How to Take Care of Your Hoya
If you weren't an avid Hoya collector before reading this care guide, we can safely bet that you most likely will be after, and it isn't hard to understand why. Hoya is an incredibly diverse genus of houseplants, containing over 200-300 species (or more if you include hybrids and cultivars!), that has become especially popular in the last couple of years due to the diverse and unique foliage that exists within it, as well as its relatively simple care regime. Most varieties are native to several Asian countries, such as the Philippines, India, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Polynesia, New Guinea, and a large variety of species can also be found in Australia.
To the untrained eye, it can be hard to tell certain species apart, which is why their stunning flowers can help differentiate, but there will often be slight, or obvious, differences between the foliage. Despite their similarities, no two Hoyas are created equal, some have smooth leaves, others velvety or felted, some have noticeable veining, others do not, most have flecks of silver, others have much stronger, contrasting variegation.
Wax Plant's, Waxvine's, or Hoya's have been popular as houseplants long before the self-proclaimed "Hoya Heads", those who are borderline obsessed with Hoyas (absolutely no judgement here!), and #waxplantwednesday's that you see every week on social media, and it isn't surprising as to why. There is an incredible amount of variation among the species, whether it is by leaf shape, texture, pattern, colouring, or growth habit, each variety is unique. They are also incredibly easy to propagate, mainly due to their epiphytic nature.
Similar to most other Aroids, Hoya's are often seen growing on other plants or structures in their natural habitat, deriving moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, water, or debris surrounding them. They employ adventitious roots, roots that occur in unusual locations, such as aerial roots, to creep and climb around, which is why they are often seen trailing in hanging planters or climbing along trellises.
Although this care guide will outline their general care requirements, be sure to research the specific needs of any plant that you bring home, and that goes for all plants! Most Hoya's have those delightful, waxy leaves, hence their common name, but not all are created equal - those with thicker leaves will tend to be more drought tolerant, those with thin, more thirsty, they will also have different humidity, lighting, and support needs. If we are talking about size, some varieties have leaves that are around 5 mm and others spanning up to 2 ft.! This doesn't even begin to cover the different leaf shapes as well, hence why it is so important to understand what each individual variety needs.
Lighting Tip: Please remember that low light does not mean no light, there should still be natural, indirect shining on the plant, where it has at least some view of the sky.
Despite the fact that they have more recently achieved an in-demand status, thanks to stunning pictures of their leaves and blooms, there is a big chance that plenty of our grandmothers have had at least one variety of Hoya, or Wax Plant, in their kitchens for many, many years. The reason for this is that certain varieties can be placed in a dimly lit corner and practically forgotten about, while still producing dark, glossy foliage, most notable for this would be the classic Hoya Carnosa or Hoya Compacta. Maybe your local mom-and-pop shop or family-run laundromat has one of these trailing in their window in a macrame hanger for years. Sound familiar?
△ 4" Hoya Carnosa Krimson Princess
These low-maintenance, long-living beauties are incredibly desired, and it is clear as to why. Being generally pest resistant and capable of producing beautiful blooms indoors, they are a joy to have in a collection, as long as their care needs are met. Keep on reading to find out what they will require to live a long, healthy, happy life!
Just like most other indoor plants, Hoyas prefer bright, indirect light for optimal growth and colouring, as well as flower production. We'll get to the flowering aspect a little later on, but even though some Hoya varieties can deal with lower light levels, it will depend on the colouring, size and texture of their leaves. Generally, the species with larger, dark green leaves, such as the Hoya Carnosa, Hoya Compacta, or Hoya Obovata, are more tolerable of lower light spaces than those with variegated leaves, such as the Hoya Carnosa 'Krimson Queen', Hoya Carnosa 'Krimson Princess', or Hoya Australis 'Lisa'.
Despite the fact that they have succulent-like foliage, this does not mean that they can grow in hours and hours of direct sunlight like succulents can. But this also doesn't mean that can live in no light, all houseplants need light to thrive and grow.
The main thing that they cannot handle is prolonged, direct sunlight, as this could burn their leaves or cause pale growth. On the flip side, they will not have as robust growth if kept in very low light, and the colouring of the variegated varieties will not be very strong. Think of their natural habitat when you are considering where to place your plant, where they grow beneath the tall canopy of trees and receive dappled sunlight. Overall, they would much rather prefer plenty of bright light rather than not enough.
