The polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) is a low-maintenance, colorful plant that’s fun to grow indoors as well as in garden beds. Best known for its dark green and white, pink, red, or purple freckles of variegation, this is also one of the easiest plants to propagate at home.
You can use three propagation methods: stem cuttings, plant division, or seeds. Each technique will help you grow a new plant in just a month. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to enjoy this short-lived ornamental for longer.
Let’s start with the most popular method of how to propagate Polka dot plant.
1.) Propagating From Stem Cuttings
The most common propagating method is through stem cuttings. Feel free to use it on any plant that’s at least 6 inches (15 cm) tall. You will have the most success propagating in spring and summer when the plant is actively growing, but you can also try it in early fall.
Propagating your Polka dot using stem cuttings has several benefits. It will help you create more plants for free or save an overwatered plant from root rot.
Also, you are giving the houseplant a trim by taking cuttings. Pruning will activate the nodes on the stem, and your plant will grow 1 – 2 new stems from each node, which is a great way to turn a leggy Hypoestes phyllostachya into a complete, bushy plant.
You can propagate in either soil or water. Here’s our step-by-step guide for each method.
Propagating Plant Cuttings in Water
- Find a plant stem with healthy-looking leaves, with no yellow or brown spots and no signs of pests. Also, please make sure that there are no flowers on the stems. Blooming stems will have a lower chance of growing roots.
- Locate the node on the stem. It will look like a small, round bump where the leaf petioles join the stem.
- Cut the stem between two nodes using a sharp, sterilized pair of scissors. Your cutting should be about 4 – 5 inches long (10 – 13 cm) and have at least three nodes. To make a fuller plant, take at least three cuttings.
- Cut the leaves coming out of the bottom two nodes. Sometimes, you may see small leaf clusters come out of the growth nodes, especially if you’ve already pruned that stem. Make sure you remove them as well. You should be left with a cutting with two bare nodes at the bottom and one or two leafy nodes at the top.
- Put your cuttings in a cup or glass, and fill it with room-temperature water until you submerge the bottom two nodes. Always put the cuttings in water immediately after cutting them, or they will start to wilt.
- Keep the glass in a warm, sunny room but away from direct light. To help your cuttings grow roots faster, cover the cuttings with a transparent plastic sheet. This will create a mini greenhouse effect that will provide a warm, humid environment for your cuttings.
- Change the water in the glass once a week.
- After 7 – 10 days, your cuttings will grow small, thin, white roots. Usually, the bottom node will grow roots first.
- After 14 days, the roots on your cuttings should be about 2 inches long (5 cm). You can leave them in the water for another week or transplant them into the soil.
Don’t worry if your Polka dot cuttings take more than two weeks to propagate. As long as the leaves are not wilting, your cuttings just need a bit more time to grow roots.
Propagating Plant Cuttings in Soil
- Use a sharp, sterilized blade and take a few cuttings from a healthy plant. Check out the in-depth process described in the water propagation section above for more details.
- Take a small plastic pot with drainage holes at the bottom. A nursery pot would be ideal, but you can use any pot with sufficient drainage.
- Make sure that your pot is the right size. If the pot is too big, the soil will stay too wet, and the bottom of your cuttings will rot. Use a 3-inch pot for two cuttings, a 4-inch pot for three cuttings, or a 5-inch pot for four cuttings — you get the picture. The pot should also be at least 3 inches (7.5 cm) deep to give the roots coming out of the bottom node room to grow.
- Fill the pot with a well-draining but moisture-retentive soil mix. You can use a combination of equal parts universal potting mix, sand, and perlite.
- Stick your cuttings in the pot until both nodes are below the soil level.
- Water them well, then cover the pot with a transparent plastic sheet to help preserve humidity.
- Keep the pot in a warm room with bright, indirect light.
- Check the soil regularly, and make sure it never dries out completely. Polka dot cuttings are very sensitive to drought; if you forget to water them, they will soon die.
- The cuttings will start growing roots after 2 – 3 weeks. You can test them by trying to pull them gently from the soil. If you encounter resistance, propagation was successful, and your new plants have roots.
Cuttings develop very quickly, and their roots will soon outgrow their pot. Repot them to a bigger container after 6 – 8 weeks, especially if the roots start coming through the drainage holes.
You can either leave the cuttings together or divide them into individual plants.
