Split Leaf Philodendron vs. Monstera: What’s The Difference?

Thinking of adding a monstera plant or split leaf philodendron to your indoor garden, but aren't sure which plant to choose? In this article, gardening expert Madison Moulton compares both plants, including their scientific names, sizes, water needs, sunlight needs, and more!

Split Leaf Philodendron vs Monstera

Indoor plants with a tropical feel are all the rage, with Monsteras at the forefront of this craze. Their large, waxy, deep green leaves make any space feel like a tropical paradise. The Monstera isn’t the only plant that offers this jungle feel, but it’s often confused for another equally gorgeous plant, the Split Leaf Philodendron

Their names and nicknames are often used interchangeably, with many believing they’re the same plant. It’s actually not uncommon for the philodendron to get confused with other types of plants, outside of the beginner-friendly Monstera.

These two plants do have many similarities, but they’re different species and belong to different genera. Simply, the Monstera and Split Leaf Philodendron are completely different plants that happen to look the same and create a similar atmosphere. Let’s take a deeper look at each plant, how they are both different, and the similarities they share.

Split Leaf Philodendron vs. Monstera

Two Plants With Big Leaves

Specification

Scientific Name

Mature Size

Native Region

Leaf Appearance

Growth Difficulty

Soil Preference

Sun Exposure

LIghting Tolerance

Monstera

Monstera deliciosa

10 feet (indoors)

Southern Mexico

Large, Split-Leaf

Beginner-friendly

Light, well-draining

Indirect Sunlight

Low-light tolerant

Split-Leaf Philodendron

Philodendron spp.

10-20 feet

Central and South America

Large, Split-Leaf

Beginner-friendly

Light, Well-draining

Bright, Indirect Light

Low-light Tolerant

Scientific Names 

Large Leaves of Tropical Plants
These two plants come from the same family, but are different species.

The scientific name for the monstera is Monstera deliciosa, and it belongs to the Monstera genus. It’s a flowering plant native to Mexico, where it’s famous for its fruit and abnormal leaves, hence its name. There are over 40 different varieties of monstera.

Split Leaf Philodendron’s scientific name is Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum (or Philodendron Selloum). It is also a tropical, South American native, found mostly in Brazil. Monsteras are commonly called Split Leaf Philodendrons, but they’re not Philodendrons at all. 

While the pair are two different species of plant, they do come from the same family, Araceae, hence their similarities. This family consists of a large variety of plants, including peace lilies and another extremely popular houseplant, the pothos. 

Appearance 

Despite their similar looks, it’s not difficult to tell the difference between these two plants up close. Taking a look at the size and shape of the leaves and how each plant grows will have you identifying these two plants in no time. 

Leaf Size 

Tropical Plants With Large Leaves
Monstera leaves are larger than split-leaf philodendron leaves, though both are fairly large.

Monsteras are famous for their massive, glossy leaves, which can easily reach about three feet long and two feet wide. Younger Monsteras do start with smaller leaves, getting bigger as the plant ages. You can expect outlandishly large leaves after about three years. Indoor Monsteras won’t produce such huge leaves due to the environmental conditions, but they’ll still easily fill up an empty corner. 

Split Leaf Philodendron leaves are also large, but they don’t typically grow to the outlandish size the Monstera does. They can reach similar lengths of about 3 feet but are much narrower than their counterpart, usually only around one foot wide, 

Leaf Shape and Texture 

Close Up of Leaves of Tropical Plants
The leaves are split differently for each of these plants.

Both plants have heart-shaped leaves. The similarities stop there, however. Each plant’s leaves have different textures and are ‘split’ differently too. 

The Monstera’s large leaves are smooth, flat, and shiny. They’re also fenestrated, which is the term used for plants that make holes in their leaves as they age. There is no definitive reason why the Monstera does this. Many theorize that it could be to protect them from hurricanes or to accommodate for the poor lighting conditions of jungle floors. Regardless of the reason, Monsteras tend to get holier leaves as they age. 

Philodendron leaves on the other hand are not fenestrated, just split to form leafy fingers. No matter the age of philodendrons, the only gaps their leaves will have are the ones between the split fingers. The philodendron’s leaves are also leathery and tend to have more a ruffled look. 

Growth Habit 

Growth Habits of Tropical Houseplants
Philodendrons grow upward and outward whereas the monstera climbs.

While the Monstera and Philodendron look similar, there are many differences in their growing habits. Philodendron Selloum doesn’t bear fruit, nor does it have a climbing nature like the Monstera. 

Philodendrons tend to grow horizontally and extremely rapidly. They’ll grow to double their height in length in no time. In the right conditions, philodendrons can grow about 15 feet wide. Given this excessive growth rate, potted philodendrons need to be repotted every one to two years. 

Monsteras on the other hand are famous climbers. They scale forest trees in the wild to acquire as much light as possible. Monsteras also don’t grow as quickly as philodendrons, typically only growing about two feet a year. 

