Polka Dot Plant Propagation | In Water Or Soil

Hypoestes plants, also known as Polka Dot Plants, are stunning, with their foliage featuring an array of rich colors, including baby pink, deep rose, white, and crimson.

But they can get leggy even in good light conditions, to the point where the branches get so long that they start to bend under their weight. 

If left for too long, your plant may collapse under its weight unless you give it some sort of support, but there is an easier solution.

The good news is that you can take all the leggy growth off the plant, and make new plants out of them without much effort at all. 

It only takes a few minutes to get the process started, and the hardest part is resisting the urge to check the cuttings every day!

These plants are very easy to propagate, thanks to how quickly they grow, and how easy they are to care for.

Interested in propagating your own Polka Dot Plant? Here’s everything you should know.

Hypoestes Plants: A Note On Toxicity

The Polka Dot Plant, or specifically Hypoestes phyllostachya (see also Polka Dot Plant Care Guide), is not considered poisonous to humans or pets, but you may still want to keep this plant well out of reach, as the fabulous leaves can attract a lot of attention.

How To Propagate Hypoestes In Compost

Take some sharp and clean scissors, and grab your Hypoestes plant. Put the scissors down, to begin with, and take a look at the stems before you cut anything from the plant.

You need to be able to spot a node. The nodes on the stem are where the new growth will form, and they look like raised bumps. Take a look at a pair of leaves, and where they join the stem is a node.

Cut just below a node. Strip any leaves at the base of this node, as you’ll want to bury the node in the compost.

Make sure that the top of the cutting doesn’t have a lot of leaves. You’ll only need a couple, as any more than that can mean that the cutting will struggle to survive, as supporting too many leaves means the cutting has less energy to grow roots.

Grab a small pot, and fill it with some houseplant compost. If you have any rooting hormone, dip the cut ends into it before planting the cuttings, deep enough so that they stand up on their own.

If you have a small square pot, this is ideal, as you can put a cutting into each corner, which will help hold them up while the cuttings root.

Water the soil, making sure you water as close to the base as possible. Move the pot somewhere warm and bright, but out of direct sunlight. 

Keep the soil damp but not wet, and once there is new growth, your cuttings have rooted. 

How To Propagate Polka Dot Plants In Water

To propagate Polka Dot Plants in water, the method is the same up until the point where your cuttings are ready for planting.

Instead of preparing a tray or pot of compost for your Polka Dot cuttings, you’ll want to grab a sterilized jar or vase.

Put the cuttings straight into the jar, filling it with tap water just above the node, or rainwater.

Move the jar or vase to a bright windowsill in your home, but away from direct sunlight, as the cuttings would essentially cook!

Keep an eye on the water. This is why it’s best to use a clear container, so you can see what’s going on.

Change the water every few days or so, and if it gets cloudy or murky, wash out the container and fill it with fresh water, so the cuttings don’t rot before they can root.

Once the cuttings have grown roots that are at least 5cm long, you can plant them up into compost.

Increasing Chances Of Success With Polka Dot Plant Propagation

While propagating Polka Dot Plants is pretty easy, there are a few tricks you can use to make sure you get as many cuttings to root as possible.

Only Choose Healthy Growth

This is a big one. 

While taking cuttings and chopping bits off a plant can help reinvigorate growth, one important thing to remember is that the cuttings you use for propagation are only as healthy as the plant material you’ve used.

Using stems that are less than healthy – spindly, thin, discolored, or the leaves are unhealthy, means that the cuttings won’t get off to a great start, and any cuttings that do root will be weaker, and the growth slower, than cuttings taken from healthy growth.

Take Cuttings During The Growing Season

One of the simplest tricks to maximize the number of viable cuttings is to take them during the growing season.

While Polka Dot Plants will root at any time of year, taking cuttings during spring and summer will greatly increase the chances of success, as light levels, temperature, moisture, and humidity are all greater. 

The plant is at its most active, so any growth will be as vigorous as possible. It’s also worth taking as many cuttings as you feel you can get away with, as not every cutting will root.

Create An Enclosed Environment For Cuttings

This trick works for soil propagation and water propagation, but you don’t need it for the latter, as the cuttings will have high enough humidity through the water they’re standing in.

If you can, put your cuttings in an enclosed environment. If you have a miniature greenhouse or a converted display cabinet, this is perfect.

But a plastic bag or tray, or even a jar will do in a pinch. Just make sure that it is clear so that light can get to the cuttings. 

An enclosed environment helps lock in moisture, warmth, and humidity, which tropical plant cuttings need plenty of to root properly.

Once a week or so, lift the lid (tray, jar, or bag) off the cuttings for about an hour, and this will help keep them fresh.

Creating an enclosed environment also helps in terms of how quickly the cuttings will root, so you don’t have to exercise as much patience!

Treat The Cuttings Similar To The Original Plant

Cuttings have very similar needs to the plant you take them from, though they are more delicate to a degree.

Those that are new to propagation can make the mistake of thinking that just because cuttings are in a jar, they can be placed anywhere – if you put them somewhere too dark, or too cold, they will not grow roots!

It’s worth trying to give the cuttings the same conditions as the parent plant as quickly as possible (water is an exception), as this will help the cuttings adapt easier to the shock of being removed from the main plant.

If you choose to propagate your Polka Dot Plant in compost, you can even plant the cuttings into the original pot, provided that the soil and main plant are healthy.

No Extremes: Keep Conditions Stable

Try to keep your cuttings out of any sort of extremes in the growing conditions. This applies to all elements: light, watering, temperature, and humidity.

Prolonged direct sunlight, for example, can cook your cuttings before they can root, while too little sunlight can weaken the cuttings as they are deprived of energy, to the point where there isn’t anything left for growing roots.

If you’re growing your Polka Dot cuttings in soil, keep the soil moist but not soggy. 

You want it to partially dry out in between watering, but not completely, as moisture is incredibly important when it comes to how well cuttings cope when separated from the original plant.

This is why many people will put their cuttings into a plastic bag before transferring them to soil or water. 

This trick helps lock in the moisture, buying more time while you move the cuttings to compost or water, as the more moisture they lose, the worse the cuttings will be.

Final Thoughts

Polka Dot Plants are easy to propagate, and this not only helps reinvigorate the original plant, but it also provides you with a few backup plants in case something happens to the original, or a few gift plants you can give away or swap for a plant that’s on your dream plant list.

Just remember to keep an eye on your cuttings, and only take cuttings from your plants during the growing season.

Taking cuttings is also a good way to attempt to save a struggling plant, if it has been overwatered, or plagued by certain pests. 

Overwatered plants can be difficult to save, once you see signs above the soil, as by this point the rot has usually gotten too far.

Even if the original plant doesn’t make it, you still have a chance by taking cuttings from what healthy material is left on the plant.

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