Saturday, October 14, 2017

Houseplant to Collect: Polka Dot Plant

As I have become a more experienced and sophisticated outdoor gardener, I have felt that there has been a shift in my attitude toward indoor plants.

While there are still a few common houseplants I'll always love, I am more decerning than I used to be. If I am going to bother with keeping indoor plants, I want them to be as interesting as my outdoor plants.

Container planting photographed on May 30th just after being potted up.

I first got to know Hypoestes Phyllostachya when I picked up a plant to use in one of my outdoor container plantings. With its pink polka dots, it struck me as a nice alternative to standard annuals.

Despite the fact that I crammed a fair bit into a modest-sized pot, all the plants performed pretty well. The only exception would be the white pansy which surrendered to the effects of the hot summer sun. The other plants took full advantage of the absence and filled in to take the pansy's place.

Same container planting photographed October 12th

As you can see the pink darkened into magenta and green became more olive over the course of the summer. When the plants in my pot got a little leggy mid-summer, I took cuttings and made even more plants.

Originally from Madagascar, Polka Dot Plants are a herbaceous perennial in their native habitat. Outdoors they that can grow up to two or three feet. Here in North America, they are generally kept as houseplants.

The main reason to grow these plants is their cheerful speckled foliage. The 'Splash' series is dotted splotches of pink, white, rose and red. The 'Confetti' series has the same color palette, but the spots are a bit more sparse.

Here are some basic tips on growing Polka Dot Plants:

Light: Bright, indirect light is their preference. Too little light may result in leggy growth. Low light can also cause colorful spots to fade and the leaves to turn solid green.

Water: Moist, but not soggy soil is best during the growing season (indoor plants have a spring and summer growing season just like outdoor plants).
In the winter, Polka Dot plants like to be just a bit drier. If your plant produces a flower and moves into a dormant phase, reduce your regular watering regime until the plant shows new signs of growth.

Soil: For indoor plants use a good, well-drained potting mix. When planted outdoors as annuals, Polka Dot Plants require well-drained soil rich in organic matter.

Heat: A cold windowsill won't do for this tropical plant. It's best to keep temperatures at least 65-70 degrees F. (18-21 degrees C.)

Fertilizer: During the spring and summer feed your plant weekly with a liquid fertilizer following the package directions.

Care: Pinching back growth will encourage a bushier plant.

Propagation: Polka Dot plants aren't particularly long-lived. Once they have flowered they will move into a dormant phase or may die altogether.
Growing new plants from cuttings is fairly easy. I tried rooting my cuttings in water, but that didn't work. Placing the cuttings right into the soil worked perfectly. Just remember to keep the soil moist and the cuttings out of the direct sun until they root and you should have no problem making new plants.

Pests: White fly, scale and aphids can be potential issues.

Polka Dot Plant's bright splashes of color are just as pretty as flowers and it's always nice to have "flowers" inside the house when outside the garden is sleeping under the snow.


  1. I would have to agree. Indoor plants can be just as interesting as outdoor ones and there are so many combinations you can create in a nice sized planter. Hypoestes Phyllostachya is a very nice plant with excellent foliage, and you have given some excellent pointers on maintaining it. Great post!

    1. Thanks Lee! I have really tried to make gardening indoors more interesting. It helps with that long Canadian winter.LOL!

  2. My mother-in-law used to love these plants, and had them in these wonderful little clay pots throughout the house. She had all different kinds, but my favorite were the green and pink ones.
    Thank you for the memory!
    Have a wonderful week, Jennifer.

    1. Plants often evoke personal memories. I always think of my Mom and her collection of houseplants.

  3. A wonderfully informative posting, Jennifer. I'm getting ready to bring in my houseplants from their summer home on the back porch, and I'm evaluating what I want to keep. Like you, I'm more discerning these days. Your photographs are stunning! P. x

    1. Thanks Pam! I must admit I struggled a bit as to which plants to bring in. It's a shame to waste money and let perfectly good houseplants go, but I only have one good window ledge in our old house so I had to make choices.

  4. I always plant the pink polka dot plant with pink impatients. So pretty.

    1. I bet they would look pretty with pink impatiens.


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