△ 4" Hoya Curtisii
The lowest light conditions that Wax Plants can handle include the following:
- A few meters back from a large South, West, or East facing window
- A few feet away from a North-facing window
- Next to a South, West, or East facing window that is facing a courtyard or is blocked by a nearby building
Although they can handle most light on the spectrum of indoor lighting, this will largely depend on the variety and do keep in mind that their growth habits will change depending on the light they are receiving. Check out our Ultimate Lighting Guide to learn all about the light levels in the home and how plants adapt to them. The ideal location for your plant is somewhere that it receives medium to bright, indirect light, even some morning or late afternoon sun would be ideal. When they receive the prime amount of light, their growth will be full and lush, producing plenty of foliage and even encouraging flower production.
If you have ever noticed your plant is giving off long tendrils with either tiny, insignificant leaves, or no leaves at all, resist the urge to trim those vines! Give your plant its own time to clasp and latch on to something, once it’s found a suitable location and suitable sunlight, it will often start growing out its leaves. Also, if the spaces between the nodes on these tendrils are large, consider placing the plant in brighter light.
Some ideal light examples include the following:
- Next to, or very close by, a South, Southwest, or West-facing window that has sheer curtains for some bright, indirect light (they cannot handle prolonged, direct sunlight so the curtains keep the leaves from getting burned)
- About 5 ft away from a South or Southwest-facing window without curtains
- Directly next to a North, East, or West-facing window.
When Hoya's are "stressed", which can happen if they are not given enough water or are receiving too much bright light, they can have some stunning reactions, such as beautiful blooms or stunning red and pink-hued foliage, depending on the variety. Feel free to move your plant out of the high light if you are concerned, but if you are enjoying the foliage, leave it be!
Remember that light levels also change throughout the year, as there is plenty of light during the longer, warmer days of spring and summer, and less in the shorter, cooler days of winter. You may have to move your plant in order to avoid too much light or not enough light. As long as your plant can "see" the sky from where it sits, then it will be receiving some sort of natural light, which is necessary to support its growth. Most varieties grow at a moderate rate indoors, slowing down throughout the winter months. Different Hoyas also grow at slightly different rates, and that could all be based on the species, but lighting conditions, watering, and humidity needs can also impact this.
One amazing feature of owning a Hoya is its potential to bloom. Not only is it a relatively achievable goal, but their flowers are also incredibly unique and stunning, a show you wouldn't want to miss. Peduncles, or spurs, are stalks that bear flowers and will form along the main stem or vine of a Hoya. These should never be removed because, once the current cycle of flowers dies, new flowers will be produced on that same peduncle year after year, extending the length of it, in ideal conditions of course.
△ 4" Hoya Macrophylla Variegata
The flowers will grow at the tip of each peduncle, usually in the appearance of clusters, or balls, of star-shaped blooms. Some varieties will produce flowers in the form of umbels, or inflorescences that consist of a number of short flower stalks, or singly, with just one flower being produced. The size of each flower is generally quite small, but some reach up to 3 inches in diameter - you'll have to do some googling for yourself to see all the different variations! They come in whites, greens, yellows, pinks, burgundies, oranges, reds, and near-blacks; yet blues, purples, and violets don't seem to ever occur.
These clusters of sweet-smelling stars may produce nectar, dripping off the differently-textured blooms, which could be glabrous and shiny to matte and finely haired, sometimes giving off scents of chocolate, vanilla, or cinnamon.
Although it can be difficult to achieve blooms or predict when they will occur, and there isn't necessarily a "one-size-fits-all" method of doing so as Hoyas bloom when they feel like it, here are the dos and don'ts of encouraging flower production on Hoyas:
- Keep your plant in bright light - Hoyas will generally not produce flowers in lower light
- Allow the plant to reach maturity - Once they are older, and have settled into their pot, slightly root-bound is ok, they are more inclined to bloom. This can take a few years for some, and 5-7 for others.
