Complete Polka Dot Plant Guide

25 Dec 2021

This houseplant is a must-have! No plant enthusiast can resist its stunning foliage and the variety of patterns out there. If you’re not tempted enough to grow a polka dot plant yet, then you definitely will be as it is easy to care for too.

In this care guide, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about this plant. We’ll discuss its key characteristics, care requirements, and how to grow and revive it.

Main Features

The polka dot plant is known by a few other names too. It is commonly referred to as the flamingo plant, freckle face, measles plant, pink dot, and pink splash plant. Its scientific name is hypoestes phyllostachya and it is a member of the Acanthaceae family.

This eye-catching plant thrives in warm environments as its native to Madagascar and South Africa. Its foliage is vibrant and hard to resist examining. They are mottled and spotted in a variety of colors, and each variation has a unique pattern and color.

If you’re a houseplant lover who’s eager to grow a collection of plants then this will make for the perfect addition. You can even discover and gather the variety of hypoestes phyllostachya to develop a bright and striking houseplant collection.

Before we jump into caring for the houseplant, we’ll first discuss the different types of polka dot plants.


There are numerous variations and hybrids of hypoestes phyllostachya, each with its own unique variegation and blooms. We’ll briefly describe the top five types of polka dot plants.

  • ‘Camina’: Its pointy leaves are a dark emerald-green color that is mottled with red spots.
  • ‘Confetti’: These light green leaves have intricate white veins, and are speckled with pink, red, and burgundy spots.
  • ‘Pink brocade’: This variation’s foliage comes in many shades of green with pink spots covering its surface.
  • ‘Splash’ series: The splash series is made up of ‘white splash’, ‘red splash and ‘pink splash’. Its jade green leaves are decorated with splotches of either white, red, or pink.
  • ‘Wit polka dot’: These leaves are absolutely beautiful as they come in a variety of shades from white to pink to red. The variegation almost resembles a marbling effect.

Did you know that there are over 100 different types of hypoestes phyllostachya?


The houseplant removes multiple toxins from the air we breathe. It is a great natural purifier that filters the air around it. It removes toxins and pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.

This will benefit one’s health and is ideal for those suffering from respiratory illnesses.

How Big Does It Get?

The average polka dot plant can reach heights of 1 to 2 feet (30.5 – 61cm) and a mature width of 1 foot (30.5cm).

How Fast Does It Grow?

This houseplant is a moderate to fast-growing plant if well-cared for. Typically, it can sprout 5 to 6 inches (12.7 – 15cm) of growth a year.


The hypoestes phyllostachya is not known for its long lifespan as it is relatively short-lived. You can expect it to survive for 2 to 3 years.

Is It Toxic to Cats, Dogs and Humans?

Thankfully, the polka dot plant is non-toxic. This pet-friendly and natural air purifying plant is actually good for your health as we previously mentioned.

Polka dot plant - size, lifespan, toxicity, growth speed (infographics)

Polka Dot Plant Care

This houseplant may be fairly easy-going, however, it doesn’t mean that it won’t require optimal care. Below, we’ll lay out exactly what the plant needs and discuss the required care. You can then formulate the best care regime for a prosperous plant.

How Often to Water It

A flamingo plant thrives in moist potting soil and loves a decent amount of water. The soil should never be allowed to completely dry out but it does not survive in soggy conditions much like the wandering jew.

During the warm spring and summer months, you should water it twice a week. As it gets cooler during autumn and winter, you can water it once a week or once every two weeks.

If you are unsure about when to water your plant then feel the topsoil. Once 50% of the topsoil is dry then you can water it.


The pink dot needs a quick and efficient drainage system. It is susceptible to root rot, just like the asparagus fern, so excess water must be able to drain out.

The pot must have a few drainage holes so that excess moisture can flow out. To prevent the plant from becoming waterlogged, you’ll need to grow it in well-draining soil.

Saturated soil will encourage bacterial and fungal diseases which may cause your plant to die.

How to Prune It

The freckle face tends to produce leggy growth over time or its foliage may become diseased. To maintain its appearance and encourage healthy growth, you should prune it regularly.

It is best to trim the plant during the spring and summertime when it is actively growing. You may also want to snip off the flower to prevent the houseplant from entering a stage of dormancy.

Check out the three simple steps below:

  1. Make sure to water the houseplant a day before it is pruned.
  2. Sterilize a pair of pruners or shears and cut off the stem or unhealthy tissue at the base of the plant.
  3. You can also keep a few healthy stems to propagate later on.

How to Make It Bushy

Regular pruning will promote bushy growth. You can create a bushier appearance by pinching off the top two leaves attached to a stem.

Ideally, you should pinch these leaflets off once a week during the spring and summer months. The node will then sprout even more leaves.


A freckle face plant should be repotted during the springtime at least every 2 years or when it has become rootbound. When the plant’s roots grow out of the drainage holes then you’ll need to transplant it as soon as possible.

Before repotting the houseplant, you must give it a deep watering the day before. This will lessen any shock to the rootball.

