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What are Hypoestes?

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  • Written By: J.M. Densing
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2016
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Hypoestes is a genus of plants that is characterized by the presence of uniquely patterned foliage and with spotted and speckled bi-colored leaves. Usually the leaves are green combined with pink, white, or red. The genus Hypoestes has many species, and these plants belong to the same family as other plants with patterned leaves like the American mosaic plant. The most commonly known species is Hypoestes phyllostachya which is well known as the polka dot plant. These plants widely cultivated as houseplants and outdoor garden annuals.

Hypoestes typically grows to a height of about 24 to 36 inches (about 61 to 91 cm), and can spread out to a width of as much as 30 inches (about 76 cm). The plant has medium sized leaves, with an oval shape that narrows to a point; they can be heavily veined, which gives them a textured look, and feature patterns in two colors. The patterns can include spotting, speckling, or a mottled appearance. The leaf most often has a green background, with a second color of pink, red or white, although this can be reversed.

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The stems of the plant can be solid green, or patterned, depending on the species. The plant is mainly grown for the unique foliage, and its flowers don't attract much attention. The flowers grow in clusters of small blossoms on a single tall stem and are typically blue, lavender, white or pink. The flowers will produce seeds allowing the plant to re-seed itself in areas that have warm climates; many gardeners prefer to cut them off before this occurs, however, believing this is better for maintaining the foliage.

The native area of Hypoestes is Madagascar, South Africa, and Southeast Asia, where it typically grows in open woodland areas. It prefers a humid, warm climate and does not tolerate frost well. It's commonly grown in cultivation all over the world as a houseplant, and for use in gardens. It is a perennial plant by nature, but is often treated as an annual in areas with cooler climates because it is not able to survive the colder winters with temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).

In the garden, Hypoestes is often used as a bedding plant or in containers. It provides lasting color and contrast due to its multicolored leaves during warm weather and year-round as a houseplant. It does well in bright locations with indirect sunlight, but too much shade can cause the leaves to darken. It thrives in rich moist soil and should not be allowed to dry out between watering.

The Hypoestes plant can tend to become tall and sparse looking without maintenance. To maintain a fuller, bushy appearance, it is recommended to cut back any particularly tall stems as they appear. The plant is simple to propagate using cuttings, which will root easily when placed in a glass of water or planted directly in the soil, thereby developing into new plants with little care.

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