If you’re looking for a small, brightly colored, cheery plant, a polka dot plant is the right one for you. A polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya), also called a Pink Splash plant, is a beautiful plant native to Madagascar, Southeast Asia, and South Africa. When planted outdoors, a polka dot plant can grow as tall as 12” (30c) and become a short, bushy shrub. It is usually grown as an annual in warm, temperate regions.
Indoors, as a houseplant, a polka dot plant usually comes in a 4″ or a 6″ pot and looks beautiful in dish gardens or in small, decorative containers. The oval, pointed, delicate, green leaves are covered in spots and splashes of red, rose, white, or light green which give the plant its nicknames – Pink Splash, Red Splash, or White Splash. Some new varieties of the polka dot plant have pink leaves with green patches. The brighter the light, the more vivid the colors in the leaves; but avoid putting the plant in direct afternoon sun. Other nicknames for a polka dot plant are Freckle Face plant, Measles plant, and Flamingo plant. A polka dot plant is a close relative of the Fittonia plant (Mosaic plant or Nerve plant), another houseplant with beautifully patterned leaves.
Polka dot plants need to be aggressively pruned and the growing tips frequently pinched; otherwise, the plant becomes thin and leggy looking. You can use the stem cuttings to propagate a new plant. Polka dot plants sometimes flower during the summer months. The small pale purple or pink flowers are insignificant in comparison to the brightly colored plant leaves. The flowers tend to slow down plant growth, so I recommend removing the blooms and their stems as soon as they appear.
A polka dot plant is not a poisonous plant and is not toxic to cats, dogs, or children. However, the attractive leaves are a temptation and often end up in mouths where they don’t belong. If possible, try to keep a polka dot plant out of reach.
A polka dot plant, Hypoestes, grows best in bright, indirect light. Too much light or too little light causes the colors in the beautiful leaves to fade.
Water a polka dot plant well and then allow the top 25% of the soil to dry out before watering again. Over-watering causes root rot. If the soil gets too dry and the leaves droop, a polka dot plant quickly perks up once it’s watered.
Feed a polka dot plant monthly in the spring and summers with a balanced, liquid fertilizer diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength. During the fall and winter, fertilize every other month.
Warm temperatures around 75°F (23.9°C) are necessary for a polk dot plant to thrive indoors.
Polka dot plants grow faster in high humidity, but are still happy in basic household humidity.
The flowers of a polka dot plant appear during the summer and are small and inconsequential compared to the bright, bold leaves. I recommend that you remove the flowers as soon as they appear so they don’t slow down leaf development.
The colorful leaves of a polka dot plant attract several plant pests: whiteflies, aphids, and mealy bugs. Use the “green solution”(recipe in the Glossary) diluted to ½ strength to get rid of these plant pests. You can also see a picture of each of and learn how to identify plant pests in the Glossary.
Over- watering a polka dot plant causes root rot. Poor air circulation and wet plant laves encourages powdery mildew. Read how to identify and treat powdery mildew in the Glossary of the website.
The best soil for a polka dot plant is a rich, loose, peat-based soil that drains well.
Polka dots plants are usually found in 4″ and 6″ pots. They have a very small root system and very rarely need a container larger than 6″.
It’s very important to aggressively prune a polka dot plant to prevent it from becoming leggy and thin looking. Pinching off the growing tips at the ends of the stems helps keep a polka dot plant bushy.
Polka dot plants usually have a limited life span; and the foliage often becomes leggy and the stems bare looking. You can easily start a whole new plant using stem tip cuttings. Read more about how to propagate a plant using stem tip cuttings in the Glossary of the website.
Poisonous Plant Info
A polka dot plant is a non-poisonous houseplant and safe to have around cats, dogs, and small children.
It sounds like you have over- watered your polka dot plant, and the plant has developed root rot. You can try cutting the plant all the way back, placing the plant in bright, indirect light, and letting the soil dry out thoroughly; a few roots may still be alive.
Sounds like your polka dot plant has whiteflies. Get some yellow sticky cards (you can read about these in the Glossary of the website) at your local plant shop or home improvement store. Put a small piece in each of your plants. The card will catch the adult insects that are flying around. Also, spray your plant with the ” green solution” at 1/2 strength to get the nymphs that are feeding on the leaves.
Your polka dot plants getting too much light and it’s causing the leaf color to fade. Move the plant than area with less light and the new leaves should be brightly covered again.
Thin and straggly polka dot plants should be pruned aggressively and placed in a bright area. Once new leaves start to appear, feed the plant monthly with a balanced plant food.