Do you prefer a houseplant with excellent air-purifying properties, or one with beautiful ornamental foliage all year? You don't have to decide if you cultivate a purple waffle plant. The Hemigraphis genus includes tropical Asian species that feature leaves that are grey or green on the top, and purple underneath. What makes the purple waffle plant so special (and also contributes to its air purifying abilities) is the deep puckering of each leaf, which doubles its surface area.
- Botanical Name: Hemigraphis alternata
- Common Name: Purple Waffle Plant
- Plant Type: Houseplant or annual
- Mature Size: Six inches tall and eight inches wide
- Sun Exposure: Medium to high light
- Soil Type: Rich and moist
- Soil pH: Slightly acidic to neutral
- Bloom Time: Summer
- Flower Color: White
- Hardiness Zones: 10, 11
- Native Area: India, Java, Malaysia
How to Grow Purple Waffle Plants
For a plant with such an exotic appearance, the purple waffle plant is easy to grow for beginners. The two key ingredients for success with this tropical plant are warm temperatures and regular watering. Purple waffle plants appreciate rich, humusy soil, which you may supplement with fertilizer as necessary. The purple waffle plant is at home in the garden as an annual, or in a window as a houseplant.
The purple waffle plant does best in bright indirect light indoors, or partial shade outdoors. Direct sun can cause the edges of leaves to scorch, and the cool metallic sheen of the leaves may also fade in direct sun. Purple waffle plants will also thrive under artificial lights.
An all-purpose potting mix or commercial potting soil is adequate for purple waffle plants. If you choose to plant them directly in the ground as a garden annual, add compost or leaf mold to lighten and enrich the soil.
If the purple waffle plant is moist, it's happy. That being said, the plants don't need to be soaking to the point of runoff. Think of a wrung-out sponge, and irrigate the plants to achieve this level of moisture. If your environment is exceedingly dry, or you aren't around enough to provide proper irrigation, add water absorbing crystals to the soil to help retain moisture.
Temperature and Humidity
Warm temperatures and high humidity conditions are a must for cultivating healthy purple waffle plants. Bring plants indoors before frost, or preferably, before temperatures dip below 40F. Increase the humidity around your waffle plants by misting the plants, or by growing them in a tray full of pebbles and water. A steamy bathroom with a window serves as a great plant spa for sickly waffle plants that have spent one too many days by the heat register.
In their native habitat, purple waffle plants are used to growing in the understory of jungle areas, which are rich in nutrients from decaying leaves. You must replicate these nutritious growing conditions with plant fertilizers to achieve a lush plant. A slow-release 6-12-6 houseplant fertilizer will provide a steady diet of nitrogen, phosphate, and potash for healthy growth.
Potting and Repotting
The purple waffle plant has a moderate to fast rate of growth, so if your plant is healthy, you will need to repot it when you notice roots coming out of the drainage holes. The stems of waffle plants break easily, so it's important not to pull the plant from its container by the stems. Instead, turn the plant over and gently tap on the container. Use a butter knife to coax the rootball away from the container sides if it's particularly wedged in place. Use a good quality potting soil to fill in the additional space in the new, larger container.
Propagating Purple Waffle Plants
Purple waffle plants have a spreading growth habit that includes forming roots at each node as it spreads. Plants that spread in this way are very easy to propagate, giving you and your friends an unlimited number of plants for the price of one.
- Use a clean, sharp pair of snips or scissors to cut the end of an actively growing stem, including at least one node. If you take a stem that lies close to the soil, roots may already be forming.
- Place this cutting in a container of moist potting soil, and keep it consistently damp until you see new growth from your cutting.
Toxicity of Purple Waffle Plants
According to the ASPCA, the purple waffle plant is non-toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. The plant is also non-toxic to humans. Purple waffle plants are not meant to be consumed, so don't allow curious pets or children to sample the leaves.
Being Grown in Containers
Purple waffle plants are excellent specimens for the patio container or hanging basket. When planted in combination with other tropical plants, they fill the niche of a trailing plant, and will cover the soil when paired with a tall plant like a ti plant.