How to Grow and Care for Purple Waffle Plant (Red Ivy)

Purple waffle plant with gray-green and veined leaves next to pebble stones

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

The purple waffle plant, also known as red ivy, is a tropical perennial with a prostrate, spreading growth habit and beautiful oval leaves with gray-green tops and purple bottom surfaces. The tiny white flowers that appear in summer are attractive but secondary to the beautiful foliage. Purple waffle plant can be grown as a garden perennial in frost-free climates, but elsewhere it is usually grown as an annual in garden beds or in containers. It also makes an excellent indoor houseplant, since it is known for having excellent air-purifying properties. Normally planted from nursery starts in the spring, purple waffle plant has a relatively slow growth rate. Outdoor plants rarely need any pruning, but some annual trimming may be helpful for indoor houseplants.

Common Name Purple waffle plant, red ivy
Botanical Name Hemigraphis alternata
Plant Type Tender perennial, annual
Mature Size 6 in. tall, 8 in. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial 
Soil Type Moist
Soil pH Slightly acidic to neutral (6.1—6.9)
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color White (flowers are insignificant)
Hardiness Zones 10 to 11 (USDA)
Native Area Asia
2:40

Watch Now: How to Grow a Purple Waffle Plant (Red Ivy)

Purple Waffle Plant Care

Although exotic in appearance, purple waffle plant is surprisingly 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 a rich, humusy soil, which you may supplement with monthly fertilizer as necessary. The purple waffle plant is at home in the garden as a perennial groundcover in warm regions, as a garden annual in cold-winder climates, or in a window as a houseplant everywhere. In regions where it is perennial, purple waffle plant gradually spreads by rooting itself at leaf nodes. In zones where it grows as an annual, these plants remain modest in size.

Purple waffle plants are excellent specimens for the patio container or hanging basket. When planted in combination with other tropical plants, they serve the function of a trailing plant or "spiller." Paired with a tall specimen such as ti plant, the purple waffle plant will nicely cover the soil.

Purple waffle plant with grey-green and purple leaves with deep puckering closeup

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Purple waffle plant with grey-green leaves with purple tips and deep puckering closeup

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Purple waffle plant with purple underside held up next grey-green leaves

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Purple Waffle Plant Flower
Steph's Green Space

Light

The purple waffle plant does best in partial sun outdoor or in bright indirect light indoors. Direct sun can cause the edges of leaves to scorch or the color to bleach, and the cool metallic sheen of the leaves may also fade in direct sun. But without enough light, the plant may lose its rich purple color. Purple waffle plants will also thrive under artificial lights.

Soil

If planting purple waffle plant as an outdoor perennial or annual, give them moist soil, and add compost or leaf mold to lighten and enrich the soil. An all-purpose potting mix or commercial potting soil is adequate for purple waffle plants grown as houseplants

Water

If the purple waffle plant is moist, it's happy. Moist, well-drained soil is the goal. The plants don't need to be soaking to the point of runoff. Instead, think of a wrung-out sponge and irrigate the plants to achieve this level of moisture. If your environment is exceedingly dry or you can't ensure regular irrigation or 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 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Increase the humidity around your waffle plants by misting the plants or growing them in a tray full of pebbles and water. A steamy bathroom with a window serves as an excellent plant spa for sickly waffle plants that have spent one too many days by the heater.

Fertilizer

In their native habitat, purple waffle plants grow in the understory of jungle areas rich in nutrients from decaying leaves. 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 nitrogen, phosphate, and potash diet for healthy growth. Too much feeding, however, can make the plant leggy and spindly, rather than bushy and full.

Types of Purple Waffle Plant

There are several cultivars of H. alternata to consider:

  • 'Belgian Waffle': This cultivar has foliage with green and cream edges on the top and purple undersides.
  • 'Red Flame Ivy': This cultivar reverses the color pattern of the leaves—the topsides that are deep purple and undersides that are greenish-gray.
  • 'Snow White': This cultivar has green topsides dappled with white and pink and magenta undersides.

