How to Grow and Care for Polka Dot Plant

Reviewed by Debra LaGattutaFact checked by Sarah Scott

Polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya), sometimes called freckle face plant, is an herbaceous warm-climate perennial with brightly variegated leaves. The most common polka dot plants feature green foliage flecked with pink, but varieties with purple, white, or red variegation are also available. Polka dot plant grows best in warm, humid conditions with bright, indirect light or partial shade.

<p>The Spruce / Leticia Almeida</p>

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Polka dot plants are easy to grow with the proper conditions. They have a moderate growth rate and remain relatively small once mature, especially when grown indoors as houseplants. Because they are native to warm climates, many gardeners treat them as annuals when planted outdoors. Polka dot plants are not considered invasive plants in temperate climates, but they are considered invasive in Australia and some other tropical areas, including Hawaii.

<p>The Spruce / Photo Illustration by Amy Sheehan / Leti­cia Almeida</p>

The Spruce / Photo Illustration by Amy Sheehan / Leti­cia Almeida

Common Names

Polka dot plant, flamingo plant, freckle face, measles plant, pink dot

Botanical Name

Hypoestes phyllostachya



Plant Type

Herbaceous perennial in its hardiness zone; annual or houseplant elsewhere

Mature Size

1-2 ft. tall, 1-2 ft. wide

Sun Exposure


Soil Type

Moist, well-drained

Soil pH


Bloom Time

Summer or early fall

Flower Color

Lilac or pink

Hardiness Zones

10 to 11, USDA

Native Area


Polka Dot Plant Care

  • Plant polka dot plant in rich, well-drained potting mix.

  • Place polka dot plants in a warm location with bright, indirect light indoors or part sun outdoors.

  • Water your polka dot plant when the top half-inch of soil has dried out.

  • Fertilize plants once per month during spring and summer.

  • Polka dot plants complete their growth cycle after flowering, giving them a lifespan of one to two years in most environments.

Invasive Species

Polka dot plants have become a problematic, aggressive grower in Queensland and New South Wales, Australia. In the continental US, the plant is not considered invasive and is safe to plant in-ground.

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida 
The Spruce / Leticia Almeida
The Spruce / Leticia Almeida
The Spruce / Leticia Almeida


Outdoors, plant polka dot plants in a location that receives some shade. Too much light can cause the plant's variegation to fade. Bright, indirect light from an east- or south-facing window is ideal indoors.


Polka dot plants prefer soil rich in organic matter with good drainage. An all-purpose organic potting mix is typically suitable for these plants. Mix in some pumice or perlite to improve soil drainage.


Keep the soil evenly moist. Water the plant when the top half-inch of soil has dried out. Cut back slightly on watering in the winter, then resume watering once you see new growth appear in the spring.

Temperature and Humidity

Keep your polka dot plant in a warm place with at least 50 percent humidity. They can be a great bathroom plant, if your bathroom has a window. Polka dot plants prefer temperatures over 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so they're only hardy outdoors in USDA growing zones 10 and 11. Move container plants outdoors in the spring after any danger of frost has passed, then bring them back indoors well before the first frost in fall if you plan to overwinter them.


Feed container plants with an organic fertilizer designed for houseplants once a month during the warm growing season. If planting in-ground, mix organic compost into the soil each spring before planting.

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Types of Polka Dot Plants

Different varieties of Hypoestes phyllostachya are bred for their leaf coloration, including:

  • ‘Carmina’: has dark green and red-spotted leaves

  • ‘Confetti’: offers green leaves with spots of white, pink, rose, red, or burgundy

  • ‘Pink Brocade’: features green leaves with mottled pink spots

  • ‘Splash’ series: boasts leaves in mixes of greens with splotches of pinks, reds, or whites

David Q. Cavagnaro / Getty Images Pink Splash polka dot plant
David Q. Cavagnaro / Getty Images Pink Splash polka dot plant


Cut or pinch back the top two leaves on each stem every week to promote bushier growth and keep your polka dot plant from becoming leggy. When the plant flowers, clip off the flower spike with clean, sharp shears because the plant will enter dormancy after it flowers. Removing the flowers prevents the plant from going into dormancy.

