How to Grow and Care for Polka Dot Plants

full frame overhead image of red, pink, and white polka dot plants with green dots and veins

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Flowers fade, but houseplants with colorful leaves— like the petite, cheerful polka dot plant— look beautiful all year round. We love this cute, low-growing houseplant, which gets its name from the confetti-like splotches of pink, red, and white on its leaves, for brightening up interiors and adding warmth to terrariums. Here's everything you need to know to grow a polka dot plant in your home.

  • Botanical Name: Hypoestes phyllostachya
  • Common Name: Polka dot plant, baby's tears, freckle face plant
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Mature Size: 12 to 20 inches tall and nine to 12 inches wide
  • Sun Exposure: Part shade
  • Soil Type: Rich, well-drained soil
  • Soil pH: 6.1 - 7.3
  • Toxicity: Nontoxic

Plant Care

Keep your polka dot plant's soil evenly moist but not soggy. To prevent root rot from overwatering, wait until the top of the soil has just begun to dry out before watering again. You'll know you've waited too long if you see wilting. Note that your plant may require more water in the warmer months and less in the winter when it goes dormant.

Your polka dot plant may send up tiny purple or blue flowers on six-inch stems in late summer or early fall. Pinch off flowers to keep the plant from going to seed, which typically signals the end of the plant's life. It's also a good idea to cut back leggy stem tips to encourage bushier growth.

closeup of polka dot plant with light pink leaves with green speckles and veins in pink pot

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Best Growing Conditions for Polka Dot Plant

Polka dot plants prefer rich, well-drained soil, such as an organic potting mix with perlite, pumice, or coarse sand mixed in to support drainage.

Keep your polka dot plant in a warm place with bright, indirect light. Depending on your space, the best spot might be in an east-facing or even a north-facing window, which will have gentler light than a brighter south-facing or west-facing window. Too much light can wash out your plant's colors or sunburn the leaves.

Types of Polka Dot Plant

There are several different polka dot plant cultivars, each with a different color combination. 'Red Splash' offers deep red leaves with only a little green, while 'White Splash' features dark green leaves splotched with creamy white. The leaves of 'Pink Brocade' are splotched with pale pink and green.

How to Propagate Polka Dot Plant

It's easy to propagate your polka dot plant by taking stem tip cuttings, which will root most easily in spring and summer. Propagation is the best course of action if your plant is struggling or getting leggy after a year or two. Here's how to propagate your polka dot plant.

What You'll Need

  • Healthy, mature plant
  • Clean, sharp scissors or pruners
  • Clear glass or jar

Step 1: Choose a healthy, leafy stem on the mother plant. Make a cut four to six inches from the tip of the stem, just below a leaf node. Remove the lower leaves from the cutting, leaving at least two or three leaves at the top.

Step 2: Place the cutting in the jar and add cool tap water so that the lower portion of the stem, including the nodes of the leaves you removed, is submerged. Place the cutting in a warm place with bright, indirect light.

Step 3: Place the cutting in a warm place with bright, indirect light. You should begin to see roots growing from the stem within a few weeks.

Step 4: When the roots are about an inch long, plant the cutting in a small plant pot filled with potting soil. Keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. When new growth appears, the cutting has rooted and you can care for it as usual.

closeup of white polka dot plant with green speckles and veins in black pot

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Common Problems With Polka Dot Plant

Like many houseplants, polka dot plants are susceptible to common pests like mealybugs, aphids, and whiteflies. Keep the plants away from other infested houseplants. Use mild dish soap diluted to half-strength with water to wash away pests.

Polka dot plants can also suffer from root rot due to overwatering. Wet leaves or overly humid conditions can also lead to powdery mildew, so try to keep the leaves dry while watering and water the soil directly.

FAQs

Are Polka Dot Plants Easy to Care For? 

Yes, once you've created the proper growing conditions for a polka dot plant, it's quite easy to grow and maintain.

How Long Can Polka Dot Plant Live? 

Polka dot plants can grow for several years when planted outdoors as perennials in zones 10 and 11. Indoor plants typically only survive for one to two years, so it's a good idea to propagate cuttings of your plant the first spring after it flowers.

Can Polka Dot Plant Grow Indoors?

Yes, polka dot plants can grow well indoors with bright, indirect light, warm temperatures, and regular care.

Article Sources
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  1. Polka Dot Plant. ASPCA.