Rooting Hormone: Faster Hypoestes phyllostachya Root Growth
You may use a rooting hormone to promote faster root growth. Once rooted, ensure your plant is given the proper environment for growth and avoid frosts for longevity.
2.) How To Propagate Polka Dot Plant Through Division
You can use plant division to propagate your houseplant if you have several plants growing together in the same pot. This method also works for dividing rooted cuttings after propagating them in the soil.
The best time to divide your plants is in spring or summer, preferably when you’re also repotting them.
Start by thoroughly watering your plants one day in advance. This will help loosen up the soil and make it easier to untangle the roots.
The next day, remove the plant from the pot. Use your fingers to separate the roots of each plant gently. Polka dot roots are long and thin and can break easily if you’re not careful.
After separating your plants, repot each one into an individual container and water it well. The new plants will take about 2 – 3 weeks to become established. Once they’re settled in, you can start pruning them to give them a bushier look and use the stem cuttings for propagation.
3.) Polka Dot Plant Propagation From Seeds
All Polka dot plants will grow flowers, especially in the summer. Unfortunately, after the plant blooms, it will reach the end of its life cycle and will slowly begin to die. This process is inevitable, which is why sometimes it’s better to go along with it and let your plant go to seed, then use the seeds for propagation (known as sexual propagation-ndsu.edu).
To harvest Polka dot plant seeds:
- Wait until the flowering stems dry out completely.
- Use scissors to cut the stems from the plant, and manually remove each dried flower spike.
- Use your fingers to get rid of the papery husks covering the seeds.
Each flower will produce one or two seeds. The seeds are orange-brown in color and very small, which can make them difficult to see. To make harvesting them easier, try separating them from the husks on a white sheet of paper.
When complete, you can plant the seeds immediately or store them in a ziplock bag in the fridge.
Planting The Seeds
The best time to plant Polka dot seeds is spring or early summer. However, if you plan to grow plants for an outdoor garden, start the seeds indoors at least eight weeks before the last frost date in your area.
- Fill a shallow plastic container with a mix of nutrient-rich, well-draining soil and perlite. Make sure the container has drainage holes at the bottom. Alternatively, you can use cell plug trays, making it easier to divide and repot the seedlings.
- Spread the seeds on top of the potting mix and cover them with a thin layer of soil.
- Use a spray pump to moisten the soil, and put the container in a warm, bright spot.
- The seeds need warm temperatures to germinate. If you keep them in temperatures above 68°F (20°C), the seeds will germinate in just four days. Use a plant heating mat to warm the soil in your propagation tray.
- After germinating, your Hypoestes phyllostachya seeds will produce two green leaves known as cotyledons. As the seedlings grow, they will develop true leaves with the same colors and patterns as the mother plant.
- When the seedlings have at least two pairs of true leaves, you can take them out of the propagation trays and transplant them into a bigger pot.
If you want to plant seedlings in your garden, always wait until all danger of frost has passed and temperatures are above 60°F (15.5°C). The new plants will grow quickly and create colorful borders and ground covers throughout summer and early fall.
Is this plant easy to propagate?
Yes, propagating the Polka dot plant is easy, regardless of the method. But sometimes, propagation may not be successful if you use stem cuttings.
To increase your chances of success, keep these 5 tips in mind:
1.) Always propagate cuttings from a mature, healthy plant that hasn’t started flowering.
2.) Put the cuttings in soil or water immediately after cutting them. Otherwise, they will start wilting, and the stress will prevent them from growing roots.
3.) Cover your propagation pot with a plastic sheet to increase temperature and humidity.
4.) Keep the cuttings out of the direct sun.
5.) If you’re propagating in soil, water your cuttings regularly, and never let the soil dry to a depth of more than half an inch.
Why are my cuttings wilting?
It’s normal for cuttings to wilt or develop soft, drooping leaves. This usually happens on the same day you propagate them. Luckily, the leaves will perk up again after a couple of days.
But the propagation fails if the leaves remain limp and start getting soft, brown spots or turning crispy. In this case, the only thing left is to throw the cuttings away and start over.
How long does it take to propagate in water?
Cuttings grow roots very quickly. If you’re using the water propagation method, your cuttings will develop roots in 1 – 2 weeks.
Where do I cut the stem?
You can cut the stem anywhere between two nodes. However, for best results, take cuttings from the top of the plant stems, as they have a better chance of growing roots.