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The Gardening Diaries: The Mysterious Case of the Monstera Peru

Updated: Oct 7, 2022

If you spend enough time in the garden, you will inevitably build up an arsenal of #GardenStories. Some of them are funny, some of them will make you scratch your head, and some of them are quite enlightening when you put them into perspective. The garden really does teach us so much!

In fact, as if I haven't learned enough in the dirt myself, I've been spending my free time reading a variety of books that I picked up from a local nursery. Each book contains a collection of short stories from gardeners and authors in history, describing the same lessons we can still find out in our backyards today! I have thoroughly enjoyed the collections of works from the 19th and 20th century, and I have learned so much along the way. I will definitely be writing more about those once I finish tearing through all of my finds.

All of this being said, I think that the story of the Monstera Peru, (Monstera karstenianum) is a fitting one to kick off The Gardening Diaries series. It is my hope that you can learn from the plights, tests, trials and tribulations of myself and my fellow plant parents, and enjoy a few laughs along the way. This will be the first of many stories to look forward to. So let's get started!

So you may be could a Monstera Peru (pictured right) really be so mysterious? I was asking myself the same thing before my best friend showed me his full-grown specimen in the garden. We both started to question it all....after years of plant parenting, what were we missing?!

Austin purchased this particular plant several years ago at a nursery we visited in New Orleans. Of course I, like him, was eyeing the striking dark green in her leaves. Needless to say, I was happy when she made it into one of our baskets for the trip home.

Just to set the scene...this plant looked just as pretty as the Monstera Peru in the picture above. Vibrant, and most definitely in the monstera family. Austin took her home and planted her on a trellis, and it looked like she was happy climb the trellis in the corner by the shed in the back yard. Very monstera of her.

To set this scene a bit further...Austin and I live about 2 hours from each other on the Florida panhandle. And here on panhandle if we are going to have a freeze, it is going to be short-lived. The harsh winter weather doesn't usually last long, and our plants are thankful for that! Tropical plants, shrubs, trees, grasses, etc. will all grow back after the cold season. and as you can imagine, all of the above are staples for our landscaping. Even if these plants look dead during the mid-winter months, they make a comeback to be reckoned with in the spring if they have been established long enough.

If that annual rebirth is not something you've experienced with your climate, I will tell you this. I look at it as an opportunity to start fresh and see what comes back. Survival of the fittest...but of course, hoping and preying that ALL of your plant babies are fit to weather the winter. The fun of it all is seeing some of your groupings return with veracity and vibrancy. In example, hydrangeas that die off in winter and grow back bigger and better each year. Or golden pothos that climb trees, die off, and restart their climb again in the spring with bigger leaves and prettier variegation.

All of that being said, you can understand that the months of February-May are a total gamble. These are the months we spend waiting and watching our gardens as buds form and plants re-establish themselves, keeping our eyes peeled to see who made the cut and who bit the dust. In Florida, tropical plants are some of the best plants to watch in this particular context. They show no signs of hope, and then one day you walk outside to a nice green leaf unfurling and you thank the Gardening Gods that you didn't dig her up a few weeks ago when you were losing faith.

Stage being set...let me tell say this. The surprise of the Monstera Peru was one that Austin wasn't expecting, and as an innocent bystander, neither was I! I saw him take home the plant in it's infancy. We checked and double-checked the tag. Like any plant person does, we used our plant identification app to confirm the accuracy of the tag before the plant ever made it to the shopping cart. We watched the plant mature indoors over the next year. And when the she went into the ground to climb the I said. She was in her happy place, and looked better than ever.

Fantastic! So then, winter rolls around. And this year Austin displayed incredible self-control. Some that I myself didn't quite achieve. He made a pact that he was going to let his garden grow through the month of May before he started digging, moving, and uprooting his plants. I admired it, and like I said...I didn't quite get there. But he held strong and watched as his garden rose from the ground, welcoming all of his plants back with open arms. And THAT is where the Monstera Peru storms in to steal the show. It has baffled us, and anyone that we share the story with. But the fact remains.

Where Austin had planted his beautiful peru plant, this spring sprouted up none other than this specimen below...

And I know what you're's the standard reaction I see when this story unfolds. "Where is the Monstera Peru? All I see is a Bannanna Tree?"

And the answer...your guess is as good as mine! Now I understand that mistakes happen. Nurseries mislabel tags. Gardeners get plants mixed up in pots. Sometimes, Mother Nature takes her course and drops a seed that can sprout in the right conditions.

But in this case....Austin has NEVER purchased a Banana Tree. I know this because he isn't fond of the shape of the leaves. He would never pick one up because he has no interest, and he has vocalized that several times over the years. On top of that, his neighbor doesn't have a banana tree on the other side of the fence. The elephant ear and alocasia to the left were established, as was the iris to the right. So there is no obvious sign that Mother Nature dropped the banana tree off unintentionally. Austin didn't have a compost pile anywhere close to this particular garden bed, and as you can see, he eventually had to move the trellis because his "Monstera Peru" had turned into a full blown banana tree before his very eyes!

I know this sounds crazy, and I understand that. If I hadn't seen all of this play out with my own eyes, I would be skeptical too. This has to be rooted (no pun intended) with human error, right?? But I can assure you that 'error' is not in Austin's vocabulary when it comes to his garden, and I am the same way. Nothing goes in or comes out of our garden without our knowledge, if we can help it. So you may see now why this case is so confounding!

First we hit Duck Duck Go to see if anyone else had experienced something similar. A mysterious changing Monstera Peru? It's not really a hot button issue on the internet right now, let's be real. So then we took to the nurseries. As we did our shopping, if we saw a plant with resemblance, we would ask the question. "Does it change as it matures?" "Is there the potential that the nursery tag and plant app were incorrect?"

What we have gathered in the last few months is that people may have theories. One worker at the nursery told us that this specimen looked like it was an elephant ear...Now I don't know about you, but I know for a fact there are elephant ears to the left in Austin's garden. They are pictured above. But what did an elephant ear have to do with a banana tree and a monstera? Not sure on that one, but we are still receiving theories. None of which have aligned with the context so far. And I don't blame anyone for not having all of the answers for this crazy story. Maybe the explanation isn't that simple...or maybe it is.

But I now pose the question to my readers. What are your thoughts? Where did this banana tree come from? Where did the monstera go? Is there a logical explanation that has been overlooked? Or is this a true conundrum?

Comment below to help us out!! What is this plant and where did it come from?

Or, if you have a crazy story of your own and you are searching for answers like we were, send it my way! It may just be featured in The Gardening Diaries series so other readers can weigh in. We are all learning and growing together, and we ALL have lessons awaiting us outdoors! Be on the lookout for more #GardenStories in the future and check for other garden inspiration and DIY projects!

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