Hemigraphis alternata, also called Strobilanthes alternata, is an herbaceous perennial member of the Acanthaceae family.
The plant originally hails from the Maluku Islands, Malaysia, Java, and India. The plant’s genus name, Hemigraphis, is Greek and means “half brush.”
This refers to the thick fur covering the plants’ outer stamens. The specific epithet, alternata, is also Greek and means “alternating.”
The specific variety native to Java is also known as Strobilanthes alternata (stroh-bil-AN-theez al-ter-NAY-tuh).
You may also hear this attractive plant commonly referred to the following common names:
- Purple Waffle Plant
- Metal Leaf Plant
- Cemetery Plant
- Red-Flame Ivy
- Waffle Plant
- Red Ivy
In this article, we will look at how we can grow and care for your Hemigraphis alternata at home.
They are herbaceous perennials and belong to the flowering plant family – Acanthaceae along with:
- Justicia brandegeeana – Shrimp plant care
- Alphelandra – Zebra plant care
- Crossandra infundibuliformis – Crossandra plant care
- Hemigraphis repanda – Dragon Tongue plant
Purple Waffle Plant Care
Size and Growth
Purple Waffle Plant is a low-growing, sprawling forest floor plant with a prostrate, spreading growth habit. It may reach only a mature size of 8″ inches while spreading 18″ inches or more.
Hemigraphis alternata feature 3″ to 6″ inches long oval leaves that are glossy, puckery, corrugated, and toothed.
This tropical has beautiful oval leaves that are hairy and opposite with grayish-green metallic sheen tops and lighter green or purplish bottom surfaces.
Excessive amounts of sun will prevent the leaves from developing their classic metallic sheen.
Some cultivars have slightly different coloring. For example, the Snow White Waffle Plant has green leaves with large white markings and splashes of pink.
On the other hand, the Belgian Waffle Plant has green leaves with cream-colored margins.
Flowering and Fragrance
The bell-shaped blooms of Red Ivy are small, white, unscented, yet attractive, appearing in summer. However, the tiny white flowers are only secondary to the plant’s beautiful foliage.
They grow in clusters of inch-long racemes in the summertime.
Plants indoors need ample bright, indirect sunlight to spur blooming.
Light and Temperature
- Grow Red-Flame Ivy in full sun to part shade. Outdoors, full morning sun with protection from harsh noonday and afternoon sun will produce the best results.
- Avoid direct sunlight, as it can cause the leaf edges to scorch or the color to bleach.
- Direct sun can also result in the fading of the cool metallic sheen of the leaves. However, your Purple waffle plant may lose its rich purple color without enough light.
- A setting that provides consistently bright, indirect light will work well when kept as a houseplant. The plant can be placed directly in a north or east-facing window.
- If your only exposure is west or south-facing, place the plant a few feet away from the window.
- When you cannot access natural light, these plants thrive under artificial lights.
- Waffle Plant is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11. In colder climates, the plant will die off after the first frost.
Indoors, strive to maintain temperatures between 55° and 75° Fahrenheit.
Remember that they need high humidity conditions for healthy growth. If the humidity levels are low, you can increase them by misting or growing your plants in a pebble tray with water.
You can also maintain relatively high humidity levels (50% to 70%) through a humidifier.
Watering and Feeding
Keep the soil slightly moist by watering whenever the top quarter inch of soil becomes dry. However, don’t soak the soil, and never leave your plant standing in water, as this can lead to root rot.
Fertilize once early in the spring and again in mid-summer. Excessive amounts of fertilizer will cause spotty leaves or white spots on leaves and leggy growth.
Use a liquid fertilizer formulated for indoor plants. The NPK ratio should be 6-12-6.
Using a slow-release 6-12-6 houseplant fertilizer will also provide the necessary nutrients, including phosphate, potash, and nitrogen, for healthy growth.
In the landscape, top dress/mulch with well-rotted compost very early in the springtime. The compost will provide nutrients on a slow, steady basis while helping maintain moisture in the soil surface.
Add another layer of compost in mid-summer. Don’t fertilize in winter.
Soil and Transplanting
This low-growing plant does best in fertile, moist soil with a great deal of humus content and a pH level of 6.1 to 6.9.
