Pink and green leaves

Growing A Polka Dot Plant – Information On Polka Dot Plant Care Indoors And Out

Polka dot plants (Hypoestes phyllostachya) are common houseplants with colorful foliar displays. They are highly hybridized to produce a variety of colors and types of leaf spotting. Also called freckle face plant, this houseplant can grow in any type of indirect light but has best color in lower light situations.

Polka Dot Plant Info

An interesting bit of polka dot plant info is that the plant was miscategorized for years. It is now recognized as a member of the Hyphoestes group of over 100 plants. Polka dot plants are from Madagascar. They are perennial herbaceous shrubs whose stems get woody as they age.

In its native habitat, the plant can get up to 3 feet in height, but pot grown specimens will usually be smaller. The foliage is the main reason to grow this plant. The leaves are dotted with darker spots in green and a base color of pink. Breeders have developed many other varieties, some of which have the green mottled spotting, but others are dotted with other hues. There are purple, scarlet,

lavender and white speckled leaves.

The Splash Series comes in a host of colors with a green base leaf and mottled splashes of color in pink, white, rose or red. There is also a Confetti Series with proper spotting shaped dots that are a bit more sparsely scattered than those of the Splash Series.

Growing a Polka Dot Plant

Polka dot plants are well suited for indoor use anywhere but you can also grow them as annuals in temperate to warm zones. The foliage is an attractive foil for brightly colored perennial flowers and produces an attractive mound. This adorable plant looks great tucked in a planter with other foliage plants, as part of a color display with flowers, or in summer borders for added texture.

Polka dot plants are easy to propagate. The freckle face plant gets small flowers and produce seed in perfect conditions. Seeds germinate in warm, moist soils where temperatures are 70-75 F. (21-27 C.).

The easiest method for growing a polka dot plant, however, is from cuttings. Remove terminal growth at a node and pull off the leaves closest to the end. Dip the cutting in rooting hormone and put it in a soilless growing medium such as peat moss. Keep it evenly moist until the cutting roots and then treat it like a mature plant.

Polka Dot Plant Care

The plant will give you the best color when it is in a low light situation, but this causes the canes to lengthen and get leggy while searching for light. Indirect bright sunlight is the ideal location for this plant indoors. Provide temperatures of at least 60 F. (16 C.).

Growing a polka dot plant outside requires well-drained but moist soil with plenty of organic matter.

Outdoor plants need little supplemental feeding but indoor plants should be fed once per month.

Older plants tend to get leggy, but you can control legginess by cutting the canes back to lower growth and letting the plant fill in.

Hypoestes can be grown as a bedding plant to add color in partially shaded areas.

Polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) is a delicate tropical foliage plant once relegated to the role of novelty houseplant. It has gained more popularity as an annual outdoors, brightening borders and adding to container plantings. Originally the only type available had pink spots covering the small, dark green foliage, but today many other hybrids are available with splashes of bright red, white, or lighter green, or even the reverse of pink with green spots. Stems and branches may also be colored. This plant does produce terminal, spike-like racemes of small, tubular pink or blue flowers, but they are not particularly showy. Long day lengths keep the plants in vegetative growth, so flowering occurs in late summer or fall, if at all on houseplants. In warm season areas the plants reseed freely.

Leaves are spotted or blotched with color.

H. phyllostachya (Family Acanthceae) is native to Madagascar; other species in the genus come from South Africa and Southeast Asia. Polka dot plant is a bushy plant with oval, softly downy leaves. Under ideal conditions the species grows up to 30 inches high and wide; many cultivars remain much smaller than this.

In addition to being an indoor houseplant, Hypoestes can be used as an accent plant in dish gardens, window boxes or patio containers or can be grown as a bedding plant to add some color in partially shaded areas. They combine nicely with impatiens, New Guinea impatiens or caladiums.

Hypoestes grows best in bright, filtered light, but tolerates some sun. The plants have better color in partial shade than full sun, but the leaves also fade out in very low light. It prefers a humid environment, so should be quite happy outdoors in the Midwest in summer, but may need periodic misting indoors during the winter. Although it is somewhat drought tolerant, it does grow better with plenty of water.

