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Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya)

There is nothing quite as satisfying as picking out a new plant to add to an enclosure. In the world of vivariums, the opportunities are endless when it comes to vegetation. With so many varieties and types of plants to choose from, picking the right one can seem like a pretty difficult task.

However, when it comes to eye-catching beauty the Polka Dot Plant is the way to go. Its assortment of vivid colors will easily spark up even the dullest of tanks. In order to guarantee a healthy and vibrant look, there are a few things to keep in mind when caring for the plant.

This article will take a closer look at Hypoestes phyllostachya and provide a complete care guide to properly growing one.

Quick Stats:

Scientific Name: Hypoestes phyllostachya

Family: Acanthaceae

Common Names: Polka Dot Plant, Flamingo Plant, Freckle Face, Freckle Plant, Measles Plant

Habitat: Tropical

Height: 36in

PH Range: 5.6 to 6.5

Temperature: 50°F to 80°F

Lighting: Bright

What Is Polka Dot Plant?

Polka Dot Plant is a species of flowering plant with very colorful displays on their leaves. It is part of the Hypoestes genus and the Acanthaceae family. Acanthaceae is a family of dicotyledonous flowering plants containing almost 250 genera and about 2500 species.

Most of those plants are tropical herbs, shrubs, twining vines, or even epiphytes. Due to its growth, the Polka Dot Plant falls under the category of vining plants. A vine can be defined as any plant with a growth habit of creeping or trailing stems.

Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes Phyllostachya) Care Guide

Polka Dot Plant Facts

The scientific name for Polka Dot Plant is Hypoestes phyllostachya. The Latin-specific nickname Phyllostachya means “with a leaf spike”, which refers to the plant’s interesting display of color. This is considered to be the main species of the plants and is sometimes also labeled Hypoestes sanguinolenta.

Despite the different names, both are the same plant. However, it has also been referred to by a number of other names. The Flamingo plant, freckle face, freckle plant, and measles plant are all common names used to identify the Polka Dot Plant.

Much like all of its names, this flora is very versatile. Within the main species, there are many similar varieties of the plant. All of which are highly hybridized to produce different leaf colorations.

Description

The Polka Dot Plant is a very common houseplant used in vivariums that are desired for its unique foliage. As mentioned before, there are many different varieties of this plant. Although the overall shape of each type is pretty much the same, they differ in the coloration of the leaves.

Hypoestes phyllostachya has dark green leaves with the shape of an egg. Each leaf appears to have been splashed with color, which looks like polka dots or freckles.

Depending on the particular variety the plant will have either white, pink, green, or yellow-colored spots. Some will even have multiple colors on one single plant. The spots on the bottom side of the leaves are way lighter in color, often white.

Hypoestes phyllostachya can sometimes produce very small lilac flowers. After the flowers have bloomed, the plant usually goes dormant and does not produce much more foliage. Unless the flowers are removed in order to allow for more continual growth.

Unlike some other plants in the vine family, Polka dot plants are much smaller in size and will not crawl up nearby surfaces. Instead, they prefer to be in higher locations cascading their way down.  When growing outdoors, this plant can grow up to 3 feet tall, but the selections bought from stores don’t grow as much.

The more common varieties sold, can grow between 0.5 to 1.5 feet in height and 0.5 to 1 foot wide.

Habitat

Polka Dot Plant is a species of plant native to South Africa, East Asia, and Madagascar. Nonetheless, it is still cultivated all around the world. These plants are very gentle and sensitive to the cold and won’t grow well in temperatures below 55 degrees. It tolerates some cold temperatures as long as it’s above 60° F.

However, it grows best in warm regions. H. phyllostachya’s ideal temperature for optimal growth falls anywhere between 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

PH Preference

Hypoestes phyllostachya is not very particular when it comes to pH levels. Soil with a pH of 7 is considered neutral. A pH below 7 is acidic and a pH above 7 is alkaline. However, it tends to prefer and thrive better within a mildly acidic to a neutral PH of 5.6- 6.5.

Vivarium Type

This type of Ivy will do great in a variety of vivarium types. When trying to decide whether this plant is right for a specific enclosure, make sure to keep in mind the amount of available space. Polka Dot Plant should be placed in a vivarium that has enough amount of land areas away from constant water sources.

Some aquatic features are suitable for the plant as long as its leaves have enough room to grow above water. Here are recommended vivariums Hypoestes phyllostachya will do well in:

  • Paludariums – Half aquatic/ half terrain-based enclosure.
  • Terrariums – Fully terrain-based enclosures with little to no aquatic features.

Vivarium Placement

Polka Dot Plant is a terrestrial-based flora. Although it does require a moist and humid environment, it should never be left in a loamy substrate.

With that in mind, make sure that the plant is kept out of aquatic areas of an enclosure. These plants’ vivid and bold color patterns make them ideal to decorate and light up any empty areas of a vivarium.

Due to its tendency to become very leggy or bushy, most hobbyists will place the plant towards the top of the enclosure and allow it to cascade down. Hypoestes phyllostachya will immediately stand out and grab the attention of anyone looking at the tank.

Especially when placed among other all-green flora. Do remember that even though the Polka Dot Plant is not a very large plant, it still needs an adequate amount of space to grow.

Substrate

Hypoestes phyllostachya is not very complicated when it comes to the substrate. However, it does prefer rich moist soil. A well-draining organic terrarium soil would be the most ideal mix for the plant’s health.

