Hoya Plant: How To Grow And Care For The Wax Plant

Ed Wike
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Hoya Plant Overview

Hoya plant is a non-flowering plant, but it is still considered a flowering succulent. It has broad, smooth, leathery dark green leaves. From spring through fall, the plant produces a stalk with hundreds of small showy flowers that are arranged in a thick, waxy, funnel-shaped unbranched cluster.

As beautiful as this plant is, it can be quite invasive in the home. It climbs by aerial roots that grow from the stems and branches, and attaches to any surface available. It can grow over furniture and walls, completely covering them.

The plant has a long life, ranging anywhere from 10 to 15 years. It grows almost horizontally, ranging in height from 5 to 10 feet. The plant is very tolerant to poor growing conditions, high and low humidity, and improper watering.

Types of Hoya Plant

Hoya is a genus of succulent plants several species of which are popular houseplants. This group includes the wax plant (H. wightiana) which is perhaps the best-known.

Native to the Philippines, wax plant blooms with waxy white flowers that look like a nightlight.

Hoya belongs to the Nightshade family, and the wax plant is just one of more than 200 species of Hoya. The plant family includes annual houseplants as well as shrubs and vines that grow outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11.

With a variety of different species, there are many different types and sizes of hoya to choose from. Many of the plants are grown for their attractive flowering vines, and the leaves are either decorative or poisonous. But hoya plants grown indoors as houseplants are grown for their large, glossy leaves. These leaves are used as decoration because their pattern makes it appear as if the plant is covered with wax.

All hoya plants have glossy leaves that are often red on top and white, pale green or gray-green on the underside. Small clusters of waxy flowers grow near the end of the leaves. What makes hoya different is the way these flowers grow on the leaves. Unlike other plants, hoya flowers grow on their reproductive parts as opposed to their stems.

Hoya Plant Care

The Hoya plant is a species of flowering plant that’s grown for its attractive and unusual-looking leaves. The plant is a member of the wax plant family (Caprifoliaceae) and is native to tropical areas of Asia, Australia, and Africa. Although native to warmer climates, the Hoya plant is not overly picky and will grow well in most areas. The plant is very versatile and can be grown indoors as well as outdoors. In fact, the Hoya plant is sometimes called the Wax plant or Garden Ivy, due to its resemblance to the Ivy plant.

One of the most popular forms of the Hoya plant is the Hoya carnosa, also known as the wax plant. Wax plant is often used as an indoor ornamental plant due to its ability to grow quite well in any type of environment. Also another variety of the Hoya plant, the Hoya kerrii is often used to create terrariums. Numerous Hoya plants are grown in a container and assembled into a terrarium. Perhaps you want to try and assemble a terrarium with a Hoya plant and learn a bit more about the plant itself.

Light

Hoya plants can be grown both indoors and outdoors but whether it lives up to its full potential depends on its location. Lights at night are crucial for indoor houseplants and sunlight should be the only source of light outside.

To keep your hoya plants healthy and happy, they need a bit of sunlight and quite a bit of it during the summer. However, if grown in the shade, hoya plants can survive almost anywhere.

Place them outside during the summer where they will get at least six hours of sunlight a day. Make sure that they are placed in an area that gets some shade during the hottest part of the day.

Alternatively, hoya plants can also be kept in a container in the porch or patio for summer. Move the plant inside while the temperatures begin to drop.

If you keep it outdoors, make sure that the place does not get too cold during the winter. In the wild, hoya plants like the ones found in the Philippines actually prefer dry winters. This is a good aspect you should know if you want to grow your hoya in an area which is cool and dry. Just make sure that it does not freeze.

Water

Plastic plants have the same watering and feeding requirements as live plants, although they are much lighter on your wallet. Plastic plants are a great option for low-maintenance offices, or anyone looking to simply add a bit of pizazz to their work. The good news is, you will spend a lot less time watering or repotting them than any live plant. All you will need to achieve plastic plant success is:

  • Basic plant care
  • A good air circulation system
  • A small maintenance budget

Most plastic plants are designed to hold up through many waterings, but they will still need a proper cleaning. Lightly scrub the leaves, or pull out any leaves you need to remove. If the leaves are discolored, or start to grow mold, you can also remove these as well.

The watering technique for plastic plants is like that of all other plants. Simply water each individual plant pot until it has been thoroughly moistened. When the plants have had enough, excess liquid will start to drip from the bottom of the pot. You don’t want the pot to be soggy, so let it dry out for one or two days.

Soil

The Hoya plant is a genus of succulent plants consisting of around 200 species of woody vines, shrubs, and climbers. Some species can also be cultivated as epiphytes, clinging to trees for support.

Hoya is a genus native to tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Asia, Malaysia, and the Americas.

Hoya plants can tolerate a range of conditions including low to high portions of direct sunlight, air pollution. In fact, they will thrive and look beautiful in any light (in the tropics, they are often grown under street lights to provide nighttime lighting).