When choosing a new container for your houseplant, you only need to go up by one size. If you repot it in a pot that is too deep or wide then your plant may not grow taller.

Follow the steps below:

  1. Slide the plant out of its container and gently shake off the excess soil attached to the roots.
  2. Fill a new container with some fresh soil and plant it in the pot.
  3. You may need to sprinkle some extra soil to cover all of the roots.
  4. Put it back in its original spot and care for it as you normally would.

Environment Conditions

Light Requirements

The pink dot grows best in plenty of bright, indirect sunshine. During the summertime, if you live in a particularly hot region, you should place it in filtered sunshine.

A low-lit area will cause leggy growth and the variegation will begin to fade. Direct sunshine isn’t good for the planet either. This will scorch the leaves and cause them to die.

Best Soil

The best type of soil is one that’s organically rich, fast-draining, and aerated. Hypoestes phyllostachya does well in an all-purpose potting mix that has some perlite, pumice, or vermiculite thrown in.

A lightweight and loamy soil with a pH of 5.6 to 6.5 is ideal for this plant too. You can also mix together 1 part cactus potting soil and 1 part perlite for the ultimate potting mix.


The freckle face houseplant thrives when fed an organic and liquid fertilizer. It is best to feed it with a water-soluble and balanced fertilizer such as 20-20-20.

They are heavy feeders so there’s no need to dilute the fertilizer. You should only feed it once a month during the spring and summertime, which is the same feeding schedule needed by the desert rose. There’s no need to fertilize it during the wintertime as the plant isn’t actively growing.

Pot Size and Type

Typically, the pink dot should be planted in a container that is 1 to 2 inches (2.5 – 5cm) wider than the rootball. You can even grow it in a hanging basket or a terrarium too.

It isn’t ideal to use a terracotta container as this will cause the soil to dry out too quickly. A plastic pot is perfect for the polka dot plant as it allows for water to drain out and it doesn’t cause the soil to completely dry out.

Temperature Tolerance

A hypoestes phyllostachya flourishes in temperatures ranging between 70 and 80°F (21 – 26°C). It may stop growing when placed in temperatures below 65°F (18°C).

Be wary during the winter as the plant isn’t frost tolerant. Once temperatures dip below 50°F (10°C), your plant may begin to die.

Humidity Level

The freckle face prospers in a humid area and if the air is too dry then it may not survive. The humidity level should never drop below 50%.

To promote vibrant and bold foliage, you can spritz it regularly and place other plants around it. You can also build your own humidity tray too. Below, we’ll tell you how to create one.

  1. Find a shallow tray and fill it with some pebbles.
  2. Pour some tepid water into the tray.
  3. Place the pot on top of the pebbles but make sure that it isn’t sitting in the water.
  4. This will create a humid environment surrounding the plant.

Top tip: Misting the plant is a great way to increase humidity levels and remove any excess dust covering the foliage too.

Outdoors vs. Indoors

The plant does best when grown indoors, but you can place it outdoors in USDA hardiness zones of 10 through 11. Typically, you should move the plant indoors during autumn and winter as the plant won’t survive in cold temperatures.

It does best outdoors during the spring and summertime, but you shouldn’t plant it in bright light. Find a shady spot for the houseplant and water it around 2 to 3 times a week.

You can add some compost to the soil to prevent it from becoming nutrient deficient. A layer of mulch is also beneficial when it comes to ensuring that the plant soaks in all of the nutrients it needs.

Polka dot plant - care, water, light, pot, temperature, fertilizer (infographics)


A freckle face blooms small, tubular-shaped flowers during the summer or early autumn months. The blossoms are typically pink or purple in color but do not produce any scent or fragrance.

The flowers will die off as temperatures drop in late autumn or early winter. Most cultivators will snip the flower off to encourage growth and keep the plant thriving. When the houseplant blooms this then triggers it to enter a stage of dormancy.

How to Encourage Blooming

The pink dot plant is more likely to bloom when it receives optimal care. The best way to promote flowering is by feeding it well, making sure that it soaks in the necessary sunshine and is watered well.

You can also add a handful of organic matter like compost to the potting mixture. This will make sure that the houseplant has plenty of nutrients that can be used to grow flowers.

How to Grow It

You can grow your collection of hypoestes phyllostachyas by propagating it and planting its seeds. To increase your chances of successful growth, you should grow it during the springtime.

We’ll take a look at propagating it in soil and water as well as how to plant its seeds.

Polka Dot Plant Propagation

It is most commonly propagated from a stem cutting or by dividing the rootball. You can even grow it in soil or water too.

Top tip: Sterilize your tools with a diluted bleach solution or rubbing alcohol mixture. This will prevent the spread of disease and bacteria from one plant to another.

Propagating in Soil

You can multiply your polka dot plant collection by rooting cuttings and by splitting the rootball. Make sure to use some well-draining, rich, and peat-based potting mix for healthier growth.

