- Author: Betsy Lunde
Did your Mother or Grandmother have a “wax plant” when you were young? Did you notice those twining tendrils wrapping round and round a small plastic trellis or perhaps a tall, thin slat of wood? How about the tight cluster of white or light pink flowers looking rather like other-worldly flowers – thick and waxy, looking as though made from porcelain – hence the name “wax plant. Welcome to the world of the hoya, a group of 200 or more species of the Asclopiadaceae family. These root-climbing, twining or loose shrubs are native to India, S. China, to some Pacific Islands, as well as Australia. They are evergreen with fleshy or leathery leaves. In our clime, hoyas are strictly indoor plants, although there are a few varieties that are only for those with greenhouses; this is because hoyas prefer the moist, warm atmosphere along with a little shade, and well-drained soil.
Hoyas are one of the easiest indoor plants to grow. You water them and then let the soil dry out between watering. One rule however: never cut off a flowering “spur”; the reason is that the new blooms will form on these with the “spurs” growing longer and longer with each bloom. These plants prefer to be root-bound in their pots in order to bloom, so they are not exactly for those who want instant bloom. Some of mine have been in their 8 inch pots for years and show no signs of wanting a larger pot.
I have 14 hoyas living in my home; some are in the eating area where they receive bright morning light and sun, while others are in the spare bedroom where they receive Southern light and no real sun. Still others are growing the mostly shaded area of my family room. Foliage sizes range from the mammoth leaf of the Hoya lauterbachii, with its silky, rather furry leaves measuring 6 inches long and 4 inches wide to the very delicate leaves of the Hoya shepherdi (longifolia) which has foliage 10 inches long and
¾ inch wide. My newest specimen is the Hoya odorata which has foliage 2 inches by 1 inch and when it blooms will have a loose, large cluster of white blossoms which resemble shooting stars with a rather distinct rather sweet odor. I had one years ago and gave it away and have never (to this time) had another one last any length of time. So far, I’m on a roll – had the latest one 1 month without succumbing “to the elements” as my Mother would say.
The beauty for me is looking at them weekly and seeing where the tendrils go. One of them hangs straight down for about 2 feet. It is a Hoya carnosa or Hindu rope vine which can grow to 10 feet with the twisted and crinkled leaves held close to the stem. This gives a rather thick coiled appearance to the plant, but is very light weight. This plant hasn’t bloomed yet as it’s only been in the current pot for 5 years. According to the various books I’ve read, I can expect white flowers with pink centers that will have a slight scent. I’m waiting for that, I tell you!
Most of my collection have leaves of solid dark green. However, the plant I have had the longest has leaves of light green; no amount of fertilizer has turned those leaves darker. Another hoya has grey metallic blotches on the leaves; another has dark green leaves variegated with yellowy white.
I enjoy this interesting and unusual family of plants in my home. They give me a big bang for the buck, so to speak, without being needy and can go for a while without much care. As I also have ferns in the house, this aspect is quite appealing!
The next time you receive a Logee Greenhouse catalog, check out the selection of hoyas. Another good source for hoyas and other indoor plants is Glasshouse Works in Stewart , Ohio. Lovely plants and lovely-meaning low—prices! I think you may re-think having “old fashioned” house plants. I know I did!