Snow white waffle plant

How to Care for a Purple Waffle Plant

Use these instructions to care for a Purple Waffle Plant. This guide will tell you how to water your Purple Waffle Plant, its light, temperature, and humidity preferences; and any additional care your plant might need to help it grow.

LIGHT REQUIREMENTS

Your Purple Waffle prefers bright indirect light, but not direct sun. In less light, it may lose some of the rich purple coloring.

WATER REQUIREMENTS

Your Purple Waffle prefers consistently moist soil. Allow the water to flow freely from the drainage holes on the bottom of the pot. Always empty the saucer of any water. Purple Waffle does not like its roots to be sitting in water.

HUMIDITY PREFERENCE

Your Purple Waffle loves to be misted, feel free to do this daily, especially in the winter when the air is very dry. Not only does misting provide humidity, it also keeps pests away.

OPTIMUM TEMPERATURE

Your Purple Waffle plant can grow in temperatures between 55-80 degrees, but they do prefer a consistent temperature.

PLANT FOOD

Fertilize your Purple Waffle once a month in the spring and summer with a general indoor plant fertilizer diluted to half the recommended strength. No need to feed in the fall or winter, when plant growth naturally slows.

ADDITIONAL CARE

If you prefer a bushier plant, pinch the tips of your waffle plant whenever the plant shoots up new growth. Pinch the stems just above a leaf, stem or bud.

TOXICITY

Your Purple Waffle is non-toxic to pets and humans.

If you want a pretty little-potted plant that sits on your countertops, kitchen islands, tables, or desks, you will probably love the purple waffle plant. In addition to its lovely colors and shapes, the purple waffle is also easy to grow and care for. This cute plant will fulfill your passion for home or office decoration throughout the year. Check out the following for in-depth information.

What is Purple Waffle Plant?

Purple waffle plant (Hemigraphis alternata) can grow up to 30 centimeters (12 inches) tall. The plant stems are purplish; the foliage is hairy and in pairs. Uniquely, each leaf of the pairs has different sizes compared to the other. Each side of the leaf comes in two different colors: dark green on the leaf side that faces the top and purple (or light green) on the lower side. The plant’s flowers grow on the area where the stem and the leaves meet.

Despite its popularity as a decorative plant in the UK and US, purple waffle—under the name of Hemigraphis alternata—is also used as an herbal remedy to improve the function of urination, as well as cure hemorrhages, sexually transmitted diseases, and dysentery in Indonesia.

Purple Waffle Plant Varieties

There are several varieties of purple waffle plant that you will love, including:

Belgian Purple Waffle Plant (Hemigraphis alternata Belgian Waffle)

As a variety of waffle plant, Belgian purple waffle plant has been copyrighted and has attractive features, such as bright green leaves with creamy-yellow outlines. The lower sides of the foliage are purple. The plant can reach up to 6 inches (15.24 centimeters) in height and 12 inches (30.48 centimeters) in width.

Snow White Purple Waffle Plant (Hemigraphis Snow White)

If you want the sweeter look of a waffle plant, this variety can be a good idea. The houseplant features light green leaves with pink and white tips. The patented variety can grow up to 6 inches (15.24 centimeters) in height and 12 inches (30.48 centimeters) in width.

Dragon’s Tongue (Hemigraphis repanda)

Resembling multiple tongues of a dragon, this variety of waffle plant has thin bushy foliage in mixed colors of purple and green. Similar to the other varieties, Dragon’s tongue can grow up to 6 inches (15.24 centimeters) in height and 12 inches (30.48 centimeters) in width.

To get more beautiful decoration to your home, pair up your purple waffle plant with the other decorative plants, such as Stromanthe’s variegated foliage, Ti Plant, and Red Aglaonema. Accentuate the unique leaves of the purple waffle plant with great pots. Clay pots in terra-cotta will look impeccable against your plant’s purple foliage. Besides that, you may also choose pots or containers flushed with blue, pink, yellow, and purple.

How to Properly Grow a Purple Waffle?

