Why Is My Polka Dot Plant Losing Leaves? (Causes & Treatment)

Whether you live on the humid beachside of Miami, Florida, or the rainy chill of Seattle, Washington, Polka dot plants brighten up any space with their bright-colored leaves. If yours is losing leaves, you’re probably scrambling to find the cause.

Your polka dot plant is losing leaves because of either underwatering or overwatering. If the soil is too wet or too dry, your plant goes into survival mode and begins shedding leaves to keep itself alive. Your plant may also suffer from pests, fungal infections, or root rot. 

Please read on to discover the multiple causes of dropped leaves, whether it is a sign that your polka dot plant could be dying, and the best ways to care for it moving forward.

Polka Dot Plant Leaves Falling Off

Your watering routine could be why your polka dot plant, or Hypoestes phyllostachya, loses its leaves.

You Are Overwatering Your Polka Plant

Overwatering your polka dot plant causes the roots to become waterlogged. When you overwater, the roots cannot absorb the amount of water in the soil, so the water continues to sit there. Excess moisture can lead to the roots rotting, and your plant going into survival mode and begin shedding leaves.

If the leaves of your polka dot plant turn yellow, it is a sign of overwatering. To fix this, first, make sure there is no root rot. If there is, remove the damaged roots and repot your plant. If there isn’t, allow the top half of the soil to dry completely before watering again. Repeat the drying process for your watering routine moving forward.

Your Polka Plant Has Root Rot

If you notice any root rot or dead roots, clip them off with scissors, so the damage goes no further. If you slide your polka plant from its pot, the affected roots will be dark brown and spongy and different from healthy ones. Try to keep as much of the plant roots intact as possible by saving the healthy roots.

Read this: How To Grow Polka Dot Plant From Seed?

How Can You Tell if a Polka Dot Plant Has Root Rot?

You can tell if your polka dot plant has root rot through leaf loss, losing color, a brown stem, and weak, discolored roots. If you notice any damaged roots, immediately cut them off with scissors, spray them with peroxide, and allow them to dry before repotting with fresh soil.

Your Polka Dot Plant Has Pests, Bacteria, or Fungus

Your plant may have accumulated pests or fungus. Polka dot plants are especially susceptible to whiteflies and mealybugs. To get rid of bugs, spray the pests with a soap and water mixture. Wipe them off if necessary.

To treat fungus, use a fungicide spray. This Garden Safe Fungicide on Amazon.com is safe for ornamentals and bushes like polka dot plants.

Your Polka Dot Plant Needs Repotting

If your polka plant grows too big for its container it may become rootbound and lose its leaves.

The last step to prevent leaf loss and ill plant health is to repot your polka dot plant with fresh soil and a larger pot with good drainage.

Adding new soil and fertilizer and choosing a more spacious container gets your plant out of an environment that was killing it and gives it the chance to bounce back.  Ensure your polka plant has adequate drainage and rich yet light soil with plenty of organic matter.

You Are Underwatering Your Polka Dot Plant

Polka dot plants love water and humidity, so underwatering can be detrimental to their health. If your plant doesn’t get enough water, it goes into survival mode—the leaves begin to wilt and drop.

If the leaves turn brown, it is a sign of underwatering. To fix this, monitor when the top of the soil dries out and add more water accordingly.

When Falling Leaves Are a Sign of a Dying Polka Dot Plant

If you notice that leaf dropping isn’t the only symptom your polka dot plant is experiencing, it may be trying to tell you that it’s dying and needs more attention. If your plant is losing leaves you should pay attention to other following signs to ensure your plant isn’t dying.

Your Polka Dot Plant Also Has Curling Leaves

When the leaves of your polka dot plant begin to curl, it is a sign that there is something off with its nutrient levels. Sunlight has a lot to do with it: plants need the sun to undergo photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis is when a plant uses the sun combined with water and carbon dioxide to create energy, allowing it to grow. Too much or too little of these components leads to an unhealthy plant.

Your Polka Plant Also Has Brown Leaves

Brown leaves on your polka dot plant goes back to underwatering. Under watered plants cannot correctly photosynthesize; thus, the leaves turn brown. It could even be a combination of underwatering and too much sunlight.

Ensure your Hypoestes phyllostachya is watered frequently and place it in indirect sunlight.