Care

Caring for these plants, means you need to understand the different needs when growing them inside or outside your home. They have different needs when it comes to light, water, soil, fertilizer, and more. Let’s take a deep dive into what you can expect in each area of care.

Light 

Tropical Plants in the Sun
Around 6-8 hours of indirect sunlight a day is perfect for each of these plants.

Both Monsteras and Philodendrons thrive in indirect sunlight, especially when planted in warmer climates. Like most tropical plants, they both need around eight hours of indirect sunlight a day. Monsteras’ glorious foliage is susceptible to sunscald, so it’s imperative to keep it away from too much direct sunlight. 

Outdoors, Monsteras and Philodendrons will thrive in a partially shady spot. Potted indoor Monsteras and Philodendrons do best when placed near a window that receives bright indirect sunlight throughout the day. Make sure they aren’t kept in a dark room, or they may die off over time.

Water 

Healthy Large Tropical Plants
Monsteras and Philodendrons differ when it comes to watering needs, but only slightly. 

Philodendrons prefer relatively moist soil, but overwatering can cause root rot, so finding the right balance is imperative. It’s best to thoroughly water your philodendrons when the top of the soil is dry to the touch. Indoor philodendrons will require less watering than those planted outdoors as the water evaporates slower. 

Monsteras prefer the soil to dry out a little before their next watering, thanks to their climbing nature.  You should let the top of the soil dry out completely between watering. This helps you avoid overwatering your Monstera, preventing root rot and other common Monstera problems.

If either plant is placed in a decorative pot cover, ensure you remove the plant before watering. Only return it to the cover when it has drained completely to stop the roots from sitting in water. The same principle applies to drip trays. About 10 minutes after watering, empty the drip tray completely before it stagnates. 

Soil 

People Potting Tropical Plants in Soil
The soil needs of these plants are very similar, especially when planted in pots indoors. 

Monsteras aren’t typically fussy about the soil they’re planted in, as long as it’s well-draining. Potted Monsteras grow best planted in a well-draining potting mix. Ensure the container has sufficient drainage holes and improve your soil’s aeration and drainage but adding coconut coir and perlite to your mix. 

Philodendrons also need rich, well-draining soil to thrive. The same houseplant potting mix will also be suitable for these tropical plants. However, they are slightly fussier about other conditions like pH and nutrients. 

They’re highly sensitive to acidic soil and the salts that accumulate within the soil. High pH and salt levels can cause your Philodendron’s leaves to turn yellow or brown. Ensure you use a high-quality potting mix and water with filtered water to prevent salt buildup. 

Climate 

Large Tropical Plants Growing
Becasue both of these plants are native to the tropics, they have the same climate needs.

These tropical beauties have very similar climate needs. They both thrive in moderate temperatures, preferring high levels of humidity and warmth over cold. Philodendrons are hardy in USDA zones 9 – 11, while Monsteras thrive in USDA zones 10 – 12

Indoor plants of both types will thrive in normal household temperatures, but they should be kept away from drafts and air conditioners. 

They typically tolerate household humidity levels above 50% but will perform far better in conditions above 60%. To increase the humidity and help your plants thrive, place them near a humidifier with 60% – 80% humidity for the best results. 

Fertilizer 

Leaves of Tropical Houseplants Close Up
Philodendrons needs a fertilizer boost about once a month whereas monsteras only need it about once a season.

Both Monsteras and Philodendrons need a little nutritional boost now and then, along with the rest of your houseplants. It’s best to fertilize these plants with a diluted, balanced liquid fertilizer. The only difference between these two plants is in how often they need to be fertilized. 

Monsteras don’t explicitly require fertilizer, but you can boost their leaf growth during the growing season. Only fertilize once every few weeks, or you run the risk of burning the roots. 

Philodendrons, however, are fussier about nutrients. They grow best when fertilized at least once a month during the growing season and unlike Monsteras, will show signs of struggle without this boost. 

You can apply a general houseplant fertilizer to both these plants once every few weeks to watch them thrive. 

Uses 

Tropical Plants Growing Indoors in Pots
These large and richly colored plants are excellent additions to any home.

In landscaping and interior design, both Monsteras and Philodendrons are grown for their leafy displays. These plants scream tropical paradise, and when they’re used as indoor plants, they give the space a jungle-like feel. They are also believed to purify the air, making them extremely useful and pretty household plants. 

While indoor Monsteras aren’t likely to fruit, outdoors they very much can. This delicious fruit is packed with vitamin C and B, phosphorous, and calcium. Ensure the fruit is completely ripe before ingesting it, however, as it’s toxic when unripe. 

In Mexico, Monstera leaves and fruits are the go-to to relieve arthritis, while its roots allegedly come in handy for snake bites. 

Final Thoughts 

Understanding the differences between Monsteras and Split Leaf Philodendrons can be confusing, especially when their names are used interchangeably. But, knowing the similarities and differences between these plants will help you take better care of them. This knowledge will help you choose the right tropical beauty for your jungle-style corner in your home or garden. Or, if you’re a houseplant collector, why not grow both? 

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