Growing from Stem Cuttings

It is best to root a stem cutting after the plant has been pruned. You can use the stems trimmed off to grow a new plant. All you need to root a cutting is some soil, a container, clean tools, and rooting hormone.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Use a sharp pair of scissors to cut a 4 inch (10cm) long stem and dip the cut end in rooting hormone.
  2. Find a new pot and fill it with fresh potting soil, and then plant the cutting 1 inch (2.5cm) deep.
  3. Take a plastic bag and cover the cutting. This will lock in the warmth and humidity needed for new root and leaf growth. You can remove the plastic bag once new growth is produced.
  4. After 3 months you should give the stem a light tug to test whether the cutting has rooted.
  5. You can repot it once the plant is too large for its container.
Propagating by Division

Division is a successful propagation method as long as the sections are at least 2 inches (5cm) thick. A small division is unlikely to produce strong and healthy roots.

Follow the steps listed below:

  1. Remove the plant from its current container and brush off the soil surrounding the rootball.
  2. Look for places of division and slice through the rootball. You can carefully pull the sections apart and untangle the roots.
  3. Prepare a new container with some soil and place the division in it. You will need to add extra soil to fully cover the roots.
  4. Find a sunny home for the plant and water it well.

Rooting in Water

You can root a stem cutting in water which will later be repotted in soil. To make sure that the cutting roots, you should use distilled and room temperature water as well as place it in a glass jar.

Follow the guide below:

  1. Clean your pruners or shears and slice off a 4 inch (10cm) long stem with at least 1 or 2 leaves still attached.
  2. Remove any bottom leaves that may become submerged in the water.
  3. Fill a jar with some room temperature water and put the cutting inside of it.
  4. Switch out the water every 2 to 3 days or when it is murky.
  5. Position it in a bright area and keep an eye out for new root growth.
  6. In around 2 to 8 weeks, the roots will grow 2 inches (5cm) long, and you can then repot it in soil.

Planting Seeds

You can grow an entire flamingo houseplant by planting its seeds. The best part is that unlike other house plants such as the Anthurium plant, this plant’s seeds germinate quickly. The seeds may even sprout new growth in a couple of days and be large enough to transplant in 4 to 6 weeks’ time.

We’ve compiled a simple guide to planting its seeds:

  1. Take out a shallow container and fill it with moist peat moss.
  2. Lightly press the seeds into the soil and cover the tray with a plastic bag.
  3. Place the tray in a sunny spot and on a heat mat to maintain a temperature of 68°F (20°C).
  4. The seeds will germinate in approximately 4 days.
  5. You can repot the seedlings in their own container after a month or so and when new leaf growth has emerged.

Why May It Be Dying?

Although the houseplant is simple to grow, this doesn’t mean that it won’t run into a few problems from time to time. When the foliage becomes crispy, curly, droopy or brown then your plant is telling you that something is wrong.

In this section, we will summarize the most common diseases faced by the polka dot plant and what signs to keep an eye out for. Don’t worry if your plant is experiencing one of the following problems because we’ll tell you how to revive it too.

Crispy Leaves

When the houseplant’s leaves become dry and crisp it is due to direct sunshine or a lack of humidity.

Direct sun rays are far too harsh for this plant and will scorch the leaves. You will need to find a new spot for your plant where it’ll receive indirect sunshine. Place it in a shady area for a few days so the foliage has some time to recover.

When the air becomes dry the foliage begins to wither away. You must spritz the leaves at least once a week or group the polka dot plant amongst other houseplants.

Curly Leaves

Curly leaves are caused by direct sunshine or a lack of sunlight, and dry soil. When it comes to sunshine, your plant shouldn’t be placed in direct sunlight or in shady areas. The houseplant needs to soak in bright, indirect light to maintain healthy, vibrant foliage.

When the potting soil is left to dry out for a prolonged period of time, the plant will begin to wilt and the leaves will curl. Water the houseplant immediately and wait until it drips through the drainage holes.

Why Is It Drooping?

A droopy or limp polka dot plant is a sign of root rot or a lack of water. When the soil becomes soggy and saturated, the roots will blacken and become mushy. You must transplant it in dry soil and cut back any unhealthy tissue.

When the soil completely dries out the plant may droop. So, you will need to water it thoroughly and tweak your schedule in the future.

Why Are the Leaves Turning Brown?

When the leaves begin to brown or discolor, they may be cold, underwatered, overwatered, or placed under direct sunlight.

The houseplant is native to warm regions, so it doesn’t do well in cold areas. You must maintain a warm temperature surrounding the plant and keep it away from a cool breeze.

Improper watering is detrimental to the flamingo plant as it cannot tolerate soggy or dry conditions. Make sure to water the plant well when the soil is dry and allow it to dry out slightly in between watering.

The colorful foliage will begin to fade when it is positioned under direct sunshine. You will have to relocate it to a new spot where it only receives filtered sunlight.

Concluding Remarks

Caring for the polka dot plant is greatly rewarding. Its attention-grabbing foliage makes for a striking centerpiece in any home and adds that pop of color to your houseplant collection. Its intricate and unique variegation can be maintained when adequately cared for.

Keep in mind that you should water it well, make sure that it gets some sunshine and is grown in optimal conditions.

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