When we bought our apartment, I filled my Instagram and Pinterest feeds with home decor inspiration. That’s when my houseplant obsession began. And during the first lockdown of 2020, as I was scrolling my feed, I saw it for the first time. The most beautiful plant I’d ever seen. The variegated monstera.
After a bit of research, to my disappointment, I discovered this plant was rare and expensive. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I was determined to get my hands on one. And I actually ended up getting two. But during the journey, I learned a lot about variegated monstera, including discovering a lot of shocking things about what people will do to get their hands on one, and the lengths sellers will go to make money from the high demand.
I wanted to share everything I’ve learned about this rare and stunning plant with you so that if you are looking to buy one, or you’ve just welcomed one into your plant family, you’ll know everything you need to know about variegated monstera.
What is variegation?
There are a few different types of variegated monstera out there, so let’s start by talking about what variegation is. Variegation simply means to have a pattern of different colours or markings, either in the leaves or stem, or both.
The Different Types Of Variegated Monstera
For this post, I’m only referring to the variegated monstera deliciosa, commonly known as the “Swiss cheese plant”. While variegation is originally a naturally occurring mutation that happens, some types of variegated monstera have actually been created by tissue cultivation in a laboratory.
The different types of variegated monstera area:
- Albo Borsigiana
- Thai Constellation
- Mint Monstera
Monstera deliciosa ‘Albo Borsigiana’
Monstera deliciosa ‘Albo Borsigiana’, often just referred to as the variegated monstera ‘albo’ is one of the most popular and most common types of variegated monstera. Its variegation can often display striking white patches and highly patterned areas, and generally grows much smaller than other types of monstera deliciosa. It’s not unusual to see leaves with a high percentage of white. There is a chance that an albo could revert back to green but there are things you can do if that starts to happen (which I’ll talk about below).
Monstera deliciosa ‘Thai Constellation’
Monstera deliciosa ‘Thai Constellation’ is characterised by it’s speckled variegation that’s more of a cream/yellow colour than the albo. This variegation in the Thai Constellation is not a naturally occurring, but rather created in labs through tissue culture. This means it’s much more stable and there isn’t a risk it will lose its variegation unlike some other types. Every leaf should have some degree of variegation, although some will have more while others will have less.
Monstera deliciosa ‘Aurea’
The Monstera deliciosa ‘Aurea’ is another cultivated version, although rarer than the Thai constellation and albo. The aurea has much more yellow in its markings and generally has less variegation than other types of variegated monstera. Like the albo, the aurea is also a smaller monstera.
The mint monstera is one of the rarest types of variegated monstera, with a light mint green variegation. However, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding this plant, as many of the ones sold online on places like eBay where there are accusations that the items being sold are actually albo borsigiana plants with a high amount of mint colouring. They are so rare, I couldn’t actually find one for sale to show a picture here.
Why is Monstera Variegata So Expensive?
Variegated monstera are expensive because they are rare. Since variegation only occurs through mutation or cultivation in a lab, it means that they can’t simply be mass produced. They either have to be grown through tissue cultivation or through cutting and propagation from a mother plant, both of which are slow processes. Their increasing popularity and demand for them, and lack of supply has pushed the price up significantly in the last few years.
How Much Does Variegated Monstera Cost?
Depending on what variety you’re shopping for, you can expect to spend anything from $50+ for a single leaf cutting of an albo to over $1000 for a full adult plant. A young Thai constellation costs anything upwards of $250 for a plant around 40cm/1ft tall but can be up to $750+ for the same size if the plant has some significant variegation.
The prices can vary greatly per plant depending on the individual levels of variegation, and also seem to be linked to the current level of demand in the marketplace which are continuing to rise rapidly.
Where can you buy variegated swiss cheese plant?
So we’ve already acknowledged that these plants are rare, and that there’s a high demand for them. So when it comes to getting your hands on one, it can be quite the challenge. And you’re almost certainly going to need to be ready to part with some serious cash too. While you might be lucky to have a rare plant shop in your area, for most people the best place to buy your monstera variegata is online.
Things to know before buying monstera Variegata
There are an increasing number of places where you can buy variegated monstera online. But be careful, because with increased demand comes an increased number of scams designed to trick wannabe plant parents out of their hard-earned cash.
Full plant or cutting?
Depending on the type of variegated monstera that you want to buy, and on your budget, that will determine whether you’ll be best buying a full plant or a cutting.
If you’re buying a cultivated variant of the variegated monstera, such as the ‘Thai constellation’ or ‘aurea’, you’re more likely to be buying a young plant rather than a cutting. In the past year, there have been a number of new rare plants shops cropping up online, and if they stock a variegated monstera, it’s usually the Thai constellation.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to get your hands on a Monstera Variegata albo borsigiana and you can’t afford a fully grown adult plant (which are expensive and harder to come by), you’ll probably find it much easier to find a leaf cutting.
What to look for if you’re buying a cutting
When I purchased my variegated monsteras, I bought one single leaf cutting and one rooted young plant that was also from a cutting. Most sellers who are selling cuttings are likely to be selling single or double leaf cuttings from a single node taken from a mother plant. When buying a cutting these are the most important things to look for:
- A leaf cutting MUST come with a node. The node is the slightly hardened part of the stem (I think of them like the vertebrae in the spine) where the new leaves and air roots grow. Without a node, the cutting won’t grow roots, so it will eventually die.
- Ideally, you want a mix of white and green in the stem and leaves. 50/50 of white and green is a perfect balance.
- As long as the cutting has a node, it doesn’t need to have roots yet. You’ll just need to be patient and propagate it before you can plant it back in soil. If you’re not confident in doing that, buy a cutting that’s already rooted.
