Growing The Polka Dot Plant

For some reason I’ve never had much luck with polka dot plants. Otherwise known as Hypoestes phyllostachya. They seem to shrivel and die on me quickly.

But I thought I’d give it another shot a few weeks ago when plants were 30% off at Southwoods.

I planted it in this pretty boho pot and said: “Grow, little plant, grow.”

Then I look online this morning and it says that these plants give you the best color when they have low light. That goes against everything I’ve ever learned about house plants. Typically it is the other way around.

Here’s what it says:

The plant will give you the best color when it is in a low light situation, but this causes the canes to lengthen and get leggy while searching for light. Indirect bright sunlight is the ideal location for this plant indoors. Provide temperatures of at least 60 F.

I really don’t have much sunlight in this apartment as the overhang of the roof comes out so far. There is a bit of sunlight early in the morning in my front window. But atop the cupboard, the only place I would put it, is where Ivy likes to warm herself.

Putting it there would be a recipe for disaster.

Apparently many people grow this as an outdoor plant. I didn’t know that you could grow it outdoors. Learn something new every day.

Nevertheless, I have it under a lamp. I’d rather not have it be so leggy actually.

Have you grown this plant before? If so, what kind of luck did you have with it?



  1. I had one in a pot a few years ago, and it looked good for awhile, until it didn’t anymore due to legginess. But last year, I got one in a gift basket plant and transplanted it to a larger pot and put it outside on my front porch in the summer, where it got quite a bit of morning sunlight. It did well and had started a lot of new growth from the soil when I brought it in the house for winter. It seems to be doing okay in an east-facing window that gets filtered morning sunlight but that’s it. I pinched off some of the leggy bits last week. We’ll see how it does inside this winter and then put it back on the front porch if it’s still viable in the spring.

  2. I wanted to let you know that I found one of your pics on a Face Book page called A Hygee-ish Life…I recognized it as your pic immediately

  3. Bright, indirect light seems to work best when grown indoors. Mine will grow wonderfully for quite some time and then seem to slowly fade away. Maybe I don’t get the watering right. I really should not have indoor plants because the various spores in the soil set off my allergies but I really have a soft spot for these difficult little fellows.

    1. Oh, I’m so happy to know I have excellent company in this! I’ve never been able to get these to grow, either, and I’ve tried for years and years. Keep thinking I’ll just stop trying, but then I’ll spot another one somewhere and just can’t resist its cuteness.

      I usually have no trouble with houseplants, so I’m flummoxed by this mystery. And I agree with you: The “low light” advice is counterintuitive.

      Maybe I’ll try it outdoors next year; thanks for that tip!

  4. I keep them inside during the winter in a bright window with a bit of early morning sun. When freezing temps are no more, I put them out in the screened porch, bringing them inside in October. New soil when they change of location. If they get leggy, I prune the longest pieces, which encourages them to be fuller. Pretty plants.

  5. I have always loved this plant, but was never successful at keeping it alive. I finally bought a faux polka dot plant, and have loved it for years.

  6. I have two of these plants. I wasn’t sure what it was called. I bought them at the nursery at the end of the season. I planted them in a flower box on my porch railing with some other plants. The other plants died recently with the cold weather but these two plants are still thriving!

  7. Growing plants is not my talent. I was just wondering if your pot is too large or if the polka pot plant needs another plant with it.

  8. I’ve only had this kind of plant once before and mine died, too. Some plants I have good luck with, others not so much. One plant that I’ve tried three times and it always ends up dying is pilea (Chinese Money plant). They’re so pretty though and when I see them on sale (Trader Joe’s has them every so often), I can’t resist!

    1. I’ve had one that made it through the summer outside. It doesn’t look as full as when I bought it. It’s with quite a few other plants on a long cupboard in my bedroom under a window.

  9. Hi Brenda,
    I’ve only grown this outside where it’s easy peasy. I never heard of it as an indoor houseplant. They come in pink,red,and the white that you have and make a really nice plant for outside pots. If I remember right, mine preferred shady spots.

    Have a good day,

  10. Brenda I have not had good luck with this plant either. I bought my first one because I thought it would look good in a pretty planter I had. It did, at least for a short while. I blamed the failure to thrive on either poor drainage or too much sun on my covered deck. I tried again a couple of years later, this time in a better draining container placed in a corner of the deck that never received direct sunlight and it did better but quickly grew leggy to the point I discarded it. Maybe it would do better being grown inside but as I have very limited space for indoor plants I just added this one to my don’t purchase again list of plants. Hope you have better luck with yours.

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