Hypoestes phyllostachya: Polka dot plant

Family: Acanthaceae
Common name: Polka dot plant, Flamingo plant, Measles plant, Freckle face, Pink dot

Polka dot plant or freckle face plant is a popular houseplant prized for its vibrant foliage, which is splashed with pink, white, and green spots. The plant is relatively easy to grow and care for, making it an ideal choice for novice gardeners and plant enthusiasts alike.

They are small, bushy plants that typically grow to a height of 20-30cm. The leaves of the plant are oval in shape, about 4-6 cm long. The foliage of the plant is its most striking feature, with its pink, white, or green spots that are scattered all over the leaves.

There are variants of Polka dot plant with pink, magenta, or red leaves with darker colored markings on them. Sometimes, the polka dots are small and round. Sometimes, they are so big that they become large blotches. Sometimes, there are differently colored markings along the veins of the leaves.

This beautiful variation in foliage makes these plants ideal for hedges, borders, or even indoors. Polka dot plant produces small, white or pink flowers that are inconspicuous and not particularly showy. Flowers need to be plucked off to help the plant focus its energy on the foliage.

Polka dot plants are easy to care for and is relatively low maintenance. They prefer bright, indirect light. Direct sunlight can scorch the leaves of the plant, so it’s best to keep it away from windows that receive direct sunlight. If the plant is not getting enough light, the leaves may start to lose their spots.

These plants need regular watering, and ocassional misting to keep the humidity high. They are light feeders, and need fertilization only once in 2-3 months.

Polka dot plants can be affected by mealy bugs, aphids, and white flies. The best method to get rid of them is by spraying water with force so that they are manually removed. Regular spraying with neem oil and soap can also help get rid of pests.

Repotting the plant is necessary only after it has overgrown a pot. Regular pruning can help the plant to grow bushy and healthy.

Some common variants of the Polka dot plant are Confetti which has green leaves with different colors of polka dots like pink, white, rose, burgundy, and red; Splash series where the polka dots become blotches of pinks, whites and reds respectively called Pink splash, White splash, and Red splash; Pink brocade where the plants have bright pink dots or splotches; and Carmina which has dark green and red variegated leaves.

The leaves of the Polka dot plant contain compounds that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. In traditional medicine, the plant has been used to treat skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis, and also digestive ailments.

Propagation is through seeds and stem cuttings. Healthy stems about 10-12 cm long should be cut from the parent plant just above a node. After removing extra leaves, the bottom part needs to be dipped in rooting hormone and planted in moist soil in a place with high humidity. New growth should happen in 2-3 weeks.