Philodendron vs Monstera: Important Similarities & Differences

Philodendron vs Monstera: are you curious to know the key similarities or perhaps the striking differences? Then read on to find out.

Monstera plants are commonly mistaken for being in the Philodendron genus. However, while Monstera and Philodendron plants look very similar, they belong to different genera and are thus technically distinct. 

Philodendron and Monstera are distinct genera of perennial, evergreen, flowering plants in the order Alismatales. Commonly-grown species of Philodendron and Monstera areoften confused with each other because their growing habits, as well as their leaf and flower morphology, are similar.

It is challenging to distinguish between commonly grown species of Philodendron and Monstera due to the similarities in their appearance and growth habits.This confusion can be avoided by understanding the botanical characteristics and taxonomy of plants in the Philodendron and Monstera genera.

Philodendron And Monstera Are Different Genera

Monstera Plant

Philodendron and Monstera are genera of perennial, evergreen plants belonging to the Arismatales order and Araceae family. Most Philodendron and Monstera species originate from forested areas in tropical and sub-tropical regions of South and Central America. They are among the most widely-grown ornamental house-plants in the world.

Plant species in the Monstera and Philodendron genera both have similar leaf and flower morphology. Their leaves tend to be relatively large, oval, or heart-shaped, with lobed margins. Many Monstera species have characteristic holes called fenestrations in their leaves.

Monstera and Philodendron plants also produce the same flower structure that is characteristic of the Araceae (or arum) family. Their flower is composed of an elongated, tube-shaped inflorescence called a spadix, which is surrounded by a tear-shaped hood referred to as a spathe.

Many species of Philodendron and Monstera also share similar growth habits. The main similarity is that most species grow above the ground on trees at some point in their life cycle.

Some species in the Philodendron genus are epiphytic, which means they complete their full life-cycle existing on a living or dead tree. Epiphytic plant species survive by obtaining water and nutrition from the air, rain, and surrounding organic debris.

All Monstera species and certain species in the Philodendron genus are hemiepiphytic, which means they combine epiphytic and terrestrial growth habits. Primary hemiepiphytes begin their life-cycle with their roots in the soil, and as they mature, they grow onto nearby trees. Secondary hemiepiphytes germinate on a tree and develop aerial roots that grow down into the soil.

Philodendron and Monstera plants are routinely mistaken for each other. To have a better chance of distinguishing between Monstera and Philodendron plants, one must gain a basic understanding of each genus and the differences between them.

Also Check: Philodendron Melanochrysum: Essential Care Guide

Philodendron: A Brief Overview

A Potted Philodendron Birkins Beside a Glass Window

Philodendron is a genus of perennial, evergreen, flowering plants originating primarily from central and south America. The name ‘philodendron’ is Greek for love tree. There are over 450 species in the genus, many of which are grown as decorative house-plants.

Most Philodendron species are creeping vines, though some species have stems and grow in an upright manner. As noted earlier, Philodendron plants are either epiphytic or hemiepiphytic.  These species are thus partly identifiable by their profusion of aerial roots.

Philodendron leaves are dark green in color and range from small to large. Their leaf morphology ranges from heart-shaped to oval, lobed, and pinnate.

A distinguishing feature of the Philodendron genus is that the leaf size and shape change during each stage of the plant life-cycle. As seedlings, the leaves of Philodendron species are usually small and heart-shaped. When the plants mature, they develop large leaves (10 to 25 inches) with lobed or pinnate margins. 

The changes in leaf morphology occur gradually and are thus difficult to discern. This near-imperceptible change in leaf shape can make the process of identifying Philodendron plants species more difficult.

Philodendron plants produce flowers that have the classic Araceae flower structure consisting of a spathe and spadix. The elongated, tubular spadix is an inflorescence of hundreds of individual flowers. Male flowers grow on the upper half of the spadix, and female flowers grow on the lower portion.

Philodendron plants produce large, tube-shaped clusters of white berries in summer. The berries contain calcium oxalate, which can irritate the throat and stomach. Philodendron berries are, however, edible if allowed to ripen fully before harvest and then cooked thoroughly.

Cultivating Philodendron Plants

Philodendron plants are relatively easy to grow, and if given the right conditions, they will tolerate some neglect. The robust and self-reliant nature of Philodendron plants is a primary reason for their popularity as ornamental house-plants. 

