Hoya Exotica Plant Care – How to Grow Variegated Wax Plant

hoya exotica

The Hoya Exotica is also known as the Hoya Carnosa ‘Exotica’. As such, it is a variant of the hoya carnosa. And, you’ll see many similarities between them.

It is another one of those hard to find plants which makes it expensive (usually $100 or higher) when you find it. Often, it is not available, sold out or you need to back order it even from online stores.

But, it makes a great addition to any houseplant collection.

The Hoya Exotica is commonly known as the Variegated Wax Plant.

This is because of its beautiful yellow-white variegations the cover the center portion of the leaves. This is well-contrasted by the dark green borders and red-colored stems.

You’ve probably seen some that have these white-yellow/light green variegations along with pinkish ones as well. That’s because new leaves are pink in the middle and turn their color as they get older.

Along with its beautiful leaves, the Hoya Exotica also features gorgeous clusters of small, fragrant flowers.

For the plant itself, it is an epiphytic vining plants with succulent-like leaves. These features affect it preferred growing conditions as you’ll see below.

It also hails from Asia and Australia. Thus, making it tropical in nature. Again, this plays a big role in its care and growing needs.

The good news is the plant is low maintenance and easy to grow.

Hoya Exotica Plant Care

Light Requirements

The Hoya Exotica thrives when give plenty of light provided that it is not direct sunlight. Instead, it prefers indirect or filtered light.

That’s because the plant is native to the tropical forests of Asia and Australia. There, it lives under the canopy of tall trees, their leaves and branches. So while it is able to receive a good amount of sunlight, the larger plants bear the brunt of the sun’s rays.

As such, the plant has evolved into being more protected from the harsh rays of the sun.

Thus, exposure to direct sunlight or harsh sun for more than 2 or 3 hours a day, it will burn and you’ll see its leaves turn color and lose their patterns.

Instead, if prefers medium light or partial shade. It can likewise tolerate low light but only to a degree.

Since the plant is variegated, it needs more light than those with solid green foliage. If it is unable to receive sufficient light, it will adapt by turning more solid green in order to absorb more light.

Lack of light also slows its growth, causes it to produce fewer leaves and become leggy.

Just as importantly, it won’t bloom.

This makes an east, west or south facing windows idea. But, with the latter two, it will need some protection from the direct afternoon soon which is very intense.

The plant likewise grows under bright fluorescent lights, which makes it well-suited for indoors. But, on its own, it needs at least 12 to 16 hours of this kind of light to sustain normal growth.

 

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Temperature

Due to its native habitat, the plant has become accustomed to warm weather. Its ideal temperature is between 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. And, it is likewise able to tolerate a bit hotter climates as well.

But, is has very little leeway for cold. Avoid levels under 60 degrees Fahrenheit since the plant will start stressing once things hit around 55 degrees.

That said, here’s the tricky part.

Since hoyas are grown as much for their flowers as their foliage, you may want to be aware that it needs cooler night temperatures to bloom.

As such, the level between 60 and 65 is something many growers will shoot for at night.

However, because the plant is not cold hardy, you do need to be careful not to go too low. Otherwise, you’ll do it more harm than good.

Similarly, most people keep the plant indoors because it is hardy to USDA Zones 9 to 11. As such, they don’t do well below zone 9 during wintertime.

 

Humidity

Humidity paints a similar story to temperature because of the Hoya’s tropical nature. It thrives in high humidity, ideally 60% or more.

Fortunately, it does not mind average indoor humidity so as long as you keep things between 40% and 60% it will do well. It may even adapt to slightly below 40% depending on where you live.

One reason for this is that it has succulent-like leaves. As such, it is able to store water in its foliage to help it through dry periods.

Nevertheless, its evolution prevents it from handles low humidity.

So, if you find that your home’s humidity is too low for the plant’s liking, you can do one of the following.

  • Group it with other plants.
  • Set it on top of rocks in a water tray.
  • Use a humidifier.
  • Mist it at least 2 or 3 times a week.

Pro Tip: I find having a digital hygrometer around the house very helpful when growing houseplants. It instantly tells you what the humidity is in any room. Plus, it is very inexpensive.

 

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How Often to Water Hoya Exotica

One unique feature of the Hoya Exotica is that it is an epiphytic plant that has succulent-like leaves. This means.

  • It has small roots that are not as strong or useful as most houseplants which are terrestrial. That’s because it spends most of its time in the forest clinging onto trees. It also gets nutrients and water from the air which requires less work that digging deeper into soil to find food and water. So, the roots are smaller and less developed. They also need to be well-aerated.
  • Succulent leaves means it can hold moisture in order to get through dry spells. As such, it is better at tolerating lack of water compared to non-succulent like plants.

However, both these characteristics also means the plant is more prone to too much water. Thus, it is always a good idea to allow the soil to dry out a bit more between waterings.

Ideally, you want to wait until the top 1 to 2 inches of soil goes dry before you water. This will help prevent watering too frequently which results in wet, soggy or waterlogged soil.

All of which increase the chances of root rot in the long term.

In the winter, water management becomes even more important as the cold causes soil to take longer to dry. Thus, you want to wait a bit more between waterings.

 

Soil for Hoya Exotica

To avoid overwatering problems, using the right soil for your Variegated Wax Plant is important.

I make sure to use a well-draining mix that holds just enough moisture to keep the plant hydrated. But, is able to drain out all excess liquid to avoid too much water retention.

Also, the Hoya Exotica seems to do best when soil pH is kept between 6.1 to 7.5.