The tropical wax plant does best in an area with high humidity but should be watered only when the top soil becomes slightly dry.

Fertilizer

The Hoya plant’s soil should be kept moist, not wet. Over watering will cause root rot. Usually growing Hoya plants in sandy soils is enough to keep the thick stems from rotting. This plant does thrive when watered daily, but also can withstand some dry periods.

As with any plant, the Hoya plant appreciates some form of fertilizer applied either to the soil or leaves. We suggest using a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10, and applying it once a month.

The Hoya plant also has to be kept free of pests. Although Hoya grows best outdoors, this is a plant that can suffer for lack of light. In order to ensure that all foliage can receive sunlight, place the plant in an area of bright indirect sunlight. Move the plant into a low light setting when the weather turns cold.

To ensure that your Hoya plant will produce its unique and beautiful flowers, pinch off the flowering stem when it is about 6-16 inches long. If the stem is allowed to grow, it will die back and then begin to sprout from the stem. Pruning the stem before it drops off will encourage new growth and more flowers.

Propagation

Hoya plants produce flowers on a regular basis. These flowers can be used to grow new plants from the stalks.

There are two ways to grow Hoyas from these flowers. You can either grow stems or cuttings.

To grow stems:

Cut off a section that has no flowers from the stem about 1” long. The section should contain at least two nodes.

Wrap the cuttings into a damp paper towel and place them in a sealed plastic bag for two to three weeks.

Keep the paper towel moist throughout the two to three week period.

Plant in moist soil about six to eight weeks after wrapping them in the paper towel and place the container in a warm, sunny place.

Provide the cutting with plenty of sunlight and water it regularly.

To grow from a cutting:

Remove a cutting from a stem.

The cutting must have at least two nodes and must not have flowers.

Cut the end of the stem off.

Make sure that the cut is clean.

Rinse the end well to remove any pollen and remove all other traces of flower from the cutting.

Pour some rooting hormone into a container and dip the cut end into it before planting it into the soil and keep planting until the cutting is planted level with the soil.

Repotting

The Hoya plant does need to be repotted fairly often, but that's because it roots so easily. Pruning the plant is another very easy solution. The adult plant will only need to be repotted every five years or so. It's best to repot your Hoya in the summer or early fall so that it has time to recover before winter. If you are repotting a Hoya plant that has not been repotted for quite a while, it's a good idea to remove some of the older, yellowing leaves. This is also because the Hoya plant tends to put out a lot more leaves than it has room to grow them. It's a good idea to get rid of the leaves so that the plant can use its energy to develop strong new roots and shoots instead of making more leaves. A larger cutting will also result in a larger leaf.

If you are repotting a Hoya plant and you are unsure where to place it in your home, you may want to think about the amount of sunlight the plant gets at this time of year, rather than its location in your home. Hoya plants need to get 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight each day to stay healthy. If the leaves on your plant begin to turn yellow or fall off, you may need to move it into a brighter location. Move it into the direct sunlight for a few hours each day until the leaves are looking perky again.

Pruning

While a Hoya plant does grow in the wild as a vine, we are growing Hoya plants in a house plant pot through a process called grafting. Grafting is the process of removing a branch from one plant and attaching it to a larger host plant. The reason we graft is so that we have a more manageable house plant.

The fruits or blooms of the Hoya are what give the Hoya plant its popularity. In its native tropical habitat, a Hoya can grow to multiple feet across on the vine. Imagine trying to fit a tree with flowers the size of your palm into a small house plant pot. That’s why we graft them to a more manageable base plant in order to keep the "tree in a pot" look.

Hoya plants are easily recognizable, with a shiny, waxen appearance. The wax feels like soft plastic and gives the Hoya its signature appearance and name.

The Hoya plant prefer humidity over a lot of light.

Hoya plants love humidity. They thrive when when increased humidity levels are achieved by placing a tray filled with coconut coir or gravel under the pot. The moisture will draw out of the gravel tray into the surrounding air, keeping the Hoya plant healthy and strong.

Problems

Hoya plants are certainly not the most delicate houseplant you can have. They are very tolerant and easy to grow. This makes them suitable for any amateur gardener with little experience. However, this doesn’t mean that you can just bring any plant home and place it in the window, letting nature take its course. Mistreatment can cause serious harm to your hoya.

Some of the most common problems that a hoya plant may encounter are overwatering, insufficient feeding, incorrect temperature, infestations, and inappropriate lighting.

The root disease can be dangerous for the hoya and lead to a rapid decline of the plants.

The leaves also become spotted and turn yellow. In most cases, it is because of extremely low humidity and dropping temperature. These conditions can be easily detected, if you observe your hoya from time to time.

In addition to the yellow dots appearing on the hoya leaves, you will also notice brown spots on the leaves. The lower part, which was at the base of the plant, will look rather rotten. You can still save it, but you have to act quickly. Cut the affected part off and disinfect the wound. If you notice that the problem persists, transplant the hoya plant to a new container with a new potting mix. Don’t forget to increase the room temperature.