The most widely-grown species of Philodendron include:

  • heartleaf or sweetheart philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum, formerly Philodendron Scandens)
  • blushing Philodendron (Philodendron Erubescens)
  • fiddle-leaf Philodendron (Philodendron Panduriforme)

Philodendron plants require rich, moist, well-draining soils. They can tolerate a wide range of soil pH levels and grow well in clay and sandy soils.  As tropical plants, Philodendron plants are not frost-hardy and will only thrive in warm climates.

Philodendron species typically have low light requirements and must, therefore, be positioned in a shady location. Direct sun exposure is not conducive to growing thriving Philodendron plants.

The soil should be adequately moist to maintain the health of Philodendron plants.  Regular watering may be necessary during summer. They also need to receive sufficient fertilizer during the growing season if they are growing in containers.

Philodendron species are highly resistant to plant diseases and viruses. They generally don’t require applications of fungicides. However, Philodendron plants are vulnerable to attack by insect pests such as:

  • thrips
  • spider mites
  • mealybugs

Philodendron plants can be propagated by seed, as well as by stem tip and leaf bud cuttings. As most species of Philodendron are creeping vines, they don’t need pruning.

Monstera: A Brief Overview

Monstera Plant

Monstera is a plant genus that is closely related to the Philodendron genus. The Monstera genus consists of 45 species originating from tropical forest environments in central and south America, the Caribbean, and Hawaii. Monstera plants are almost ubiquitous as ornamental plants in indoor and shady garden settings around the world.

The leaves of Monstera plants range in size from large to very large (10 inches to 30 inches).  Monstera leaves are dark green and glossy in appearance and are typically heart-shaped or oval with pointed tips. Mature Monstera leaves usually have lobed margins and fenestrations, which are characteristic of the genus.

Monstera plants are hemiepiphytes whose roots grow in the soil and on trees. Some Monstera species start their life-cycle by taking root in the soil, and that later grow onto nearby trees (primary hemiepiphytes). Other species in the Monstera genus are that begin life in a tree and later produce adventitious aerial roots that grow down to the soil (secondary hemiepiphytes).

Monstera plant species produce the same spathe and spadix flower structure as other Araceae genera like Philodendron. Monstera species also develop white berries clustered on a single, elongated formation. The berries are edible if harvested when ripe and cooked to neutralize the calcium oxalate in the fruit.

Read more: Philodendron Brandtianum Care Guide (Propagation, Diseases, etc)

Monstera: Cultivation

The cultivation of Monstera plants is very similar to the cultivation of plants in the Philodendron genus. Monstera plants are also easy to grow, and for this reason, they are widely grown as ornamental house-plants and garden plants.

Some of the most popular Monstera species are:

  • delicious monster (sometimes referred to Swiss cheese plant) (Monstera Deliciosa),
  • Adanson’s Monstera (also commonly known as Swiss cheese plant) (Monstera Adansonii),
  • shingle plant (Monstera Dubai).

Like Philodendron, Monstera plants need moist, loose, nutrient-rich soils. They require mild to warm temperatures and cannot survive in areas exposed to frost events. Monstera plants are also able to grow in a wide range of soil types and pH ranges. 

Monstera plants are also vulnerable to being attacked by the same kinds of insect pests as Philodendron species are. In addition, Monstera plants are generally resistant to fungal diseases.

Most species of Monstera are shade-loving. However, some of the most commonly-grown species like Monstera deliciosa require direct or partial sunlight to thrive. Insufficient exposure to sunlight can prevent many Monstera species from developing their distinctive leaf fenestrations.

Unlike plants in the Philodendron genus, many upright, multi-stemmed species of Monstera require occasional pruning to maintain their health and beauty.

Conclusion: Philodendron vs Monstera

Philodendron and Monstera are separate plant genera in the Araceae family and Arismatales order. Philodendron and Monstera plants have similar leaf and flower morphology, and they share the habit of growing on trees.  They are widely grown as decorative indoor and garden plants.

 Due to their close taxonomic relation and the similarities of their appearance and growth habits, Monstera and Philodendron plants are easily confused with each other.

References & Other Resources:

https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/70466/philodendron-panduriforme/details

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Orlando-Ortiz-2/publication/344377573_Notes_on_frugivory_in_Monstera_and_Philodendron_Araceae_from_Costa_Rica_and_Panama/

https://academic.oup.com/botlinnean/article/156/1/13/2418203?login=true

https://digital.lib.usf.edu/content/SF/S0/00/14/22/00001/M39-00253-Lubenow_Cassie_Leaf_fenestration_in_Monstera_spp_CIEE_Spring_2011.pdf