The polka dot plant, Hypoestes phyllostachya [hy-poh-ES-teez, fy-lo-STAY-kee-uh] 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.
Polka Dot Plant Care
Size & Growth
The freckle face Polka dot 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 polka dot 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 indirect 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 actively growing, to keep the soil moist.
Do not 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 and peat moss for best results.
Hypoestes plants often don’t need to be repotted as they slip into dormancy shortly after flowering.
Most people do not like to keep polka dots in the dormant stage.
However, the freckle face plant does get root-bound sometimes and needs repotting.
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.
For best leaf coloring keep plants out of low light conditions.
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.
As discussed above, avoid overwatering can lead to rotting roots.
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.