Growing a purple waffle is pretty simple as long as you have the right site to grow it. Unless a purple waffle plant gets enough sunlight through the windows, it will gradually lose its purple color and gain sunburnt on the tips of the leaves. Therefore, it is important to place the plant near a clear window. Also, do not forget to water your plant regularly to keep the soil’s moisture.

Pruning or grooming is not a necessity for your purple waffle as it is a little houseplant. However, you can always cut the stems when they grow too long or scraggy. Give the plant fertilizers at least twice in a year to make it thrive more beautifully. Well, fertilizing, even more, is fine, especially when your plant is placed in bright sunlight. You may use any fertilizers for houseplants as long as you follow the instructions of use on the packaging.

The Key to Purple Waffle Plant Care

Fortunately, your exotic angel plant is not only beautiful but also low-maintenance. Focus on some important aspects of waffle plant care, such as brightness, humidity, watering, and fertilizers. Once your plant gets the proper care, it will “thank” you so much by showing off its beauty and immunity towards pest infestations.

As mentioned above, growing a purple waffle requires moist soil—specifically to get healthy leaves. Therefore it is necessary to maintain the humidity of the surrounding. Water the plant until it drips from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot but don’t do it too often. Watch the humidity level of the soil and do the watering before it completely gets dried. Note that you should use filtered water to prevent the remaining salt in the soil.

In fertilizing, any houseplant fertilizers will do well for your purple waffle plant. However, never over-fertilize your plant as it will make it weak, scraggly, and lose their colorful appearance. Dissolve a teaspoon of 20-20-20 ratio of fertilizer with a gallon of water. Apply the solution to your plant once a month, replacing one-time watering. Then, let the plant have a “rest” within fall, winter, or wet season (any colder months) by not feeding it at all.

Meanwhile, pruning can be done to get rid of unwanted stems that grow at the bottom. You may also soak your gardening shears in disinfectant about 5 minutes before pruning to prevent pest infestations or diseases.

How to Control Purple Waffle Disease?

As a small-sized houseplant, purple waffle has to face many threats, especially from insects. Do not underestimate white flies or scale insect infestations. This problem generally caused by the honeydew sap and cotton-like things on the lower sides of the foliage.

More serious infestations can cause the leaves to scorch or even make the plant begin to die from its stem backward. To solve this problem, you have to use insecticide in the form of a soap solution. Please put it in a spray bottle and spray it out to each side of every leaf once in 4-7 days until the insects leave. Then, rinse the foliage with clean water a couple of hours after using the spray, so that it will not injure your plant.

The other issue is when the temperature in the surrounding is too dry, your purple waffle plant will get vulnerable, crisp tips of leaves. Do mist every day to stabilize the humidity. You have to use demineralized water to avoid the appearance of white spots on the foliage.

So, have you decided to grow and care for a purple waffle, yet? Get one and enjoy the beauty for the whole year around!

The purple waffle plant stands out from other houseplants due to its unique leaves. Puckered and rippling, they develop in a way to increase the surface area over each leaf surface. The underside of each leaf is a vibrant purple color. As a shaded groundcover plant, it can make for a multicolored mat of dense foliage.

That increased surface area has another benefit. Hemigraphis alternata is known to be an air-cleanser. It removes volatile organic compounds from the air surrounding it. What a great reason to consider growing it indoors as well!

Today we’ll be exploring this lush green and purple jungle-dweller. It doesn’t take much effort to provide these lovely plants with everything they need!

Overview

In tropical regions, the purple waffle plant can be a ground cover. Source: Joel Abroad

Scientific Name: Hemigraphis alternata
Common Name(s): Purple waffle plant, red ivy, cemetery plant, metal leaf
Family: Acanthaceae
Height & Spread: 6-8″ tall, 12-24″ wide (or long if draped in hanging pot)
Sun: Bright, but indirect lighting, shaded from direct sun
Soil: Rich, humus-filled, well-draining
Water: Keep consistently moist at all times, don’t over-water
Pests/Diseases: Occasional whiteflies/scale. Root rot & mildews possible.

All About Purple Waffle Plant

Herbaceous and perennial in its natural jungle locale, purple waffle grows to 6″ in height. It forms long stems that can take root or cascade over the sides of hanging pots. Originating in Java, it has become popular internationally as a houseplant.

