Polka Dot plant looks like itís dying??

6062, Australia

I got my polka dot plant a few months ago and it was perfectly pink, bushy and healthy. I love in Australia and Iíve been keeping the soil consistently wet, but now all the bottom leaves have gone crispy and wilted off while the ones on the top look perfectly healthy, and some of the stems are turning brown but keep growing taller. It also went from pink and green to just bright green. Please help??

This message was edited Apr 1, 2019 10:05 PM

Thumbnail by mrozeraph
Chicago, IL

Mrozeraph-
Hypoestes - polka dot plants - are pretty easy to grow, but they do require a bit of special care. Without seeing your plant, i can only guess at its issues, but here are some possibilities:
First, to keep hypoestes looking good, it needs to be pinched back on a regular basis. This is what keeps it from developing those long, leggy stems it sounds like youíre struggling with. Once theyíve gone leggy, though, youíll probably need to try a different tack to get yours back in shape - more on that in a moment.
Another possible cause of legginess is lack of light, which also could cause the problems youíre having with fading. Hypoestes needs bright light to keep its color - bright indirect light is best. It will tolerate some direct sun, but too much can both burn the leaves - and again, lead to fading, along with crispy leaf edges, which were part of your problem list. .
Watering is also key to keeping hypoestes looking its best. As you probably know, they are sensitive to drought, and can droop significantly if allowed to dry out. While they will largely bounce back after being allowed to go dry, often leaves - especially lower leaves - are lost on the aftermath, and once theyíre gone, theyíre gone.
However, you say youíre keeping your plant ďconsistently wet,Ē and just FYI, overwatering causes its own problems for polka dot plants. They do want an environment with good humidity, and misting or a humidity tray may be of help. As for conditions inside the pot, though, the best option is to use a well-drained & good quality soil, and to keep it consistently moist - possibly letting it dry VERY slightly between waterings. Did your lower leaves turn yellow before dropping? If so, overwatering was likely the culprit. Too much water also leaves hypoestes susceptible to powdery mildew and root rot. Finally, it also encourages pests, and there are several that like the polka dot plant.
With your lower leaves being lost, take a hard look to make sure that your plant is not suffering from any of the following: mealy bugs, white flies, aphids, scale and even thrips. The brown stems are a possible red flag in this regard. A good green solution can usually help in these cases, along with the removal of the affected foliage.
And lastly, there is the truly sad news: that adorable hypoestes just isnít that long-lived. As opposed to that African violet you grew up with, still going strong after 20 years on the sill, or Grannyís immortal and indestructible heart-leaf philodendron, hypoestes will generally live a year or two at best indoors, and will almost certainly be just an annual if grown outdoors. Most often, flowering spells the beginning of the end, after which the plant begins to decline or become dormant. Blooming generally consists of a spike of small lavender flowers, which some growers pinch off as soon as they recognize it. If flowering has occurred and the plant has gone dormant - also a seasonal possibility in winter - reducing water may help, but many folks give up during this period. In any case, hypoestes will eventually give up on you on the end, and generally sooner than later.
However, here is the really, really good news: hypoestes is incredibly easy to propagate! If grown out of doors, it will readily self-seed; it can also be grown from seed indoors, but is a bit of a slow grower. Polka dot plants, though, can also be started very easily from stem-tip cuttings, either rooted in water or even just placed in moist soil. In fact, thatís the perfect application for much of that foliage that you pinch back along the way! And itís the classic fix for leggy plants with bald stems and vigorous tips (hint, hint).
I hope this gives you some information to go on in finding out what is ailing your polka dot plant. And I hope it gives you some directions to go in for finding solutions for the future. Hypoestes is really and truly one of my very favorite plants of all time Ė I have grown them for years and years. Great to find someone else who loves them as well. Wishing you good luck with yours Ė and happy gardening!

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