The hoya heart plant is one that comes with many common names, and you may hear it called Hoya Hearts, Sweetheart Hoya, Heart-Shaped Hoya, Valentine Hoya, Love Heart Plant, Wax Heart Plant, and Lucky Hearts Plant. This succulent vine is stunning, and we want to give you everything you need to know about keeping it alive and healthy in your own home.
Around Valentine’s Day, it’s very popular to see a single leaf from the hoya heart plant in a pot for sale. Marking is the reason why this plant goes by so many names, and there is something very endearing about this plant. There are also variegated varieties of this plant available if you want them, and we’ll outline everything you need to know care-wise below.
The hoya heart plant can produce very pretty, nectar-filled flowers if you get the growing conditions correct, but this can take years since the plant grows so slow.
Defining the Hoya Heart Plant
Many of the names the hoya heart plant goes by are in reference to the shape of the leaves, and they look like a heart. This plant offers succulent, thick leaves, and this allows it to store water and survive drought conditions. The leaves are very smooth, and they grow oppositely on longer vines, and new leaves start off very small when they first emerge. Compared to other hoya types, the hoya heart plant can be thick and stiff when it grows.
As one plant that is easy to encourage to grow indoors, it produces showy and fragrant flower clusters that last a long time. The individual flowers the hoya heart plant produces are creamy white with brown centers. They have a star-shape, and they have five petals with a waxy appearance that lends to the Wax Heart name.
Generally speaking, this is a very slow-growing plant, and they can now grow for years at a time before they put out new growth. However, once they get ready and start growing, they can get to impressive lengths of up to 10 feet or more at full maturity. Like other hoya varieties, this one produces bare, long tendrils at first. The tendrils have the purpose of climbing trees, and this allows them to grow higher in the canopies.
Hoya Heart Plant History and Cultivation
As a tropical species, the hoya heart plant is native to Java, Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. Along with being related to many plants in the Hoya genus, it also has links to milkweed, and this won’t be surprising if you study the plants side by side. Both milkweeds and hoya plants are part of the dogbane or Apocynaceae family. Just like many of the milkweed relatives, this plant produces a latex-like sap if you damage the vines or leaves.
The hoya heart plant is known for the fleshy, thick leaves, so while you care for this plant like you would many succulents, they are not close relatives to the cactus family or the aloe succulent family. You’ll find this plant sold around Valentine’s day in a single leaf form as it looks like a heart in the pot.
While this is a cute specimen, it won’t ever grow to be the larger vining houseplant. We’ll dive into why in a bit. However, this plant is good for homes with pets or kids since it’s a non-toxic plant, and you can grow it outside in zones 10a to 11b.
As this is a tropical plant that typically grows up trees, it does need some specialized care to keep it healthy and happy, but it’s generally low-maintenance once you establish it.
Hoya Heart Plant Care Instructions
If you follow the guidelines we lay out below, you should have no problem keeping your hoya heart plant alive and well year in and year out. They’re relatively low-maintenance and easy.
Feeding or Fertilizing
No matter which fertilizer you choose, you don’t want to apply it in late fall or winter because this is the time a lot of plants go dormant and rest. Over-fertilizing your hoya heart plant can cause the salt to build up and burn the roots. Also, don’t fertilize when the plant is soaking wet or bone dry as the plant will be stressed at this point.
Hoya heart plants are tropical species that have moderate humidity needs of 25% and 49%. Before you assume that the relative humidity inside your house isn’t high enough, check it. You can do so by purchasing a combination humidity gauge and thermometer online. If you do check it and realize that your humidity levels are too low, you have several ways to fix it. One of the easiest ways is to group your houseplants close to create a humid microclimate right around them.
A second option is to place an open water container next to the plant, and this could be anything from a teacup or decortive bowl to your watering can. The water will evaporate and boost the humidity levels around the plant. If you don’t want to to do this, you can get a tray and fill it with pebbles before adding water to just below the top of the pebbles. Set your plant on top of the tray and allow the water to evaporate.
