Polka dot plantBotanical name: Hypoestes...

PLANT NOTEBOOK

July 13, 1991|By Amalie Adler Ascher

Polka dot plant

Botanical name: Hypoestes phyllostachya

Pronunciation: hy-po-ES-tess

Family: Acanthaceae (Ancanthus)

Origin: Madagascar

Class: Annual/houseplant

Display period: Year-round

Height: 10 inches

Environment: Sun

Show me a plant with pink foliage and it's almost a certainty I'l want it for my own. I was so smitten, in fact, with Pink Splash Select -- a superior variety of polka dot plant developed by Pan American Seed -- that I couldn't resist buying a dozen. I pictured how beautiful the plants would look in a bed with Pretty in Pink vinca on each side.

It was the color and form that excited me. Most polka dot plants I've come across are rather lanky and the foliage is mostly green with rose blotches. Pink Splash Select, on the other hand, is compact and busy, more spreading that upright. And when exposed to sun, the leaves turn the clearest, brightest shade of pink I've seen.

Strong light also slows the development of flowers, says Norman T. White, owner of White's Nursery and Greenhouses in Chesapeake, Va., the supplier to Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville (and other area garden centers as well) where I bought my plants. Flowers in a hypoestes are no special asset, and if they're not picked off and allowed to go to seed, plants will decline.

The increasing interest in hypoestes, especially as an alternative to coleus, has led breeders to intensify efforts to create new varieties. The plants also lend themselves to growing indoors, their ornamental foliage being intensely appealing. To prepare a plant for pot culture in the house (it won't survive the winter outdoors), root runners by pegging them to the soil with a wire bent like a hairpin. When roots have formed, cut the off-set from its mother. Plants usually need pruning anyway to keep them shapely, so rooting shoots makes good use of them.

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