Polka Dot Plants Guide: How to Grow & Care For “Hypoestes Phyllostachya”

Read our complete guide to the Polka Dot plant for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for planting and caring for Polka Dot Plants
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The polka dot plant, otherwise known as the “freckle face,” is a short-statured houseplant that’s cute and easy to maintain. They come in a few varieties, with different color patterns and variegation in the leaves.

Some hybrids come with white or red spotting in the leaves, giving the plant its characteristic look. Overall, they’re an attractive and easy-growing houseplant that’s a great choice for any home.

The polka dot plant grows well indoors, and the roots system of the plant establishes itself quickly, regardless of the change in its environment. The plants do get a bit leggy if you grow them in big pots outdoors on the patio. However, with a bit of pruning, it’s possible to hold them back.

Leggy plants may also start to produce purple flower spikes. The flowers aren’t very attractive, and the plant usually dies off after it completes the flowering cycle. If you want to keep your plant growing, pinch off the flower spikes before they have a chance to sap the energy from the rest of the plant.

This guide will give you everything you need to know about growing polka dot plants.

What Lighting Conditions Are Best for Polka Dot Plants?

When positioning the plant in your home, make sure you place the pot in an area that gets bright indirect sunlight. Don’t put the polka dot in the direct sunlight, as the powerful UV rays will burn the leaves. A west or south-facing window provides the ideal lighting environment.

For those gardeners growing their polka dots outdoors, we recommend using a larger pot on a shaded balcony or patio. Make sure you keep them out of the direct sunlight, or the leaves will scorch.

If you leave your polka in a room without adequate sunlight, the color of the leaves will start to fade. You might also notice that you lose the variegation in the leaves, and they turn light green.

Polka Dot Plant
Polka Dot Plant

Do Polka Dot Plants Need Humidity?

Polka dot plants grow well in environments offering a minimum relative humidity of 50%. If you live in drier regions of the United States, create a micro-climate for your polkas by placing the pot on a drip tray. Leave a layer of stones or pebbles on the bottom of the tray, and balance the pot on top.

Add water to the drip tray, but make sure the water level doesn’t reach the base of the plant. As the water evaporates from the tray, it will provide your polka with the humidity it needs to grow its characteristic fleshy leaves.

Grouping several polka dot plants around each other also help to increase the relative humidity, creating a micro-climate for your polkas.

These plants thrive in a conservatory, greenhouse, or terrarium. A great choice for smaller plants is to put them in your bathroom. The heat and mist from a hot bath or shower will provide the polka with all the moisture it needs from the air.

Hypoestes Splash Foliage Plant Seed Mix, From Amazon

How Do I Water Polka Dot Plants?

Polka dot plants enjoy moist, airy soil. However, let your soil dry out between waterings. These plants don’t enjoy having soggy roots for extended periods. Letting the roots get waterlogged results in the growth of bacterial and fungal diseases that kill the plant.

However, don’t let the soil dry out completely between waterings. Dry soil results in curling foliage that start to turn brown at the tips and wilt.

Keep the soil moist, and make sure you don’t overwater. Fortunately, these are hardy plants, and they recover quickly from maltreatment with watering. However, make sure you don’t overwater, as root rot is a serious concern.

How Do I Stop My Polka Dot Plant from Getting Leggy?

Some gardeners might decide to plant their polka dot plant outdoors on the patio. Typically, outdoor plants receive bigger pots. If you allow the plant to get too big, it starts to turn leggy.

Fortunately, you can stop this from happening by pruning the plant during the growing season. Pinch off the tips of the plant, and control its height before it gets out of hand. Pinching the plant makes the polka bushy, producing an eye-pleasing effect for your patio.

Polka Dot plants work indoors or outside
Polka Dot plants work indoors or outside

What are the Ideal Temperature Conditions for Polka Dot Plants?

Polka dot plants enjoy moderate temperatures in the home. The ideal temperature range is between 65-80°F, which makes them suitable for the southern regions of the United States.

If you have plants outdoors on the patio, and temperatures drop below 55°F at night, bring your plant indoors to prevent it from freezing in the cold conditions.

