How Much Light Do Monstera Plants Need?

Did you recently add a Monstera plant to your indoor or outdoor plant collection, but aren't sure exactly where to place it for optimal sun exposure? In this article, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton looks at how much sunlight Monsteras need, and the best places in your home to place them.

Potted Monstera Plant Sitting in Sunlight on Table

Monsteras are often labeled wonderful plants for beginners, possibly due to their widespread popularity in the houseplant community. But once you have one, you may find it’s not as easy to keep yours happy as you may have expected.

One of the easiest ways to ensure healthy growth in a monstera is by providing your plant the right amount of light. If you’re not quite sure how much sunlight your monstera prefers or can handle, you’ve come to the right place.

Keep reading as you learn more about the Monstera’s native environment, as well as the different types of sunlight that will allow them to thrive both indoors and outdoors. Ready to learn more? Let’s dig in!

The Short Answer

Monsteras are native to tropical forests, growing underneath the shade of trees above. When growing indoors, that means they prefer areas with bright indirect light, close to windows but away from direct sunlight. Stretched stems and lack of fenestration are signs that the light is too low, while brown patches and discoloration mean the light may be too strong.

The Long Answer

Houseplant sitting in white ceramic pot on table in sunlight. The plant is small and each leaf has many different holes in them.
Understanding the plant and its native habitat can provide insight into their sunlight needs.

To truly understand what kind of light will be best for your monstera, it’s important to know what conditions are like in their native habitats where they have evolved to grow best.

This means understanding how much sunlight they get when growing in nature, as well as the amount of water they get, and the type of climate they thrive in. Let’s dig a little deeper to understand their native habitats.

Native Habitat

Plants growing together in outdoor garden. Many different types of plants are growing together, overlapping. All have dark green foliage.
This plant grows in tropical habitats when found in nature.

The Monstera genus contains several species of plants – in fact, more than 50 – with interesting foliage and spadix blooms. The most well-known of these is Monstera Deliciousa, the delicious monster, but there are several other species becoming popular in the houseplant community.

Although species may originate from slightly different areas, the monstera genus is natively concentrated around Central and South America. They live in tropical rainforests where temperatures are high, and humidity remains above 70% throughout the year.

In these forests, monstera vines may be found sprawling along the ground in nutrient-rich areas. But, you will most likely spot them climbing up nearby trees with the help of their aerial roots.

This helps the vines grow quickly upwards, using the structure of the tree as support without impacting its growth. In other words, monsteras are not parasites, but rather hemi-epiphytes.

The climbing nature of monstera species helps limit competition on the ground and gives them access to higher light levels than would be found on the forest floor. However, they are still heavily shaded from the tree canopies above, receiving a full day of dappled sunlight through the leaves.

Indoor Light Levels Explained

Indoor plant growing in white pot on wooden stand with green leaves. The plant has sunlight glistening off the leaves of the plant.
It’s important to understand the definition of indoor light levels.

The light inside our home differs considerably from these native conditions. It can be tricky to match the requirements outdoors to what is available indoors. Luckily, there are a few handy descriptors typically given to houseplants to help you understand their needs.

Low Light

Areas far from windows or in rooms with north-facing windows only. Around 50- and 250-foot candles.

Medium Light

Areas in rooms with bright south-facing windows but far from the light source. Around 250 to 1,000 foot candles.

Bright Indirect Light

Areas right next to bright east, south or west-facing windows but out of the path of the direct sun’s rays. Over 1,000 foot candles.

Direct Light

Areas in front of windows where the sun hits the plant directly throughout the day.

Filtered Light

A direct sunlight source filtered by a sheer object like a curtain. Typically, the same intensity as bright indirect light.

Distance from the light source plays a huge role in how much light your plants receive. If you want to test the conditions in your home, invest in a light meter or download an app on your phone. You can also take a piece of white paper and place your hand between it and the light source. The stronger the shadow, the brighter the light levels.