- Keep the soil on the dry side - Again, with a little bit of stress, such as bright light and dry soil, they are much more inclined to bloom
- Fertilize - They are often actively growing in the spring/summer, so feed with a well-balanced fertilizer at half strength once a month
- Move your Hoya after it begins to develop new flower buds - This could disturb the plant and cause the buds to drop
- Repot your plant often - In order to encourage blooms, Hoyas should be mature and root-bound
- Prune off creeping vines or old flower stems - The new flower stems will be produced on these vines and old flower stems will re-flower
- Down-size your plant's home - Even though they need to be root-bound, placing the plant in a smaller home could shock it
There are many factors that can come into play when determining when a Hoya will flower, such as light, maturity, root health, temperature, watering measures, and other conditions, but if the above steps are followed, you could have some beautiful payoff throughout the years. It is more common to see blooms during the warmer months, due to light and heat levels, but keep an eye on your plants for any new, and exciting, changes. If you begin to notice tiny stems growing off the vines, not looking like leaves or other growth points, you may be in for a beautiful surprise!
Watering is one of the most important aspects of a Hoya's care to get right, as the main thing they won't tolerate is too much water. Only water your plant when the soil is relatively dry, which can take anywhere from 1-3 weeks, depending on the size of the plant, humidity levels, and how much light the plant is receiving. This is something to keep in mind, especially for the varieties with succulent-like foliage. When it comes time to water, water your plant fully so that all of the soil is evenly moist, dumping any excess water that drains out after doing so.
When in doubt, let it dry out! Overwatering is one of the main issues when it comes to Hoya care because if the plant receives too much water, rotting and leaf loss may occur, as well as loss of flowers if the blooming process has begun. It is usually better to let your plant slightly dry out and wait until the leaves are a little less plump if you're unsure.
The frequency of watering will depend on the light your plant is receiving, the warmth and humidity of your home, the size of the pot, the potting medium, and the type of pot that the plant is planted in. Generally, no two plants will be on the exact same watering frequency, as everyone's home is different! Expect to water more often in the spring/summer months, when the days are longer, warmer, brighter and plants are actively growing, and less often in the winter months when the days are shorter, cooler, darker and plants are usually dormant. You should also expect to water a plant that is receiving higher light more often than the plant that is receiving lower light.
Watering Tip: Keep the soil slightly more moist during the growing season, and then mostly dry in the winter months, watering them just before the soil dries out completely.
△ 6" Hoya Shepherdii
Due to their epiphytic nature, Hoya's roots love moisture in the air, but they are also used to being exposed to a healthy airflow, not living in dense, wet soil, which is why it is essential that they are planted in a pot with drainage holes. A chunky, well-draining soil is the best and will keep the plant from staying moist for too long. As long as there is some sort of aggregate in the soil, such as perlite, vermiculite, charcoal, lava rocks, or orchid bark, the soil will not become compact and will allow for airflow throughout. If your Hoya is starting to look limp, the roots may have died back completely due to under or overwatering. Check the roots and if that’s the case, then take a healthy cutting to propagate the plant and to give it a new chance at life!
Since Hoyas prefer to be slightly root-bound, and staying snug in a pot aids in foliage and bloom production, they don't need to be repotted too often. They can actually stay in the same pot for two to three years! If your plant is doing fine as is, don't worry about repotting it just yet. What you could also do instead would just be to refresh their substrate every second or third year, providing new nutrients.
In general, most varieties of Hoyas can live in the average home humidity and temperature, so if you're comfortable, your plant is most likely comfortable. There are certain varieties that will need very high humidity, usually those with thinner leaves, where it is essential for their growth, but the most common are much more low-maintenance, hence why they are so popular! This is another reason why it is so important to do the necessary research on any individual plant, even if the majority of varieties have a general care recommendation because some have very specific needs.
Remember that just because they are fine with average humidity and temperatures, they still won't enjoy drafts from heating vents, A/C vents, or radiators.
Even though they are just fine in the average home environment, they will definitely appreciate a warm, humid environment, they are still tropical plants after all! So if you have the time, and want to make the effort, you can:
- Place the nursery pot on top of a bed of rocks that are just covered in water, which increases the ambient humidity in the air around the plant
- Mist your plant daily with room-temperature water to increase the ambient humidity around it
- Purchase a humidifier and keep it in the same area as your plant when turned on
- Group plants with similar humidity needs together, even grouping plants will naturally create a microclimate that produces humidity
Humidity & Watering Tip: Shower your plant off every couple of weeks, or when it is time to water the plant, as this will wash off any dust that has accumulated on the leaves, it will moisten the chunky soil mix, and it will increase the ambient humidity around the plant as the water evaporates!
