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Plantgasm - I love plants too much. By Derek Powazek.

The Story of My Monstera Deliciosa

Keep any plant long enough, and your life’s stories start to stick to them. Here are some stories that have stuck to my Monstera deliciosa.


I have to come clean about something right here in the beginning: I stole this plant, pot and all. Let me explain.

My plant craziness goes way back. Even in college, I had a windowsill full of plants. After my sophomore year at UC Santa Cruz, I stayed in town and worked at Porter College on the summer work crew. It was standard manual labor stuff – moving furniture, painting walls, whatever needed doing.

One of my jobs took me into a college administrator’s office. The administrator, like most of the faculty, had left town for the summer. And there, in the corner of the office, sat this poor plant, wilting, day after day. I knew that if I didn’t do something, he’d die. I watered him, but after this job was done, I wouldn’t be able to get back into this particular office, and it would be months before the staff was back.

After a couple weeks of watching it wither, I couldn’t take it anymore. So after work, I picked him up and took him home. I swear, this was the one and only time in my life I’ve outright stolen a plant. And I don’t regret it for a moment.

He traveled with me from apartment to apartment for years. He always found a home in the kitchen. I think he liked the warmth. He’s lived in every apartment I’ve had since.

Monstera in 2007When Heather and I lived in Cole Valley, he lived on top of the cupboards in the kitchen for almost a decade, growing ten feet long across all the available space (it was a small kitchen). His leaves transitioned from the juvenile solid form to the larger split-leaf form. I didn’t even know he could do that.

He ran thick, leathery roots down into the wooden cabinetry. When it finally came time for us to move, he was impossible to separate from the cabinets, and I had to cut him back to break him free. (If I’d only saved the cuttings, I could have had dozens of him!) He didn’t bounce back from the Great Pruning for a long time.

When Heather and I moved into our present house, I realized that he’d been in the same pot since I dragged him out of the administrator’s office 15 years ago. So I went out and got the largest terra cotta pot I could fit on the shelf and transplanted him, cutting back the dead roots and giving him plenty of new soil to explore.

He now lives in the room where I keep all my orchids, high on a shelf, and likes the humidity I give them. He’s not a complainer, my Monstera, but he shows his appreciation. He’s currently bouncing back, as good as ever. I’m hoping to see those leaves split again.

Back when I carted him out of the administrator’s office, I didn’t have the faintest idea what he was – I just knew he was going to die if I didn’t save him. Since then, I’ve figured out that he’s a Monstera deliciosa (which, you have to agree, has got to be one of the best plant names ever), sometimes referred to as a split-leaf philodendron. He’s an Aroid, originally from Mexican rainforests. He’s a climber – always looking up for the break in the canopy where all the light is. I can relate to that.

If you were an administrator at Porter College in the 1990s and always wondered what happened to your plant, well, now you know. Email me and I’ll send you a cutting. I could even plant it in the original pot.

And thanks for giving me a lifelong friend.

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Plantgasm is where Derek Powazek chronicles his botanical antics and misadventures. More.