Best Light for Indoor Monsteras

Swiss cheese plant growing in white ceramic pot sitting on a windowsill getting indirect sunlight.
The best type of sunlight is bright indirect lighting.

The closest thing to the dappled light these plants receive outdoors in their native environments is bright indirect light. A full day of bright light out of the path of direct sun will deliver the strongest growth, ensuring your monstera is stretching and putting out as many new leaves as possible.

Some species can also handle medium light in the higher foot-candle range, but they won’t grow as quickly. You will also need to slow watering as there will be less water absorption and less evaporation in these areas.

If the sunlight in your region is not too intense, you can also give your monstera an hour or two of direct sunlight in the mornings. As long as the light is gentle, a position in front of the right east-facing window can give the plants the boost they need to make up for times when light may not be as strong.

Keep in mind that light positions and intensity change with the season. Sunlight intensity is typically much lower in winter than it is in the peak of summer. In the cooler months, your monsteras will be able to handle a little more direct sun than usual to combat the lower light levels on cloudy and chilly days.

Signs Your Monstera Needs More Light

Plant with large leaves sitting on windowsill. A gardener with blue gloves is wiping the leaves and there is a yellow watering can sitting next to it. The plant is leggy and doesn't have a lot of leaves.
Plants that need more sunlight will get leggy and produce less leaves.

If the light levels are not high enough for your monstera, the plant will quickly begin to display signs of struggle.

Stretching is the most common issue, where stems become leggy and leaves diminished as the plant reaches toward the nearest light source. This can also make growth lopsided, potentially causing pots to tip over if the plant is large enough.

Monsteras that have split leaves come with another unique indicator that light is too low – their leaves will remain whole. Once mature, healthy monsteras with enough sunlight should develop holes and splits as they grow. If they don’t have enough light, the leaves will remain small without any holes or splits.

You can see this phenomenon if you forget to rotate your pots too – the leaves closest to the light source may split while others remain whole.

In severe cases, your monstera may become discolored, with leaves turning yellow and wilting. If the soil remains too moist due to low evaporation levels, the plant may also begin to wilt due to root rot.

If you can’t move your monstera to a brighter area, you’ll need to supplement with artificial grow lights to avoid further growth problems.

Signs Your Monstera Needs Less Light

Plant that has gotten too much sunlight that has browned crispy leaves. The edges are dark brown, and the leaves are split in many areas.
Leaves will turn brown and crisp when they’ve had too much sunlight.

Too much sunlight can also be a bad thing. Monsteras live in shady areas and don’t handle harsh direct sun very well. Symptoms of damaging sunlight can occur in just a couple of hours and won’t return to normal once they pop up.

Much like humans, monstera leaves can also experience a kind of sunburn. Leaves that are exposed to intense direct sun will lose their color and eventually turn yellow, then brown and crispy. The leaves may also curl inwards to protect themselves and the stems will move away from the light source.

In these cases, move the plant into a bright area out of the path of the direct sun. Prune any heavily damaged leaves to make way for new healthy growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can they grow in low light?

Some monstera species can survive short periods in low light but won’t be able to grow in low light long-term. They need medium to bright indirect light to continue to put out new growth and develop the classic holes and splits in the leaves that all monstera growers are after.

What kind of light do they need outdoors?

If you live in a tropical zone and want to plant your monstera outdoors, give them a shady area under a tree they can climb. As long as some sunlight filters through the leaves above, they will have enough light to grow happily.

How do you fix a monstera with sunburn?

Unfortunately, leaves that are sunburned won’t return to normal. Prune the affected leaves close to the base of the plant to encourage new healthy roots to grow.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve brought your new Monstera plant home but aren’t quite sure where to place it for best results, always aim for a place in your home with bright indirect sunlight. This will help keep your plant healthy, while providing it with enough sunlight to reach its full potential.

Some Monsteras can grow to be quite large, so make sure you’ve picked a pot that can handle their growth, and you’ll have a beautiful plant for many years to come.

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