Because of the plant’s epiphytic roots, using a chunky mixture that provides good air circulation is likewise key. Avoid heavy soils and those that compact over time. This will prevent air from flowing through to the roots.

Here are a few options you can use.

If you prefer to use a commercial mix, you can go with either:

  • Succulent soil
  • Orchid potting mix
  • African violet soil

Or, you if you already have standard houseplant potting mix at home, you can use that and add a good amount of perlite or vermiculite. I tend to avoid sand for epiphytes because sand does tend to compact over time.

And, since the plant does not need to be regularly repot, leaving it there can cause aeration issues later on. However, this is less of a problem for plants that get repot once a year.

On the other hand, I prefer to make my own mixes because this allows you to customize it to the needs of the plant.

Here are some potting mix recipes that work well as they drain moisture well and are chunky enough for good air circulation.

  • Peat moss, perlite and pine bark
  • 2 parts peat moss and 1 part pine bark

 

Fertilizer

Hoya Exotica are primarily foliage plants as such, using a balanced fertilizer works. Although I know some growers who swear by nitrogen-rich formulations.

Both will work and I do suggest trying out the second if you feel that the plant is not producing as much or large enough leaves as it normally should.

Since the exotica is not a heavy feeder, you only need to feed it once a month during spring and summer. This is its growing period.

Make sure to dilute your application to half strength to avoid overconcentration. Also, water the plant when you fertilize.

You can use liquid or fish fertilizer both work quite well.

Avoid feeding in the fall and winter when the plant is resting.

 

Flowering

If you’re growing a Hoya Exotica, there’s no doubt one of the features you look forward to is its blossoms.

The plant produces amazing flower clusters with about 20 to 30 or so small blooms per group. But, they don’t always appear.

As such, it can get frustrating.

Here are a few things to consider.

The plant’s maturity affects its ability to bloom. And, it needs good growing conditions to achieve this.

Also, be careful when you prune. The plant’s flowers grow out of peduncles (small stalks) from the main stalk. As such, you don’t want to trim these off.

That’s because these peduncles are perennials. That means they will produce flowers year in a year out with the flowers of each season fading after a while.

If you prune vines with these peduncles, you’ll need to wait for the plant to regrow these stalks before it can begin again. Thus, you’ll be missing out of at least a season’s flowers.

When it comes to growing conditions, here are a few important things to help the plant bloom.

  • Plenty of bright, indirect light.
  • Keep humidity at least 40%
  • Apply deep watering when you add moisture
  • Apply fertilizer during its growing season. If the plant is still not producing flowers, switch to a high phosphorus formulation to encourage flowering.

 

Pruning

Your Hoya Exotica is a vining plant with the ability to reach between 12 to 20 feet. Thus, many growers keep them in hanging pots to allow them to grow long and drape over the sides.

In many cases, you’ll see it kept short in a container because you’re more likely to appreciate its lovely leaves.

That said, some people allow the plant to grow out in containers. This looks a bit messy over time as the plant will kind of look like frizzy hair that goes all over the place.

The density also prevents you appreciating the shape and color of the leaves.

However, if you prefer this style, then pruning is not much of an issue.

Otherwise, you may need to prune it to keep it compact and tidy.

 

Hoya Exotica Propagation

I’ve found that the simplest way to propagate your Hoya Exotica is via stem cuttings. The process is likewise very efficient as it takes between 14 to 30 days to root depending on whether you decide to propagate the stem cuttings in water or in soil.

The former is simpler, faster and seems to have a better success rate. But, you need to watch out for rotting as water can do that to plants if kept there for long periods.

You also need to move it to soil eventually. Thus, while easier, it takes an extra step.

Propagating in soil goes directly to the pot.

So, you skip the extra step. But, it takes longer and has a lower success rate. Nevertheless, the rate of success is still very good so don’t shy away from this method.

Since it is harder for roots to dig their way through soil than water, the entire process will take between 20 to 30 days to root. But, you also get stronger roots with better foundation.

 

How to Repot Hoya Exotica

When it comes to repotting your Hoya Exotica, there are a few things to keep in mind.

It does not need to be repot often. This is because it has a small root system. Additionally, the plant likes to be root bound. So, a snug container is okay.

Finally, it does not like being moved. So, in addition to occasional repotting, avoid moving it around regularly once you find a good spot for it.

On average it will take about 5 years before you need to repot. The fastest I’ve seen is about 3 years. So, there’s really no hurry to do this.

And the only time to do so is when it roots starting appearing through the holes of the plant. Or, if the soil dries up very quickly even if you water deeply.

Of course, there are emergency situations like uncontrolled pest infestations, waterlogged soil or other problems. If you experience any of these, don’t hesitate to repot to give it a bit of a reset with fresh dry potting mix.

 

Toxicity

Your Hoya Exotica is non-toxic to humans or animals. Thus, young kids and pets are in no harm around the plant even if they accidentally ingest parts of the plant other than choking hazards.

 

Pests and Diseases

If well taken care of, your Hoya Exotica will probably never experience any problems. I say probably because the plant seems to attract a few pests, namely mealybugs, aphids, spider mites and scale.

These are sap suckers.

As such, they try to steal nutrients and moisture that’s supposed to fuel the plant.

This makes it important to spot them early before they grow in number. The more sap sucking critters there are, the more the plant will be deficient in nutrients and moisture. Thus, affecting its overall health and look.

A good natural way to control and get rid of these pests is to use neem oil.

On the other hand, diseases are often man-made, at least to some degree. That’s because many of them are caused by too much moisture be in in the soil or leaves.

Because the plant enjoys high humidity, this increases the risk of moisture issues, which lead to fungal and mold problems.

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