Polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) can be tricky to keep happy – especially in its second year. If it happens to flower, it will deteriorate rapidly afterward and either go dormant or die. Although its lifespan is around two years, there are ways to keep it going a bit longer. Keep reading to find out how you can extend the life of this beautiful houseplant.
So, why is your polka dot plant dying? Either it has flowered and started to decline after blooming (usually after 1 – 2 years), or the cause is environmental – such as not receiving enough sunlight, low temperatures, or not getting enough water.
Let’s take a closer look at what might be causing your polka dot plant to decline and how you can fix the problem (at least in most cases).
Decline After Blooming
Unfortunately, polka dot plant is not long-lived, even as a houseplant. It has a lifespan of about two years. After blooming, it will quickly deteriorate and there’s not much you can do to stop it. This is just the nature of this plant.
Once you notice the 6-inch long flower spikes appearing, the plant is on a downhill slide. These flower spikes typically appear in late winter in plants that are at least a year old. But there are ways you can prolong its life a little while longer.
SOLUTION: Pinch off flower spikes as soon as they appear to prevent the plant from flowering. This will not completely stop the ultimate decline. But it will allow the plant to live a few more weeks – maybe even a few more months if you’re lucky.
Too Little Sunlight
Another reason for your polka dot plant dying is that it’s receiving too little sunlight. In order to thrive, it requires bright light or filtered sun from a south- or west-facing window. This is not a low-light plant, and even the light from an east-facing window may be too little.
If polka dot plant doesn’t get enough light, its spotted leaves will eventually turn completely green, losing their attractive pattern. If you notice the leaves beginning to fade toward green, this is a good indication that the light is not bright enough in the current location.
SOLUTION: Place the plant in a brighter location, such as a south- or west-facing window. If you don’t have access to a bright window, consider supplementing with an artificial plant light. I recently started using this one and it works wonders for my plants that need a little extra light.
If the temperature drops too low or rises too high for too long, you may notice your polka dot plant dying. It can’t tolerate temperatures under 65 degrees F (18 degrees C) or temperatures above 80 degrees F (26 degrees C) for very long.
If you suspect temperature might be the reason your polka dot plant is declining, keep an eye on temperatures at night, when they tend to drop lower, and during the day on hot days. Don’t go on vacation and forget to turn the heater (or air conditioning) on while you’re gone.
SOLUTION: Check the room temperature and make sure it stays between 65 and 80 degrees F (18 and 26 degrees C) at all times. Move your plant away from any drafts caused by opening doors and blasts of heat from heating vents or wood stoves. Always keep your heating on at least 65 during the winter and cooling on at least 80 during summer.
(This is a good rule of thumb to keep all your houseplants happy.)
Not Enough Water
Polka dot plant will die if you don’t provide enough water. It requires a moderate amount of water to keep the soil slightly moist at all times. Under-watering is one of the most common reasons for dying houseplants.
High humidity levels are also needed for polka dot plant to thrive. To raise humidity near the plant, mist every day with a spray bottle filled with lukewarm water set to the mist setting. You can also place the plant on a homemade humidity tray or place a high-quality humidifier in the room.
SOLUTION: Water your polka dot plant any time the top 1-inch of soil becomes dry. To test for soil moisture, insert your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle. If the soil feels dry, water your plant thoroughly (but never allow it to stand in water, avoid over-watering).
Too Much Water
Just like under-watering, over-watering is also a common reason for polka dot plant dying. Sometimes when we try to compensate for not watering enough previously, we end up giving the plant too much water. But it cannot tolerate standing in water or soggy soil.
See my post on how to tell if your plant is overwatered or underwatered for more guidance on this topic. But in general, if the soil feels wet or soggy and the plant is wilting, it might be suffering from being over-watered.
SOLUTION: Water only when the top 1 inch of soil feels dry when you insert your finger into the soil. If the soil still feels moist, do not water yet. Check your plant every day to see if it needs to be watered until you’re familiar with its needs.
If you suspect you have over- or under-watered your polka dot plant, see these posts:
Why Is Your Polka Dot Plant Dying?
If your plant is at least a year old and has produced flower spikes, it is most likely dying due to reaching the end of its life cycle. As I discussed above, polka dot plant only lives for around two years even if you take the best possible care of it.
If your plant is younger than a year old, it is most likely dying due to environmental factors. The most common include too little sunlight, extreme temperatures, and too much or too little moisture. Follow the guidelines above for fixing these issues.
Following are some commonly asked questions related to dying polka dot plants that you might helpful (and my answers to them).
Why is my Polka Dot Plant Turning Brown? If polka dot plant gets too much light, the leaf tips will turn brown. For the best results, make sure your plant receives bright, indirect light only – not direct sunlight, which can burn the leaves.
Why are my Polka Dot Plant Leaves Turning Yellow? Over-watering causes polka dot plant leaves to turn yellow and drop off. Reduce watering, and consider re-potting your plant in well-draining potting soil to improve drainage. Make sure the pot you use has drainage holes in the bottom.
Why is My Pink Polka Dot Plant Fading? Plants with colorful or variegated foliage, like polka dot plant, sometimes begin to lose their bright color when they receive too little sunlight. They may begin to revert back to plain green, or just fade and turn pale in color. Fix this problem by increasing sunlight. Move the plant to a brighter location or supplement with artificial lights.