Hypoestes Phyllostachya

close up picture of the hypoestes

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Hypoestes is the scientific name for the Polka Dot Plant, another name for it is Freckle Face. This plant is one of the quirkier favorites among homeowners and gardeners. This plant is diverse in its uses. Some use it as a singular houseplant, others like it for adding accents to garden beds outdoors.  

More About the Hypoestes

This is one of over 100 species within this genus. The genus gets its name from the Greek word "hypo” meaning under, and "estia” meaning a house for flowers surrounded by leaves. It's originally from Madagascar but has spread worldwide. This plant gets its name from the polka dots that are spread across its broad leaves. The most common version has green leaves with pink spots, but there are many different types.

There's Carmina, which has bright red spots on the leaves. Confetti is smaller in size and has a variety of colors on their leaves, resembling confetti. Pink Brocade has pink spots, along with Pink Dot. Purpuriana has purplish leaves. Splash has large spots of colors in pink, white, or red. Wit has marbled white leaves.

This plant does actually produce small purple flowers, but they are insignificant compared to the leaves, so they are often clipped off.

hypoestes leaf close up

9 Ways to Care for a Hypoestes

1. Give It the Right Amount of Light

This plant loves bright indirect light. It's very sensitive to how much light it takes in. Too much or too little light will cause the colors on the leaves to fade. If you notice that your plant's leaves are curling this could be a sign of too much sun, same goes for brown spots. Try moving it to a shadier spot with indirect sun.

2. Giving It Enough Water

You need to water this plant well and then wait until around 25 percent of the soil is dry before watering again. Overwatering can cause root rot. If you notice that the leaves of your plant droop, they may perk up after a little bit of water.

3. Picking the Right Soil

This plant likes a rich airy peat based soil that drains well.

4. What to Feed It and How Often

This plant grows fast, so you should feed it monthly with basic liquid fertilizer at about half its strength during the spring and summer. In fall and winter, feed this plant every other month.

5. The Perfect Temperature and Humidity

This plant prefers temperatures around 75 degrees and grows best in high humidity.

6. How Much to Prune This Plant

You should prune this plant to prevent it from becoming leggy and thin looking. Leggy means that there is a lot of space between the stems and fewer leaves, making it look bare. This will make this plant look overall healthier and prettier. Also some people choose to trim off the flowers that may bloom on this plant because they aren't as interesting as the leaves and take the energy that can be used elsewhere.

hypoestes phyllostachya madagascar

7. Pests and How to Get Rid of Them

This plant can get infested with whiteflies, aphids, and mealybugs. You can use a green solution at about half of its strength to get rid of these pests.

8. Dealing with Diseases

Overwatering can cause powdery mildew and root rot. Powdery Mildew is a type of fungal disease that will appear on the leaves. It will look like a grayish white substance. You will need to use a fungicide or a home remedy of a few teaspoons of baking soda and one or two teaspoons of mineral oil with water.

Root rot is what happens when roots of a plant sit in water too long. The roots essentially drown and turn black and soft. They will no longer absorb water. To cure this, you need to drain the soil, cut out any of the affected roots, and then replant in fresh soil.

polka dot plant in a pot

9. How to Propagate This Plant

Propagation means to create more plants from the original. You can do this with this plant by leaf cuttings. You cut off some of the leaves and dip the ends in a rooting hormone, and then put it in some peat moss. You should keep it moist until it creates roots, and then you treat it like a mature plant.

Final Thoughts on the Hypoestes

The Hypoestes is not known for its long lifespan, in fact, many tosses this plant away when it goes dormant. They are relatively inexpensive to buy, so it's not like it will cost too much, but if you want something that'll last longer then you'll have to find another plant. Overall, this plant is a great way to get the beauty of a complicated plant with the ease of a plain houseplant.