How Do I Care for My Hoya Carnosa?

How do I care for my Hoya carnosa?

“I have a plant that I only recently found out was a Hoya carnosa (according to an online forum). Long story short, I got it from a job clearing out a house. I thought it was a plastic plant, and left it for weeks. Finally, it started to die, and my lightning-fast mind realized it was real. I put it in a window, and as you can see it took off. Then something happened, and it got sick and the leaves turned yellow and started to die. I still have no clue what caused it. It was getting a little less sun where it was than the previous picture, but the problem seemed to come from something else.

Finally, all that was left was one small thread of green leaves, connected to the dirt by a thin, brown, spindly branch, near dead. I decided to cut it off and place it in water. Apparently whatever was wrong with the rest of the plant wasn’t wrong with this section (??), as it grew roots in a bottle like crazy, and has now formed a strong set of leaves:

It has sat this way for years, as I was afraid to do anything to it since it seemed strong the way it was. I tried asking a few garden places, but they ignored me. I asked on an online forum, and beyond identification, I received conflicting answers (keep it in water, move it to dirt, etc.)

I believe I should move it to dirt, but need to know what to use from your options, and if possible, recommendations on how to do so. It had such a “strong will” to survive. I’d hate to kill it by doing something wrong. That would be devastating.” Question from Joseph

From left to right. Happy hoya, yellowing hoya, water-grown hoya.

Answer: That is quite a story. I think that your plant was initially getting too much water. Your porcelainflower or wax plant (Hoya carnosa) certainly has a strong will to live, but it should not be growing in a cup of water. It is a miracle that it has survived. Tropical succulents like this native of East Asia and Australia require very different growing conditions. Here’s what it needs to grow beautifully.

Hoya carnosa Care

As you have discovered, Hoya can be picky. Like most succulents, they really dislike regular water in the winter months and excess water at any time usually makes them unhappy. Warmth and humidity are always welcome.

Ditch the cup of water, and plant your Hoya in a well-drained pot filled with fast-draining potting soil, such as Black Gold Cactus Mix. An 8-10” pot would be a good choice. Give it even irrigation from spring to fall and very little water during the winter months (once-weekly water at most). (Click here to learn more about how to water house plants.)

Place it in a spot with bright, indirect light with some direct sunshine. It grows best in temperatures between 60–85 °F (16–29 °C). Once planted, do not replant until it has completely outgrown its pot. Porcelainflowers resent transplanting. Once it begins to set buds, do not disturb the plant as this can result in bud drop. After flowering, refrain from removing the spent flower heads. Essentially, disturb your Hoya as little as possible, and let it be its happy self. Keep it fertilized with a slow-release fertilizer (follow manufacturer’s directions).

I hope that these tips help. Keep me posted on its progress. I am curious to hear how it responds to its new home.

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist



Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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