When using a terrarium soil mix that is not very rich, it is a good idea to add some compost materials before planting your polka dot plant. Also as mentioned before, the soil’s Ph levels should be between 5.6 to 6.5 for optimal growth.

Lighting

Polka Dot Plant prefers bright light but does not like direct sunlight. This will make sure that the plant is able to keep its leaves looking vibrant. Also, preventing the plant from becoming too lanky. When grown without a sufficient amount of light, Hypoestes phyllostachya will grow leggy quickly and dull.

On the other hand, too much direct and bright light will also fade the foliage colors. When setting up lighting inside of a vivarium, full-spectrum lights will work extremely well.

Try to go for terrarium lighting that has cooler colors that resemble a partially shaded day. Avoid any type of light that has high levels of UV rays.

Buy Polka Dot Plant

When shopping for a possible Polka Dot Plant, expect a few key indicators you are buying the best quality plant. The plant should be slug free along with any other types of pests. In addition, the purchased plant should be green, vibrant, and healthy-looking. Try to avoid any browning or wilting leaves.

Those are usually signs of poor health and could make it harder for the plant to survive. Click the image below to find out more about the current price and other relative info on Hypoestes phyllostachya:

Polka Dot Plant Care and Propagation

Hypoestes phyllostachya is a plant that does not require much care and maintenance to see positive progress. As long as there is enough room and the plant has adequate care, vibrant colors and progressive growth should be expected. Frequent trimmings and stem pinching should also be incorporated to promote fuller and bushy growth.

How to grow

The easiest way to propagate Polka Dot Plant is through the process of tip cutting. Take an existing parent plant and make a cut off of the tip about four to five inches in length.

Simply remove the leaves from the soil end and re-pot the new pieces. The new plants should be placed in a location with high humidity and warm temperatures. The new set of roots should start coming in within just a few days.

Another way to propagate Hypoestes phyllostachya would be through the use of seeds.  This process is not as easy and requires more work. Nonetheless, seeds can be sown indoors at any time.

Make sure to keep the temperature around 70°-75°F until the seeds complete their germination. That process should take anywhere between 10-12 days.

Watering

Hypoestes phyllostachya prefers to be watered regularly. Though it requires an evenly moist environment, it will easily fall victim to root rot if conditions are too wet. Sitting on a soggy substrate can eventually lead to the plant’s death. Don’t let the soil dry out either. If the soil is too dry, its leaves can begin to wilt and eventually fall off.

On the other hand, too much water will cause the leaves to turn yellow. A simple way to know if Polka Dot Plant needs to be watered is to dip a finger into the top layer of the substrate.

If the top ¼ to ½ inch is dry to the touch, then you can proceed with watering, and if it still feels moist, then you can wait a few days before checking again.

Plants Similar To Polka Dot Plant

Adding diversity to an enclosure is key to an aesthetically pleasing setup. Try mixing up the look of your vivarium with different flora that can easily co-exist in the same types of environment.

Furthermore, if for some reason you find this ivy hard to acquire or would like to consider something similar to this plant… Here are some other vine plants you might find may do well with or in the place of the Polka Dot Plant:

Radiator Plants (Peperomia Spp.)
Satin Pothos (Scindapsus Pictus 'Argyraeu')
Sphagneticola Trilobata "Trailing Daisy" Care Guide | Vivarium Plants

Conclusion

Polka Dot Plant is hands down one of my favorite greenery to add to a vivarium. The plant’s eccentric look filled with vivid color makes it the perfect tool to give some spunk to any tank lacking some fun. Aside from its looks, H. phyllostachya is also quite easy to take care of and will not require much time to get settled.

This would be great for those who are looking for something a bit different but just started experimenting with planted tanks. Now, what do you think about Polka Dot Plant? Have you ever considered using it as a vivarium plant? If so, what is your favorite quality?

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, a polka dot plant is a lowmaintenance houseplant that is easy to care for. It requires average to low light, prefers moist soil but does not need to be watered often, and does not need to be pruned often. With simple regular care, you can enjoy its beautiful foliage and pink/purple polka dot pattern.

It‘s best to water a polka dot plant weekly, providing approximately 1 cup of water each time. Let the soil in the pot dry out completely before you water it again. Make sure you water from the bottom of the pot so the water is able to properly soak in.

Yes, the Polka Dot Plant is an ideal indoor plant for both home and office. Its bright, cheerful leaves are dotted with pink, white, or red spots, making them quite attractive. It can be grown in indirect sunlight or fluorescent light and requires welldraining soil and regular watering.

Polka dot plants need bright, indirect sunlight. They do not prefer either direct sun or shade, but they should never be exposed to long periods of direct, extreme light. To optimize growth and colorful foliage, provide the polka dot plant with a few hours of direct sunlight per day.

Yes, you should mist your polka dot plant. This plant needs to be misted with enough water to keep the soil moist, but avoid overwatering to prevent root rot, as too much water can be damaging. Additionally, avoid misting during the night and early morning hours, as these times do not provide ideal growing conditions. A good misting schedule would be twice or thrice a week.

Yes, coffee grounds are good for the polka dot plant. Coffee grounds provide beneficial nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, which help the plant to grow. They also increase the acidity of the soil, ideal for the polka dot plant.

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