The hoya heart plant requires natural, bright light to grow well. You could put it in a shelf in any room that has a sliding glass door with eastern exposure. Maybe you have a skylight you can position the plant under. If you live in a less sunny climate, look for west or southern exposure. You do want to keep the plant out of sunny, hot windows in the direct afternoon sunlight or the plant will scorch and burn. During the darker winter months, you may have to move the plant to give it more light. If the light levels aren’t high enough, the plant will grow slower. They need as much light as you can give them inside to bloom, and this is where bright exposure comes in.
You can easily prune the hoya heart plant to control the size, thin it out, make it bushier, remove dead growth, or when you want to propagate it. If your plant flowered, don’t prune too much off as the short stalks are where the flowers come from. A hard pruning, which can be necessary in some instances, can delay flowering.
Giving your plant the correct soil is one of the most important aspects of this plant’s care. Hoya heart care is capable of adapting to different environments and humidity levels, but if you don’t give it the correct potting soil, it will be much more challenging to ensure it gets the correct amount of water. On the other end of the spectrum, using the correct type of soil will make it hard to overwater this plant, and this is a very good thing. In the native habitat, the hoya heart plant doesn’t grow in soil. Instead it is an epiphyte that grows in tree bark crevices.
So, whatever growing medium you pick for your plant needs to drain fast and well and it should be chunky to allow the roots to get the drainage and air they need. To be on the safe side, consider giving your plant a succulent potting mix.
You won’t need a large pot or deep soil to keep this plant happy as it usually grows on trees, but they do like a quick draining and chunky soil that won’t hold a lot of water.
Again, this is a tropical plant that will be very happy if you keep the temperature between 65 and 80-degrees Fahrenheit. This usually is the range you’ll find in most climate-controlled homes, so there shouldn’t be any huge changes here. This plant isn’t cold-hardy at all, and it can die if the temperature drops below 30-degrees F. In fact, any temperatures below 60-degrees can easily damage the plant and cause the leaves to turn yellow.
Along with making sure you keep it at a steady temperature range, you want to avoid exposing your hoya heart plant to hot or cold drafts of air. You might not realize that there is a draft coming in from the window or door, of if you have an overly hot space next to a fireplace or radiator, but the plant will. To keep it thriving, plant it in a space where it’s free from temperature swings, and don’t move it a lot.
You can allow your hoya heart plant to grow however it likes, or you can train it to grow over bamboo hoops or up on a trellis. Training the plant isn’t hard to do, and it can help you get a much neater look while keeping the vines off of the floor.
Ideally, you’ll water your hoya heart plant when it starts to dry out. As this is a succulent-like plant with fleshy leaves, it doesn’t need a huge amount of water. During the summer months, water it every 7 to 9 days, and space this out to once every 12 to 14 days during the winter months.
Depending on the type of soil, pot size, the environment, and where you put your plant to grow, you may need to water it more or less frequently. Even though many hoyas are shrubs or vines in nature, some are epiphytic like orchids or bromeliads. So, this plant doesn’t like the roots constantly wet, and it’s better to water them too little than to overwater them.
Most hoyas are really fun plants to have around because they’re very easy to propagate, and the hoya heart plant is no different. Even though it’s easy to propagate, it does take a decent amount of time to produce new growth, so keep this in mind before you cut it.
You can propagate this plant using layering, leaf cuttings, or stem cuttings. If propagation is one of your hobbies, you might want to experiment a bit and try all three methods to see which one works best. We’ll outline how to take on all three methods below so you can try each one and see which one is the best option for your needs.
However, before you start, get some gloves. The hoya heart plant will produce a milky sap when you damage them that can cause skin irritation.
Since this plant is capable of producing adventitious roots along the stem, it’s very easy to use layers to propagate them. This simple method involves laying a vine across a pot of soil and allowing it to root. Once it roots, you clip the vine from the parent plant and let it continue growing. You may even find your hoya heart plant doing this by itself. A longer tendril will take advantage of a close pot and anchor itself in the potting soil. To hold the vine in place as it roots, you can weigh it down with a small rock or a floral pin.