In zones 10-11, it can be grown as an understory plant or ground cover in shady areas. It’s become naturalized in the Pacific islands, as well as in parts of northern Queensland. The southernmost tip of Florida can also grow it outdoors with ease.

For the rest of us, we keep our purple waffles indoors where we can get the most of their air cleaning capabilities. Compounds such as benzene, octane, and toluene are absorbed from the air, making it safer for us. And who doesn’t want better air?

Speaking of air: this plant is into warm jungle air, but it’s not a fan of the ocean. If you live near the ocean, try to keep it indoors and away from salt-laden air, as it’s sensitive to the salt.

As a hanging plant, this one shines. Its long stems will grow to drape beautifully down the sides of your pot. But you don’t have to relegate it to only being hung up. It can look incredible swaying down a bookshelf or as a centerpiece on a table. Really, they’re quite versatile indoors.

Did I mention that it flowers? The flowers tend to be tubular in shape and are a bright white color. They’re fairly small and delicate, but they’re pretty if infrequent!

Other names for this plant include red ivy, cemetery plant, or metal-leaf. It also has the synonym of Hemigraphis colorata.

Types

Two waffle plant cultivars. Belgian Waffle on the left, Snow White on the right.

There’s more than one cultivar of Hemigraphis alternata available out there. While the main purple waffle is widely available, these other cultivars are more rare. Often, they’re only grown and sold by the company who developed and patented them.

The base plant has those green-topped, purple-bottomed leaves. Reddish-purple stems extend outward from the center of the plant.

In a variety such as ‘Belgian Waffle’, the green upper part of the leaves is edged with a cream color. That edging may extend partway into the leaf’s center, creating a mottled pattern. Hints of purple peer out from beneath the leaves.

‘Snow White’, by contrast, is a variety which is dappled with vivid white and pink over the upper surfaces. Its light magenta-purple undersides and green tops create a stunning visual effect.

These brighter variations on the theme can be paired with the original. This makes for an amazing array in a large planter, for instance. As they grow and intertwine, different spots of color will be revealed.

Care

So what are the best conditions for your waffle plants, no matter the cultivar? Let’s explore that!

Light & Temperature

Hemigraphis alternara also has the synonym Hemigraphis colorata. Source: quinn.anya

These lovely tropicals like lots of light… but not direct sunlight.

Providing lots of bright, indirect lighting will keep their colors vibrant. They’ll want at least six hours of light per day. But be careful to watch the color of your plants. If they start to look washed out, they may be receiving too much light.

As far as temperature is concerned, tropical conditions are perfect. Keep the thermometer set between 65-80 indoors, and your plant will be satisfied. Avoid placing it in a drafty location where it can get too cold or hot.

These plants are frost-sensitive. If you’re growing yours outdoors, make sure it’s brought indoors or protected from cold.

Water & Humidity

Red ivy plants like to be consistently moist. Do you know what a kitchen sponge feels like when it’s been wrung out? That’s a good level of moisture to maintain.

Having said that, they also don’t like to be in soggy conditions. Avoid standing water, whether in the pot or a saucer below it. Too much water may make its roots vulnerable to root rot.

Occasional misting of your plant in the morning is a good choice. Alternately, place a pebble tray underneath your plant to raise the humidity. As a tropical plant, lots of humidity is preferred.

Soil

Aim for a pH range from 6.1-6.5 for this plant, which is on the acidic end of neutral. You can go down to 5.8 on the acidic side, but try to not go above 6.9 on the alkaline end. A good pH test kit will help you gauge your soil’s status.

Preferred soil for this plant is humus-rich, crammed with lots of organic material. It should be rich and remain moist, but drain off excess liquid well. A slightly peaty soil blend can work too. Avoid hard clay soils, as the roots have difficult in those.

Fertilizer

Shiny waffle plant leaves in their natural environment. Source: Reinaldo Aguilar

Fertilization should occur during the spring and summer. Skip it in the fall and winter months when the plant is growing less rapidly.

Adding compost around the base of your plant can replace fertilizing. This mimics the rich soil of their jungle home, which is filled with decaying leaves.

