Easy Polka Dot Plant Care and Growing Tips

Published February 10, 2021

A polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) is a popular and colorful garden and house plant. The most popular polka dot plant is pink and green, although other colors are available.

Polka Dot Plant Colors

The polka dot plant is very striking with its green and white or green and pink foliage. Some varieties look like paint splatter over the leaves. There are various colors, such as a green leaf with white polka dots, red and green, and pink and white. The pink hues range from soft pale to a fluorescent pink.

Hypoestes Sanguinolenta Pink Polka Dot Leaves

Polka Dot Plant Care for Easy Growing

Polka dot plants are easy to grow and maintain. They thrive in Zones 3-10. The higher zones of 9-11 offer longer growing seasons for this annual plant that often expands into the following season. This easy care plant requires your attention to the amount of water you give and the proper type of sunlight. These two conditions ensure a fun and simple experience in growing this adorable plant.

How Do You Care For A Polka Dot Plant Indoors?

You will care for your polka dot plant indoors the same way you do outdoors, with one exception - watering. Your outdoor plant will be exposed to weather conditions and may not require as frequent a watering as an indoor plant under a controlled environment.

Woman posing with fresh planted cuttings

What Type of Soil Do Polka Dot Plants Like?

The soil for polka dot plants in a garden bed or a container enjoy the same kind of soil. The soil should drain well and be light but rich in nutrients. Potting soil, compost and peat moss are excellent for a garden bed. For container/flowerpot, you can use rich potting soil with peat moss so it drains well.

Red Polka Dot Plant on Wooden Table

What About Fertilizing a Polka Dot Plant?

Polka dot plants are known as relatively heavy feeders. If you're planting polka dot plants in your garden, then you can add compost to your garden bed soil. You can side dress with compost to ensure good moisture retention.

Fertilizer for Container Plants

Plants in outdoor and indoor containers/flowerpots will benefit from a once a month feeding. You can use any container plant fertilizer. Don't overfertilize, or you can burn the plant roots and kill it. Too much fertilizer can result in leggy plants.

How Much Sun Does A Polka Dot Plant Need?

Your polka dot plant requires bright indirect sunlight. It can tolerate a few hours of direct sunlight, but the leaves are very sensitive to direct light and can easily be sunburned.

Signs of Too Much Direct Sunlight

Too much direct sunlight will make the beautiful leaf colors fade. Another sign that your polka dot plant is receiving too much direct sunlight is burned/fried brownish edges along the leaves.

A blue vase with hypoestes with blue background

Polka Dot Plant Leaves Curling

If the leaves on your polka dot plant are curling, then it is receiving too much direct sunlight. It's time to move them to a shady spot on your patio, deck, or yard. If your plant is indoors, you can move it farther away from the window.

Why Is My Pink Polka Dot Plant Wilting?

A polka dot plant will wilt if you allow the soil to become too dry. You can water the wilting plant and it should revive fairly quickly.

Polka Dot Plant Drooping

This plant will droop easily if it gets thirsty. The lower leaves will turn yellow if you over water.

How Do You Bring a Droopy Plant Back to Life?

When you polka dot plant droops, it is most likely because it needs watering. Don't over water, but give it enough of a drink to moisten the soil. You can mist the leaves between each watering.

How Often Should I Water My Polka Dot Plant?

You don't want to over water your plant. You should allow the soil to dry out between watering. You should water your plant so that the soil is moist to the touch. You can test the soil moisture by inserting your forefinger into the soil. The soil should be moist about one-inch deep into the soil. If it is dry, then you need to water your plant.

Man watering garden

Do Polka Dot Plants Come Back Every Year?

Polka dot plants are considered annuals. If you are growing indoors, your plant will continue to grow until it becomes dormant, which is generally the mark of end of life stage. You can expect a houseplant to survive around two years. An outdoor garden plant will be seasonal but generally is self-seeding if you allow the flowering heads to go to seed. If you trim the flower stems back, the plant most likely won't have time to seed itself.

How to Tell When Your Polka Dot Plant Goes Dormant

It is extremely easy to tell when your polka dot plant is going dormant. The first sign of flower shoots rising between the leaves is your telltale marker. You can thwart dormancy by pinching back the bud. This is just a temporary stay since your plant will eventually expend its energy once more to flower. After the flower is spent, your plant won't live much longer.

How Do I Keep My Polka Dot Plant Bushy?

To keep your polka dot plant from growing leggy stems, you want to pinch it back. You should do this regularly to prevent it from growing long spindly legs.

Hypoestes plant in front of white wooden background

Can I Propagate My Polka Dot Plants?

You can easily propagate your polka dot plants by taking stem cuttings. You want around a 5"-6" long stem. You can place the cut stem in a vase of water or jar to allow it to root. You can simply plant the stem in a pot of soil or in your garden (remember to water regularly). Another method of propagation is to use a rooting hormone for quicker results. Just dip the cut end into the rooting hormone and plant it in moist soil. It will take about 7-10 days for the roots to sprout.

How to Grow Polka Dot Plants From Seeds

You can have more plants for less money when you grow polka dot plants from seeds. You can either plant the seeds in a spring flower bed or indoors under a grow light. Make sure you keep the soil moist, but not over watered. Come spring, you can transplant the seedlings to your garden or garden containers/flowerpots.

Enemies of Polka Dot Plants

Plant pests and diseases are more of a threat to outdoor plants, although they can find their way indoors, often through contaminated soil. If you're repotting or growing from seed, make sure you use fresh new soil and don't recycle last year's soil by emptying the pots of spent polka dot plants.

Common Pests of Polka Dot Plants

The most common pest you'll find when battling insect infestations are aphids, whiteflies, scale, and mealy bugs. Holes in leaves are caused by insects munching on them. Discolored leaves are often a sign of insects attacking a plant. Indoor plants can be susceptible to insects, depending on the condition of your home. For instance, older homes may have cracks and crevices, windows that aren't sealed properly, and other old age signs that allow bugs entry, whereas newer construction has a tighter envelope.

Disease Risks for Polka Dot Plants

Polka dot plants are susceptible to most common garden diseases. Powdery mildew is the most common problem due to the plant developing wet feet. You can use an organic powdery mildew treatment or make your own. Using peat moss in your soil mix will help your soil to drain better and prevent powdery mildew.

Powdery mildew (podosphaera pannosa) in a garden

Polka Dot Plant Terrarium Favorite

The polka dot plant makes an ideal terrarium favorite and adds a touch of magic with its paint splattered look. The polka dot plant loves high humidity and finds a comfy home in a terrarium.

Are Polka Dot Plants Poisonous to Pets?

Polka Dot plants aren't listed as a poisonous plant and are non toxic. It's very unlikely your pet would have an interest in eating a polka dot plant. If your pet did decide to chow down, it might have a little tummy upset, but no more than it would with any other non-toxic plant.

Tips for Growing a Polka Dot Plant for Easy Care

Polka dot plants are easy to grow. Once you understand the growing requirements for a polka dot plant, you can rest assured you'll exhibit a green thumb for this plant.

Easy Polka Dot Plant Care and Growing Tips