How to help a new stuck leaf unfurl?

New Leaves and Common Leafy Issues

With springtime comes an exciting moment in all plant keepers calendars. New leaves and flowers!! You can probably tell my excitement by how many exclamation points I am using!!

I am writing this because whilst looking at my Monstera Deliciosa one night, I noticed a leaf preparing to unfurl. In the past she has had some problems in properly unfurling her new leaves and has ended up damaging herself a little in the process. So here is what to look for when a plant is sprouting and when you may need to help the process out a little bit. I am focusing this on my Monstera but can be applied to most leafy plants.

New leaves and what to look out for:

  1. If you already know what a new leaf looks like, move onto the next point. If not, keep reading. On most plants, the new leaf will start to grow under a part of an existing stem. After some time the leaf will start to become larger and will bulge under the existing stem. The existing stem will have a portion of it become a different colour (usually a shade brighter than the original). This sack is called a Cataphyll. You may even be able to see the green of the new leaf underneath.
  2. So this is usually the point that nature is able to do what nature does best – break free! Usually without any human intervention, the new leaf is able to break free of its’ cataphyll, and will be able to unfurl without any troubles. However, if it doesn’t, you may have to intervene and help it release itself from the sack. This is super delicate work so only try this after watching a few youtube videos first. It is important to note that you will only have to do this if you have noticed that the plant is struggling to break free!

Methods for helping to unfurl a stuck leaf:

There are two methods for this, one is much more intense than the other…

  1. Use a damp cue-tip. Wet a cuetip using some fresh water, and insert the tip into a gap in the cataphyll. Very very gently, move the cue-tip around the cataphyll, aiming to loosen the sack around the leaf. You will hopefully find that the sack rips or loosens a little and you can keep moving the tip further down until the leaf is free.
  2. Use a scalpel. Sterilise your blade using boiling water, and let cool afterwards before using. What we are looking to do is more or less the same as the cue-tip. We are looking to free the leaf from the cataphyll, without harming the leaf. Find a space between the sack and  the leaf that you know will not harm the leaf. Begin cutting down the cataphyll, AVOIDING THE LEAF, and free it by cutting open the sack.

So like I said.. Intense. Please please please research this for yourself and watch some videos so you don’t harm your plants!!!

Flowering plants:

If you have flowering plants, you may have noticed that some of them struggle to release their flowers and when they do they end up being slightly damaged. So the method is simple for this, if you notice a flower struggling for some days to release, take the bud in your thumb and index finger, and gently squeeze and roll it, from different angles, in order to help it break the seal of the bud. Be very gentle as it can also damage the flower if you do it too hard. Please watch some videos!!

Send us some pictures of your new leaves and flowers! I know for sure I will geek out over them and get super happy.

Plant love,


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