If you don’t have compost at hand, you can use a slow-release granular fertilizer or diluted liquid.

Slow-release fertilizers should be fairly low-potency, around a 5-5-5 range. If you go higher on any nutrient, make it nitrogen to spur growth. Apply these per the manufacturer’s directions.

Liquid fertilizers should be diluted and very light. Aim for a 5-3-3 or 5-4-3 level, and fertilize no more than once per month. If you dilute it by half again, you can fertilize every two weeks to ensure consistent feeding.

Avoid overfertilizing. If your plant is becoming spindly and has lots of thin stems with little growth, you may be feeding too heavily.

Propagation

Waffle plant’s a fairly fast grower. It will readily self-propagate by rooting at stem nodes. But if you’d like to start some yourself, stem cuttings or air layering are your best bets.

For stem cuttings, examine a healthy stem and find the nodes along the stem. You will want to take your cutting just below one of those nodes, as the node is where it will root from. Tuck the node end into a pot of your humus-rich soil and keep it moist.

Air layering for this plant can be as simple as finding a stem node and burying it in your potting soil. It will develop roots over time. Once it has, cut it free from its parent plant and move to a new pot.

Pruning

Heightwise, there is little need to prune this plant. It tends to grow no larger than about 6″ tall, perhaps as high as 8″.

But stems can become greatly elongated. While this looks good in a hanging pot, you may want to keep them at a particular length for visual appeal. If so, use a sterile pair of pruning shears to snip off excess. You can always use the excess for starting new cuttings!

To encourage bushier growth, you can pinch off stem tips just above a leaf or stem node. This will slow the stem’s growth and redirect the plant to growing leaves.

The underside of waffle plant leaves are reddish-purple to dark purple. Source: Reinaldo Aguilar

Problems

Most of the difficulties with waffle plants are easy to fix. Let’s discuss those now!

Growing Problems & Diseases

The primary cause of problems is overwatering. If your plant is sitting in a saucer, make sure you empty out any drained water. Never leave your plant in standing water. Over-wet soil provides a perfect home for pythium and other root rot fungi.

Your plant also can’t tolerate dry conditions. Remember, these are jungle-dwellers, used to moist soil and occasional humidity. Ensure your soil is always as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Misting your plant in the morning is a good way to increase humidity. It also likes being placed on top of a pebble tray for added humidity, but be sure the base of the pot isn’t underwater.

Too much fertilizer can cause sudden leggy growth instead of the plant bushing out. If your plant starts a growth spurt, skip the next fertilizing session. Reduce your future fertilizing dose by half, or just slow the frequency.

If you do mist your plants, be sure to do it early in the day so the plant’s leaves can dry by nightfall. While it’s uncommon, powdery mildew or downy mildew can appear on your plant if its leaves are wet for too long.

Those of us who live near a beach should keep these plants indoors. While it might like the temperatures and humidity outside, salty air can cause problems for your plant.

Pests

Healthy purple waffles are able to resist most pests. On rare occasion, whiteflies or scale insects may become an issue. If these appear, you may be able to blast them loose with a hard spray of water. If not, applying horticultural oil or an insecticidal soap can dislodge them. Trim severely damaged leaves or stems to remove them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How would I know when the soil has sufficient moisture when growing waffle plant?

A: Press your finger lightly into the soil. Does it feel about as moist as a wrung-out sponge? If so, you’ve got the right water level. If it’s drier than that, it’s time to water. If it feels too damp, you’re likely overwatering.

Q: When is the best time to propagate the purple waffle plant?

A: Propagation is best done in the spring and summer months when the plant is actively growing. Fall and winter is when your plant is resting and preparing for the next year’s growth.

Q. How often should I fertilize waffle plants?

A: If you’re adding a layer of compost over your soil, you may not need to. Otherwise, it depends on the type of fertilizer you’re using. Take a look at the “fertilizing” section above for more detail!

Whether you call it metal-leaf or purple waffle plant, you will love this houseplant. It definitely provides lots of color and thrives indoors. Just keep it moist, and you’ll be keeping it happy! Consider interplanting yours with a Chinese evergreen plant for a diverse planting.

The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:
Lorin Nielsen
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