Hypoestes phyllostachya, commonly known as polka dot plant, is a gorgeous evergreen foliage plant that originated in Madagascar. The shrub thrives in warm tropical weather and can add a great deal of character and aesthetic appeal to any gardening-set up, as it can be grown both indoors and outdoors. However, growing your own polka dot plant from seed requires a bit of care, attention, and patience.
Here’s how to grow polka dot plant from seed:
- Prepare the seeds.
- Sow the seeds
- Maintain ideal growing conditions.
- Adjust the watering schedule.
- Repot as necessary.
- Trim the plant.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know in order to grow a strong, vibrant, and thriving polka dot plant. Below, I’ll explain each step in more detail while also providing you with some tips and tricks that can help you throughout the process. Therefore, if you want to learn a fool-proof way of growing a gorgeous polka dot plant from seed, keep reading.
Growing a strong, vibrant polka dot plant starts with using properly-prepared seeds. It’s worth noting that some gardeners still have had success through the use of less thorough practices; however, if you want luck to be in your favor, you want to make sure that you do everything right.
Before you even remove the seeds from the plant, allow them to dry thoroughly. Afterward, you can collect the number of seeds you need depending on the type of arrangement you’re looking to achieve. Make sure to store the seeds in a dark, cool environment until they’re ready to be sown.
Polka dot plants should be sown in spring, after your last frost. This time frame usually corresponds to late May or early June. However, the exact date can vary depending on your geographical location and climate.
Therefore, a better cue to keep in mind is to sow the polka dot seeds as soon as the temperatures start consistently reaching 70°F (21.1°C) and the soil gets warmer. As previously mentioned, these are tropical plants that require lots of warmth, light, and water, especially during their first growth stages.
However, it’s still important to make sure that while the seeds get enough brightness throughout the day, they’re still away from direct sunlight, as this could lead to overheating. Therefore, a bright windowsill or partially covered garden spot is usually the best choice location-wise.
Now that your seeds are ready and you’ve picked out a location, it’s time to start the sowing process. You want to sow the seeds at least a few inches apart to make sure they have enough room to develop and grow.
The type of soil you use also matters (I’ll expand more on this topic in the following section). A standard high-quality perlite and peat moss mix should do the trick. However, no matter the type of soil you use, it should at least be well-draining. As I mentioned, these evergreen shrubs require lots of water, and if the liquid has nowhere to go, it could quickly lead to root rot.
If the temperatures in your area are still a bit too low, you can always add a plastic covering on top of the pot or container you’re using for your seeds. Doing so will help increase the temperature and humidity, speeding up the germination process.
As long as you follow these sowing tips, you should notice the seeds sprouting within a few days. Polka dot plants are known for their quick germination process, so after a week or two, the seedlings should have grown several inches.
However, keep in mind that the first set of leaves won’t have the signature polka dot pattern you’re looking for, so if that’s the case, don’t worry. As adult leaves start to grow, you’ll notice the unique pattern coming through.
During this time, the amount of light your plant is receiving can significantly affect its color and vibrancy, so make sure the tropical plants get all the light they need (while making sure that there’s no risk of overheating).
Now that your polka dot seeds are properly sown and have started to germinate, your work will become a bit more challenging, as you’ll have to be extra careful to ensure that the plant is being grown in the right conditions to thrive.
There are many variables that can affect the look, health, and longevity of a polka dot plant. Some of the most important include the following:
In the following sections, I’ll quickly take you through each of them.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, I want to point out that because polka dot plants are tropical, they have very distinct temperature requirements that don’t allow them to grow just anywhere. They prefer climates where temperatures are consistently above 60°F (15.6°C), meaning that most northern US states are out of the equation.
Polka dot plants are best grown in warmer states located closer to the equator, and they usually correspond to USDA growing zones 10 and 11. These include southern Florida, Hawaii, and southern California.
Even in these states, polka dot plants should only be sown after the last spring frost has passed and the soil has gotten warmer. Planting your evergreen shrubs indoors might allow for a bit more flexibility, but you still have to use expensive setups and grow lights to ensure that the temperature remains at ideal levels.
