How to grow and care for Polka Dot Plant

Houseplant, Polka Dot Plant

Botanical name: Hypoestes phyllostachya
Synonym: Hypoestes sanguinolenta
Family: Acanthaceae

The Polka Dot Plant also called Freckle Face is a popular houseplant that is grown for its spotted leaves. In a well-lit spot with some direct sunlight, the leaf coloring will be vivid while in a shady place the foliage will be all-green. The basic variety has pink coloring but newer hybrids are available with red or white coloring. Polka Dot is native to South Africa, Madagascar and South East Asia. It can grow to a height of 1-2 ft, forming bushy and compact tufts. The leaves are opposite, oval and pointed. It may produce small, solitary pink or purplish flowers. After flowering the plant may become dormant therefore reduce watering until new growth starts. There are many varieties available like Pink splash which is green and pale pink. Red splash which is green and red. White splash which is green and white. Camina with dark-green leaves spotted with camine-red. Confetti Blush which has white-veined olive green leaves.

How to Grow Polka Dot Plant

Light

Polka Dot Plant prefers bright light with some direct sunlight to enhance the leaf color. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

Water

Water Polka Dot Plant liberally during the growing season and keep soil moist at all times. Reduce watering during the cold season to keep the soil slightly moist. Avoid waterlogging as it can lead in root-rot. Learn more on how to water houseplants.

Temperature

Average warmth with a minimum of 180C is ideal for Polka Dot Plant. Protect the plant from cold draughts as the cause leaf drop. Learn more on temperature for houseplants.

Humidity

Polka Dot Plant prefers a humid environment. Mist leaves occasionally or set pot on a wet pebble tray to raise humidity or grow Polka Dot in a terrarium as a high humidity can be maintained.

Feeding

Feed Polka Dot Plant with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer every 2 weeks during the growing period. Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is minimal and feeding at this time may lead to fertilizer burn. Learn more on feeding houseplants.

Repotting

Repot Polka Dot Plant during the growing season only when the plant has become pot-bound. Use a rich, free-draining soil and a pot one size larger. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole(s) to prevent waterlogging which can lead to root-rot.

Pruning

Pruning Polka Dot Plant involves regular removal of dead foliage to maintain the plant neat and tidy. To encourage a bushy, compact growth, regularly pinch off the growing tips. Cut back tall stems to prevent the plant from becoming leggy. Learn more on how to prune houseplants.

How to Propagate Polka Dot Plant

Polka Dot Plant can be propagated at the beginning of the growing season from seeds or from stem cuttings.

Propagating Polka Dot Plant from stem cuttings
Take stem cuttings of about 4-5 in. length from a healthy Polka Dot Plant. Insert the cuttings in moist rooting soil. Place in warm shaded place and maintain the soil moist until new growth emerges and substantial growth has been observed. Transfer to individual pots and begin routine care. For a fuller plant plant several cuttings in one pot.

Propagating Polka Dot Plant from seeds
Sow Polka Dot seeds at the beginning of the growing season in moist soil. Place the set up in a warm shaded place. Maintain the soil moist until the seeds germinate. Once germinated, move the set up to a cool shaded place and maintain the soil moist until the plants are well established.

Common Problems in Growing Polka Dot Plant

  • Brown leaf tips and edges
  • Brown leaf tips and edges in Polka Dot Plant are due to dry air. To raise humidity, set the pot on a wet pebble tray.

  • Leaf drop and wilting
  • Underwatering Polka Dot Plant is the cause of dry and shrivelled leaves. Maintain the soil moist at all times and never allow the soil to dry out completely. Learn more on how to water houseplants.

  • Loss of leaf color:all-green leaves
  • Loss of leaf color resulting in all-green leaves in Polka Dot Plant is due to low light. Move the plant to a brighter spot.

  • Yellowing leaves
  • The cause of yellow leaves in Polka Dot Plant is waterlogging. Ensure proper drainage of both the pot and the soil. Never allow the plant to sit in soggy soil as it can lead to Root-rot disease.

  • Pests
  • Common pests in Polka Dot Plants are Aphids, Scale Insects, Whiteflies and Mealy Bugs.

Toxicity

Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) is non-toxic to humans and pets. The plants are safe to grow indoors.

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