Moist, well-drained soils will also work well for this plant.
If you are growing Red Ivy as a container or potted plant, repot with fresh soil early in the springtime. However, you may not find it necessary to repot every year.
If the plant seems overcrowded in its pot or roots start to sprout from the drainage holes, you’ll know it’s time to repot.
When grown as an annual or outdoor perennial, add leaf mold and compost to the moist soil to enrich it.
When grown as a houseplant, you can opt for commercial potting soil or an all-purpose potting mix.
Grooming and Maintenance
- Remove dead and damaged leaves from your Purple waffle plant as needed. You can also trim lightly throughout the growing season to shape your plant or dig the offshoots, rooting themselves around the main plant, to keep the shape.
- At the end of summer, take cuttings from outdoor plants to start indoors and keep them as houseplants through the winter.
- When kept as houseplants, Cemetery Plants appreciate an occasional dusting to help keep the leaves bright and glossy and facilitate good photosynthesis.
- Indoors or outdoors, you may wish to spray your plants monthly with insecticidal soap or a neem oil solution to help prevent pest infestation.
How To Propagate Purple Waffle Plant
It is easy to propagate Purple Waffle Plant through vegetative cuttings in water or soil. The plant spreads enthusiastically in the landscape and sets down roots as it rambles along.
You only need to cut an actively growing stem with at least one node at the end using clean scissors or hand-pruning shears.
Then, plant the stem cutting in a container with moist potting soil.
You can also propagate Waffle Plant through division when you repot containers or potted plants.
Red Ivy Main Pests Or Diseases
Whiteflies, mealybugs, and scale are the common problematic pests for this plant.
Tackle whiteflies by soaking and rinsing your entire plant in your sink or shower. Pests leaving honeydew secreted saps and cottony matters may affect the underside of the leaves.
When you see them flying around your plants, you can also use the hose attachment on your vacuum cleaner to suck them up, but be careful not to damage your plants.
If you see mealybugs on the plant’s undersides of the leaves, use a cotton ball soaked in isopropyl alcohol to wipe them away.
Scale insects appear as small brown bumps on the stems and leaves of your plants. You can gently scrape them away with the edge of a knife blade or your thumbnail.
If there are a lot of them, you may be better off pruning away heavily-infested stems and leaves.
Follow up spot treatment for any of these pests with a thorough treatment of insecticidal soap spray or neem oil spray.
Overwatering and excessive humidity can cause common problems with root rot and other fungal infections.
If this happens, prune away affected leaves, stems, and roots using a very sharp, sterilized cutting implement. In addition, adjust your care habits to avoid excessive amounts of moisture.
Repot your plant into an entirely clean potting mix and a new or sterilized pot or container.
Take care not to overwater the plant in the future. Instead, provide gentle air circulation around your plants to help prevent fungal growth on leaves and stems.
Learn more about Sticky Plant Leaves
Is the plant considered toxic or poisonous to people, kids, and pets?
Metal Leaf Plant is completely non-toxic.
Is the plant considered invasive?
Although Red Ivy has a fairly slow growth rate, it does spread and self-propagate easily in tropical climates. In this sort of setting, it can easily become invasive.
In cold climates, it dies out at the first frost and is not invasive.
How to Grow and Care for Hemigraphis Alternata (Red Ivy)
Suggested Hemigraphis Alternata Uses
Red-Flame Ivy can make a nice year-round ground cover in tropical and semi-tropical environments. It is planted as an annual groundcover or bedding plant in areas with cold winters.
In addition, trailing Red Flame Ivy is a good choice for containers and hanging baskets to use in the landscape.
Like coleus, Red Ivy may also be kept as a houseplant during winter. Its trailing growth habit makes it perfect for indoor hanging baskets.
Its colorful foliage also makes an excellent addition to the on top of a bedroom table, your office or terrariums at home.
You might also try planting in long planters placed on a high shelf (with ample artificial light) to create a living wall or curtain effect.
As a houseplant, Waffle Plant has a good reputation for helping improve air quality. This may be because its waffly leaves provide more surface area than standard flat-leafed houseplants.