Polka dot plants are sensitive to the cold, and they won’t last very long, especially if frost lands on them. Keep your polka undercover, and if you live in an area with moderate winters, wrap burlap around the plant at night before it gets cold.

When Do I Fertilize My Polka Dot Plants?

Polka dot plants only require fertilizing after they establish a root system. If you’re buying a young plant, give it a few weeks to a month to settle in the growing medium after transplanting. After the roots settle, you can feed your polka with a liquid, all-purpose fertilizer product.

Make sure you dilute the fertilizer by half before applying. Feed your plant every two weeks from April through to September. Don’t feed the plant during the winter; give it time to rest.

Start feeding again in the early spring to encourage growth and keep the roots healthy. Remember, don’t overwater the plant.

You can also fill a spray bottle for foliar feeding. Foliar feeding enhances the strength and color of the leaves in your polka, providing them with a vibrant look.

Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed All Purpose Plant Food is Perfect

What Kind of Soil Conditions Suit Polka Dot Plants?

Choose a pot or container with plenty of drainage holes in the bottom. You can make some amendments to standard potting soil to improve drainage. Add a handful of perlite and peat moss to the soil to lighten up the soil, improve drainage, and provide air to the roots.

If you’re planting your polka in a pot on the patio, add a few handfuls of mulch to the soil throughout the growing season. The mulch helps to keep the soil moist, preventing it from drying out between watering. Bark chips are also effective at limiting evaporation.

Use a high-quality potting mix, and then add your amendments. Perlite helps to provide more air to the roots of the plant, and peat also keeps the soil feeling loamy and airy.

Hypoestes Phyllostachya
Pink variety of Hypoestes Phyllostachya

How Do I Propagate Polka Dot Plants?

If you want a few polka dot plants in your home, then you have a few choices when sourcing them. Nurseries sell mature and juvenile polkas that require little maintenance as they have established root systems.

It’s also possible to grow polka dot plants from seed without much effort. The seeds germinate readily and are ready for planting in a few weeks.

If you’re growing from seed, then select a small container and fill it with potting soil. Leave the seeds on the surface of the soil, and mist with a water spray bottle. Don’t cover the seeds, as a layer of soil will suffocate them.

Your seeds will germinate in a few days, and be mature enough for transplanting in 10 to 14-days. Prepare another pot with your soil mix, and then transplant the seedling.

Spray with your spray bottle, and don’t touch the plant for a few days. It takes the juvenile seedling a few months to establish a root system, and then it will start to take off.

The third method of growing polka dot plants is through propagating your existing polkas. The plants will start to produce new shoots around the base in the early spring through the early summer. Harvest these cuttings and then dip them in rooting hormone.

Plant the cuttings in the coil, and new roots should start to form in a week. Once the cuttings have a sturdy root system, transplant them to a bigger container.

What Are the Pests and Diseases Affecting Polka Dot Plants?

Polka dot plants are indoor houseplants. Therefore, they don’t experience very many problems with diseases and pests. Those gardeners that overwater their plants might have to deal with the occurrence of root rot.

Make sure the soil partially dries out between waterings, and you won’t have to deal with any bacterial or fungal infections.

Some polka dot plants might experience problems with spider mite. These pests look like tiny spiders the size of ants or smaller. They spin webs like real spiders, and you’ll notice them start to appear on the inside of the plant between the leaf stems.

If you notice a spider mite infestation, treat your polka dot plants with an organic pesticide like neem oil. Neem is an effective natural pest deterrent, and it’s available from many online retailers.

If you’re growing your polka indoors, take it outdoors when you spray it down. Some people may find neem oil slightly toxic, and breathing in aerosol vapors might cause an allergic reaction in some gardeners.


Hollie is a life-long gardener, having started helping her Dad work on their yard when she was just 5. Since then she has gone on to develop a passion for growing vegetables & fruit in her garden. She has an affinity with nature and loves to share her knowledge gained over a lifetime with readers online. Hollie has written for a number of publications and is now the resident garden blogger here at GardenBeast. Contact her at or follow on twitter

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