Pruning

In warm weather zones where it is grown as a perennial garden plant, there is the potential for purple waffle plant to spread rather aggressively. They can easily be kept in check simply by digging up the offshoots that root themselves around the main plant. Such pruning is not necessary in colder regions where the plant is being grown as an annual.

Potted plants or indoor houseplants can be kept pushing by pinching off the stems just above a leaf node. This prompts additional offshoots from the point of pinching.

Propagating Purple Waffle Plant

Purple waffle plants have a spreading growth habit, with new roots forming at each growth node as it spreads. Plants that spread in this way are easy to propagate, giving you an unlimited number of plants.

  1. Use a clean, sharp pair of hand pruning shears 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.
  2. Plant this cutting in a container of moist potting soil, and keep it consistently damp until you see new growth from your cutting. This indicates that the cutting has rooted and can be transplanted to a permanent container or garden location.

How to Grow Purple Waffle Plant From Seed

These plants are very easy to propagate by stem cuttings, so seed propagation is not common. The flowers are very small, and the seeds are hard to collect and plant.

Potting and Repotting Purple Waffle Plant

Purple waffle plant is best potted in a standard commercial potting mix, and any kind of container will do. It has a slow to moderate growth rate, and you won't need to repot often. if your plant is healthy, you will need to repot it when you notice roots coming out of the drainage holes—usually no more than every four or five years. 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 bottom of the container. Use a butter knife to coax the rootball away from the container sides if it's particularly wedged in place. Use good quality potting soil to fill in the additional space in the new, larger container.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Most of the common problems that occur with purple waffle plants occur when they are potted as indoor plants, and they are similar to those that plague many houseplants. Scale and whiteflies are the most common pests. Insecticidal soaps are the best way to treat these insects in a non-toxic way. Spray the tops and bottoms of the leaves every seven days until the infestation disappears.

Root rot is the most common disease, which usually occurs when a plant is watered too much or is growing in a potting soil that retains too much moisture.

How to Get Purple Waffle Plant to Bloom

The flowers on purple waffle plant are indistinct, so few people worry when a plant fails to bloom. Should you want the plant to blossom, however, a more frequent feeding schedule may help. But be aware that too much feeding often leads to spindly, leggy growth, which detracts from the plant's overall attractiveness.

Common Problems With Purple Waffle Plant

This is a fairly carefree plant, and other than some common indoor pests (see above), its problems are few.

Plants Are Spindly

Purple waffle plants that are excessively spindly and leggy may have been overfed or underpruned. Pinching off the stem tips will help force the plant to branch out and become bushier. And make sure not to overfeed the plants, as this can also stimulate the plant into long but sparse growth. A plant that is overfed may also show white spots on the leaves.

Leaves Are Yellow

Although not a common disease, downy mildew can affect purple waffle plants, and one symptom is yellowing, mottled leaves, The undersides of the leaves may show dark spots.

If you catch it early on, downy mildew can be stopped by spray fungicides, but with a severe infestation, you are better off discarding the plant.

FAQ
  • Does a purple waffle plant really clean the air?

    Studies have shown that purple waffle plant does indeed remove some volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air, partly because of the ripple leaf texture that offers more leaf surface. This plant can filter out pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde, ammonia, and carbon dioxide in measurable, significant ways.

  • Are there other Hemigraphis species I can grow?

    H. alternata is the most commonly grown species in this genus, but there is at least one other species you may be able to find at garden centers specializing in exotic houseplants. H. reptans (dragon's tongue). It has very narrow leaves and is often used in terrariums.

  • Where should I place a potted purple waffle plant in my house?

    When used as a houseplant, a purple waffle plant likes bright but indirect light and a spot that is protected from drafts. The foliage should not be touched by too much direct sunlight, which can bleach the leaves.