to me. The trick is to wait until they are ripe to the point of almost rotting, otherwise you’ll get the most terrible prickly sensation on your tongue which will annoy for days.

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  2. Huh. I’m going to have to take another look at the ginormous, 8-foot philodendron growing at the foundation of my partner’s father’s house. It was an out-of-control indoor escapee, but they think all that plant mass might have helped save the house when bushfires came through! How about that.

    (psst, did you see my cone planters? I’m proud of those finds!)


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