Polka dot plant propagation | In water or soil!

The mottled polka dot plant with all its different colors is a joy to have in your home. And did you know it’s also super easy to multiply? Polka dot propagation is an absolute breeze and allows you to create new plants for free. To keep, or to give away!

Keep reading for everything you need to know about polka dot plant propagation in water or soil.

Polka dot plant propagation | Water method

If you want to propagate a polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) with as little effort as possible, the water method is your best friend! Perfect for a plant that tends to grow leggy and may require frequent pruning like this one. No need to throw away clippings, just re-root them and use them however you want.

For most houseplants, this is the go-to method, as it almost always works as long as you can afford a little patience.

The best thing? By propagating in a clear, water-filled container, you can see the cutting’s roots grow in real-time. And it doubles as home decor: plant cuttings in a nice propagation station are a great statement piece.

Green and pink variegated leaves of polka dot plant, a popular houseplant. | Full guide to polka dot plant propagation.

Here are the steps for propagating a polka dot plant using the water method:

  • Select a section of the plant that has at least two healthy leaves at the top and a couple of nodes, which are the bumps that new roots will sprout from. Keep in mind that the more stem cuttings you have, the more likely you are to succeed with the propagation.
  • Use a clean pair of scissors or a sharp knife to cut two-inch pieces. These are your stem cuttings.
  • Take your stem cuttings and place them into containers of water. Any container works as long as you can submerge at least one of your cuttings’ nodes.
  • Move the containers near windows with indirect sunlight. Direct sun is a bit too much and can increase algae growth, which is not harmful but also not the nicest thing to look at.
  • Change the water out once or so a week to get rid of any gunk buildup and promote healthy growth.

Although the times vary, you should start to see new roots growing in as little as a week. Polka dot plants are very vigorous growers, after all!

The standard rule of thumb is to wait until the roots have grown at least two inches before repotting into soil.

Tip: You might have noticed that polka dot plants grow leggy quite easily. To get yours looking nice and bushy again, just snip off the tops, root them and place them back into the same container. This easily gives the plant its full look back!

Green and silver Hypoestes phyllostachya houseplant in white planter. | Full guide to polka dot plant propagation

Polka dot plant propagation | Soil method

When it comes to the soil method, it starts off the same as the water method described before, meaning you’ll need to first grab some stem cuttings. Once you have them ready to go, then it’s time to prep the pots. Standard plastic nursery planters work well!

You don’t have to do anything fancy when it comes to creating a mix. A coarse soil, such as a cactus mix, will do fine fo a polka dot plant. You can even use general houseplant soil, although you may still want to sprinkle in some perlite to keep the mixture light and airy.

Whatever mix you use, it needs to be well-draining so that your stem cuttings don’t sit in excess water at any point. Water needs to be able to flow out of the container to prevent issues with root rot, which can quickly kill a houseplant.

Once you have your pots prepared, gently poke your stem cuttings into the soil and you’re good to go! It’s recommended to keep the soil moist but not soggy.

The downside to using the soil method is that you won’t be able to see the roots growing, so it can be a bit of a guessing game when it comes to knowing if there are new roots or not. If it’s been a few weeks and you’re not sure, give the cuttings a slight tug. Feel any resistance? Congrats, that’s the roots holding on!

Did you know? If you really want to give your cuttings a boost, you can place them in a clear plastic storage box (that still allows light to enter). Alternatively, create a sort of mini greenhouse out of plastic wrap. This holds in the moisture, which these cuttings will love.

Green and pink variegated leaves of polka dot plant, a popular houseplant.

Polka dot plant care

Once you’ve successfully propagated polka dot plants, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the basics of what they need to survive and thrive!

Luckily, these popular houseplants are not challenging to grow at all.

Light

Polka dot plants are known for their gorgeous variegated leaves. If you can’t get enough of the beautiful pink, silver or red patches, then you’ll need to make sure your plants have plenty of light. Without sufficient bright, indirect sunlight, the variegation will gradually fade away and your plant will start growing leggy.

Strong but indirect light, like on a windowsill that doesn’t receive direct sun, is perfect

Temperature

Polka plants are tropical plants from South Africa and Madagascar. Because of this, they don’t do well in a chilly house. If you’re feeling cold, your plants are likely feeling it, too!

Polka dot plants do best when kept at temperatures of around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 26 degrees Celsius). If the room temperature drops into the 50s (low teens in Celsius), like in a garage, then these plants may not do well.

Humidity

Although having a humid environment is not absolutely crucial for polka dot plants, they do appreciate the humidity to be 50% or higher. This isn’t always possible depending on where you live, though there are little things you can do to help your plants out.

For example, you can tuck your plants into the bathroom where the humidity tends to naturally be higher. Of course, this will only help if your bathroom has a window to work with! You can also run a humidifier.

Tip: Are you a sucker for polka dot plants? You might also love the similarly variegated Fittonia.

Close-up of leaves of Hypoestes phyllostachya, a popular houseplant also known as polka dot plant.

Soil

As mentioned above, polka dot plants aren’t too picky when it comes to soil, although your mixture should be well-draining and rich in nutrients. A standard potting soil with a handful of perlite should work just fine.

Whatever mix you use, you can toss in a handful of compost or worm castings for that extra nutritious kick that your plants will surely appreciate.

Watering

When it comes to watering polka dot plants, they like the soil to be lightly moist at all times but never soggy. Just like most tropical houseplants, really!

In most cases, you may need to water your plants a couple of times a week. However, this varies greatly depending on how dry or warm your house is during the different seasons.

You should make it a habit to check at least twice a week if your polka dot plants need to be topped off. The easiest way to check is to poke your finger an inch or so into the soil. If the soil feels damp, then you can skip watering that day.

Fertilizing

Like many houseplants, polka dot plants benefit from getting extra nutrients during the growing season (spring and summer). You can use a diluted general fertilizer once a month to help promote new growth.

During the fall and winter months, when houseplants like the polka dot plant aren’t actively growing, you should stop fertilizing.

Are polka dot plants toxic to cats and dogs?

Thankfully, according to the ASPCA, polka dot plants are not toxic to cats and dogs.

While this is great news for any pet owner, just be sure to keep the plants out of harm’s way, anyway. Those colorful leaves can be pretty irresistible!


If you have any more questions about polka dot plant propagation or want to share your own experiences with these colorful houseplants, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. 🌿

Photos in order of appearance (except for last image): © rhoenes, Liudmyla & PIXATERRA on Adobe Stock.

Marijke Puts
About Marijke Puts
Marijke Puts has Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Science and is from The Netherlands. She has a certified master gardener and loves everything about houseplants and gardening.

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