How to Grow & Care for Polka Dot Plants

by Sarah Peel

 overhead view of pink and green polka dot plant leaves

The Polka Dot plant, or Hypoestes Phyllostachya is also sometimes called a Measles Plant, or a Flamingo Plant. They are Native to Madagascar and can grow up to 3 feet with thick woody stems, although this is not common when grown indoors. These plants are often used in terrariums because of their love of humidity. They also have a bit of a reputation for being drama queens when they’re not watered in time. These guys are also pet safe so you won’t have to worry if your pet decides to take a nibble. However, ingesting too much of the plant can cause irritation.

They have small, inconspicuous flowers.

Light Requirements

Polka Dot Plants prefer bright lighting and they can tolerate some direct sunlight. However, their ideal lighting situation is bright, indirect light. They can tolerate low light, but will begin to grow leggy and their vibrant colour will fade without adequate light. The bright pink spots on their leaves is a direct result of getting enough sun.

Watering and Humidity Levels

Your Polka Dot Plant will prefer to stay evenly moist but not soggy. These plants are known for being dramatic, as they will start to droop but perk back up after they are watered. Do not allow your Polka Dot Plant to fully dry out, as it may not bounce back if it goes too long without water. 

These plants will tolerate medium humidity but will prefer higher humidity levels about 50%.

Soil/ Fertilizing 

Polka Dot Plants enjoy soil that is well draining but still retains some moisture. Soil mixes containing coco coir and regular potting soil will be good options for your plant, as they don’t require a lot of extra drainage. 

They don’t require much fertilizer and will do well with a feed every 4-6 months. (Our all-natural Elixir is a great one!) If using another brand, be sure to always dilute your fertilizer and start by using about 50%-60% of the manufacturer's recommended amount, and monitor your plant’s reaction. Too much fertilizer too quickly can lead to fertilizer burn. 

Propagating Polka Dot Plants

Want to propagate your plant in order to share it with your friends, start a new plant or to make your existing pot fuller? Polka Dot Plants can be propagated from stem cuttings. For stem cuttings, get a clean, sharp pair of scissors or a blade, take your cutting just below a leaf. Place your stem cuttings in water in a well lit area, and wait for your roots to form. You can transfer your plant to soil when enough roots have formed and care for it as you would care for a mature Polka Dot Plant.

If your plant is starting to get a bit "leggy", it may need more sun, but you can also encourage bushier growth by "pinching" the top two leaves (usually "babies") off the top of the stems. Within two weeks you'll have new leaves growing out, instead of up!

Decor and Styling

Since Polka Dot Plants do well in high humidity, they are a good option for bathrooms with a window. You can place them on your sink, windowsill or on a bathroom shelf. 

Small polka dot plants also work well in funky little planters. Planters with interesting patterns will complement this plant well because it has so much personality. 

Polka dot plants will also work well in terrariums because of their bright, patterned leaves, and the higher humidity in the terrariums will make your plant very happy.

Common Problems


Symptoms : Wilting leaves, drooping plant, dry soil.

Solution: Give the plant a good drink, letting the water run through the bottom of the drainage hole. Polka dot plants like their soil to remain moist, so water again just before it gets completely dry to the touch on the surface.


Symptoms: Crispy, browning leaves, shrivelling leaves.

Solution:  Increase humidity by placing the plant on a pebble tray, using a humidifier, or placing it in a bathroom (with a window).


It’s good practice to inspect your plants for visible signs of pests frequently, and treat with a preventative pest treatment such as neem oil. Don't forget to look on the soil and under leaves! Since neem oil is somewhat difficult to work with (it's very thick at room temperature), our all-natural Plant Tonic acts as pest control and a leaf shine! Diatomaceous Earth is also an inexpensive way to get rid of pests. 


Polka dot plants are NOT toxic to people, cats and dogs if consumed. 


About the Author

Tonnice Richards is the teacher and plant lover behind Planties In a Knot on InstagramAs the creator of @plantiesinaknot, Tonniece Richards shares what she has learned by caring for her plants throughout the years. She provides plant tips, and shares her plant wins and fails with her followers. She believes in the importance of improving mental heath and well-being through plant care.