Variegated Monstera: Why Are They So Expensive & Care Guide

  • Time to read: 9 min.

Houseplants have been an essential part of home decor for years, but they have become increasingly popular over time. More and more people have taken to collecting and growing expensive plants at home since different varieties of plants have become more accessible, and customers have become more knowledgeable. One of the most costly types of plants is the variegated Monstera. 

Variegated Monstera is expensive because of their rarity, their rate of growth, popularity, the difficulty in growing them, their size, and the cause of their variegation. The care of variegated Monstera involves ensuring warm light, sufficient heat, humidity and space, and well-draining soil. 

In this article, I’ll explain the factors that make the variegated Monstera expensive. I’ll also note all the important information you need in a care guide for variegated Monstera. 

Photo 160121440 / Monstera Deliciosa Variegata © Agata Buczek | Dreamstime.com

Factors Affecting the Cost of Variegated Monstera

The cost of a variegated Monstera plant depends on factors related to the supply and demand for this plant. Here are some of the factors. 

Rarity

There are over 45 species of plants classified under the Monstera genus, and among them, only a few are known to have the variegation gene. 

The most popular of the Monstera plants kept as a houseplant is the Monstera Deliciosa. These plants are evergreen vines that grow steadily when they’re young and are native to Mexico, Guatemala, and other tropical parts of the American continents. 

Variegation can occur naturally in the Monstera Deliciosa but is exceedingly rare because variegated plants have a distinct disadvantage. Since variegation is the banding of colors other than green on the plant’s leaves, it indicates a lack of chlorophyll in the leaves.

This makes the plants particularly vulnerable to environmental changes, making their growth difficult and rare. Additionally, the variegation makes it hard for these plants to grow, so finding a larger variegated Monstera is difficult. 

Since variegated Monstera plants are sensitive to their environment, they’re difficult to grow in plant nurseries, so they can only be found in specialized nurseries. It’s also important to be careful when buying these online because finding authentic variegated Monstera is not an easy task. 

This is especially true if the deal looks too good to be true.

Rate of Growth and Propagation

Regular Monstera plants grow quickly when they’re young and can grow fairly large when given support. While indoor plants generally tend to be slow growers, the plants of the Monstera genus tend to have a faster growth rate than other houseplants. 

However, this rate of growth slows down significantly when it comes to variegated plants. 

Having less chlorophyll than plants without variegation means that variegated plants have a reduced capacity to absorb light. This results in less energy due to a reduced capacity to produce sugars necessary for growth. 

The slow growth rate means that the plants take a long time to reach sizes that allow repotting, cutting, and propagation. 

Most Monstera plants are propagated through node cuttings, and this is true of variegated Monstera as well. Species like Monstera Alba can’t be propagated through seed since the seeds don’t exist. 

The cuttings take time and care to take root, and most people prefer to simply purchase a plant over a cutting because of the effort involved in growing the plant from a cutting. 

Popularity

Monstera plants are exceedingly popular in home decor and home gardens because of their size and lush leaves. The plants are prized for their beauty and capacity to bring an immediate sense of the outdoors and add much-needed life to home interiors. 

The variegated Monstera plants are prized for how visually striking they are. 

They tend to have the largest leaves among all variegated plants with different kinds of variegation. The marbling effect is especially popular.

The variegation colors range from yellowish cream to pale white, and these different colors may appear in the same plant. Additionally, the variegation varies from plant to plant, and no one plant is the same, making every variegated Monstera plant unique. 

The beauty and uniqueness of the variegated Monstera plants make them extremely popular among houseplant enthusiasts, interior decorators, casual and serious gardeners. 

People may even book cuttings of plants before the plant is fully grown. Additionally, nurseries that sell variegated Monstera plants typically sell out of new plants and cuttings almost immediately. 

Scammers tend to take advantage of the rarity and popularity of the variegated Monstera plants to sell fake or dying plants online. 

Size and Age

Monstera plants, like all houseplants, are long-lived and can live up to 30-40 years easily if provided the right amount of care. 

Since these plants are demanding and difficult to care for, older Monstera plants tend to be more expensive than younger ones. This difference in costs is especially true for variegated Monstera plants. 

Additionally, the fenestrations or the characteristic splits in the leaves of the Monstera plants only come in after 1-3 years of growth. Baby leaves on adult Monstera plants have no splits at all. As the leaves grow bigger, they develop holes, and then the holes split into fenestrations. 

This is again due to the chlorophyll requirements of the leaf. 

Baby leaves and younger plants need a lot of surface area to allow the chlorophyll to hit as much of the plant as possible. This allows the young plant and leaves to grow. Younger Monstera plants have a high growth rate, requiring even more chlorophyll than older plants. 

Another factor that influences the development of fenestrations is the fragility of the leaf. 

Younger plants are more vulnerable to tearing and potential infections. Therefore, the plant puts off developing fenestrations till later, after the leaf is larger, stronger, and better able to fend off bacteria. 

Therefore, adult Monstera plants tend to be larger, growing the enormous leaves characteristic of the plant and more expensive than cuttings or young plants. 

Difficulty in Growing

There are several reasons why variegated Monstera plants are difficult to grow.

