Most local nurseries, floral shops carry
tropical plants.

March 25, 2011

by Linda Hartman, Victoria County Master Gardener Intern

edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
Gardeners' Dirt
Left: The hoya plant is also referred to as wax plant with leaves of succulent tissue capable of retaining water. The leaves can be dark or light green in color or have reddish tints. They are narrow or wide, fuzzy or smooth, or even speckled. Hoya vines produce aerial roots to anchor the plant in place.
Right: The Hoya kerrii or sweetheart hoya is identified by its large, fleshy, heart-shaped leaves.  Its flowers are cream-colored with a reddish brown center and bloom.
The mature leaves of the Hoya carnosa are white with a green border, but the new leaves are a lovely pink with a green border. The pink-white blossoms will appear in the summer months.
As I look about my yard, I see the nandina from my parents' yard and the iris from my mother-in-law's garden. These and other shared plants from special people are dear to me, but the sweetheart hoya given to me by a dear Sunday school teacher many years ago is my favorite. Its heart-shaped leaves represent the love of the gift and the giver.

Through the years, my admiration and excitement for hoyas has grown. I even researched the plant and found an excellent resource at the Victoria Public Library: "Tempting Tropicals: 175 Irresistible Indoor Plants" by Ellen Zachos.


Hoyas are tropical plants from the Pacific Islands, Australia, Southeast Asia, India and China. They live in jungles and on mountains, and new specimens are still being discovered in parts of Asia. They were first discovered in 1810. As members of the Asclepidaceae family, hoyas are labeled as epiphytic plants, which derive moisture and nutrients from air and rain while growing on another plant, but they are not parasitic. Examples of other epiphytic plants are butterfly orchids or stag horn ferns.

Other names for hoyas are wax plants, because of the texture of their leaves, or porcelain flowers. These plants are quite easy to grow. They like heat and humidity, the blooms come in white, yellow, maroon and have a wide variety of leaf shapes.

The star-shaped blooms are called umbels, which are a cluster of flowers varying from three to 30 blooms. They range in size from 4 millimeters to 3 inches. The blossoms have a plastic look about them. The leaves can be dark or light green or have reddish tints. Their leaves are narrow or wide, fuzzy or smooth, or even speckled sometimes. Hoya vines produce aerial roots to anchor the plant in place.

These vines should be trained with a trellis or stakes unless the hoya is in a hanging basket.


Although hoyas originated in the tropical forests, too much water will kill the plant. Allow the soil to become almost dry before adding water. The leaves of the hoya have succulent tissues and are capable of retaining water so misting some varieties a couple times a week with water are all they need. Check to see what care your hoya prefers, and watch it grow. They rarely suffer from diseases although mealy bugs might create a problem.

The slow-growing hoyas do best in containers or baskets in indirect or dappled light. Think of a jungle-like environment. Feeding them once a month at half strength fertilizer and keeping their soil loose to allow good drainage is all you need to enjoy their beauty.


Hoyas can live for many years and will produce many blossoms. They bloom best being somewhat root bound and in a 50-50 mix of compost and perlite plus a little sharp sand to provide structure. While a new plant may take up to three years to bloom, hoyas can easily live 15 to 20 years. Classified as a safe, non-toxic house or outdoor plant by many sources, they do emit a white latex substance that may irritate some people with long-term skin exposure to the substance. Since they are tropical, protection when temperatures drop below 50 degrees is advised.

Some of my favorites include:

Hindu India Rope - Dark green leaves that swirl around the stem, with a pink flower.

Hoya "Compacta Regalis" - Variegated form of India Rope has twisted green leaves with white edges and produces pale pink blooms.

Hoya Carnos "Tricolor" - Has green leaves tinted pink with a white border. It can grow 8 to 10 feet.

Hoya Red Buttons - Is recommended for beginners, grows quickly and has red to brown flowers.


In the springtime, most local nurseries and floral shops carry these plants. They are excellent plants to send for any occasion. The Web has excellent sites to visit and learn more, and, of course, pictures make your selections easier. It is recommended that you only purchase your plants from U.S. markets. Florida and Hawaii have huge supplies.

These plants can add a new dimension to your garden, and someday, perhaps you will share a hoya memory, too.

There are more than 200 species, so my search will continue for a long time.
Gardino Nursery ~ ~ ~

Pattie Dodson Health Center, 2805 N. Navarro St.
Free to the public
Noon to 1 p.m.
Bring your lunch and drink.
"Propagating Plants You Can Use in the Landscape,"
by Victoria County Master Gardener Dick Nolen
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at