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Foliage Plant
of the Month


polka-dot plant


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Hypoestes phyllostachya

(hy-po-ES-teez fil-o-STAK-ee-a)

syn. Hypoestes sanguinolenta



Polka-dot plant, Measles plant, Flamingo plant, Freckle-face



The Hypoestes species most commonly sold as an indoor foliage plant is H. phyllostachya, which is known for its colorful pink-spotted leaves. The plants, which grow quickly, can reach 2 feet tall in some cases but are best kept more compact. They have hairy, densely set leaves that measure 1.5 to 2.5 inches in length. The varieties ‘Splash’ and ‘Pink Brocade’ are showy versions in which the pink coloration is even more dense, creating more of a mottled look. Some breeders also have produced varieties where the spots are white or red or where red is the leaves’ base color.



With proper care, individual plants can live up to two years indoors (see “Repotting”).



Hypoestes plants are available year-round.



LIGHT Bright indoor light is appropriate though the plants should be kept out of direct sun.

WATER From spring through fall, water thoroughly and allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings. Water less frequently in winter.

TEMPERATURE Average warm indoor temperatures are appropriate; Hypoestes plants like a night temperature between 65 F and 70 F and a day temperature between 75 F and 85 F. Avoid temperatures below 55 F.

HUMIDITY Mist the leaves frequently.

FERTILIZER Feed established plants with a balanced houseplant fertilizer, diluted by half, every two weeks.

PROPOGATION Hypoestes can be propagated through stem cuttings or via seeds.

PRUNING Pinch back stems as they grow too long, such as those longer than 10 inches, to encourage a more bushy form.

REPOTTING It is recommended to take stem cuttings and start new plants each spring to replace aging or straggly Hypoestes plants. Potting mixtures formulated for African violets are suggested.



PESTS AND PROBLEMS Watch for aphids, whiteflies, spider mites or scale. Pinch off infested areas, thoroughly clean the plant and isolate it from other houseplants. Daily misting to increase humidity can keep some of these pests at bay.

LEAF DROP Yellowed leaves dropping from the plants are a sign of overwatering. Leaves that drop off without turning yellow are a sign the plants aren’t getting enough water.

CURLED LEAVES Too much light, particularly direct sunlight, can cause the leaves to curl. Move the plants to a shadier spot.



















fun facts

WHAT'S IN A NAME The genus name Hypoestes comes from the Greek roots “hypo,” which means “below,” and “estia,” which means “a house.” This refers to the bracts that cover the flowers.


FAMILYHypoestes plants are members of the Acanthaceae (Acanthus) family. Common relatives include Crossandras (firecracker flower), Aphelandras (zebra plants), black-eyed Susans and Justicias (shrimp plants).


HOME SWEET HOME The plants are native to Madagascar, South Africa and Southeast Asia.


SEEING THE LIGHT The amount of light that Hypoestes plants receive affects how colorful their leaves become. Plants receiving too little light may stay all green; in well-lit spots, the leaf coloring will be vivid.


OCCASIONAL BLOOMERS Some Hypoestes plants, after reaching a year old, will produce spikes of purple flowers in late winter. These flowers should be pinched out. After flowering, the plants may go dormant, and at that point watering should be reduced until new growth starts. sfr


Some information provided by:

Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson

The Chain of Life Network®,

The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual, by Barbara Pleasant

Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses, Inc.,

The House Plant Expert, by Dr. D.G. Hessayon


Reach “Foliage Plant of the Month” writer Amy Bauer at or (800) 355-8086.


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Super Floral Retailing  Copyright 2003
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.