Check out: Overwatered Polka Dot Plant

Your Polka Plant Has Damp Soil

If the soil around your polka dot plant is constantly wet, it could be a sign that it’s dying—it’s also a sign that you’re overwatering. The roots are most likely waterlogged and can’t intake more water.

Polka dot plants are also easily subject to powdery mildew, resulting from soil that doesn’t dry. Watering your plant less frequently can fix this problem.

Your Polka Dot Plant Is Also Flowering

Your Hypoestes phyllostachya flowering isn’t necessarily killing it; it is simply a sign that your plant is reaching the end of its life. Flowers are like the seeds of a polka dot plant, and they require a lot of energy to produce. As the plant dies, it attempts to create as many seeds as possible.

So, if you have your polka dot plant outside, it will grow back next season. If it’s inside, it will just die.

How Do You Revive a Polka Dot Plant That’s Lost Its Leaves?

Polka dot plants have a pretty short lifespan, to begin with—about two years. So if you’re approaching that point, there may not be much you can do. But if your Hypoestes phyllostachya is relatively new, there are steps you can take to get it back in good shape.

You can revive your polka dot plant that lost its leaves, by monitoring your watering levels and soil health, treating any pests or fungus, and repotting it with new soil. Which method you use will depend on the cause of your plant’s leaf loss and its symptoms.

Once you have found the cause of your polka plant’s leaf loss, you will better know how to proceed. If your polka does not stop shedding leaves and constitutes to decline, your final option may be reseeding.

Best Ways To Prevent Leaf Loss in Polka Dot Plants

Here are some polka dot plant care best practices to maintain a healthy, beautiful annual.

Water Your Polka Plant Adequately

How much water you give your Hypoestes phyllostachya can directly impact the health of your polka dot plant and result in dropped leaves.

How Often Do You Water a Polka Dot Plant?

Water your polka dot plant often when it first grows in the spring and summertime. Keep it moist in the winter. Make sure you allow your soil to dry enough between waterings to avoid mildew and yellow leaves.

Should I Mist My Polka Dot Plant?

You should mist your polka dot plant with water to keep the soil moist. Misting every so often helps keep you from overwatering your plant and satisfies your plant’s need for humidity. Or you can mist a few times a day in place of other humidity tactics.

Give Your Polka Dot Plant Sufficient Sunlight

Polka dot plants enjoy bright light, but they cannot be in direct sunlight, or the leaves will dry out. When there is less sun in the winter, you can use an artificial light setup to keep your plant healthy. I recommend the GooingTop LED Grow Light, 6000K Full Spectrum Clip Plant Growing Lamp for a cost-effective option from Amazon.com.

Ensure Your Soil Is Suited to the Polka Dot Plant

Plant your Hypoestes phyllostachya in nutrient-rich soil that drains well. Add fertilizer to the soil occasionally to keep it healthy. The polka dot plant needs light, well-draining soil rich in nutrients. Your soil should also be rich in organic matter, and peat moss is an excellent addition to your soil to ensure your polka dot plant thrives.

Place Your Polka Plant in the Correct Environment

You can put a polka dot plant either inside or outside. If outside, make sure it is in a shaded area with plenty of light. Whether indoors or outdoors, your Hypoestes phyllostachya needs humidity to thrive. You can purchase a humidifier and set your pot in a tray of water or mist daily.

Click here: How To Make My Polka Dot Plant Bushy?

Pot Your Polka Plant Properly

The polka dot plant’s pot should drain well to prevent mildew and root rot; thus, your container should have plenty of drainage holes.  You can choose an existing pot and amend your soil to promote drainage by adding perlite and peat moss to the soil. Ceramic pots are a great option when choosing a container for your plant.

Conduct Regular Maintenance on Your Polka Plant

There are a few things you should be doing regularly for your polka dot plant.

  • Pinch or Prune: Pinching and pruning regularly lead to fuller growth and a bushier plant. This routine also allows you to be on the lookout for flowers.
  • Check for Pests: Look for bugs in your soil or leaves. Spray a soap and water solution on the plant if you find any.
  • Prevent Flowering: If you spot any flower buds, clip them off; it will add a few weeks or months to the lifespan of your polka dot plant.


Your polka dot plant losing leaves means it needs some extra attention. Make sure your watering routine isn’t too frequent or infrequent, keep it in the shade, and make sure it’s in a humid environment.

You can keep your plant indoors or outdoors—just make sure it’s out of direct sunlight. With the proper regular maintenance, your polka dot plant can last its entire life—and even make a new life.

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