Long Live Hoya
Maybe your first hoya, like ours, was a retro houseplant passed down from a cutting of your grandmother’s. The vines with their waxy leaves can grow on forever and even one day surprise you with amazing star-shaped blooms. Yes, they’re known for their longevity and easy care, but they’re also prized for their variety and collectability. Beginners typically start with the classic Hoya carnosa then branch out to more unusual ones with variegated pink, heart-shaped and even speckled leaves. Here are our team’s growing tips and picks for these long-time houseplant favorites.
Known as “wax plants,” hoyas are tropical succulents native to Southeast Asia and parts of Australia and New Zealand. Most are found growing as epiphytes where they climb over rocks and up tree trunks in lower rainforests and higher cloud forests. They are very diverse with over 300 species, and our crew was surprised to learn they’re related to the dogbane family which includes the common milkweed.
Hoyas prefer bright indirect light, humidity and a light touch on the watering. Plant them in well-draining potting soil like our Jungle Boogie course mix. And, go for a clay pot, since it dries out quickly and allows aerial roots to breath. Place hoyas near an east or west window for the best lighting options. Water them thoroughly until water trickles out the drainage hole, then don’t water again until the plants dry out, typically every 10 days. A cup of water tossed on the plant will work in a pinch but not on a regular basis. Instead, we’ve learned to read the thick leaves for their water needs. If they’re wrinkling, soft or drooping, it’s time to water. To feed hoyas, mix in a ¼ teaspoon of fertilizer per gallon of water and apply monthly from March through October. The plants will tolerate low humidity but prefer more humid conditions like a bathroom if possible.
Hoyas do best when pot bound, so only up-pot super crowded plants every two to three years. Also, these vining plants grow long tendrils which may be tempting to prune away but don’t. We’ve found many develop into blooms.
Hoya flowers are attainable indoors; just give the plants time (we’re talking months to years) to mature. Lighting and consistent watering intervals are keys for blooms. Most flowers last about a week, and some are fragrant. Watch for a peduncle to set up blooms. After flowering, do not cut off the spent flower; your plant will rebloom in this same spot in coming years.
Hoyas are fun to propagate. Simply look for aerial roots near the leaves, and take a stem cutting 2-4” long. Root in the cutting in water or insert it in soil. Try to keep the soil relatively moist while rooting. For more plant propagation tips, see our Divide and Multiply blog post.
The fun part about hoyas is trying the different varieties. When shopping, we recommend buying from a reputable source to ensure you’re getting the correct plant. Misidentification happens in the hoya world, especially since their subtle differences (draping or upright, fuzzy or smooth, leaf size and color) can be tough to discern. Sometimes, it’s not until your hoya blooms unexpected flowers that you realize your plant has been mislabeled. For more rare varieties, try buying local so you can touch, see and assess the plant yourself. Or, message an online seller to ask questions like what do the leaves feel like. Here are some of our classic go-tos and more rare finds:
- Carnosa – Start with the classic Hoya carnosa then add cultivars like ‘Jade’ with vibrant green leaves or ‘Chelsea’ with cascading heart-shaped green, puckered leaves. ‘Compacta’ or Hindu rope vine is a slow grower with crinkled, tightly packed leaves. ‘Variegata’ has green and white leaves, while ‘Variegata Tricolor’ or ‘Krimson Princess’ adds pink to the trio of colors. ‘Krimson Queen’ is green with cream margins. Be sure to give these variegated hoyas more light.
- Australis – This vigorous grower is perfect for a hanging basket or trellis and will delight with its fragrant creamy white flowers with burgundy centers.
- Callistophylla – It’s easy to obsess over this rare plant’s dreamy, patterned leaves. They’re oval-shaped and colored vivid green with deep green veins. This is slower growing and rarely blooms, so the leaves are the real draw.
- Caudata ‘Sumatra’ – This incredibly beautiful and rare houseplant is native to Thailand and Malaysia and features ruffly edged foliage with silver speckles and a reddish cast. The flowers are fuzzy white.
- Engleriana – This beautiful trailing wax vine has small leaves and is native to Thailand.
- Kentiana – This draping wax vine can eventually become quite long and full. When happy, it will produce clumps of small round fuchsia flowers. Also, check out the rare ‘Variegata’ with brilliant pink new leaves that fade to green and white.
- Kerrii – This popular Valentine plant features heart-shaped leaves. Also, try ‘Variegata’ for two-tone leaves.
- Krohniana – ‘Super Silver’ is a small-leafed hoya with trailing foliage. It features green heart-shaped leaves with silver markings and blooms with fuzzy white fragrant flowers. In general, smaller-leafed hoyas can handle more light than larger-leafed ones.
- Leytensis – This rare trailing wax vine plant has small dainty leaves and beautiful peach-colored flowers.
- Macrophylla albomarginata -- This unique hoya has spectacular trailing foliage and beautiful flowers. The large, oval-shaped leaves are dark green with pale borders and embossed vein patterns.
- Patella – From Papua New Guinea, this rare trailing hoya has new leaves that emerge with rust overtones then turn deep green. Single cup-shaped flowers bloom on each leaf node.
- Polyneura – This “Fishtail Hoya” has narrow, bright green leaves that resemble a fish tail.
- Pubicalyx – This graceful variety has bright green, lance-shaped leaves often flecked with silver depending on light conditions. The flowers are reddish-purple and mocha scented. Also try ‘Royal Hawaiian Purple’ with fragrant, deep purple flowers or ‘Speckled’ with white speckled leaves.
- Species affinity burtonaie – Native to the Philippines, this hoya has dark-rimmed, narrow foliage and showy dark pink flowers with yellow centers
- Sipitangensis – This small-leaved hoya features trailing foliage that turns maroon in bright light. It blooms spectacular creamy white flowers with a red center.
- Wayetii – Similar to H. kentiana, this special draping hoya has narrow leaves with dark and sometimes red edges.
Learn more: Doug Chamberlain writes an informative blog, Vermont Hoyas, about his personal experiences growing hoyas in the northeastern United States for the past 12 years. We love his helpful tips, videos and beautiful images of hoyas in bloom.