Increasing the humidity can actually help speed up Hoya growth, which is infamously slow for many species since they are known for growing quickly and then stopping almost altogether. It can be especially infuriating to see long vines without any leaves on them, but they will develop over time. In fact, some Hoyas can still grow fast in more moderate light if the humidity is high!
Even though it is of course optimal to fertilize Hoyas, especially if we want to encourage blooms, they are actually not heavy feeders. Over-fertilizing your plant can cause salts to build up and can actually burn the roots of a healthy plant. That being said, they do appreciate some nutrients, so it is best to fertilize on a monthly basis, throughout the spring and summer, with either a gentle, organic fertilizer or a balanced synthetic fertilizer diluted by half. If you see your plant is about to flower, you could use a fertilizer that is slightly higher in the phosphorous, which helps promote healthy bloom development, but this isn't completely necessary. Then, during the fall and winter months, hold off on fertilizing to give them their time of rest.
Make sure the soil is slightly damp before fertilizing as it should never be administered to dry soil. Tying into this thought, be sure to avoid fertilizing a plant that is already stressed, which can occur from them receiving too much water or from being bone dry, as this can burn the already sensitive roots.
Hoyas are non-toxic to ingest, by both pets and people! Although it is always recommended to keep your pets and children from ingesting any houseplants, you can feel comfortable and safe having these beauties around your home in the potential case where someone feels like having a snack.
Common Pests & Problems
Now, after all of the above care information, there are a few common issues that you could come across when caring for your Hoya. The good news is that they are still quite easy to care for, we just have to make sure certain aspects of their care are done properly. As for pests, they stay relatively unbothered, but there are definitely a few things to watch out for!
Scale & Mealybug:
If you notice a sticky, honeydew sap, or lumps and bumps on the leaves or branches, there is a chance pests have set up shop. Mealybugs and Scale, which are sap-sucking insects that can set up shop, usually cause yellow, ill leaves and an over-all weakened plant. To remove them, dip a cotton-swap in rubbing alcohol and remove all the adult bugs that you can see, spray down the plant with insecticidal soap, and then repeat every 7-10 days until they are gone. A weakened or stressed plant is more susceptible to infestations so make sure to keep it happy!
This can be the result of a few causes, so, after analyzing your situation, apply the correct recovery measures:
- Under-watering: We want to let the soil mostly dry out before watering again, but extended periods of dryness can cause roots to shrivel and die back and your plant won't be able to absorb moisture properly. Check the soil before you water, water fully, then drain
- Overwatering: There are usually other signs of overwatering, but wrinkly leaves can be one of those signs, just make sure the proper watering measures are put in place
- Low humidity: Although not as common, wrinkly leaves can occur when the air is too dry. Try misting regularly, adding a pebble tray, or placing a humidifier near your plants
Since this can be the cause of under or overwatering, please be sure to check the soil of your plant, all the way down to the bottom of the pot if you have to, before watering again.
Sometimes, this can be common if the leaves are older and the plant is finished with them. Otherwise, if the leaves are yellow and mushy, the soil is most likely too moist, and if the leaves are dry and crispy, make sure to properly moisten the soil the next time you water! On another note, this can occur if a plant is adapting to a lower light space, if it is receiving too much high light, if the air is too cool and drafty, or if the humidity is kept too low, depending on the variety. Please refer to all of our recommendations above to adjust the care as needed.
As we mentioned above, it takes a few requirements aligning in order for Hoyas to bloom, which would include the following: maturity of the plant, watering measures, proper lighting, fertilizer, and time. Try to ensure all of our Dos and Don'ts are being followed to give your plant the best chance in flower production.
Buds falling off:
If buds fall off before they bloom, this could mean that the potting medium was kept too dry, or too wet, or the plant was moved after the buds had begun to set.
Although there are a few issues that could haunt your Hoyas, they are generally quite simple to deal with, and they grow so easily. It is very common for them to put out plenty of long vines that look as though they are reaching for anything and everything to hold on to, and, once they receive that support, with some increased light levels, they will generally begin to fill out with plenty of leaves.
△ 6" Hoya Australis Lisa
Hoyas are beautiful plants with fairly simple care routines, so what are you waiting for? Browse through our selection of these stunning houseplants and there is no doubt that at least one variety will be calling your name!