How To Care For A Hoya Houseplant
My dad loved Hoyas and had quite a few of them growing in our home greenhouse in Connecticut. I inherited my love of these long-lived beauties from him. I’ve since grown them in Santa Barbara, CA and now at my new home in Tucson, AZ. Three very different climates and environments where the Hoyas all did well. That is why I want to share how to care for a Hoya houseplant and what I’ve learned over many years of growing them.
I grew them outdoors in Santa Barbara and have 1 trained as a topiary growing on my side patio here in Tucson. How to grow Hoyas outdoors is next week’s post and video. As a houseplant, they’re easy maintenance, long-lasting, durable and oh so attractive. What’s not to love?!
Hoyas are commonly used as tabletop plants (sitting on a table, shelf, buffet, credenza, etc) or as hanging plants.
They’re sold in 4, 6, 8, & 10″ grow pots; usually with a hanger. My Hoya carnosa variegata which grows outdoors has 4-5′ trails. In their natural environment, many grow as climbing vines.
Hoya Plant Varieties:
There are many species & varieties of Hoyas sold on the market. You can find at least 1 that catches your fancy because the foliage comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors & textures. The ones I’ve seen most often are H. carnosa, H. carnosa variegata, H. carnosa compacta , H. Kerrii, & H. obovata.
Common Names for the Hoya Plant:
Different species & varieties have different common names. As a whole they’re called Wax Plant, Wax Vine or Honey Plant.
Mine grows at a moderate rate indoors. In the winter of course that slows down. The lower the light, the slower the growth rate. What I’ve found is that different Hoyas grow at slightly different rates. My Hoya carnosa variegata grows faster than my Hoya obovata.
Watch the video tutorial above to see how I care for my hoya houseplants.
Hoyas need bright, natural light to do their best. Mine sits on a table in the corner next to a sliding glass door with a north exposure & a tall, narrow window with an east exposure. We get a lot of sun all year long in Tucson so that’s the sweet spot for mine. I rotate it every couple of months so it gets the light evenly all the way around.
If you’re in a less sunny climate then an east or west exposure is fine. Just keep it away from hot, sunny windows & direct afternoon sun. In the darker winter months, you might have to move yours to a location with more light.
By the way, Hoyas need as much bright light as possible to bloom indoors. That’s where a west exposure comes into play.
I water mine when it dries out. Although Hoyas aren’t technically succulents, they’re succulent-like with those fleshy, waxy leaves. In the summer my Hoya obovata gets watered every week. In the winter I water it every 2 weeks. When I repot it into a larger container with my special soil mix, I’ll water less often.
Although many are vines & shrubs in nature, some are epiyphytic just like bromeliads & orchids. Either way, Hoyas don’t like their feet to be consistently moist. It’s better to under water them than to over water.
Water less often in the winter. Here are some factors to consider when watering houseplants.
If your home is comfortable for you, it’ll be so for your houseplants too. Just be sure to keep your Hoyas away from any cold drafts as well as air conditioning or heating vents.
Hoyas are native to the tropics. Despite this, I’ve found them to be adaptable & do just fine in our homes which tend to have dry air. Here in hot dry Tucson mine are doing great.
If you think yours look stressed due to lack of humidity, then fill the saucer with pebbles & water. Put the plant on the pebbles but make sure the drain holes &/or the bottom of the pot aren’t submerged in any water. Misting a few times a week should help out too.
How to Feed a Hoya Plant:
I’ve found that Hoyas aren’t that needy when it comes to fertilizing. Right now I feed all my houseplants with a light application of worm compost followed by a light layer of compost over that every spring. Easy does it – 1/4 to 1/2″ layer of each for a smaller sized plant. Read about my worm compost/compost feeding right here.
I can’t recommend a specific fertilizer because I’ve never used 1 for my Hoyas. Mine look just fine so I have no need.
Whatever you use don’t fertilize houseplants in late fall or winter because that’s their time for rest. Over fertilizing your Hoyas will cause salts to build up & can burn the roots of the plant. Be sure to avoid fertilizing a houseplant which is stressed, ie. bone dry or soaking wet.
