Polka dot plants are the drama queens of the plant world. If you believe yours is dying, don’t worry! It’s likely that some minor care changes can turn things around.
Common issues for polka dot plants are browning, yellowing, curling, and wilting leaves. We will go over how to treat these issues and general polka dot plant care in the following article. Hopefully, what you learn here will lead to a happy, healthy polka dot plant in your home.
Polka Dot Plant Care Guide
Polka dot plants are popular houseplants due to their vibrant colors. These plants are generally green with spots that can be varying shades of red, white, and pink. They are usually very easy to find and relatively inexpensive.
Indoor care can be a challenge as these plants are very dependent on humidity and regular watering to stay happy.
This care guide is geared toward keeping polka dot plants indoors. If you would like to plant yours outdoors, they do best in zones 10-11. They like indirect light, nutrient-rich soil, and regular pruning.
Be sure to take cuttings before winter as your plant will likely die over the winter and may or may not come back in the spring.
Temperature and Humidity
Polka dot plants thrive in warm weather and moderate humidity. They prefer temperatures between 70-80 but can tolerate slightly higher or lower for short periods of time.
Be sure to keep your plant away from any air conditioning or heating vents as these can cause your plant to dry out or become stressed from temperature fluctuations.
Humidity is a crucial part of caring for polka dot plants. To keep them looking their best you will need to add humidity to their surroundings. There are several options you can employ to accomplish this; terrariums, humidifiers, pebble trays, and misting.
Keeping your polka dot plant in a terrarium is a great way to get it the humidity it needs. It also allows you to place it in places you may not normally be able to keep houseplants, like under vents or in more drafty areas.
The terrarium will keep your plant more humid and will keep the air slightly warmer than ambient air. Your terrarium can be as fancy or as plain as you like, but it does slightly alter care.
You will need to water a polka dot plant in a terrarium slightly less than you would normally. You will also need to trim it more to keep it from outgrowing its container.
A humidifier is a great option for polka dot plants and one humidifier is usually enough for several plants. If humidity-loving plants are a favorite of yours, investing in a humidifier is a great way to go.
If you are looking for something on the simpler side, a pebble tray could be the perfect option. Simply choose a tray lightly larger than your pot and fill the bottom with pebbles.
Fill the tray with water to just below the top of the pebbles, then place your pot on top. As the water evaporates, it will increase humidity around your plant.
Misting is another option you have with polka dot plants. If you go this route, I recommend lightly misting every 2-3 days. This is probably my least favorite option for indoor plants as it’s not a very controlled method and you can easily damage furniture or walls with excess moisture. It can, however, work in a pinch or until you can employ one of the above options.
If you have had your polka dot plant for very long, you are likely familiar with the polka dot plant pout. When your plant is thirsty it will wilt and give the appearance that it is about to die a certain death. However, if you give it water, it will perk back to its happy self in about 30 minutes.
Whenever I fall behind on my watering schedule, my polka dot plant is ready to let me know, and it makes me laugh every time.
The ideal watering schedule for your polka dot plant should be roughly twice a week. You will want to keep the plant’s soil moist, but not wet as they are prone to root rot.
Before watering, stick your finger in the plant’s soil. If it is close to dry or dry you can water again, but if it is still wet, wait another day or two. If your plant doesn’t seem to be using water in a normal amount of time, it could be that your pot is too big or it isn’t getting enough light.
Polka dot plants thrive in bright indirect light. Ideally in an east or south-facing window. Symptoms of not enough light are soil that stays wet longer than normal, yellowing leaves and leggy growth toward the light source.
Symptoms of too much light are burnt-looking leaves and browning leaves. If you notice symptoms of too much or not enough light, try moving your plant around the room. Sometimes, even plants of the same species will prefer slightly different lighting, so don’t be afraid to play around with it until you find the sweet spot.
When choosing soil for your polka dot plant, you want to pick one that is organically rich and well-draining. I prefer to use FoxFarms Ocean Forest soil and I usually add some perlite to the mix, but most potting soils should work fine.
You will want to fertilize your polka dot plant once a month during the spring and summer. I recommend using 10-10-10 fertilizer. If you want to spread out applications, you can also do it twice a month and mix the fertilizer to half strength.
Be sure not to overfertilize as this can burn your plant’s roots and cause your plant to die.
The best time to repot your plant is in the spring after it comes out of its dormancy. Choose a pot with a drainage hole that is about 2 inches larger than the previous pot. Gently remove the plant from the soil and shake excess soil off the roots, then plant it in the new pot.
An important part of polka dot plant care is pruning. These plants need regular pruning every 1-2 weeks to keep their bushy shape and maintain a healthy look. It’s recommended you trim 2 leaves off the tip of each stem when you prune. This will encourage the plant to add more healthy growth.
Polka dot plants will often flower toward the end of summer before they go into dormancy. When this happens, the plant will stop using energy to grow foliage and will put it all into the blooms.
If you are ok with your plant flowering and dying back, you don’t need to do anything, but if you want to keep your plant around through the fall, you will need to cut the bloom stems off before they can open.
Propagating polka dot plants is fairly easy. Simply cut a 4-inch cutting from your parent plant.
To grow the cutting in soil, dip the end of the stem in root hormone. Plant it in the same substrate as the parent plant and then cover the pot and the stem with plastic wrap. This will help keep the humidity levels up while roots form on the plant.
To grow the cutting in water, keep it in a glass or vase with water just past the end. Change the water once a week and make sure the end stays in the water even if some water evaporates. When you notice roots, you can move the cutting into soil.
Keeping polka dot plants can be a fun journey. Mine always keeps me laughing with its dramatic water demands. If you are afraid your polka dot plant is dying, rest assured you probably have time to save it. Keep in mind that many plants will die back over the winter, which is normal. Let them have their rest until they come back in the spring.