Monstera plants tend to be picky about their environments, requiring specific conditions to allow them to grow well into their large sizes and lush leaves. This pickiness is magnified in variegated Monstera since all variegated plants are more sensitive than their non-variegated varieties. 

A change in the environment can easily cause variegated leaves to turn back to green, burn, or die out entirely. 

Additionally, some varieties of variegated Monstera don’t have seeds and may only be propagated by cuttings which may or may not be viable. The cutting may not take root due to an inability to absorb enough light to grow roots. Additionally, the genetic abnormalities that cause the variegation in the plant may not be viable and make it difficult for the plant to propagate itself. 

All these difficulties in growing the plants mean that nurseries charge higher rates for adult variegated Monstera. Most houseplant enthusiasts also prefer to buy adult plants since they are harder to care for when they’re young. 

Cause of Variegation

Depending on what caused the variegation, the costs of Monstera plants may vary. 

The most obvious source of variegation in Monstera plants is that which occurs naturally in the plant. There are very small advantages of variegation in the wild, the primary one being that leaves with variegation don’t tend to be eaten as much as leaves without. 

Plants with variegation are always trying to balance the advantage of having leaves that predators will not eat over their energy needs. 

Another type of natural variegation in plants is natural chimerism, which involves a combination of genetics that is not in line with the plant’s normal DNA. This combination is a mutation and tends to be unstable. 

With natural variegation, there is always a danger of the plant reverting to green leaves if the environmental conditions are not ideal. However, the natural variegation is rare, and the rarity tends to weigh more when it comes to how expensive a plant is.

Stable variegation is seen in varieties of Monstera like the Thai Constellation Variegata, which is propagated through tissue culture. However, guaranteed variegation as the plant grows and the effort and equipment required for tissue culture pushes the price of the plant up. 

In the case of the Thai Constellation Variegata, the majority of the plants are sourced directly from Thailand, which makes them all the more expensive. 

There are also studies done to determine if radiation can be used to create variegation in Monstera plants that are viable and can be propagated later. How expensive these plants might be remains to be seen depending on how stable the variegation is as the plant grows. 

Care Guide for Variegated Monstera

Monstera plants tend to be hard to care for because of their very specific environmental requirements. The care guide below details the environment that will support your variegated Monstera in growing well. 

Lighting and Temperature

Monstera plants are tropical evergreen plants native to the tropical jungles of the American continents, particularly Mexico and Guatemala. They are woody vines that thrive in bright sunlight. 

Typically, the characteristic fenestrations or splits in the leaves only develop when the plant receives sufficient sunlight. 

Regular Monstera plants can be placed in areas of light shade, but variegated Monstera plants must be placed in areas of bright sunlight. Placing them in bright areas will ensure that the plant has maximum opportunity to absorb sunlight despite lacking in chlorophyll. 

Grow lights can be used for your Monstera plants, provided they are the right UV spectrum. 

This way, even if the variegation is unstable, the plant will not revert to green. Insufficient sunlight is one of the primary reasons that make variegated plants turn back to green. However, there is some danger of sunburn when it comes to the variegated leaves, so it might be useful to consider UV filters on your windows or sheer curtains to contain the UV rays that reach your variegated Monstera.

When it comes to heat, Monstera plants prefer to be warm, especially since they dislike waterlogging in their soil, and the heat helps ensure that the water evaporates. The lowest temperature that Monstera can tolerate is 50°F (10°C). 

Humidity

As tropical plants, Monstera plants love high humidity since it helps them survive in the hottest days in the tropical forests. 

The leaves should be misted regularly, as well as the support on while the plant is growing. 

The spongy supports used for indoor Monstera plants should be used as an important source of humidity. They should be misted regularly to keep them moist. However, if it is too damp and the supports will grow mold, be careful not to get them too wet. 

Watering Schedule

Monstera plants need regular watering, and variegated Monstera plants are very different in that respect. 

When watering, water deeply and thoroughly till water drains out of the drainage holes in the pot. Depending on the weather where you live, your variegated Monstera may need to be watered once or twice a week or as long as it takes for the first two inches of soil to dry out. 

In winter, the frequency of watering should be reduced. 

Soil and Drainage

Monstera plants prefer a soil pH of 5-5.7 for healthy growth. Soil should be rich and well-draining. Non-fertile soil should be supported with fertilizer every month or so, particularly for variegated Monstera plants, which cannot make enough sugars for growth through sunlight alone.

The soil should be well-draining because waterlogged soil will cause root rot. More importantly, the salinity should be checked regularly since Monstera plants can get injured by salt in their soil. 

Space and Support

Monstera plants prefer to have large pots to support their growth rates. But they also tend to like being root bound, so if your plant has reached the size you prefer, you can avoid repotting till the roots start poking out. 

Healthy Monstera plants will grow aerial roots since they are climbing vines. Indoor Monstera plants should be supported with moss supports or poles or any other kind of support which can retain moisture. 

Final Thoughts

The rarity, difficulties in care and growth, and demand for variegated Monstera plants contribute to how expensive they are. Caring for Monstera plants, especially variegated versions, requires you to pay special attention to the light and heat that reaches the plant, as well as other factors like water, humidity, soil, space, and support. 

Sources

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