Monstera vs. Philodendron: Differences and Similar Plants

Telling a monstera apart from a philodendron can be difficult if you don’t pay close attention to their characteristics. Both sets of plants have many similar features that often lead to mistakes when identifying them. But, what is the difference between a monstera and a philodendron?

Both monstera and philodendrons have split leaves, but the difference is that the holes in mature monstera leaves are fenestrations while those of a philodendron are not. Monstera deliciosa plants have long-lobed leaves with elongated holes while philodendrons have deep cut leaves with no holes.

 Note that young monstera leaves may not have these holes, which can be confusing when trying to tell them apart from philodendron plants.

Are Monstera and Philodendrons the same?

A monstera is not the same as a split-leaf philodendron even though both plants can appear to have holes in their leaves. Both plants belong to the same family, monstera (swiss cheese) belong to a different species, genus, and classification.

Both plants have aerial roots, grow by attaching themselves on surfaces, and some varieties even look similar, which explains why so many people mistakenly label them as the same plant. The nursery owner might have no idea that a monstera was mislabeled for a philodendron when it is a monstera.

Differences

Monstera and philodendrons differ in many ways. One is a large, fern-shaped evergreen plant that grows by attaching its roots to branches, while the other is a smaller, vine-like plant that grows by spreading over surfaces.

Philodendrons’ smaller leaves are easily distinguished from the leaves of other trees. Some species, such as the philodendron Brasil have visible bright green markings on the leaf surfaces.

Monstera species like Monstera deliciosa produce tasty large fruits that are a delicacy for fruit lovers. The taste is comparable to a blend of banana and pineapples. The flowers bloom around mid-summer for a period of about two to three months. The plant rarely produces the fruits, making it extra particular every time you find one in bloom.

The heart-shaped philodendron is one of the more popular species of the Philodendron variety. Botanists love these plants because they are perfect for creating an unusual plant hanging effect in a nursery.

Philodendron leaves.

Besides, the plant occupies very little room. Members of the genus share unique qualities regarding size, color and texture. A pink princess Philodendron and a green leaf philodendron share very little, yet they have a close relation.

Monstera with various species of Philodrendons grow next to each other in the region of Central America, where the conditions are hot and humid. Although some species closely resemble each other, a few differences can help you identify a monstera from a Philodendron.

Plant Size

A monstera is more prominent in size compared to a philodendron. The name “Monstero” attributes to its large leaf size. The plant can reach a height ranging up to 10 ft and a leaf size of about 1m in length and width. The fruit of a Monstero is large with a length of 10 inches. These giant vines can grow to high elevations to allow sunlight to reach the fruit.

Philodendrons are relatively more minor compared to the latter. Most species rarely grow taller than a meter in height. The average height of a philodendron is about three feet, but variations occur depending on the plant species.

Leaf shape

Monsteras have large evergreen leaves that are the most conspicuous part of the plant. You can quickly tell the difference between a monstera from a Philodendron by observing its leaf’s shape and size. A monstera leaf looks as if someone made finger-like cuttings on its surface, leaving only the veins intact. Besides, mature monstera leaves have small spaces (fenestrations) that only exist within the species.

Philodendrons commonly feature small heart-shaped leaves about the size of your palm. The name “Philo” means love, while “dendron” refers to a tree. The name “philodendron usually refers to the “Love Tree” because of the shape of its leaves.

 You might find some varieties with different color hues on the surface of such leaves. For example, the Pink Princess variety displays bright pink color leaves when healthy.

 Some species, however, might resemble monstera leaves. For instance, a philodendron pinnafidum has large finger-like leaves almost similar to the monstera but differs in size and presence of fenestrations. You can tell the species apart by looking at how the leaves form and measuring how big they grow.

Plant Adaptation

Both plant species have lots of similar adaptations that add to the confusion. They grow from the soil and on trees (hemiphyphytic).

However, a monstera grows taller and is much larger compared to the philodendron.

Besides, some monstera species reproduce by producing seasonal fruits and flowers.

Most philodendrons have long vine-like stalks that help them attach to growing surfaces. Unlike the monstera, a philodendron prefers growing horizontally instead of vertical growth.

You rarely find a philodendron growing above two meters, but its width can be about twice its height. They are one of the easiest plants to grow indoors and provide a beautiful exotic effect.

MonsteraPhilodendron
A large plant that can grow to heights over 9ft.Fairly Average height not exceeding 3ft (for most species).
Has big evergreen leaves leavesPresence of fenestrations ins some speciesFinger-like extensions on the leaf surfaceLeaves are average in size. (with a variation in leaf color depending on the plant species).It doesn’t have fenestrations on the leaf surface.Heart shape leaves also vary depending on individual species. 
Has hooks ideal for climbingSome species produce large fruits.Has hooks ideal for crawlingIt doesn’t produce fruits.

How do you identify a Monstera?

Monstera, also called split-leaf philodendron.

You can identify whether a plant is a monstera by looking at its leaves. These plants have large, green glossy leaves that grow to lengths of 3ft and above. Monstera also has small holes on the leaf surface (fenestrations) that can help you set them apart from other similar plants.

The characteristics of a monstera include:

  • Large glossy leaves that grow from elongated petioles. These leaves also have separate lobes and fenestrations.
  • Presence of large fruits (in some species)
  • There are white and green flowers that appear from time to time.

Plants that look like monstera

Some plants are similar to monstera because of their split leaves and other similar characteristics. Here are some plants that are similar to monstera:

Tetrasperma

Also called Rhaphidophora tetrasperma, it bears a striking resemblance to a monstera deliciosa such that it is often mistaken to be a philodendron species.

Although a tetasperma is similar to a monstera, it is neither a Monstera nor a Philodendron. However, it belongs to the same family of Araceae. These plants are also called aroids.

Split-leaf philodendron Identification

Split leaf philodendrons are a popular choice for household plants. They tend to grow into the tree like shrubs that spread out over time. You can identify a split-leaf philodendron by looking at a few key characteristics:

  • Large heart-shaped leaves with a leathery texture.
  • Fruits are present in some varieties.
  • The plants extend horizontally as opposed to vertically.

Is Monstera Adansonii a philodendron?

The Monstera adansonii closely resembles the philodendron species. People often mistake it for a philodendron because it shares many similar features with the latter.

However, despite such comparisons, a Monstera adansonii is not a philodendron. You can tell by the leaf shape, size and growth pattern.

The plant’s large leaves stand out from the rest of the plant. They also have the signature fenestrations that define most monstera. However, the Monstera adansonii rarely produces fruits, and its flowers are small white extensions growing on the inner parts of the plant.

You can also tell by observing its growth pattern. Unlike a philodendron which tends to extend outwards, the Monstera adansonii maintains a vertical growth pattern with the leaves connected to the rest of the plant through elongated leaf stalks. It can reach heights of up to 12ft. If given enough space and time, leaves extend to lengths of about 24 inches.

References

  • Karen Russ and Al Pertuit, PhD, Emeritus Faculty, Horticulture, Clemson University: PHILODENDRON

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