The polka dot plant or Hypoestes phyllostachya is a beautiful addition to any indoor or outdoor space. The plant boasts gorgeous spotted leaves and bright, contrasting colors that can add a dash of color to your home. You can even use your existing polka dot plant to create several other plants, as propagating this plant is relatively easy.
You can propagate the polka dot plant in water containers or soil. Stem cuttings of the polka dot plant are much easier to grow into a healthy plant than germinating from seeds. It grows best in a tropical climate, but taking the plant indoors is an option for non-tropical environments.
This article will help guide you to propagate and care for your polka dot plant successfully. Don’t worry if you aren’t in Florida or other suitable places to grow it because I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve for you.
Polka Dot Plant Propagation
The easiest way to propagate your polka dot plant is in small water containers in the summer. A small stem cutting placed in a water container will grow new roots in about a week. Next, all you need to do is pot the plants when they’re ready, which could take months.
If you’re new to gardening, this may all seem confusing. To make things clear, all you have to do is get a pair of really sharp scissors (I prefer gardening shears) and make a diagonal cut in the stem part of your plant.
The cutting will grow roots if you place it in water for some time and then pot them to develop a whole new polka dot bush.
How To Make a Stem Cutting
A stem cutting is a small stem you cut from your healthy plant to propagate it. That is, growing it into a new plant. To create a suitable stem cutting from your polka dot plant, follow these steps:
- Use sharp scissors. Studies have shown that a pair of sharp pruning scissors make a clean cut. Using a dull blade, you can damage your plant, and your cutting won’t grow roots.
- Sterilize your scissors. You want to avoid introducing any disease to your stem cuttings, as this would damage your plant and ruin your chances of propagating a new one. Wiping with alcohol should be sufficient for sterilization.
- Find a suitable cutting. It should be a 6-inch long stem with two undamaged leaves above two nodes. These are the raised parts of the stem that would grow into new roots and branch out your plant.
- Cut at a 45°angle. By cutting the stem diagonally below the nodes, you increase the surface area of absorption. Thus you allow the plant to absorb more water and increase the chances of successful propagation.
It would be best to take several stem cuttings for the best results. Handle them with care before moving on to the next step.
Also read, Why Is My Polka Dot Plant Flowering?
Submerging Stems in Water
Use any containers to submerge four or five stem cuttings in water. Some people use recycled plastic bottles to save money, but you can always use a more visually appealing container, so your cuttings look pretty while you wait for roots to grow.
Ensure that the nodes are below the waterline, so the roots can start forming within a week. Place the containers somewhere that gets indirect sunlight.
A window with sheer curtains is the perfect option for indirect sunlight, or find a partially blocked window by a tree or other large structure. An east-facing window works effectively as well.
One of the significant advantages of using the water method to propagate polka dot plants is that you can monitor the cuttings to see the roots forming. That takes a lot of the guesswork out of propagating your polka dot plant, so you can be sure it’s growing instead of waiting for a dead stem cutting.
Try to change the water once a week to keep it clear and examine the roots. You might need to add water to the containers if too much evaporates—again, keep the nodes submerged in the water so they can grow roots.
Potting Your Rooting Polka Dot Plant
Once you see that your polka pot plant has grown roots that are long enough, it’s time to repot it into another container with soil. It’s best to wait until you see that roots are longer than two inches, which might take several weeks or even months.
You can start with a small pot, but you will need to repot the polka dot plant every spring or summer, typically in a bigger pot. Make sure you don’t jump to a bigger size too quickly because you want the plant to grow more above the soil.
Read How Much Sun Does a Polka Dot Plant Need?
Propagate Polka Dot Plant
The polka dot plant typically grows in a tropical climate because it is native to Madagascar. In the United States, that would mean it’s most suitable for hardiness zones 10, 11, and 12, such as South Florida, Southern California, and Hawaii.
Nonetheless, you can expect the plant to finish its life cycle within a year when you’d need to grow a whole new plant.
The simplest solution is to propagate new plants before your original plant has died, which is pretty simple. You can grow the plant indoors to avoid exposing it to frost. Usually, that would prolong the time you enjoy the beautiful spotted bushes.
Read Polka Dot Plant Leaves Turning Brown
Polka Dot Plant Propagation in Soil
While it is slightly more complicated, you can also propagate your polka dot plant in soil. You would use the same technique to cut the stems described above but then root them in the soil. I would recommend beginners try the water method first.
Propagating your polka dot plant in soil requires purchasing peat moss and rooting hormone. Also, monitoring the roots is slightly more complex, and there is a chance of overwatering the rooting plant.
You need a new stem cutting if you decide to use soil for polka dot plant propagation. After cutting it, you should apply the rooting hormone to the end of the stem. Some gardeners claim rooting hormone is unnecessary, but I would advise it for beginners.
Plant the freshly-cut stem into peat moss, making sure that it gets at least and below at least an inch of soil. Keep the soil moist as you wait for roots to form—this process requires frequent watering.
A good trick to find out if you need to add more water to your soil is to poke a finger into the soil. Unless you feel some moisture in the soil, you should water it.
Tip: Using a plastic bag to cover the cutting is an excellent way to ensure it gets enough moisture, emulating tropical weather. Do this until you can see the cutting is growing leaves or other noticeable growth.
Repotting Your Rooted Polka Dot Plant
The peat moss and soil you used to propagate your polka dot plant are only a temporary place for your plant to get started. Eventually, once it grows a substantial root network, you will need to repot the plant.
Tugging the plant should give you a feel of whether the roots have grown extensively. Then, carefully remove the plant (and the surrounding soil) from the smaller pot, and plant it into a bigger pot with more soil. The size requirements are around two inches wider and deeper than the pot you used to propagate the plant.
Keep your rooted polka dot plant indoors, unless during the warmer months. Because the plant is native to tropical regions, keeping it outside in winter will likely lead to frost. Some people keep it as an indoor plant year-round to be on the safe side.
Caring for Your Polka Dot Plant
Keeping your polka dot plant alive doesn’t require much effort. There are just a few things you need to pay attention to:
- Keep the plant in warm to moderate temperatures to avoid frost.
- Ensure that the soil is well-draining for even moisture.
- Provide lots of indirect sunlight to keep the plant growing without fading the colors.
- Avoid overwatering your polka dot plant to prevent root rot.
- Mist the leaves daily to create a humid environment.
- Consider repotting your plant if it grows too big for its container, which may lead to the plant becoming pot-bound.
- Fertilize your plant every couple of months to ensure that they receive sufficient nutrients.
- Remove the top two leaves every week to keep the plant from growing too long and leggy and encourage thick foliage.
Propagating a polka dot plant is a great way to keep your plant bushy for several years. Even people who live in temperate climates (or colder) can enjoy this pink-spotted plant as an indoor plant.
To enjoy these tropical plants, I highly recommend mixing and matching different breeds to get a wider assortment of colors. Even though they don’t flower much, polka dot plants add a welcome touch of color to indoor spaces. They’re certainly more interesting than plain green plants!
I’m Elsa, and I love gardening. I started GardeningElsa.com as a resource for other gardeners, and I offer expert advice on gardening topics such as plants, flowers, herbs, and vegetable gardening. On my website, I share my latest tips and tricks for creating beautiful gardens. When I’m not working on my website, you can find me in my own garden, tending to my plants and flowers. Read more about me.