Floral pins are available at many nurseries or garden shops, and Amazon has packs of up to 120 you can order. Spray growing medium with a spray bottle and keep the soil moist while your hoya heart plant roots itself into the new pot. When it does, you can get a pair of sterilized shears and sever the new plants from the parent one.
You have a few ways you can propagate your hoya heart plant, so you can experiment and see which one works best for you.
There is some controversy around propagating the hoya heart plant using leaves, but it’s the most common way this plant is sold as a single leaf form. All healthy leaf cuttings taken from a plant can produce roots, but leaf cuttings that come out without any plant tissue from the node of the parent plant are very unlikely to grow a full-sized, healthy, new specimen.
Any leaf you propagate this way will usually live for a few years while staying the same size and keeping the same single leaf shape before they die. You may get lucky and have your plant, even without a parent node, grow into a full-sized specimen. When you’re doing this propagation process with leaves yourself, you get a choice.
If you’re 100% okay with only having a single green leaf that most likely won’t turn into a bigger plant, you can cut the leaf from the existing vine without taking any of the node. However, if you do want it to get to the fully-growing vining form instead of staying a rooted leaf, you want to include some of the nodes when you take a cutting. To try it, you’ll need some fresh potting medium, a clean two-inch pot, utility knife, and a plastic bag.
Fill your clean pot with the growing medium and leave a half of an inch clear between the rim of the pot and the surface of the soil. Sterilize your utility knife using rubbing alcohol or peroxide and take the cutting. You want to keep the petiole as well as some of the nodes attached to the cutting. Insert it into your growing medium.
Keep your growing medium moist while your cutting starts to develop roots, and water it with a spray bottle. Put the pot in a resealable plastic bag to increase the humidity levels. You won’t have to water as often doing this either. Keep the cutting in a location where it gets indirect but bright light.
With any luck, your hoya heart plant will start producing roots in a few weeks. However, this species is very slow with new growth. Once it roots, you can slowly start transitioning your baby hoya heart plant out of the humidity bag and slowly reduce how much you water it.
You can also easily use stem cuttings to propagate your hoya heart plant, and they can start in a growing medium or in water using the following methods.
Starting in Growing Medium
Starting your hoya heart plant in a growing medium can reduce the chances of transplant shock. There are dozens of different growing mediums available and containers that you can start your plant in, but the method we’re going to touch on will reduce the number of steps you have to do to take your cuttings to the potted plant level.
Along with having a plant that is ready to prune, you’ll need three or four-inch nursery pots, spray bottle, growing medium, pair of sterilized garden scissors, and resealable plastic bags. Depending on how full you want the new plant to be, you can put one or two cuttings into your three-inch pot. For a four-inch pot, you can put three or four cuttings in each one. The growing medium should drain well and be chunky, so a succulent-based one is a great choice.
Fill the pots with the growing medium and leave a ½ inch of root between the rim of your pot and the soil’s surface. Next, get your sterilized scissors and take cuttings from the parent plant. The cuttings should each have two nodes and an inch or two of stem under the bottom nodes to help anchor the cuttings into the growing medium. If the cutting has roots on the vine, this makes propagation even easier with higher chances of success. Remove the leaves from the bottom node on each cutting you take if the stem doesn’t have roots as this is where the new roots form.
Moisten your growing medium before you insert your new cuttings, and you want to center one cutting and then space them evenly in the pots if you put more than one cutting per pot. The bottom node should be at the grow medium’s surface. To reduce how much you have to water, put each pot of cuttings into a plastic bag. This will increase the humidity levels while your plant is developing roots. Keep the growing medium moist by watering with a spray bottle.
Put the pots in indirect, bright light. You should see new roots starting to form after a few weeks, and the new leaf buds or stems will emerge in the following weeks. You can pull one of the cuttings from the growing medium to check for roots if you don’t see new growth emerge. Once you see roots, you can transition them from the plastic bag and care for them like mature plants.
Starting In Water
There is no advantage to starting your hoya heart plant in water instead of rooting it using a growing medium, but it gives you a unique view of the root system as it starts to form in the jar. To start this method, you’ll have to gather a plant that you can prune, filtered water, a transparent glass jar, and a utility knife. If your plant is a vine with roots on the stem, pick out a section that has at least one node and roots.