Hypoestes seeds.

Sow Hypoestes seed 8-10 weeks before the average last date of frost for plants intended for the garden. (Sow anytime for houseplants.) Seeds will germinate as quickly as 4 days when held at 68°F.

The cotyledons of Hypoestes seedlings are green, but the first set of true leaves shows color.

The cotyledons of are green, but the first set of true leaves are colored. Seedlings should be transplanted when they have 4 true leaves, individually into small pots or several together in larger containers. Three seedlings can be planted in a 3-inch pot and five per 4-inch pot. Use potting mixes high in organic matter such as peat moss or leaf mold. Wait until temperatures are consistently above 50°F to plant outdoors; it doesn’t grow well until temperatures are over 60°F

Hypoestes has few pest problems, but is susceptible to powdery mildew and root rot, and may become infested with whiteflies, aphids, and mealybugs.

Polka dot plant offers interesting foliage.

Polka dot plants will get leggy as they age, particularly in lower than ideal light. Regular pinching back will keep the plants more compact, but eventually houseplants will need to be replaced. Stem cuttings are easily rooted to create new plants. They quickly produce roots when placed in water and they often will grow when just stuck into moist potting mix, sand or vermiculite, especially in spring and summer. Take cuttings 4 inches long and remove the lower leaves. Polka dot plants can also be saved over the winter by potting up plants from the garden in late summer and keeping them in a bright window.

There are many varieties of Hypoestes in a range of colors.

To grow as a house or greenhouse plant, use a porous soil mix high in organic matter. Place the potted plant in a location that receives bright light and water well when they are growing actively, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings. Once established, plants should be fertilized periodically with dilute liquid fertilizer. They can also be grown under artificial light.

Some cultivars that may be available include:

  • ‘Carmina’ has bright red splotches on the leaves.
  • ‘Confetti’ series plants are smaller (8 inches) but more vigorous growers than other cultivars, so they fill in more quickly in the landscape. The five separate colors include white, pink, red, carmine rose and burgundy red; they are often offered together as a mix.
  • ‘Pink Brocade’ is mottled with pink spots.
  • ‘Pink Dot’ has attractive pink spots.
  • ‘Purpuriana’ has purplish leaves.
  • ‘Splash’ series has large blotches of contrasting color in pink, red, rose or white.
  • ‘Wit’ offers marbled white leaves.

– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison


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Hypoestes Phyllostachya

More About the Hypoestes

This is one of over 100 species within this genus. The genus gets its name from the Greek word “hypo” meaning under, and “estia” meaning a house for flowers surrounded by leaves. It’s originally from Madagascar but has spread worldwide. This plant gets its name from the polka dots that are spread across its broad leaves. The most common version has green leaves with pink spots, but there are many different types.

There’s Carmina, which has bright red spots on the leaves. Confetti is smaller in size and has a variety of colors on their leaves, resembling confetti. Pink Brocade has pink spots, along with Pink Dot. Purpuriana has purplish leaves. Splash has large spots of colors in pink, white, or red. Wit has marbled white leaves.

This plant does actually produce small purple flowers, but they are insignificant compared to the leaves, so they are often clipped off.

9 Ways to Care for a Hypoestes

1. Give It the Right Amount of Light

This plant loves bright indirect light. It’s very sensitive to how much light it takes in. Too much or too little light will cause the colors on the leaves to fade. If you notice that your plant’s leaves are curling this could be a sign of too much sun, same goes for brown spots. Try moving it to a shadier spot with indirect sun.

2. Giving It Enough Water

You need to water this plant well and then wait until around 25 percent of the soil is dry before watering again. Overwatering can cause root rot. If you notice that the leaves of your plant droop, they may perk up after a little bit of water.

3. Picking the Right Soil

This plant likes a rich airy peat based soil that drains well.

4. What to Feed It and How Often

This plant grows fast, so you should feed it monthly with basic liquid fertilizer at about half its strength during the spring and summer. In fall and winter, feed this plant every other month.

