When I brought home my little polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) from Home Depot, I was disappointed to find out it doesn’t live very long. Individual plants may only live for two years! But I didn’t let that stop me from enjoying its gorgeous foliage – and neither should you!
Polka dot plant’s beautifully variegated leaves look like they’ve been splattered with white, red, or pink paint, with random green veins and polka dots throughout. I always keep one of these in my houseplant collection because I can’t get enough of its beautiful leaves.
In this post, I’ll cover all aspects of polka dot plant indoor care – including how to keep your plant happy and thriving for its full lifespan.
Polka Dot Plant Indoor Care
Polka dot plant is easy to grow and performs well its first year with basic care. It will grow into a small bush, about 2 feet (60 cm) in height. But in its second year, it may try to flower. If it succeeds, it will deteriorate rapidly and either go dormant or die.
You can easily get two years of growth and enjoyment from this pretty little plant, but don’t expect anything more. It’s possible to keep it going a few weeks longer if you pinch back flower spikes when they appear, but it will eventually reach its natural end.
In the meantime, here are some basic care guidelines to keep your polka dot plant happy while its around:
- WATER: Moderate, when the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) soil dries out
- HUMIDITY: Moderate
- FEEDING: Every 2 weeks, dilute to half strength
- LIGHT: Bright, filtered light (but not direct sun)
- TEMPERATURE: 60 – 80 degrees F (15 – 27 degrees C)
- SAFETY: Non-toxic for pets and humans
- DIFFICULTY: Easy
Keep reading for more in-depth information on caring for polka dot plant indoors, including potting, propagation, maintenance, troubleshooting and more.
Polka dot plant needs moderate water. For the best results, water any time the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) becomes dry to the touch. Insert your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle to check soil moisture. If it feels moist, wait until the next day and check again. If it feels dry, water.
Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to yellowing leaves and even death. While polka dot plant can tolerate consistent moisture, soil that becomes wet or soggy can quickly destroy the foliage and kill the plant.
Moderate humidity is fine for polka dot plant. Either spray a few times a week with a water bottle filled with room temperature water, place the plant on a watertight humidity tray, or place a high-quality houseplant humidifier in the room near your polka dot plant.
A humidifier is probably not necessary in most cases, unless the air in your home is very dry. I always keep a humidifier going near my houseplants since I live in the desert. But in more humid locations, misting a few times a week will probably be enough.
Feed your polka dot plant with any balanced houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength once every two weeks. I use Jack’s All-Purpose Fertilizer, but any all-purpose food will work. (Read my review of Jack’s Fertilizer to see why I love it so much.)
One of the most important aspects of polka dot plant indoor care is providing high light. This plant needs bright light to produce the most colorful foliage. The ideal location is in a west- or south-facing window. If the sun is too hot, filter the light with a sheer curtain.
Alternatively, you can grow polka dot plant under artificial plant lights for 8 – 12 hours a day. I’m currently growing mine under this plant light from Amazon. My plants LOVE it! They’re producing more foliage, and polka dot plant especially is becoming really colorful.
You can also grow polka dot plant outdoors in summer, and indoors as a houseplant year-round. If you place it outdoors, make sure it’s in a bright but shady area that doesn’t receive any direct sunlight. Too much light will burn the leaves and cause them to curl inward or turn brown.
Polka dot plant prefers temperatures of 70 to 80 degrees F (21 to 27 degrees C) during the daytime, and between 60 to 70 degrees (15 to 21 degrees C) at night. Never allow temperatures to drop below 60 degrees F (15 degrees C) for long periods.
Another important part of polka dot plant indoor care is re-potting. Shift to a slightly larger container just after purchasing. Then, re-pot again in mid-summer if your plant becomes root bound. Move to a container 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter larger than the current pot.
Use any high-quality potting soil formulated for houseplants. My favorite is this one by Happy Frog because it contains mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial soil microbes, but any good potting mix you like will work fine. Just make sure it’s well-draining.
Polka Dot Plant Propagation
Polka dot plant is easy to propagate from seed. You can also propagate from stem cuttings, but they are very slow to root (even when using rooting powder). It’s probably easiest to just purchase new healthy plants once your current ones die after flowering. That’s what I do!
Polka dot plant doesn’t need much maintenance besides occasional pruning. If you’re wondering how to prune polka dot plant, it’s incredibly easy. Just pinch off tips of stems that grow more than 10 inches (25 cm) long. This encourages bushier growth and side branching.
When flowers spikes appear in late winter, you can pinch them off before they produce blooms to keep the plant alive longer. Once polka dot plant flowers, it begins to decline and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. So enjoy the flowers and the remaining foliage while you can!
Here are some common problems houseplant growers often encounter when growing polka dot plant indoors (and solutions on how to fix them).
- Leaves Turning Green – If your polka dot plant leaves are turning green, it’s not receiving enough bright light. Place it in an east- or west-facing window, or a south-facing window filtered by sheer curtains. If you don’t have adequate light indoors, grow under artificial plant lights for 8 – 12 hours per day. Without enough light, leaves gradually turn green.
- Leaf Tips Turning Brown – If your polka dot plant leaf tips are turning brown, this indicates it’s receiving too much sunlight. The plant likes bright, indirect light, but never direct sun. Move to a shadier location or hang sheer, gauzy curtains in the window to filter the light.
- Leaves Turn Yellow and Drop Off – If your polka dot plant leaves are turning yellow and dropping off, this is most likely due to overwatering. Only water when the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) of the potting medium becomes dry. If you’re plant is severely overwatered, re-pot in well-draining potting soil. See my post on how to fix overwatered plants for more help.
- Leaves Drop Off Without Turning Yellow – This is typically caused by stress due to underwatering. Pinch off any leggy stems, and increase the frequency of watering. New stems will begin to emerge within a few weeks. If your plant is severely underwatered, see my post on how to revive underwatered plants for more help.
Here are some frequently asked questions related to polka dot plant indoor care that you might find helpful (plus my answers to them).
How Much Sun Do Polka Dot Plants Need?
Polka dot plants need at bright, indirect light or filtered sunlight to thrive. Direct sun for more than an hour a day will stress plants, resulting in dry leaves that curl inward. The best location for a polka dot plant is in a west- or south-facing window. If they receive more than an hour or direct sun, filter light by hanging a sheer curtain.
Can Polka Dot Plants Grow Inside?
Yes, polka dot plants thrive as indoor houseplants year round – provided they have enough bright light and water. Many people grow polka dot plant outside during the summer months and as a houseplant for the rest of the year.
How Often Do I Water a Polka Dot Plant?
Water your polka dot plant any time the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) of soil becomes dry. Test soil moisture daily by inserting your finger into the soil to a depth of 1 inch (2.5 cm). If the soil feels dry, water thoroughly. If the soil feels moist, check again the next day.
Where to Buy Polka Dot Plant
Polka dot plant is widely available at local nurseries and plant centers. I bought mine at Home Depot in early March and it was extremely healthy. However, plant availability can always vary depending on your location and the time of year.
If you can’t find one locally and you really want to grow this beautiful foliage plant, I recommend checking on Etsy. I love buying my hard-to-find houseplants on Etsy. It’s a way to support small growers, who tend to have better quality plants than large online nurseries.
Click here to check the current Etsy listings for polka dot plant, and check out all the different colors and varieties you might not be able to find locally. Good luck and happy growing!