(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.

Polka Dot Plant

Botanical Name: Hypoestes phyllostachya

Splattered leaves make Polka Dot Plant an unusual and attractive house plant. Many are pink, however newer hybrids are available with red or white spotted leaves.

This bushy plant grows quickly with good light. Pinch back growing tips often to encourage branching and to keep the plant compact.

Insignificant purple flower spikes may appear. Pinch them off because they detract from the foliage and can cause the plant to deteriorate after blooming.

Shed some light. Leaves may revert to solid-green in low light. Put your plant where it’ll get plenty of light, but out of direct sun. Filtered light from a south- or west-facing window will give it the light it needs. If you move your plant outdoors for the summer, keep it fully shaded from hot sun, which can cause leaves to curl up and develop brown scorch marks.

Keep up the humidity. If relative humidity drops below 50%, use a humidity tray or room humidifier to increase the moisture in the air. Grouping plants also helps to maintain the humidity around them. A terrarium is an ideal home for this humidity-loving plant, where it will add eye-catching color among green foliage plants.

Water regularly. Keep the soil lightly moist, but take care not to overwater. Too-dry soil will cause leaves to wilt and drop off. Quickly revive a wilted plant with a thorough watering. Soggy soil will cause the leaves to turn yellow.

Pinch your plant. Pinch off tall stems to prevent the plant from getting too leggy. Also, pinch off growing tips to encourage stems to branch out for a fuller, bushier plant.

Polka Dot Plant Care Tips

Origin: Madagascar

Height: Keep to about 10 in (25 cm) by pinching off.

Light: Polka Dot Plant will lose its variegation in low light. Give your plant plenty of bright, indirect light for sensational color. Protect plants from direct sun to prevent scorching leaves.

Water: Keep soil evenly moist spring through fall and slightly drier in winter.

Humidity: Likes moist air. Use a cool-mist room humidifier or humidity tray. Check out these easy ways to raise the humidity for your houseplants.

Temperature: Average to warm 65-80°F/18-27°C

Soil: Peat moss based potting mix.

Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks spring through fall with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half.

Propagation: Grows easily from seeds. Take stem cuttings in spring and early summer.

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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.

Polka Dot Plant Care

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.

A native to South Africa, East Asia, and Madagascar, the Polka Dot Plant can grow to 3 feet tall and wide. As an evergreen shrub, it boasts leaves that are spotted with white or pink spots depending on the particular variety. It appears as if it’s been spray painted.

It’s a member of the Hypoestes species and there are over 100 varieties of the plant. Outdoors, it’s a perennial. As the plant ages, it becomes woody and spindly.

However, it can readily be grown as a houseplant indoors. Although the plants will be smaller, they are delightful to look at and the foliage makes for an interesting contrast to other plants in your plant collection.

Scientific Name Hypoestes Phyllostachya
Common Name Polka Dot Plant, Freckle Face Plant
Origin Madagascar
Height 10-50 cm
Spread 40-50 cm
Soil Well draining loam
Light Bright, indirect light. Will lose variegation in low light.
Water Regular watering to maintain moist soil in growing season. Water sparingly in winter.
Toxicity Non-toxic

Appearance

The polka dot plant is a common houseplant that is coveted for its unique foliage. There are many different varieties and depending on the particular variety the plant will have either white, pink, green or yellow colored spots. It’s also commonly referred to as the Freckle Face Plant.

The green leaves on the polka dot plant are lovely and depending on the variety you’ll have lovely polka dots on the leaves of varying shades. Some will even have multiple shades on one plant.

Polka Dot Plant Flowers

Not only does the polka dot plant have gorgeous greenery with white, pink, green or yellow splotches on them, it also boasts lovely flowers that are brightly colored. It’s an ideal plant to tuck away in other plantings for a lovely display of color.

Many people use their polka dot plants in a grouping of plants for indoor planters. The polka dot plant is an ideal choice as it will have an excellent contrast against other colored plants. Many use the polka dot as a focal feature in a group of plants in a large planter. Just make sure that if you’re planting your polka dot plant with other plants that you keep plants that all require the same amount of moisture together to ensure that they’re all getting enough water, but not too much.