If you don’t see any vines with roots, you want to get a cutting with dual nodes and trim away the bottom pieces. Put the end of the vine with the roots or trimmed leaves in the water, but you want to leave the top node and leaves above the jar’s rim. The roots will grow quickly with this method. After the roots get around an inch long, you can transplant it into soil and treat it like a mature plant.
Starting new plants in water is very popular simply because you can easily see the new roots forming and know when it’s time to transplant it.
Repotting the Hoya Heart Plant
Before we outline how to repot your hoya heart plant, we’ll touch on when you shouldn’t repot it. If the plant is about to bloom or blooming, you want to wait to start this process until the flowers fade. Also, if the plant just came from an online purchase, it’ll need time to recover and acclimate to your home. Give it a few months to settle before you stress it out again by repotting it. If the plant is potted in the correct soil type, you may never need to repot it. Most hoya heart plants don’t need a pot that is bigger than four or five inches.
Funnily enough, this plant grows better and produces more flowers if it’s rootbound, so don’t repot it frequently. It really doesn’t need it, and it may be upset if you do. You can actually wait to repot your hoya heart plant until it’s so rootbound that it’s splitting the pot.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is a time when repotting this plant earlier than the root system requires may be necessary, and this is when you think that it’s planted in the wrong type of soil. The repotting process will typically go more smoothly if you wait a day after you water it to do so. The best time of year to take on this project is during summer or spring as this is when the plant starts actively growing.
You won’t need a very deep pot for this plant as it is an epiphyte. If you’re just swapping the soil out because it’s not the right type, you won’t need to get a new pot as you can reuse the same one. Don’t try to strip away all of the planting medium from the root ball. Instead, just brush it away from the outer roots of the plants.
Put a little new potting soil in the bottom of the pot before you put the root ball of the unpotted hoya heart plant inside the pot. Next, adjust your soil level so it’s roughly ½ inch to 1 inch between the rim of the pot and the crown of the plant. If you find that the crown is sitting too high, lift the plant out and remove some of the soil from below the root ball.
If the crown is sitting too deep in the pot, lift it out and add more soil underneath it. Once you get your plant situated in the pot, backfill along the sides of the root ball using the new growing medium. Make sure to tuck all of the plant’s roots back into the pot. Return your plant to the original location, and wait until your next scheduled watering date to water it instead of watering it right away.
Encouraging the Hoya Heart Plant to Flower
If you’re trying to get flowers on your hoya heart plant, you’ll need to go over the plant anatomy first. This plant produces a structure called a peduncle, and it looks like a very short stem that emerges from the vine perpendicularly. A bloom spur forms at the end of the peduncle, and this is where the flower will form. The bloom spur will stay on the plant’s peduncle, and it’ll grow longer as the plant goes through more growth cycles. The flowers will bloom in this spot over and over, so you want to spot them on your vines and be careful that you don’t remove them.
Along with understanding the hoya heart plant’s anatomy and leaving these small stems in place on the vines, there are a few more things you can do to encourage the plant to bloom. First, put it in a place where it has bright light exposure as lower light exposure can prevent it from flowering. Next, make sure you don’t move the plant when it starts producing flowers. This plant hates being moved, especially when it’s actively producing flowers.
Exposing your plant to slightly lower winter temperatures and offering less frequent watering sessions will help encourage it to flower too. If the plant responds to your attention by producing flowers, you should note that it can produce a very large amount of nectar.
The nectar tends to drip and form a bit of a mess on whatever you have under it, so you may want to keep this fact in mind when you’re finding a spot for it. If the nectar drips on the plant’s leaves, it can attract pests and give a range of fungal pathogens a foothold to take off, so wipe any off using a damp cloth.
The hoya heart plant can be a finicky houseplant to grow and keep happy enough for it to bloom, but it’s more of a novelty plant that you find around Valentine’s day. However, if you get the growth conditions correct, this plant will reward you with a host of blooms all season long.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.