Things to avoid when buying variegated monstera
- Variegated Monstera Seeds
You cannot grow variegated monstera from seeds. If you see variegated monstera seeds for sale, it’s a scam. Walk away.
- Stem Cuttings
You may see some people selling a section of stem without any leaves. I’ve seen stem cuttings (with no leaves) sell for $200+ on eBay which blows my mind. Of course, if you read the description, most sellers state “No refunds. Buyer purchases at own risk” which should be enough to make you think twice. IF the section of stem includes a node, then it should eventually grow leaves if cared for correctly. But you could be waiting a very long time. Honestly, it’s a lot of money to risk and I wouldn’t recommend it.
I’ve seen a couple of these pop up recently on eBay too. As far as I was aware, the monstera deliciosa plant doesn’t produce tubers, so this looks like another scam.
- Full ‘albo’ i.e. all white or mostly white leaves.
If you remember your biology lessons in school, you’ll remember that plants survive through photosynthesis. Chlorophyll in the green parts of the leaves turns sunlight into energy. Healthy plants need green and if a plant produces too many white leaves, most people prune these leaves to encourage new growth (with more green). Many people then sell these cuttings, as they can fetch a good price, but there is a chance your very expensive white monstera is very likely going to die without more green leaves to sustain it.
Best Places To Buy Variegated Monstera Online
Even a year ago, if someone had told me I could buy plants and plant cuttings online, I’d have laughed. The thought of shipping plants seemed completely crazy. However, since most people don’t live near a rare plant shop, your only choice may be to buy online. Of course, there is a small amount of risk, even with the most reputable of sellers. But even if you buy from a plant shop and select a plant in person, it’s still possible to end up with an unhealthy plant without realising it at first. Plants are living organisms and can succumb to disease or damage from improper care.
I bought both of my cuttings online after doing lots of research, and thankfully everything turned out great. But as I already mentioned above, there are people out there looking to scam plant lovers, so it’s definitely worth buying from somewhere trustworthy.
Variegated Monstera on Etsy
Etsy would be my top recommendation for buying variegated monstera online. I bought my young cutting from an Etsy shop in the Netherlands and had it shipped to me in Austria. It was already rooted and potted, with 3 smaller leaves, and within four months it’s grown to almost double the size already.
With Etsy you usually have a degree of protection as a buyer, and most established shops have reviews so you can see what previous customers are saying about them. I also love Etsy as usually, you’re supporting small businesses which means someone is doing a happy dance when you make a purchase from them.
Variegated Monstera on eBay
I’ll be honest that I’m a little wary of eBay as there are many scams happening on there. Like people selling variegated monstera seeds, tubers and bits of stem that don’t even have a node. But there is also a lot of genuine variegated monstera for sale on eBay. Just be careful to read all the terms and conditions as many sellers will state “no refunds or returns”. That means if the plant arrives in a bad way, you might have trouble arguing your case. And as with so many online auctions, it’s easy to get pulled in with a lower starting price and end up bidding much higher just because you don’t want to lose something (I’m talking from experience here lol).
If you want to buy on eBay, do your research on the seller, read reviews. Don’t be afraid to ask more questions or request more photos so you are clear on exactly what you’re bidding on.
Buy & Sell Websites Like Gumtree & Craigslist
I bought one of my cuttings via a buy & sell app. While everything turned out fine, it did feel like a risk that I worried about as soon as I transferred the money. I knew there was nothing I could do if I didn’t get what I was expecting. I was buying from a private seller, paying via bank transfer and trusting they would deliver what was advertised. Even though things turned out ok for me, I wouldn’t recommend buying this way unless you can visit the seller and do the handover in person.
Variegated Monstera Care
You’ve finally got your hands on one of these beauties. While monstera deliciosa are generally a super easy plant to care for, the variegated monstera does need a little bit of extra TLC.
Because of the variegation in the leaves, their variegated monstera needs more sunlight than a standard monstera deliciosa. The plant should be places somewhere where it gets bright shade, but not direct sun. Too little sunlight and you risk losing that beautiful white as the plant reverts back to green in order to increase its ability to photosynthesise. But direct sun will burn those beautiful white parts of the leaves.
As a general rule, monsteras like to be watered about once a week in the summer. This may be less over the winter months as their growth can slow. A good indication of when your plant needs watering is when the top inch (2-3cm) of the soil is dry. Make sure the plant has plenty of drainage at the bottom, as while monstera can tolerate occasional overwatering, leaving the roots sitting in water will cause root rot, which no plant can recover from. If you notice water droplets on the leaves in the mornings, this may be a sign that you are overwatering.
Pruning & Preserving Variegation
While variegation is random, sometimes a plant can start to revert back to green or in some cases start to produce leaves with too much white to survive. In both instances, you can take to help preserve the variegation and health of the plant by pruning these leaves back to the node where there is a good mix of variegation. Many experts have suggested this is a bit like hitting a ‘reset’ button.
However, if the plant is reverting back to green, this may be due to insufficient sunlight, so move the plant to a bright spot in the room (but still not in direct sunlight).
How quick do cuttings grow?
If you’re impatient like me but you can’t afford a full plant, you’re only real option is to buy a cutting. So how long can you expect to wait before your cutting grows more leaves?
Of course, there are a number of variables. Before your cutting starts growing new leaves, it needs to establish a good system of roots. A lot depends also on the conditions where you are keeping your plants, and the time of year. For the two plants that I purchased in October, it took around two months for the plants to adjust to their new environment before I saw any new growth. Within four months they both had grown two to three new leaves each.
Are you ready to add a stunning variegated monstera to your houseplant collection?