Hypoestes phyllostachya AKA. Polka Dot Plant / Flamingo Plant / Freckle Face Plant

Named for the distinctive look of its heavily-spotted leaves, this cutesy evergreen shrub is a terrarium staple and a favourite of many who are seeking a quirky, low-maintenance houseplant. In certain conditions, the plant might produce solitary pinkish flowers that resemble honeysuckle blooms, but it is the vibrant foliage that is the star of this show. The hardy leaves look like they’ve been carelessly splattered with paint, with many of the smaller spots merging to form groovy, larger splodges. If growing successfully, the plants usually form compact little tufts, with the colourful leaves growing opposite to one another in a neat, natural symmetry. A member of the Acanthaceae family, there can be considerable variation within the species with different subspecies exhibiting a dazzling range of white, red and even deep pink patterning. A generally  laid-back and exuberant ornamental fixture, everyone needs a polka dot plant in their life!

hypoestes in white

Where Does It Come From?

The hypoestes is native to the southern African continent and parts of southeast Asia. Particularly notable subspecies of the plant grow on the island of Madagascar, where the island flora and fauna’s relative isolation from the species of its mainland neighbours means that distinctive adaptations and mutations have occurred. Yes, there’s more than just singing lemurs and lost American zoo animals in Madagascar…

How Big Can It Grow? 

In Britain, on average, a polka dot plant will grow to around 30 centimetres (12 inches) tall and broad. Miniature versions of the plant are wonderful for indoor-gardens in small containers due to the compact and contained nature of the polka dot plant’s growing pattern. That being said, it can grow outdoors unrestricted to a similar size as an annual plant in cooler climates or a perennial in the tropics. In their native habitat these beauties can reach up to 3 feet tall!

Where Should I Keep It? 

Content in full sun, but happiest in a partially shaded position, polka dot plants like to be sheltered and a south- or west-facing aspect tends to work quite well. Indirect bright sunlight is the ticket with a hypoestes; and it appreciates temperatures of around 16°C and a moderate to high humidity if possible. Whether potted indoors or placed outside, the plant prefers a pH-balanced, loam-based soil or compost, with plenty of organic matter and good drainage.

How Often Should I Water It? 

Good drainage is essential for the hypoestes. You can afford to water the plant fairly freely as it is young and growing, but it is better to be a little more sparing in the winter when the air is more moist. Outdoor plants will often require supplementary feeding quite regularly, whereas the indoor versions will thank you for a dribble of a balanced liquid fertiliser no more than once a month. 

So there you are! Treat this one right and you can enjoy the exuberant foliage of this attractive and exotic little shrub for the long-haul. 



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