5. The Perfect Temperature and Humidity

This plant prefers temperatures around 75 degrees and grows best in high humidity.

6. How Much to Prune This Plant

You should prune this plant to prevent it from becoming leggy and thin looking. Leggy means that there is a lot of space between the stems and fewer leaves, making it look bare. This will make this plant look overall healthier and prettier. Also some people choose to trim off the flowers that may bloom on this plant because they aren’t as interesting as the leaves and take the energy that can be used elsewhere.

7. Pests and How to Get Rid of Them

This plant can get infested with whiteflies, aphids, and mealybugs. You can use a green solution at about half of its strength to get rid of these pests.

8. Dealing with Diseases

Overwatering can cause powdery mildew and root rot. Powdery Mildew is a type of fungal disease that will appear on the leaves. It will look like a grayish white substance. You will need to use a fungicide or a home remedy of a few teaspoons of baking soda and one or two teaspoons of mineral oil with water.

Root rot is what happens when roots of a plant sit in water too long. The roots essentially drown and turn black and soft. They will no longer absorb water. To cure this, you need to drain the soil, cut out any of the affected roots, and then replant in fresh soil.

9. How to Propagate This Plant

Propagation means to create more plants from the original. You can do this with this plant by leaf cuttings. You cut off some of the leaves and dip the ends in a rooting hormone, and then put it in some peat moss. You should keep it moist until it creates roots, and then you treat it like a mature plant.

Final Thoughts on the Hypoestes

The Hypoestes is not known for its long lifespan, in fact, many tosses this plant away when it goes dormant. They are relatively inexpensive to buy, so it’s not like it will cost too much, but if you want something that’ll last longer then you’ll have to find another plant. Overall, this plant is a great way to get the beauty of a complicated plant with the ease of a plain houseplant.

(Julie Bawden-Davis)

It’s hard not to become bewitched by certain indoor plants. Polka dot plant (hypoestes phyllostachya) is one of those houseplants. As its name suggests, the plant sports polka-dotted foliage.

If polka dots aren’t enough to turn your head, you’ll find polka dot plant in several striking color combos. These include pink and green, pink and white, green and white and red and green.

Intrigued yet? I hope so. Pink polka dot plant is well worth adding to your indoor garden. Not only is it eye-catching, it’s also easy to grow. The plant grows readily in it native habitat in Madagascar. Indoors, it doesn’t grow quite as quickly, but it will thrive if given the proper care.

Keep the following tips in mind when growing polka dot plant as a houseplant.

Provide good lighting

Bright, indirect light is ideal for pink polka dot plant. This will keep the colors vibrant in the plant, while at the same time prevent the plant from becoming lanky. If you grow the polka dot plant in a low-light location, it will grow leggy quickly and fade in color. A location with light that’s too bright will also fade the foliage colors.

Related: The Top 10 Most Popular Houseplants, According to Instagram

Place polka dot plant a couple of feet away from an unobstructed southern or eastern exposure window. Or grow the plant under full-spectrum lighting.

(Julie Bawden-Davis)

Plant in rich, well-draining soil

Polka dot plant requires even moisture to grow well. This is best delivered by planting in a soil that is rich, yet well-draining. An organic potting soil is ideal.

Water regularly

Though they require even moisture, polka dot plant will easily succumb to root rot if conditions are too wet. Water when the top ¼ to ½ inch of soil has dried out. Keep in mind that the smaller the container the more quickly the plant will dry out.

Related: How to Grow Houseplants from Kitchen Scraps

Fertilize monthly

Polka dot plant is a fairly heavy feeder. Fertilize once a month with a high-quality organic fertilizer designed for houseplants.

(Julie Bawden-Davis )

Provide high humidity and moderate temperature

Polka dot plant requires moist air and temperatures around 75 degrees Fahrenheit to grow well. Keep the plant in a warm location and boost the humidity. This can be done by creating a humidity tray, misting several times a day and grouping plants together. Plants transpire and humidify one another.

