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How to Care for Wax Plants

The wax plant (Hoya carnosa) gets its name from the waxy appearance of its thick, leathery leaves, which may be dark green or variegated. This popular houseplant sends out long vines and produces long-lasting, often fragrant blossoms. The flowers also look waxy—almost artificial—and resemble clusters of pink and white stars. There are about 100 cultivars of the wax plant, which is native to tropical areas of Eastern Asia and Australia. It was named by its discoverer, Robert Brown, to honor his friend and fellow botanist Thomas Hoy.

Transplant your wax plant into a hanging basket if you wish to have a trailing plant. Provide it with support if you want it to climb. Alternatively, place the plant on a table and just wrap the vines around the pot.

Set the plant in a sunny window. Wax plants will survive in low light conditions but bloom best with fairly bright light.

If possible, place the wax plant in a spot with cool night temperatures—around 65 F.

Allow the soil to dry between waterings. Wax plant leaves are succulent and can go a long time between waterings in the winter. Overwatering makes it susceptible to root rot.

Be patient while waiting for your wax plant to bloom. It requires at least four years of leaf growth before it is capable of producing flowers. A mature wax plant will flower once or even twice a year, given proper growing conditions.

When your wax plant blooms, avoid removing the flowers. Allow them to fall naturally to avoid damaging the spurs. The flowers are covered with a sticky nectar, so you may wish to place something under the plant to catch the spent blooms. When your wax plant is finished flowering, do not trim away the spurs from which the flowers grew—the plant will rebloom on the same spurs.

Since the roots do not require much room, you can leave the wax plant in the same container for several years. When repotting, be sure that the new pot is only slightly larger than the original.

If your wax plant becomes infested with mealy bugs or spider mites, treat it with insecticidal soap.

Propagate your wax plant by cutting a stem with one or two leaves attached and placing it in damp sand or water.


Wax plant flowers have a heady, sweet, tropical scent that is particularly noticeable in the evening. A Swiss study showed that the wax plant has an internal circadian rhythm that causes it to emit its fragrance at night. In its native habitat it is pollinated by night-flying insects.

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