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Climbing into popularity

By STEPHANIE HUGHES

Master Gardener

One year, Bill and I ran away. We started in Charlotte, N.C., and went on down the East Coast to Florida. In Homestead, we visited the Fruit and Spice Park. It was amazing to see all the fruits normally seen in groceries, and to taste so many exotic and wonderful fruits.

Among these delicious goodies was Monstera deliciosa. This amazing plant has been known for years, but now is considered chic. Also known as split-leaf philodendron (though it is not a philodendron), cut-leaf philodendron, Mexican breadfruit or Swiss cheese plant, this easy maintenance beauty is welcome in any home.

In tropical Meso-America, it is actually a liana (a sturdy vine that grows up trees), using air roots to anchor its way up through the shadows into the light. The young plants have a spade (or philodendron-like leaf) shape to the leaf of deep green.

As the plant matures, new leaves get the holes and splits in the leaves (called fenestrations) that are characteristic. The leaves can reach measures of 1 foot by 1 foot (as mine is).

The fruit (never mature to bloom and make fruit in households) tastes like a cross between a banana and a pineapple, resembling a small dark pineapple.

These plants are easy to care for, watering and lightly fertilizing, when dry. Wash the leaves carefully to take off dust and keep the shiny brilliance.

In the house, the plant needs filtered sunlight, as light through windows can burn. Check for scale, or aphids periodically.

As the house plant ages, a climbing pole should be introduced and the air roots that emerge can be trained to climb. As it climbs, you can add to the climbing pole for a striking specimen. Mine is at this point, being older, so I found a blogger that makes his own climbing poles out of vinyl-coated fencing and sphaghum.

For details on this plant, go to http://go.osu.edu/swisscheeseplant.

Hughes is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.

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