Related: 5 Ways to Tell if Your Houseplant Is Ready for Watering

Pinch back weekly

Polka dot plant gets leggy quickly. In order to prevent this from happening, pinch the plant back on a weekly basis. Use your fingers to snip off the top two leaves on the end of each stem. Regular pruning will encourage the polka dot plant to become bushier.

Julie Bawden-Davis is a garden writer and master gardener, who since 1985 has written for publications such as Organic Gardening, The American Gardener, Wildflower, Better Homes and Gardens and The Los Angeles Times. She is the author of 10 books, including Reader’s Digest Flower Gardening, Fairy Gardening, The Strawberry Story Series, and Indoor Gardening the Organic Way, and is the founder of HealthyHouseplants.com. Her backyard is a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.

Healthy Houseplants

Plant of the Month Archive

When I give my garden talk on decorating your home with houseplants, polka dot plant (hypoestes phyllostachya) is one of my favorite examples. Dotted with what looks like polka dots, the foliage of this plant resembles a festive curtain or upholstery print.

(Healthy Houseplants.com)

Add to the polka dots on the plant the fact that this species comes in several striking color combinations. You can find this fun houseplant in pink and white, green and white and pink and green.

Use pink polka dot plant to play up the colors and design patterns of your indoor furnishings. Or add the plant to an indoor terrarium or fairy garden. Wherever you put polka dot plant, you’re sure to light up that area of your indoors.

Polka dot plant is native to Madagascar, where it grows quickly. The plant thrives in the warm environment of many homes. Keep these growing tips in mind.

Provide polka dot plant with good indoor lighting

Bright, indirect light is what pink polka dot plant requires. This will keep the plant from becoming leggy. Good light will also help the plant maintain its vibrant color tones.

Place polka dot plant two feet from an unobstructed eastern or southern window. The plant also grows well under full-spectrum lighting. Place the plant within 4 to 6 inches of artificial lighting.

(Healthy Houseplants.com)

Plant polka dot plant in well-draining, rich soil

To grow well, polka dot plant requires even moisture. However, you want the soil to drain well. Use a high-quality, organic potting soil that contains a draining agent, such as pumice or perlite.

Water polka dot plant regularly

Polka dot plant doesn’t appreciate drying out. If you drought the plant, water it immediately with warm water. You may have some leaf loss. At the same time, be sure not to keep the soil soaking wet, as the plant will also succumb to root rot. This is more of a problem in humid climates. Also remember that the smaller the container polka dot plant is in, the more quickly it will dry out.

Fertilize polka dot plant monthly

Polka dot plant likes a fertile soil. Once a month, feed the plant with a high-quality organic fertilizer designed for houseplants.

(Healthy Houseplants.com)

Provide moderate temperature and high humidity

Polka dot plant requires relatively humid conditions and temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees. Grow the plant in a warm location and raise the surrounding humidity. Do this by creating a humidity tray. Check out this Healthy Houseplant’s video to see how.

Misting a few times a day also works well. And grouping plants raises humidity. Plants transpire, which refers to cycling moisture from their leaves. This humidifies the air around them, including other plants.

Pinch polka dot plant back weekly

Polka dot plant can become leggy fast. Prevent this from occurring by pinching back the leaf tips on a weekly basis. This will cause the plant to branch out and become bushy rather than long and lanky. Pinching also prolongs the life of the plant.

The polka dot plant, Hypoestes phyllostachya is a flowering plant species native to Madagascar. Other species in the genus come from South Africa and Southeast Asia.

Naturalized in the coastal areas of eastern Australia and Hawaii.

The plant is so widely distributed in southeastern parts of Queensland and is considered a weed there and also classifies as one of the top 200 invasive plants.

It is a memebr of the family Acanthaceae along with the Fittonia plant and Mexican Petunia.

Size & Growth

The freckle face plant is grown as a perennial plant in tropical and subtropical regions and as an annual plant in cooler places. It is a small shrub popular due to its unique and attractive foliage.

Its green-colored, heavily spotted leaves look like as if they have been sprayed with paint; hence, it is commonly known as the polka dot plant.