Growing Problems

Although Hoya plants are very low-maintenance plants, there are times when problems may occur, especially if the plant is not cared for appropriately. There are several reasons why the Hoya plant may not be growing, or it may be producing leaves with browning edges. The plant will require special care if this occurs for any length of time.

Hoyas naturally grow in regions where the temperature is hot and humid throughout the year. If you are growing a Hoya plant outdoors, ensure that you care for it properly. For instance, provide adequate sun exposure for the plant. If it starts to become shaded by other plants, it will not grow as well, or it may not survive.

If possible, try to provide at least 10 hours of direct sunlight for your Hoya. If you cannot provide adequate sun exposure, keep the plant indoors where it will be exposed to fluorescent or incandescent lighting.

Indoors, the plant will also require a consistent level of humidity, and it will need to be watered frequently. The soil should also be moist.

Different species of Hoya have different temperature, light, and soil requirements, so if you are growing the plant indoors, try providing the temperature, light, and soil the plant needs for the best growth.

As long as the plant is receiving the proper amount of air flow, humidity, direct sunlight, and watering requirements, it should grow well.

Pests

The most common disease in hobbyists growing Hoya is powdery mildew, but it seems to be a bit easier to control than other fungal types. To treat powdery mildew, apply a drench of a sulfur-based fungicide. As with most fungal diseases, the best defense is to eliminate conditions that promote powdery mildew such as excessively wet leaves and to prevent conditions that cause rapid growth.

Yellow leaves can be caused by water or nutrient imbalance, low light, or pests. Leaves may turn yellow because the leaves aren’t getting enough light, or they might need more fertilizer.

If your Hoya does develop yellow leaves, feed them with a balanced fertilizer. Maintain even soil moisture and ensure the Hoya is receiving a minimum of 12 hours of strong sunlight daily.

Diseases

Hoya plants suffer from only one major disease and that is leaf spot. The sickly brown or yellow spots are the most common disease caused by fungi incursions.

This disease is contagious and can be spread from Hoya plant to Hoya plant, so keep your infected plant away from your healthy ones. The disease thrives in humid areas so keep your Hoya plant away from bathroom and kitchen areas. Using potting soil that has already been sterilized can also help you avoid an infection.

To treat your Hoya plant for leaf spot, mix one tablespoon of baking soda with one cup of warm water and apply this solution to your plant. The baking soda will help restore the pH balance on your Hoya plant.

Some garden lovers confuse leaf spot with a virus that causes yellow and brown spots to appear on the leaves and the stems of your Hoya plant. This virus can be eliminated by removing the affected leaves when you notice the disease.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Hoya Plant?

The Hoya plant is an exotic looking plant with broad leaves. The plant may also be classified as a succulent, since it stores water in its leaves.

The Hoya is also known by the names wax plant and Indian laurel, but it is not related to the Bay Laurel. The plant originated in Ceylon and is widely known as “the candle plant.” Some of the Hoya species are native to the rain forests of the Philippines, the Hainan and Northern Australia. The Hoya plant is a tropical plant and is only hardy in zones up to 10.

What Type of Hoya Plant is Most Common?

The most common Hoya plant is the H. wickii, also known as the Wax Plant. This plant is much more hardy due to the type of Hoya plant it is. It grows best in zones 9 and 10.

How to Care for the Hoya Plant

If it has been a while since you have been caring for your Hoya plant and you begin to notice that the plant begins to drop leaves, you may be beginning to overwater the plant. The plant will drop the leaves if it has been over watered. Use a plant pot that can be used with the Hoya plant. The Hoya plant requires a little more drainage in the potting medium than the average plant.

Q: Why is my hoya plant not flowering?

A: The hoya is a weird plant. If you want flowers, don’t let the plant flower. Keep it on the small side by pinching back the top growing shoots. If you leave your plant alone, it will reach the size of a small tree, and some have reported up to five feet in height. It should be pinched in at least once a month, but something like once a week would be better to keep it on the small side.

It doesn’t like the cold, so don’t keep it outside if you live in a cold climate. In really cold winter weather, it’s best to keep it inside near a sunny window. During the summer, you might be able to keep it outside. It’s better to keep it indoors where it won’t get direct sun 24/7. Let the top of the plant get a little sun, and keep the bottom parts shaded.

Q: I got a hoya kerrii and it’s not growing.

What should I do?

A: Soil

Dry it out. Hoya kerrii and many others thrives on neglect, can´t we all say that? Make sure you don’t overwater it, but only water when the soil is completely dry, and in a pot, wick away from the base.

I find the best place to put it is a drafty dark window on a dish rather than a pot (to keep direct water away from the root system) and fill the bottom with rocks for drainage.

That said, they don’t like it too cold/drafty, water logging or air pollution, which is why the windowsill seems like a good choice.

Sunlight

Make sure it gets direct sun in the morning. Hoya kerrii likes direct hot sun. The sunnier the better.