The polka dot plant also produces seeds under the ideal conditions. The seeds will readily germinate in a warm moist soil medium when the temperature is 70 to 75 °F.

Growing Your Polka Dot Plant

Polka dot plants are easy to grow and you can readily germinate the seeds in a moist soil medium of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also start polka dot plants from cuttings. To do this, simply remove a terminal growth at a node and remove the leaves closest to the soil end of the cutting.

While you can dip the ends in root hormone, it’s not typically required for polka dot plants and they will root quite easily in water. Simply plant them in a rich moist soil medium when the roots are several inches in length and you’ll have an entirely new plant.

Polka dot plants are easy to grow indoors in a small to medium sized planter, or you can put them outdoors in plantings if desired. Your polka dot plant loves plenty of sunlight but too much sunlight will make it fade out. Strive for a healthy amount of sunlight for best results.

Lighting For Polka Dot Plants

Bright, indirect light is ideal for polka dot plant care. 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.

If you’re seeking a brightly colored plant you’ll want to place your plant in a low light area of your home. Keep in mind, however, that when placed in low light, the plant may become leggy and spindly so you’ll have to pinch it back frequently to ensure that it remains strong, robust and healthy. For best results, place your polka dot plant several feet away from a southern window or an eastern exposure window. You can also grow your polka dot plant using grow lights that offer a full spectrum.

How To Water A Polka Dot Plant

The polka dot plant requires moist soil but not soggy. If it dries out too much, it will begin to wilt and keel over. A quick watering will usually help it to spring right back. Avoid allowing your polka dot plant to sit in water as it will cause root rot. Water well when the top ½ to 1 inch of soil has dried out. Also remember that smaller sized planters will dry out more quickly than larger sized planters. Make sure that you’re watering the plant from the soil level and not from the top as the water on the foliage may cause water spots and damage to the tender leaves and flowers.

What Soil Do Polka Dot Plants Need?

The polka dot plant likes a rich moist soil. A well draining organic potting soil is ideal. Make sure that if the potting soil isn’t rich you incorporate some compost materials into the soil prior to planting your polka dot plant.

Fertilizing

The polka dot plant is a hungry plant and a fairly heavy feeding plant. You’ll want to fertilize your polka dot plant about once per month with an organic indoor plant fertilizer that is designed for houseplants.

Temperature

The polka dot plant will thrive if the temperature is around 75 °F. It requires a well drained soil and shouldn’t be allowed to be in a room that drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It also likes plenty of humidity and will benefit from being misted a few times per day. You can also set your polka dot plant in a humidity tray (a try with pebbles in it and water with the plant set on the tray of pebbles will work well as a humidity tray).

Polka Dot Plant Care – Propagation And Repotting

The polka dot plant is perhaps one of the easiest plants to propagate. All that is required is to make a cutting off of the tip of one of the stems approximately four to five inches in length. Remove the leaves from the soil end of the cutting and place the cutting into a glass of water or a coarse potting mixture like a cactus mix.

Keep the cutting moist. It should have roots within just a few short days. You can transplant the cuttings when the roots reach about three to five inches in length. You can then plant the cutting into your potting soil mix and continue as you would with your other plants. While some like to use a rooting hormone, the polka dot plant does just fine without any root hormone.

Varieties Of Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes Phyllostachya)

There are several varieties of Hypoestes Phyllostachya available in garden centers and Farmer’s Markets. You can choose from a variety of such options. There are as many as 100 varieties of the polka dot plant. Here are a few of the more common varieties.

Carmina: This polka dot plant boasts bright red colors on the green leaves.

Confetti: These are smaller plants that grow about 8 inches in size. They are very vigorous plants and will grow very quickly. They boast five different color options including white, red, pink, carmine rose, and a burgundy shade of red. They are frequently sold as a group.

Pink Brocade: This polka dot plant boasts mottled pink spots on the green leaves.

Pink Dot: This polka dot variety boasts pink dots on the green leaves.

Purpariana: Just as the name suggests, this plant has a purple shade to the leaves.

Splash Series: This variety boasts large sized splotches of contrasting pinks, roses, whites, and reds.

Wit: This polka dot plant variety offers up a unique marbling to the white leaves.