While the most common type of polka dot plant is the one featuring pink spots, cultivators have lately introduced many new varieties (Splash and Confetti series) with spots in white, red, and different shades of pink.

One of the hybrids even features pink leaves with green spots. Available in over a hundred varieties, hypoestes can grow up to 3’ feet in height in its native habitat.

But, the pot grown plants are smaller and typically grow only up to 1’ – 2’ feet.

Although hypoestes is easy to grow, it has a short lifespan due to which they either need to be regularly propagated or bought.

New plants in the “Splash series” come in different colors with a green base leaf and mottled splashes of color in a white, pink splash, rose or red.

There’s also a Confetti series with spotting shaped dots a bit more sparsely scattered than those of the Splash Series.

Flowering and Fragrance

Polka Dot Hypoestes produces small, solitary, pink or purple colored flowers which look like honeysuckle but are non-showy, in late summer.

Flowering season is followed by a period of dormancy; though some plants may completely die after flowering.

Light & Temperature

Make sure your plant is getting bright indirect light as light has a huge impact on the foliage color.

Plants grown in low light are likely to produce solid dark green leaves – since polka dot plant is mainly grown for its unique and vibrant foliage, this kills the very purpose of planting it.

Although these foliage plants typically require filtered light, experts suggest providing a little direct sun to plants which aren’t colorful enough as it can help deepen the colors.

Watering and Feeding

Water the polka dot plant regularly in summer, when it is actively growing, to ensure moisture maintenance.

But, be careful not to overwater as well as it can cause root rot.

A useful tip to make sure you provide just the right amount of water to your hypoestes phyllostachya plant is to let the top ¼ inch of soil dry out before watering again.

Reduce the watering in the resting period i.e., in winter.

Water only sparingly when the plant is in a dormant phase, which usually happens after the flowering season, and returns to regular watering when the new growth starts to emerge.

Feed the polka dot phyllostachya with a weak liquid fertilizer once a week during the growing season.

For best results, use a plant fertilizer containing micronutrients.

Reduce the feeding to once a month when the plant is not actively growing.

Soil & Transplanting

Polka dot plant requires rich, light, and well-draining soil to grow well.

Use potting soil containing plenty of organic matter for best results.

Hypoestes plants often don’t need to be repotted as they slip into dormancy shortly after flowering.

And most people do not like to keep them in the dormant stage.

However, they do get root-bound sometimes and need to be repotted.

If your polka dot plant stops growing in mid-summer, it is likely to be root-bound.

Grooming and Maintenance

Pink Polka dot plant is not difficult to grow and does not require a lot of maintenance as well.

Misting often is recommended to maintain the high humidity levels it loves or make use of a humidity tray.

Pinching the long off-shoots (the ones growing up to 15” inches or above) helps to improve bushiness as well as to prevent the plant from getting leggy.

Many growers also pinch off the flower producing spikes.

Since polka dot plant go dormant or dies after flowering, removing the spikes can help increase its life by discouraging flower production.

How to Propagate Polka Dot Plant

Polka dot plants grow from both seeds and stem tip cuttings, follow these growing tips.

However, propagation through cuttings isn’t preferred because they take a long time to root.

Always use a rooting hormone if you are choosing to propagate your hypoestes phyllostachya from stem cuttings.

If using seeds, sow them indoors in early spring and provide an ample amount of bright light and moisture to make sure the seeds germinate properly and the indoor plants develop good color.

Warm and moist soil and temperature between 70° – 75° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C – 24° C) provides the ideal environment for seed germination.

Freckle Plant Pest or Diseases

Polka dot plants aren’t very susceptible to any serious pest or disease.

However, it is recommended to watch out for aphids (control), whitefly, scale insects, and powdery mildew and treat the plant as soon as you notice a sign of infestation.

As discussed above, avoid overwatering as it can cause root rot.

Uses For Pink Polka Dot Plants

Due to its colorful and eye-catching foliage, hypoestes plants are widely grown as an accent as well as a bedding plant to add some color to gardens, patios, and pergolas.

It is also a popular houseplant.

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