Ahoy for hoyas
Once an obscure flower, hoyas are making a comeback for their exquisitely perfect waxy blooms
weird and waxy but oh-so wonderful, hoyas (Hoya sp.) are a must-have climbing plant. Over the years, their popularity has waxed and waned, but they are well and truly back in the spotlight these days because there’s just so much to love! The most popular variety is Hoya carnosa, known commonly as the wax flower, but there are actually more than 100 species and cultivars – with more still being discovered – so you’re absolutely spoilt for choice! While they’re most loved for their intriguing clusters of white, yellow, pink or deep purple flowers, the foliage is a feature, too. Plus, their diverse trailing or climbing forms make them ideal candidates for pots and hanging baskets – perfect for growing on balconies or even indoors in cool climates. However you choose to grow them, just allow yourself to fall under the spell of hoyas.
HOW DO I GROW THEM? CLIMATE
Hoyas grow best in warm, frostfree climates. In cooler areas, consider growing them in pots and positioning them in a warm protected spot, such as an indoor sunroom or greenhouse.
In the garden, plant in dappled shade, ensuring they’re protected from the heat of the afternoon sun – this can cause the fleshy leaves to bleach or burn and result in poor flowering. If growing in pots or hanging baskets, position in bright, filtered light – hoyas won’t flower unless they receive sufficient sunlight.
Hoyas prefer moist, well-draining soils. If drainage is an issue, create a mound, using a quality garden mix. If planting in pots or hanging baskets, use a cactus potting mix and add a little extra perlite.
Water regularly throughout the growing season, particularly during hot or dry weather. A good indicator of whether you need to water is to check the soil. Simply insert your index finger to the first knuckle – if it’s near dry, give it a good drink, but if it’s moist, leave watering for a couple of days. During winter, allow the soil to dry out between
waterings. Also, mist plants occasionally, or allow pot plants to stand on a tray of moistened gravel, to increase humidity.
Hoyas aren’t too demanding when it comes to food. Feed periodically throughout the warmer months with a weak solution of a soluble fertiliser, such as Yates Thrive All Purpose Liquid Plant Food or Seasol Powerfeed Plant Food. Alternatively, if you’re a set-and-forget type of gardener, feed once a year with a controlled-release fertiliser in spring.
Sap suckers such as aphids, mealy bugs and mites love feeding on the succulent foliage and stems of hoyas. Spray them with a suitable product, such as eco-neem, and regularly check to prevent any nasty surprises.
After flowering has finished, don’t cut the plants back. Unlike most plants, hoyas can flower from the same flower cluster or ‘umbel’ many times, so it’s best to leave them alone as much as possible. However, you can prune back stems to help keep the plant under control, if needed.
The flowers are so perfect, spun-sugar they look like cake decorations!
One of the benefits of hoyas is they don’t need to be repotted often. Leave them alone until the roots are congested, and then move up one pot size (roughly every 2-3 years is adequate). Don’t tease or cut back roots when repotting, just remove carefully from the existing pot.
• Hoyas can be left to hang but, to create interest, use a small trellis or plastic hoop and allow the vine to twine its way through the support.
• If the leaves are turning yellow (and it’s not due to sun exposure), it’s likely due to a nutrient deficiency.
To fix, spray leaves with a weakly diluted fertiliser.
• You can propagate them by taking semi-ripe cuttings in summer and rooting them in water or quality potting mix.
Hoya ‘Bella’ bears white star blooms, with small pink centres. A miniature form, it’s great for hanging baskets.