How to Grow Hypoestes Phyllostachya (Polka Dot Plant) Indoors

Hypoestes Phyllostachya on a windowsill

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

The polka dot plant is a lively and beautiful little plant with brightly spotted leaves that stand out especially well against other plants. Put them in a mass of ferns or ivies, and their colors will stand out in bright contrast.

The most common polka dot plant on the market is the pink polka dot, but in recent years growers have introduced new varieties in colors such as white or red. They've also developed plants with deeper colors and brighter contrast, so your plants will pop even more.

Polka dot plants are not especially difficult to grow, but their main drawback is their relatively short lifespan. After flowering, the plant will likely become dormant or die outright. As a result, it's best to buy new ones every spring or attempt to propagate a new plant. Be warned: propagation isn't easy or very fast.

overhead shot of a hypoestes phyllostachya
The Spruce / Leticia Almeida 
closeup of a hypoestes phyllostachya
The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Growing Conditions

  • Light: Bright light is best. Plants grown in poor light conditions are likely to have solid green leaves, which defeats the purpose of this neat little plant. If your plant isn't colorful enough, consider some direct sunlight, which should deepen the colors.
  • Water: Keep the soil moist in the summer growing season and reduce watering in the winter. If your plant flowers and then goes into a dormant phase, reduce water significantly and resume regular watering only after the new growth emerges. This plant prefers humid conditions, so you can mist its leaves or place its pot on a tray of pebbles filled with water to maintain high humidity.
  • Fertilizer: During the growing season, feed weekly with a weak liquid fertilizer that includes micro utrients and encourages blooming.
  • Soil: A light, fast-draining potting soil is perfect. You can use fortified soils.

Propagation of Polka Dot Plants

Polka dot plants can be grown either from seed or cuttings. If you are starting from seeds, sow the seeds indoors in early spring under lights and pinch out the weaker seedlings. Provide them with ample moisture and bright light to develop the best color. You can also start them from stem tip cuttings, but this perhaps isn't the best option. They are slow to root, so use rooting hormone, and be patient.

Repot the plants in the spring or when they become root-bound. In reality, most hypoestes will not live much beyond a year or two before they flower, and many people don't bother to keep the plants after they've bloomed and slipped into their dormant phase. If the plant stops growing in mid-summer, it's probably root-bound, so you can go ahead and repot.

Varieties of Hypoestes Phyllostachya

The basic species, H. phyllostachya, is also sometimes labeled H. sanguinolenta and called the freckle face. Both are the same plant. Within the basic species, there are many varieties; all are bred for their leaf coloration.

The varieties 'Splash' and 'Confetti' are the standards, but even within these two main varieties, there is significant variation in the final leaf coloration. Leaves range from pink-speckled to red-speckled with red leaf bases.

PA169-4 ''''PINK SPLASH'''', POLKA-DOT PLANT, HYPOESTES PHYLLOSTACHYA. ACANTHACEAE. H
Pink Splash polka dot plant. David Q. Cavagnaro / Getty Images

Grower's Tips

These are not especially challenging plants to grow and will thrive in a grouping of other plants. They do appreciate occasional misting to raise the ambient humidity, and you should pinch off-shoots that reach 15" inches or so. This will encourage bushiness and keep the plant in a more manageable form. Left unpruned, the plant will grow into a small, loose shrub of about two feet.

When it does flower, the flowers are insignificant lavender blooms that are produced from spikes. Pinch these off to prolong the plant's vitality, as flowering often seems to mark the beginning of the end for these plants.

Lastly, watch out for scale, whitefly, and aphids on these plants and treat at the very first sign of infestation.