Hypoestes phyllostachya: Secrets of the Polka Dot Plant

The Polka Dot Plant looks every bit as fun as it sounds. Sporting vivid leaves with a signature speckled patterning, they’re a statement piece for any terrarium.

A part of the Hypoestes genus of shrubs, these petite plants originally hail from Madagascar but are commonly found as houseplants all over the world. They’re so popular, they can be found in a wide variety of cultivars and colors.

Where to Buy Polka Dot Plants

See the links below to purchase from reputable terrarium plant shops and marketplaces (may include affiliate links). 

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Hypoestes phyllostachya Care & Growth

Plant TypeFoliage
LightingBright, indirect light
Temperature60-80°F (15-26°C)
WateringRegular, even moisture
HumidityHigh humidity (60-90%)
Growth10-20 inches


Hypoestes phyllostachya can handle a variety of lighting conditions. It’ll do just fine in low light, but it may lose some of its vibrancy and variegation. It also tends to aggressively reach toward light sources, creating a potentially awkward growth pattern for a shrub. For best results, place it in bright, indirect light.


Much like Nerve Plants, the Polka Dot Plant can be quite sensitive to watering. Preferring consistent, even moisture, it’ll often faint and collapse at the first sign of dryness. Thankfully, it can be easily revived with a quick spritz.


Hypoestes will grow readily in most nutrient-rich substrate options. A soil or mix with good water retention and drainage is best.

Temperature & Humidity

Although often grown as houseplants, Polka Dot Plants thrive in environments with lots of humidity and warmth. Making them ideal terrarium plants.


As a shrub, Hypoestes phyllostachya can quickly grow long and bushy. Regularly trimming the taller stems will help to maintain its size and shape, and promote a fuller foliage.


Polka Dot Plants can be readily propagated from cuttings at any time of the year. Simply take a suitably long cutting from the tip (e.g. 5 inches) then remove the leaves from the lower half so that it can be planted. As long as it’s watered, the cutting should readily root without much intervention. You can also harvest seeds from any flowers.

Varieties & Similar Plants

Within the Hypoestes phyllostachya species, there’s a huge number of varieties in just about every color you can think of. They’re generally named for their foliage patterns, including ‘Dot’, ‘Confetti’ and ‘Splash.’

You could also look to the various varieties of Fittonia to spruce up a terrarium with a bit of color and fancy, or how about the Bloodleaf Plant (Iresine herbstii)?

Common Problems

The only real difficulty in growing Polka Dot Plants is keeping their foliage in check. Regularly trimming or pinching off leggy stems will go a long way. It’s also worth noting that they don’t tend to live for all that long – often just a year or so after flowering.