Hoya Carnosa

Ah, good old Hoya Carnosa! Just recently they have hopped back on the popular houseplant list, and are flying off the shelves as fast as stores can get them in. Super easy to care for, doesn’t mind being forgotten about, with cute star-shaped flowers that smell like chocolate, what isn’t to love? With so many varieties to choose from it can be hard to pick just one, so why not collect them all. Their wandering and climbing growth habit makes them really fun to watch as they grow. Whether it’s the standard Carnosa or the uniquely twisted Compacta, these plants sure have a lot of character.

My Hoya Carnosa ‘Krimson Princess’ blooming

Potting: Hoyas are Epiphytes and in nature the are found growing up in trees. So be sure to keep that in mind when potting them up. A well draining mix is a must with these beautiful plants. The mix I use with all of my Hoyas is a 2-2-1 mix of potting soil-orchid bark-perlite or pumice. It drains quickly while not drying out too fast, as well as being the rich medium they like. As far a pots go, stick with a smaller pot as Hoyas like to be a little snug in their pots. It encourages them to send out lots of new growth. There is a huge debate in the Hoya community on what type of pot to use. Hoya roots are extremely clingy and they will actually root to any porous material, like terra-cotta or unglazed ceramics. So I personally stick to plastic nursery pots inside my decorative pots, or totally glazed ceramic pots. If you do use terra-cotta for your Hoyas be sure to soak the whole pot and plant in water before repotting. This is supposed to get the roots to let go of the pot some.

Light: Hoyas can tolerate being placed from high light to medium light. If you would like to see their trademark flowers however, then they need to be placed in a spot with high light. I find my Hoyas to be the happiest indoors when they have direct sun on their leaves. Outdoors they should be kept in the shade so the leaves don’t burn. To see the most growth out of them indoors I recommend a East, South, or West window. But they will also do very well in a north window. In the summer you may notice the leaves closest to the window getting a little pale, this is completely normal, just a little sun fading.

Hoya Carnosa ‘Krimson Princess’ showing off it’s new pink leaves

Watering: Hoya Carnosa has thick succulent like leaves and therefore is really tolerant of drought. So don’t worry if you forget to water this one. You are more likely to kill this plant from over watering than under watering. Water your Hoya deeply until you see water running out of the bottom of the pot, then let it dry out to about a finger length down before watering again. You can tell your Hoya needs water when its leaves get a wrinkled look and they loose their stiffness.

Fertilizing: Hoyas are not heavy feeders, but they do like to be fertilized. I go with a general houseplant food at 1/4 strength roughly every other watering. I have seen a huge spurt in their growth since I started doing this at the start of the growing season. My personal favorite fertilizer is Foliage Pro by Dyna Gro. Once in awhile I will switch it up and use a bloom food like Orchid Pro to try and encourage them too bloom. As with most houseplants, don’t fertilize through the winter.

Krimson Princess blooms getting ready to open

Propogation: Hoyas are so easy to propagate and there are several ways to try. First you have to take your cutting of your plant. Pick a piece that is greenwood, had a couple nodes, and has lots of little bumps on the stem, those are all root nodes and will form roots. If you don’t have a piece with bumps, don’t worry we can still get roots. You want to make your cut just below the node as Hoyas generally send out the first roots from there. Now we have a couple options.

First method is water rooting, this is by far the easiest method for rooting Hoyas and least likely to have fail. It’s easy as dropping your cutting in a vase of water and waiting for roots. When the roots are about 1-2 inches long pot it in a small pot in a welling draining mix. Don’t wait too long to pot them up or the roots will have a harder time transitioning from water to soil.

Next method is soil rooting. For this route dip your cutting in rooting hormone then place in a small pot filled with a roughly 50/50 mix of potting soil and perlite, then water. Keep your cutting from totally drying out but do not keep it soggy. Before long it will root and you will have a new plant. This is a little more challenging, but as long as you don’t keep them too wet or too dry they should grow. Once you see the first new leaves you know your cuttings took and will be thriving plants soon.

Another way to propagate is to lay a vine from the mother plant on small pots full of soil, then pin the vine in place. Be sure to water the small pots as they dry out to encourage rooting. After awhile, the vine will have sent roots into each pot. You can now cut the vine away from the mother plant and in between each pot. This is a good method to use if you are trying to get several starts at once.

One last thing on propagation, you may have heard of leaf cuttings, and yes leaves will root. But they will likely always just be a Zombie Leaf, a rooted leaf that never turns in to a new plant but can live for several years. This isn’t as common to see with Hoya Carnosa, but is very common with Hoya Kerrii(Heart leaf Hoya) around Valentines Day.

Hoya Carnosa cutting blooming in water!

Toxicity: Hoyas are toxic, but not necessarily poisonous. They produce white milky sap when damaged or cut and the sap is full of latex. People with latex allergies should avoid handling them if they are weeping sap and be sure to wear gloves when repotting. It is a good idea to keep them up away from young kids and any pets that chew on plants.