How to Fix a Leggy Polka Dot Plant

Last Updated on June 9, 2022 by Admin

A leggy polka dot plant is not visually appealing. And it is not the reason why many people keep this beautiful plant in their homes.

Instead, they want their polka dot plants to be compact, bushy and tight.

As such, it is a good idea to fix any legginess in your polka dot plant if you notice it.

The good news is that it is easy to solve this issue. But before you can do so, you’ll need to figure out what is causing it first.

How do you fix a leggy polka dot plant? Pruning is the best way to reduce legginess in polka dot plants. And the plant will need trimming on a regular basis.

Additionally, make sure to keep the plant somewhere with plenty of light, use a right sized pot and feed the plant only when it needs it.

It is also worth noting that polka dot plants will naturally become leggy as they age. So, pinching back or pruning helps keep the plant compact and lovely looking.

What is a Leggy Polka Dot Plant?

A leggy polka dot plant means that it is growing very long stems. The length of the stems are longer than what they normally should be making the plant taller as well.

While a polka dot plant growing tall may sound good, it really isn’t if it is leggy.

That’s because it will look thinner than normal.

And the internodes will be longer.

Longer internodes mean that the leaves will be farther apart from one another giving you a thin, weak plant with fewer leaves. It will also look unsightly because it does not look healthy or normal.

Because of this, leggy plants look like they’ve been abnormally stretched out.

That said, some plants, including the polka dot plant will become leggy as it gets older. This is a natural phenomenon as it ages.

As such, if this happens, it does not necessarily mean the plant is sick, unhealthy or unhappy with the care you’re giving it.

However, unless you’re very sure that it is age that’s causing the leggy appearance of your polka dot plant, it is best to investigate to see if there are other causes that may be the reason that the plant is taller and straggly.


Leggy Polka Dot Plant Causes

Below, I’ll go through the different causes of a leggy polka dot plant.

These are some things you’ll want to go through and narrow down to find the real reason why your polka dot is growing tall and stretched out.


Lack of Light

Insufficient light is the most common reason for a leggy polka dot plant. That’s because plants naturally need light.

And their instinct is to go towards the light because they know that will provide them with sustenance.


Plants, including the polka dot plant, rely on photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis is the process by which it uses light, water, CO2 and nutrients to create food in the form of starches (sugar).

The start is what it then breaks down to create energy in order to grow, produce more shoots, leaves and maintain their beautiful color.

Thus, without light or lack of light, you’ll see plants grow slower and produce fewer leaves. Its leaves will also be smaller.

So, in order to keep itself healthy, your polka dot plant will bend and stretch towards the light source.

In doing so, it will create rapid growth to try and extend itself to reach the light as much as possible. But in doing that, it becomes leggy.

You see longer than normal stems with few leaves. And the stems will look thin and weak as well.

That’s because the goal, at least temporarily, is not to grow and produce leaves. Instead, it is survival by reaching out to the light first. Then focus on quality growth when it is able to get enough light.

Therefore, if you see your polka dot becoming leggy, it means that it needs more light.

It will have lighter colored green leaves, fewer leaves with larger spaces (internodes) between the leaves.


Excess Fertilizer

Another reason for legginess in polka dot plants is too much fertilizer.

This is a common mistake that many people make thinking that more fertilizer will make your plant grow faster and bigger.

And while this may be true to a degree, especially in the very short term, it becomes more harmful to the plant later on.

In this case, the problem is that the abnormally rapid growth causes the plant to grow taller. But in doing so, it becomes leggy and weak.

That’s because you can say it is growing “too fast for its own good”.

As such, the excess nitrogen in the fertilizer is pushing the growth which results in more ”quantity than quality”.

So, what happens is that you see a fast growing polka dot plant.

But if you look closely, it looks a bit limp, weak and thin. Its leaves will also be more yellow or yellow green instead of their healthy green color.

And the lower leaves are more likely to be yellow turn brown, die and fall off.

That said, plants do need fertilizer.

And nitrogen is actually a good thing as it fuels growth.

However, like all things, it needs to be used properly. Too much can cause side effects. And too few won’t give you enough of the desired positive effects.


Temperature Issues

Polka dot plants can get leggy when it is getting too much of a good thing. This is the case with temperature.

Yes, that sounds weird, I know.

In general, polka dot plants are moderate grower.

But when it gets ideal temperature with lots of light, it will grow fast. And when it becomes a fast grower, you’ll see the lant become leggy.

This is actually a natural phenomenon that occurs with this specific plant.

And in this case, there’s nothing wrong.

However, it won’t look as beautiful as other polka dot plants you’ll see out there.

That’s because yours will have longer stems and some space between the leaves. In contrast, polka dot plants look their best when they are compact and very bushy.

This is why a tall polka dot plant is not very aesthetically pleasing. Instead, you want a short, “fluffy” looking one with lots of leaves bunched up together.


Incorrect Pot Size

If you’ve read some of my plant care guides, I often mention the importance of choosing the right sized pot.

And you don’t want to overpot the plant or keep the roots crowded as well.

