Bought a polka dot plant a couple months ago. Over the past month the leaves have been turning brown and falling off. I’ve been watering regularly, keeping the soil moist and using a humedifier when possible, but I can’t maintain moisture levels as the winter season gets colder. Now my plant is down to a few tiny leaves which I don’t think will survive much longer. Is there anything I can to to save this little guy?
Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners about your ailing Polka Dot Plant, Hypoestes phyllostachya.
Our archive contains answers to two previous questions about the Polka Dot Plant which you can read here: https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/askagardener/help-identifying-a-plant-2/
And here: https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/askagardener/can-you-identify-this-plant/
Too much or too little water is frequently the cause of leaf drop as explained in this University of Vermont article: https://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/leafdrop.html
During our low-light season of winter, it is advised to water the Polka Dot Plant sparingly, giving just enough water to make the mixture barely moist and allowing the top half to dry out somewhat between waterings. A plant’s roots require both water and oxygen, and good drainage is imperative to prevent water-logged soil that loses the necessary oxygen. When watering, direct the water to the base of the plant and avoid wetting the leaves. However, in the sunnier and warmer active growing period resume watering moderately, enough to make the entire potting mixture moist, but allow the top half-inch (3-5 cm) of mixture to dry out between waterings.
To ensure that you keep a Polka Dot Plant grow a new one. Take tip cuttings 3 to 4 inches long (8-10 cm) removing the bottom pair of leaves, to either root in water or, preferably, in a small pot of light potting mixture or perlite or sand. Water the potted cutting, let it drain, then put it into a plastic bag, close with a twist tie and place it in bright filtered light at room temperature. In about 6 to 8 weeks it should be well rooted and can be removed from the bag potted up in growing medium and grown on as you would a mature plant.
We wish you great success with your little plant.