The polka dot plant, or Hypoestes phyllostachya, is a popular houseplant native to Madagascar that is known for its beautifully-colored, variegated leaves.
These plants usually have pink leaves with green spots, hence their name. Other color varieties are red, white and purple. The colors can either be mottled or spotted, and the more noticeable the contrast with the deep green background color, the more striking the foliage looks.
They are usually grown as annual plants, and therefore replaced every year. This makes propagation vital in the growing process in order to continue having it in your collection every season.
In this article, we will discuss the different ways to propagate a polka dot plant. So, if you are planning on getting one of these plants and wish to learn more about proper propagation, just keep on reading.
Why would I want to propagate my polka dot plant?
Knowing how to propagate a polka dot plant is useful because the process gives you more of the same plant, essentially for free. Thus, propagating your plant allows you to increase the size of your plant collection without having to spend any money.
You can also give the new plants away as gifts to friends and family.
Furthermore, propagation can save a polka dot plant from complete death if it has been overwatered, overfertilized, or otherwise mistreated. This is done by taking the remaining healthy stems and propagating them to create new, healthy plants before it is too late.
Polka dot plants can grow quite quickly given the proper conditions, and can easily outgrow their container. Pruning them is an excellent way to control their growth, and the trimmings can be used for propagation so they will not go to waste.
How to propagate your polka dot plant
Propagation using stem cuttings
This is the most common way of propagating polka dot plants, because it is the simpler method of the two. You can grow a lot of new plants just by taking a few small cuttings.
The part of the plant that you choose to cut should be healthy, to increase your chances of success. Avoid cutting stems with any signs of disease or pests, because these will be passed on to the new plant that grows from the cutting, if the cutting even survives.
The most important thing to include in any cutting is a node. Without this, you will have almost no chance of getting it to grow. A node is the joint of the stem from which a leaf sprouts; in the case of propagation, it is where the roots will develop.
Use a clean pair of scissors to cut off one or more stems from the plant. At least two or three nodes should be present on each cutting, so that there are a few good places for roots to grow from.
Fill a clear container with tepid water and put your cuttings in the water, making sure that the bottom third is submerged. If you submerge any more than that, the chances of rot increase.
Keep the leaves above the water so that they do not rot.
Put the container in a spot that gets bright but indirect light; intense light will damage the cuttings and stop them from growing.
While waiting for your cuttings to root, keep an eye on the water and change it as soon as it becomes murky or starts to smell. The murkiness and smell is bacteria in the water that can be detrimental to the development of the cuttings.
Fortunately, polka dot plant cuttings are very quick to grow roots, so you should be able to see two small roots coming out of the node within a few days. There is also a chance that some cuttings will sprout sooner than others.
Once the new roots are a few inches long, the cuttings are ready to be planted in a pot of soil. The roots will be very delicate, so do not worry if some break when you plant them, but be careful that they do not completely fall apart.
Use a good quality potting mix for the cuttings, or plant them back in the parent plant’s pot to make it look fuller.
Propagation using division
It is important to note that this method is only effective if your polka dot plant is quite bushy; otherwise, your plants may appear straggly.
This method is great if you do not want to wait for new roots and leaves to grow and prefer to have multiple plants right away.
In the division method, you will separate the different offshoots of the parent plant from one another. Polka dot plant offshoots are easy to divide and this step will not be challenging, even for beginners.
The first step is to carefully lift your plant out of its pot. To avoid damaging the leaves, do not pull on them; instead, shimmy the plant out of the pot slowly and gently.
To untangle the roots, cut a few here and there while pulling the offshoots apart. Each offshoot should have roots attached – examine the roots on each one for rotten sections.
The number of new plants you want depends on you and on the size of the parent plant you choose.
Plant the offshoots in individual pots using fresh potting mix. Do not use soil from the parent plant’s pot, as it might be contaminated with bacteria or fungi.
Unlike cuttings, new polka dot plants acquired through division can immediately be cared for like fully-grown plants.
Polka dot plants are popular houseplants that have vibrantly-colored leaves perfect to perk up any living space.
This plant is native to Madagascar and is relatively low-maintenance – even propagating it is easy. You can either use stem cuttings to grow new plants, or divide the parent plant into offshoots and grow multiple plants instantly without waiting as long as with the stem cutting method.
Knowing how to properly propagate a plant is a useful skill because it is a way of getting new plants for free. In the case of the polka dot plant, which is an annual, it can also ensure that you continue to have it in your garden every year.
Image: istockphoto.com / Akchamczuk