As mentioned, the type of soil you use can make or break your plant’s chances of success. Even though your run-of-the-mill organic potting mix (composed of perlite and peat moss) is usually a safe bet, it’s still a good idea to check whether the specific brand you’re buying is rich or draining enough.
Finding a potting soil with adequate drainage is essential. Given that polka dot plants require a warmer climate, their watering sessions need to be more frequent as well (more on this in a moment). However, waterlogged soil can quickly open your plant up to a plethora of issues, with root rot being the most common one.
If the soil you’re planning to use doesn’t provide good drainage, adding a bit of extra perlite or pumice to the mix should help resolve the issue.
Moreover, the potting mix should be rich in minerals and vitamins. For this reason, you might want to work some compost into your soil to make sure your polka dot plants are receiving all the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.
Polka dot plants require a moderate amount of water in the soil constantly. Therefore, even though the standard golden rule for watering is to let the soil get dry between sessions, this isn’t the case with this evergreen shrub.
When the soil becomes fully dry, it will trigger a stress response that can result in wilting, which is why you want to avoid it at all costs.
On the other hand, you don’t want the potting mix to be too soggy either, as it can lead to root rot. Therefore, you’ll want to water when the first few inches of soil have dried out, but the deeper layers remain somewhat moist.
Keep in mind that container plants need to be watered a bit more frequently than their in-ground counterparts, as their soil tends to dry out quicker.
Polka dot plants are a variety that enjoys being left in semi-shade. This means that while an adequate amount of light can be essential to their growth, you don’t want to risk overexposing them either.
For this reason, a south or east-facing garden spot or window would be an ideal location for you to grow your polka dot plants. A tell-tale sign that the lighting conditions are sub-par is wilting leaves; if you notice this issue occurring, you’re either exposing your plant to too little or too much light.
Given that polka dot plants thrive in tropical climates, they require a higher than average humidity level. Generally speaking, most of them require a humidity level that consistently stays above 50%.
This is why you’ll find many gardeners in Florida, California, or Hawaii growing polka dot plants successfully. At the same time, for growers in equally hot states such as Texas or Louisiana, the process can be a bit more challenging due to the drier climate.
As I’ve already mentioned, polka dot plants require an abundance of nutrients, which is why they can often benefit from the occasional fertilizing session. As always, make sure to exercise restraint when planning these fertilizing sessions and only carry them out once a month or so.
However, if your plants already seem healthy and are growing at the rate you want them to, it means that the soil is already rich enough, and you might not even need to fertilize at all.
Even though polka dot plants are a water-loving variety, their needs evolve as they move from one growth phase to another. Generally speaking, as the seedlings start to germinate, their watering sessions should start gradually becoming less frequent.
As always, follow the “only the first few inches of soil should be dry” rule when determining when to water your plant; however, don’t be surprised if the cue starts appearing less frequently as the species grows.
If you’re growing polka dot plants in a container, the need to repot will be inevitable at one point or another. Once the roots start getting too long for the original pot, it’s time to give them a bit of space to breathe; otherwise, they’ll become pot bound.
Polka dot plants are widely referred to as annual plants. As soon as they start to flower, chances are that they’ll die off shortly after. However, you can easily turn your evergreen shrub into a perennial by keeping up with your regular trimmings and not letting it flower.
The process also helps maintain an even, regular shape, adding to the plant’s aesthetic appeal, not to mention you can propagate any excess cuttings.
Growing a polka dot plant from seed is a fascinating and rewarding process; however, it requires a fair bit of work, time, and care. By following this straightforward step-by-step approach, you’ll be able to grow a strong, vibrant, thriving polka dot plant in no time.
You may like the following Polka dot plant articles:
- Why are my Peacock plant leaves pointing up?
- Peacock Plant Brown Spots
- Overwatered Polka Dot Plant
- How To Make My Polka Dot Plant Bushy?
- Polka Dot Plant Leaves Curling
Hi! I’m Sophia, and I love plants – especially an expert in growing house plants. I stay in Chicago, United States of America, and through my blog and social media platforms, provide tips and tricks on how to grow healthy, vibrant plants indoors. Check out more here.