How to prune a monstera – top tips for cutting back these popular indoor plants

Tidy up your Swiss cheese plant with this simple advice

monstera leaves
(Image credit: TorriPhoto / Moment / Getty Images)

Also known as Swiss cheese plants, monsteras make a serious statement in any interior scheme with their giant, glossy leaves. But sometimes, these plants call for a prune, and it's important to do it properly.

Speaking from experience, I was amazed by how my monstera responded to a careful trim earlier this year. After struggling with pests for ages – which a few doses of beneficial nematodes thankfully sorted out – it was looking rather sad and droopy, with lots of curled, dead leaves. But once these were removed, it quickly bounced back – at least ten new leaves grew in just a few months. It's now one of my best indoor plants, and takes pride of place in the lounge rather than being confined to the 'plant hospital' in the corner of the spare room.

Not only can pruning neaten up a monstera's appearance and encourage fresh growth, but it can also help keep its size under control. I don't need to do this yet, but at the rate it's going, I will next year.

monstera plant on stool

These houseplants are well-loved for their architectural leaves

(Image credit: Suchada Tansirimas / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)

How to prune a monstera

Whether your plant has been hit with a pest problem or not, old monstera leaves and stems will eventually fade and start to look tatty. Some can also turn yellow (especially if your plant has suffered from a period of drought). Removing these less-than-luscious leaves will instantly improve the look of your plant.

Make your cuts at the base of each stem, at a 45-degree angle. Cutting just above a node will encourage new growth. It's best to wear gloves, as the sap can irritate the skin.

You can also trim any unsightly, brown edges from leaves, if there are still healthy parts left (this is tried and tested by yours truly). Follow the shape of the leaf so it looks natural, cutting slightly into the green section. It should heal quickly.

'Indoor monsteras can be more susceptible to infection, so it is really important that you use sharp shears and wipe them down with alcohol prior to making your cuts,' says Anna Ohler, the Owner of Bright Lane Gardens nursery. 

Anna Ohler
Anna Ohler

Anna is an avid plant hobbyist and the Owner and Operator of Bright Lane Gardens, a boutique plant nursery in Northern Michigan. With over a decade of experience in gardening and landscaping, she takes every opportunity to share her knowledge on all things plant related.

yellow leaf on monstera

Yellowing or dead leaves can be removed

(Image credit: Switlana Sonyashna / Alamy Stock Photo)

These climbing houseplants can quickly take up a lot of space, so you may also wish to prune your monstera to control its size. In a monstera-care tutorial from the Royal Horticultural Society, gardener Laetitia Maklouf instructs to pinch off new growing tips once it reaches the desired height. 'Prune out excessive growth that might be producing fewer or no leaves,' she adds. 

If you're pruning for this reason, cut just below a growth node – that way, you can then pot the removed sections up for propagation.

Be careful not to remove too much in one go – 'over-pruning will result in an overall decline of the plant's health,' Anna warns.

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These pruners, with their ergonomic design and titanium steel blade, are the perfect tool for tidying up your monstera.

cutting a monstera plant

If you're planning on propagating your monstera cuttings, cut just below a node

(Image credit: Andrey Zhuravlev / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)

Removing aerial roots

Monstera plants produce aerial roots which can grow long, fast. They're not particularly attractive, so if you wish, you can simply snip these off at the base. Again, remember to clean your pruners, first.

monstera aerial roots

The aerial roots of a monstera grow quickly

(Image credit: Natalia Duryagina / Alamy Stock Photo)

When to prune a monstera

Prune your monstera once a year if you need to control its size. Dead leaves can be removed at any time, says Anna.

Monsteras are dormant in winter, and tend to grow rapidly during the warmer months. It's best to do your annual trim just before this growth spurt begins, in spring. This will help the plant recover well.

'Avoid pruning a recently repotted monstera,' adds Vladan Nikolic, a houseplant expert. He recommends giving the plant some time to adjust and acclimate to its new environment – 'This allows the plant to recover from the stress of transplantation and establish its root system.'

Whether you need to get your plant looking glorious again or simply open up a bit more space around it, the tips in this guide will help. But remember, there are other aspects to plant maintenance that need to be considered to keep monsteras healthy.

The correct amount of water, fertilizer, and sunlight are all crucial, as is pest prevention. I'm keeping a very close eye on my monstera now, and I'm happy to say that the extra efforts are certainly paying off!

Holly Crossley
Contributing Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then; over the years, she's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator. Having worked for for two years, Holly now regularly writes about plants and outdoor living for Homes & Gardens.