Breeders and gardeners are always coming up with new varieties. Some have mottled green spots and others have dots of a variety of hues that make them all unique. From purple to lavender to scarlet to white there is a color that will fit every decor. Another unique coloring is called Confetti. In this one, the plant has dots that are spattered sparsely over the green leaves. The polka dot does very well as an indoor plant and will give you many years of enjoyment.

Diseases And Pests

The polka dot plant is susceptible to whiteflies, mealy bugs, and aphids. Use a solution of ½ strength soap and water to gently wipe the critters off of the leaves. If you over water the plant you may also notice some powdery mildew on the plant. Cut back on the water a bit to stop this issue.

Toxicity

Thankfully, hypoestes phyllostachya is non-toxic to animals or humans, so is safe to grow in all homes without additional precautions.

Do I Need To Avoid Direct Sunlight When Positioning Polka Dot Plants?

You’ll find that the lower the light situation the more colorful the plant will be. The plant will, however, become more leggy as it’s searching for light so you’ll need to pinch it back for best results and to prevent it from becoming leggy.

Can I Place My Polka Dot Plant Outdoors In Warmer Weather?

Just as many other houseplants, the polka dot plant does very well outside in a shady location during the warmer months. Bring it indoors if the temperatures are going to drop below 60 °F. Also avoid allowing it to become too hot and keep it in temperatures below 75 °F.

Does The Polka Dot Plant Ever Grow Outdoors Exclusively?

It its home regions of South Africa, East Asia, and Madagascar, the plant is frequently grown outdoors. When grown outdoors it may become as tall as three feet. It does, however, adapt itself well to indoor living and will provide a delightful addition to any collection of houseplants. Make sure to keep it out of too much sunlight and don’t over water your polka dot plant.

Does The Polka Dot Plant Require Any Special Care?

While the polka dot plant doesn’t require a lot of specialized care, it will tend to become leggy if it’s grown in the proper low lighting. This is due to the plant reaching out for more light however, the light will cause the plant to fade and your “polka dots” will become lighter in color if the plant is in too much light.

To pinch your plant back, simply use your fingers to gently pluck off the top few leaves as they appear on the plant. Do this at least once per week for best results to avoid your plant becoming too leggy. Plants will be far more attractive if you allow them to grow fuller and more busy. Regular pinching back of the leaves will force your plant to grow more full and lush.

It’s also important to note that your polka dot plant will tend to become more leggy as it ages. Again, pinch it back. Eventually, it will die out and you’ll have to restart it so you may wish to simply take a cutting off of an older plant and simply start an entirely new plant.

Stems can be grown easily in water and then transplanted into a potting soil mix. If your plants are outdoors, you can pot them into planters and bring them indoors when the weather changes and have nice indoor plants all season long.

One special feature of the polka dot plant is that it helps to clean and purify the air. If you’re trying to find plants that will clean the air in your home the polka dot plant is an ideal choice and will help to clean the air for you.

With proper care and feeding your polka dot plant will last for many years to come. You can start cuttings at any time and add to your lovely collection of polka dot plants easily. If you see colors that you don’t have at a friend’s house, this is the time to offer a cutting of yours for a cutting of theirs.

Polka Dot Plant(Hypoestes Sanguinolenta), sometimes called Freckle Face is an exceptionally decorative ornamental plant. The stunning and vivid foliage is the main reason for the widespread popularity of Polka Dot in landscaping design, but it’s also grown as a houseplant that provides a great visual interest to the home. Read these tips to learn how to grow a healthy Polka dot plant.

What is a Polka Dot Plant?

Scientifically known as Hypoestes Sanguinolenta (synonym Hypoestes phyllostachya) this plant belongs to the Hypoestes genus – the flowering plant genus with more than 100 species.

This herbaceous plant is native to Madagascar but it is cultivated worldwide. In its native habitat, the plant can grow up to 3 feet tall, but the commercially produced selections are usually smaller and suitable for growing indoors. Common varieties grow between 0.5 to 1.5 feet in height and spread 0.5 to 1 feet wide. These plants are very gentle and sensitive to frost and won’t grow well in temperatures bellow 55 degrees.

The plant has variegated oval leaves, dotted with freckles in different colors and shades. The most common variety has green leaves with pink spots, but the colors in different selections can range from a white polka dot plant to beige, red and many shades of pink and purple.