Hoyas, aka Wax Plants, love a rich mix with excellent drainage. All the mixes & amendments listed below are organic.
- Potting Soil - I’m currently using Smart Naturals because of its high quality ingredients. It’s great for container planting, including houseplants.
- Succulent & Cactus Mix - I use a locally produced succulent & cactus mix.
- Compost - I use Tank’s local compost. Give Dr. Earth’s a try if you can’t find any where you live. Compost enriches the soil naturally.
- Orchid Bark - I’ve found Hoyas love orchid bark. It ensures excellent drainage. You can also add charcoal instead if you’d like or a combo of both.
- Worm Compost - This is my favorite amendment, which I use sparingly because it’s rich. I’m currently using Worm Gold.
- Coco Coir - This environmentally friendly alternative to peat moss is pH neutral, increases nutrient holding capacity & improves aeration. This is the approximate ratio: 1/3 potting soil, 1/3 succulent & cactus mix & a 1/3 of the orchid bark, coco coir & compost. I sprinkle in a few handfuls of the worm compost & also use a thin layer as topdressing.
Repotting/Transplanting a Hoya Plant:
This is best done in spring or summer; early fall is fine if you’re in a warm climate. Hoyas like to grow a bit potbound so don’t rush to repot yours if it’s dong fine.
Regarding transplanting & repotting, don’t think your Hoya will need it every year. Like orchids, they’ll bloom better if slightly tight in their pots so leave them be for a few years.
I hadn’t repotted my large variegated Hoya for 3 years & did it because the soil was way down in the pot.
You can prune a Hoya to control the size, make it more bushy, to thin it out or remove any dead growth. I don’t prune off too many of short stalks from which the flowers emerge because hard bloom on new growth. In other words, a hard pruning which is sometimes necessary will delay the flowering process.
Here’s an entire post on propagating Hoyas so click on for all the details. The condensed version here: I’ve had great success with 2 of methods – propagating by stem cuttings in water & layering.
For layering you simply take a softwood stem of the plant (which is still attached to the mother) & pin it into a pot filled with light mix. Make sure the mix is thoroughly moistened. Most times you’ll see little roots appearing on the stems and that’s what you want to get on top of the mix.
When grown indoor Hoyas can be susceptible to mealybugs. These white, cotton-like pests like to hang out in the nodes & under the leaves. Also keep your eye out for scale & aphids. It’s best to take action as soon as you see any pest because multiply like crazy.
Ring the bells! Hoyas are one of the non-toxic houseplants. Just know that if your pet or child chews on the leaves or stems, it could make them sick.
Saving the best for last – Hoya flowers are beautiful! Their waxy, star-like blooms are intriguing & can be found in many colors, sizes & forms depending on the species of Hoya.
Some bloom in the first year & others take a few years to establish before they bloom. My Hoya carnosa “variegata” took almost 3 years to bloom by the way, so be patient. And, it doesn’t bloom every year. I say Hoyas bloom when they feel like it!
How often they bloom seems to depend on the type of hoya, age of the hoya, conditions they’re growing in. And, don’t cut the old flowers off; let them remain on the plant.
The wonderful flowers are fragrant too, especially in the evening. The icing on the floral cake!
Indoors they take longer to bloom, depending on the species. If yours is indoors & has never bloomed, it’s most likely not getting enough light.
As houseplants, Hoyas bloom when it’s warm & prefers cooler temps in the winter months to set buds.
They’re also more likely to bloom when tight in their pots.
Don’t prune off the fresh side growth because that’s where the flowers form.
Give your Hoya a shower every now & then. It keeps the gorgeous foliage clean & dust & dirt free. Besides, it’ll temporary up the ante on the humidity factor.
People have asked me about yellow leaves on Hoyas. My Variegated Hoya occasionally gets yellow leaves because it’s about 6 years old now, grows very full & that’s what happens as they age. If the leaves are yellow & a bit mushy, then you’re overwatering. It could also be due to a nitrogen deficiency.
I hope these tips have helped you out. If you’re a beginning houseplant gardener be sure to give 1 of the Hoyas a try. Just remember, no pampering and no overwatering. Hoyas are very independent when it comes to maintenance!
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