In this case, it is more about using a larger pot.

Some people like to jump pot sizes to save them the need to repot every few years.

And while the biggest downside to this is you increase the risk of overwatering due to the excess volume of the soil, there are other side effects as well.

One is the overgrowth which causes legginess in polka dot plants.

Keeping the plant in a larger pot gives it the “go signal” to keep growing. And it will grow faster than it normally does to fill the extra space.

Unfortunately, when this happens, the plant becomes leggy as it gets bigger and taller.

Again, this makes it lose its compact look which makes it less visually appealing.

That said, I’ve also seen other plants behave the opposite.

Instead of growing quickly on the top side of the plant, the extra space encourages more growth in the roots.

Here, the plant directs more of its energy to the growing the roots instead of growing its stems and foliage. Thus, you end up with an imbalanced plant as well.


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Plant Age

One of the things you need to be aware of as a polka dot plant owner is that plant will naturally become leggy as it ages.

Thus, it will begin to lose its cute, compact looks where all the leaves are bunched up together.

Instead, it will get taller and leggier with more space between its leaves.

Another thing that it will start developing are flower spikes.

For some plants, flowers and blooms are a good thing. But for polka dot plants they are not necessarily ideal.

That’s because the plant is a foliage plant. And its leaves are much more stunning than its flower spikes.

So, if you let it bloom, it means that the plant will channel energy to growing flowers where that energy could have been used for developing leaves instead.


How to Fix a Leggy Polka Dot Plant

Now that you know the causes of a leggy polka dot plant, it is time to discuss the treatments and fixes you can do in case this happens.


Prune the Leggy Stems

Pruning is the best way to keep your polka dot plant compact, bushy and beautiful looking.

It is part of the regular maintenance for this plant if you want to keep it looking cute looking with all the leaves bunched up together.

Pruning is also recommended if you feel your polka dot plant is a bit sparse and does not have as many leaves as you wished.

The good news is that polka dot plants respond well to pruning.

More importantly they tolerate it without any issues as well. Of course, it is never a good idea to just prune the plant heavily in one sitting.

Remember, plants rely on their leaves to collect sunlight for photosynthesis.

Therefore, you never want to remove too much of its leaves all at once.

It is also worth noting that spring and summer are the ideal times to prune. Although, you can pretty much prune the plant any time of the year.

However, if you prune it during fall or winter, the cold weather means that it won’t grow very quickly after. So, you could end up with a sparse looking, slow growing plant for the meantime.

If you do prune it during this time, light trimming is ideal.

Leave the main pruning sessions for the warmer months so the plant can quickly grow new foliage.

The last thing to keep in mind when pruning is to make sure you sterilize the cutting tool before you snip away.

You can use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.

Make sure to thoroughly clean the blades of the scissors or the pruning shears before cutting into the plant. This way you don’t pass any pathogens from the cutting tool to the plant.


Improve Lighting

In most cases, if you see a leggy polka dot plant, the first thing you want to check is lighting.

Make sure it is getting medium to bright indirect light indoors.

Outdoors, keep it in partial or semi-shade.

It is a tropical plant. So, in addition to warm weather, it enjoys lots of light.

Therefore, it is important to position it in a well-lite location.

If you notice that the plant is leggy and it is getting low light or it is in a dim area, move it to a brighter spot.

Ideally, an east or west facing window work really well.

The key is to keep it where there is plenty of light.

However, be aware that you don’t want to put the plant in a spot with lots of direct sunlight. This means avoid the areas where the direct rays of the sun hit.

As a rule, just keep the plant where the sun’s yellow rays never hit the plant at any time of the day.

If it gets too much of direct sunlight exposure, the intensity of the sun can burn its leaves.


Don’t Overfertilize

Like other houseplants, the polka dot plant needs fertilizer to grow optimally.

This will let it produce more leaves with good size and turn the plant bushy. Feeding also prevents any nutrient deficiencies from happening.

That said, avoid giving it more fertilizer than its needs.

In most cases overfertilizing happens due to giving the plant more food than its needs. Feeding it more often than it needs to be fed.

It is also not a good idea to fertilize it when the plant is not actively growing.

Instead, just follow the instructions on the label.

Use an all-purpose fertilizer designed for indoors plants. Feed the plant once every 2 to 4 weeks during the spring and summer.

Stop feeding by early to mid autumn. And do not give the plant any fertilizer during winter.

That’s all it needs.


Use the Ideal Pot Size

The ideal pot size for your polka dot plant is one that is 2-3 inches wider than the size of the root ball. This gives it enough space to grow but not too much space for overgrowth or overwatering.

Using the proper sized will let your polka dot maintain its compact shape.

Try to avoid very small pots as this will limit the plant’s growth.

Additionally, the roots will get overcrowded in the small pot which will cause the plant to get stressed later on.

On the other hand, an excessively large pot will cause many other problems including overwatering.

When repotting, you the same guideline.

Once the plant becomes root bound, choose a pot that is 2 inches wider than the current one.

Whenever you select a pot, make sure that it has drainage holes at the bottom to let excess moisture escape.

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