Polka dot plant produces small, insignificant, purple flowers. These tiny lavender-colored flowers are actually a sign of the beginning of the end for Hypoestes plants. After the flowering, the plant usually goes dormant or dies, which is a major drawback of these lovely plants. But if you want to prolong the plant’s lifespan, read bellow how you can manage it.

Is Hypoestes an Annual or Perrenial Plant?

Depending on a climate zone and growing conditions Hypoestes Sanguinolenta plant can be both annual and perennial plant. It can be grown in USDA zones 3-10 outdoors as an annual, or indoors as a perennial. If it’s grown outside it usually grows bigger and reaches up to 1 – 1.5 feet tall.
Regular pruning is a must for both perennial and annual forms. This plant likes attention and requires a regular grooming. By regular pruning and pinching back you can control Polka dot size, but it will also make the plant more compact and showy. It will also prevent the plant getting too leggy and will encourage a more bushy form.

Hypoestes likes water and moist soil. Keep the soil moist, but don’t let your plant sits in its water. Water it thoroughly and sprinkle leaves with water occasionally. When the plant is overwatered, leaves go yellow and eventually start do drop. On the other hand, when dropping leaves occur, that is a sign that plant lacks water.

Outdoors plants need less fertilizing than those grown indoors. If you grow them indoors, feed them once in a month.

How Long do Polka Dot Plants Live?

If you grow Hypoestes Sanguinolenta indoors you can prolong its limited lifespan. But, if you grow it outdoors, Polka dot plant will complete its life cycle within a year. If you want this lovely plant to enhance your garden all year round, you can try to propagate new plants every year.

If the short lifespan is a drawback of Polka dot plant, an easy propagation is certainly its advantage. Fortunately, it is easily propagated at any time of the year, but you have to be patient since these are the slow growers.

Hypoestes Plant
The most common and the easiest propagation method is by cuttings. Take a healthy cutting, remove the leaves from the lower half of the stem, dip the cutting into rooting hormone and place it in the pot filled with a coarse potting soil mix. Keep the soil moist until the cutting forms the root system. Protect your cutting from drying out by covering the pot with a plastic bag. When the plant becomes strong enough you can repot it if you like.

If you’re starting Hypoestes from seeds, sow them indoors in early spring. Provide them with the adequate light and temperature required for germination. Pinch out new plants when they reach 5-6 inches in height to encourage growth.

Polka Dot Plant Leaves are Curling – How to Fix it

The leaves of your Polka dot plant started curling in at the edges? Don’t worry. You can fix it and make your plant look attractive again.

Crinkly and curled leaves are the common issue with Polka dot plants which occur when the plant is gaining too much sun. Direct light and hot sun can cause leaves to curl up and to develop unattractive brown marks.

With proper light conditions, the plant will do best and the colors of foliage will be bright and outstanding. Leaves will look healthy and attractive.

Indirect light, partial shade and low-light positions suit best for Polka dot plant. Besides curling leaves, direct sunlight can cause leaves freckles to shrink. But in extremely low light conditions, the leaves start fading and losing their variegation. Just observe carefully the colors of leaves and you’ll know whether your plant is happy.

If you notice curled leaves on your Polka dot, move it to a shadier spot with filtered sun.

Are Polka Dot Plants Poisonous?

Though there are statements that Polka dot plant is poisonous, it is actually considered safe and non-toxic plant. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Polka dot plant is safe to pets such as dogs and cats.

However, any plant can cause unexpected reactions in animals and certain people. ASPCA warns that mild vomiting and diarrhea may occur if pet ingests the parts of Polka dot plant. If possible, keep the plant out of pets’ reach.

Popular Polka Dot Varieties

Within the basic Polka dot species, there are dozens of varieties and selections. These new varieties have more brightly colored foliage and they grow more compactly. Among various hybrids the most popular ones are:

  • ‘Carmina‘, a showy selection with red dots and freckles.
  • ‘Pink Splash‘ which has leaves variegated in shades of pink and red.
  • ‘Confetti‘, a small-sized variety with extremely bright colors. It has green leaves spotted with red, white, pink or rose.

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