Pruning Tip

Not sure where to find the best pruners for your polka dot plant? We tested the best pruners on the market, whether you're looking for adjustable pruners, heavy duty, pruners for small hands, and more.

Propagating Polka Dot Plants

You can propagate polka dot plants from stem cuttings. You'll have the most success in spring or summer. Here's how to propagate your polka dot plant from a stem cutting rooted in water. You'll need a small glass or jar and clean, sharp pruners or scissors.

  1. Cut a stem tip from the mother plant. Make sure it's at least two and ideally four inches long. Remove the leaves on the lower half of the stem.

  2. Put the cutting in the glass or jar. Add water so that the lower portion of the stem is submerged.

  3. Put the cutting in a warm place with bright, indirect light. Top off the water to keep the level consistent, and change the water every two weeks or so to keep algae from forming.

  4. When roots are about two inches long, the cutting is ready to pot up in soil. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

How to Grow Polka Dot Plant From Seed

Sow seeds on the surface of warm, moist soil in early spring. Place the plant in a sunny location. The seeds should sprout in a few days. Once the seedling has grown several inches—usually in a couple of weeks—it is ready to transplant into a larger container or plant outdoors. Only plant outdoors after the threat of frost is over.

Potting and Repotting Polka Dot Plant

The best time to repot a polka dot plant is in the spring after its winter dormant period. Your polka dot plant is pot bound when the roots start growing out of the drainage holes in its container. The new pot should be no more than two inches wider and deeper than the old pot. Avoid terra cotta pots, which wick away moisture and can cause the soil to dry out too quickly.


Bring outdoor container plants indoors before night temperatures drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit in late summer or early fall. You can bring them outdoors again the following spring when night temperatures are consistently above 60 degrees.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Pests like mealybugsaphids, and whiteflies can affect polka dot plants. Typical diseases associated with polka dot plants are root rot, leaf-spot diseases, and powdery mildew. Telltale signs of infestations or disease include discolored or damaged foliage and insects crawling or feeding on leaves and stems.

How to Get Polka Dot Plant to Bloom

Unlike most flowering plants, gardeners typically want to prevent polka dot plant from blooming because flowering causes the plant to go dormant. If you want your plant to last longer, it's best to clip off the flower spike when it forms.

Bloom Months

Polka dot plants typically bloom in late summer or early fall as days begin to shorten.

What Do Polka Dot Plant Flowers Look and Smell Like?

Polka dot plants bloom by sending up a small spike with tiny pink or purple flowers. They're not showy or aromatic.

Common Problems With Polka Dot Plants

Leaves Losing Their Color

Fading leaf color is typically caused by too much or too little sun. Polka dot plants need bright, indirect light to maintain their color, but hot, direct sun can cause variegation to fade.

Leaves Turning Brown or Drooping

Insufficient water and humidity can cause the polka dot plant's leaves to turn brown or start drooping. Also, too much sunlight can burn the leaves. Hard water and overfertilization are other reasons for a polka dot plant's leaves turning brown. Adjust your humidity or watering habits to revive the plant.

Leaves Turning Yellow or Dropping Off

Overwatering can cause leaves to yellow and even drop. If you notice yellowing, reduce the amount of water you give the plant and make sure you're using potting soil with good drainage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is polka dot plant indoor or outdoor?

Polka dot plants can be grown indoors, and outdoors in the right climates. If you live in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 through 11, you can grow polka dot plant outdoors.

Where should I put my polka dot plant?

Polka dot plants will grow best in a warm, humid place with bright, indirect light or dappled sunlight.

Do polka dot plants spread?

Polka dot plants do not spread very much. Polka dot plants usually grow to 16 to 22 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide.

How often do polka dot plants flower?

Polka dot plants don't always flower, but when they do, it's in the summer months. Their flowers are small and typically lilac or pink in color.

Read the original article on The Spruce.