Plant Sheet: Wax Plant (Hoya carnosa)

Hoyas have been cultivated for more than 200 years which makes it a houseplant with some history. If you haven’t got a Hoya yet, it is high time to add it to your indoor jungle.

Hoya carnosa is native to Eastern Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Australia and grows as a semi-epiphyte on tropical forest trees. It prefers a well-draining soil mix, bright indirect light, and water only when the soil has dried out. Its waxy star-shaped flower buds make it a unique-looking plant species.

With its glossy, dark green leaves and unique waxy flower buds, the Wax Plant is a truly special guest among your indoor greenery.

Origin and Natural Habitat of Hoya carnosa

Hoya carnosa, also known as Wax or Honey Plant, and Porcelain Flower, is native to Eastern Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Australia. In its natural habitat, it grows as a semi-epiphyte on trees and bushes in lowland tropical and subtropical forests.

While as an epiphyte, it collects its nutrients from debris and pieces of bark and dirt it encounters along the way, it is also semi-parasitic by digging its roots into the tree bark it grows on. As a semi-succulent species, it masterfully organizes its water intake and storage.

The leaves are oval-shaped, thick, and glossy of an intense dark green color. It makes beautiful wax-like flower buds, hence its common name the Wax Plant. The flowers enthrall with their beautiful soft colors that form an aesthetically pleasing contrast to the dark green leaves.

In indigenous symbolism, Hoya represents stillness, accepting our fate, and promotes an alignment with higher knowledge and spirits by being quiet and going inward.

Brighten Up Hoya’s Day: Light and Water Requirements

As an epiphyte and tree climber, the Hoya plant is not used to strong direct sunlight. In its natural habitat, it grows below the dense and lush canopy of tropical forest trees. Hence, as an indoor plant, it prefers indirect light or only morning and late afternoon sunlight. It can even do with half-shade though that is going to slow its growth.

Place it anywhere except at South-facing windows where the harsh midday sun could burn its leaves.

Tip: Even though the plant can do with half-shade, keep in mind that for it to produce flowers, it needs bright indirect light. With half-shade, it will most likely never produce flowers at all.

As for its water requirements, as a tropical semi-succulent, a Hoya plant can tolerate a lot of variations in your watering schedule. It needs water only once a week during very hot summer days and much less in the cool months of winter.

From my experience, Hoyas can take a lot when it comes to watering: Even occasionally overwatering them right after they went through a period of drought, it all doesn’t matter: This plant keeps growing and thriving. Looking for a stunning beginner’s plant? The Hoya carnosa is for you!

A Hoya’s Guide to Happiness: Care Tips

Hoyas will do well with a minimum amount of care. Here are some tips that can make your life with Hoya plants even better:

  • Do not expose it to intense midday sun: Hoya plants love bright spots but strong direct sunlight can scorch their leaves.
  • Create good drainage: Hoya plants do not like to sit in water, hence create good drainage in your pot as well as in your soil mix. (What is good drainage? Read more about how to create good drainage in my post linked right here!)
  • Make use of its versatility: This plant makes for a great hanging plant but it can also be arranged in various ways by giving it any growth structure you like for it to climb on.
  • Trim it to keep it bushy: If you want your Hoya plant to stay compact, trim the longest vines regularly. You can use the trimmed vines to propagate new plants!
  • Give it an occasional misting or shower: This tropical plant likes humid environments. You can either mist it daily (though the efficacy of misting is an ongoing debate) or just let it rain on it in your shower, they love that and will produce many a new leaf after in the weeks after showering them. A shower also helps clean off the dust from their glossy leaves.
  • Period of drought in spring: If you want to mimic best its tropical natural habitat and promote the growth of flowers, let your Hoya plant go through a period of drought in spring. This may sound counterproductive but it does actually boost its growth.
  • Do never cut off the stems of the flower buds: When a flower bud is done, the stem of it remains. Always leave these stems, do not cut them off, as the plant will reuse the same stems for the next flowers it produces.

How to Propagate Hoya carnosa

Hoyas are best propagated by taking cuttings of branches. Make sure that there are at least two nodes on the cutting. The plant will grow roots only out of nodes. The propagation works the fastest if you choose young branches that are not woody yet, though it generally works with any branch.

Cut the branches precisely with a pair of scissors and let them take root in water. 1-2 branches is enough for a new plant as Hoyas grow really well and you will soon have a new plant with lush foliage grown out of just a few branches.

New roots appear after 2-3 weeks or even faster than that.

Tip: Letting cuttings take root in water is quite a common practice but did you know that you can also keep plants in water instead of soil permanently? This is called hydroponics and has seen a rise in popularity in recent years. Learn more about how to grow plants in water instead of soil in my post linked here!

Hoya Superpowers

Hoyas come with their special power of producing these amazing inflorescences and releasing this sweet and enchanting smell from their flower buds. Its flowers never fail to amaze me. One inflorescence can have more than 30 single flowers on it.

They release the smell mainly at nighttime as in nature, they aim to attract nocturnal insects such as moths for pollination. Growing up, my mother had a big Hoya in our living room and one of my childhood memories is smelling that sweet Hoya smell when waking up and going to the bathroom at night.

As kids, we also used to lick the nectar droplets from the flower buds, it is edible and tastes better than honey!

But that is not the only superpower Hoya plants are equipped with. As many arid plant species are able to, Hoyas can make use of CAM photosynthesis or Crassulacean acid metabolism which helps them keep hydrated during the day by only opening their stomata at night.

This also means that they do not release CO2 at night like most plants do but rather they take CO2 in at night and release oxygen. Hoyas are the perfect plant for your bedroom (unless the smell is too strong for you at nighttime).

One more special skill to mention about this plant is that one can watch its epiphyte spirit when keeping it as an indoor plant: Its young vines stretch out into all directions, moving day by day, in search of some object to wind around and grow upwards on. From my experience, it is one of the nosiest plants you will find and provides some entertainment for sure.

Further Questions

What Is the Best Soil for Indoor Plants?

If you need “well-draining” soil for your indoor plant, what does that mean exactly? And what is the best soil for indoor plants? I sum up the most important factors of good indoor plant soil and also share how to mix your own soil in my post. Just click on through!

Is Banana Water Good for Plants?

There are plenty of natural fertilizers you can use for your indoor plants, banana water is a popular one among them. But does banana water really work and is it good for plants? I tested it out! Check out what my experience with banana water was in my post right here, including step-by-step instructions on how to make banana water yourself.

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