Growing hoya (also known as wax flowers) in water is a simple yet satisfying way to grow easy-care plants.
The gleaming glass contrasts beautifully with swirls of pale roots and draperies of glossy foliage to create a specimen that will please even the most discriminating indoor gardener.
Growing hoya in water is a unique and rewarding experience for such a simple setup. Let’s take a look at how simple this is.
Keep a fresh hoya cutting in a glass vessel filled with clean water and it will grow into a thriving plant in no time if it is kept warm and well lit. Maintain the cleanliness of your water by changing it on a regular basis. Always keep in mind how vulnerable visible roots can be, as well.
Does Hoya Grow Better in Water or Soil?
Hoyas are a type of epiphytic plant. They evolved to grow in the nooks and crannies of trees, their roots packed in pockets of leaf litter and other debris.
This ancestor is shared by all hoyas, from the classic waxflower (Hoya carnosa) to the newly popular Splash variety (Hoya pubicalyx).
This means that your indoor hoya is perfectly suited to the constraints of water-grown plants. They don’t need nutrient-rich soils or deep dirt to anchor in.
Some growers raise them with only a handful of moss strapped aboard!
They are effective at growing new leaves and flowers and make good use of low light conditions. They’re quite undemanding!
Things You’ll Need
To grow your hoya in water, you will need a few things.
Obviously, the hoya itself is required to grow a hoya in the water!
The simplest way to begin water cultivation is to take a cutting from an established plant. The best varieties are those that are vining or pendulous.
Rootless cuttings can also be purchased from growers online for a reasonable price.
Take a cutting from a mature plant in a healthy vine area. Use only clean scissors or shears.
Select a length of five to ten inches (approximately 10cm). Make sure to cut a length of stem that has at least two noes and four to six leaves.
Your new hoya will require leaves to generate energy, and without that energy, it will be unable to grow new roots. Without roots, the cutting will perish.
While it’s possible to take a potted hoya and remove its potting medium, this will stress the plant and risk killing it entirely.
It’s also likely that pathogens from the potting medium will be transferred into the hoya’s new home.
If you must start with a hoya in a pot, be sure to remove every trace of dirt and change the water regularly until it is established.
Your new hoya can be grown in any watertight container. I recommend using glass. This allows me to monitor the roots and the water around them without having to remove the hoya from its environment.
It is sufficient to use a simple repurposed jar. My most successful propagation occurs in old olive jars that have been thoroughly cleaned with dish soap and rinsed before use.
However, there are many lovely pieces of glassware available that will do the job just as well.
Before using, thoroughly clean your vessel with plain dish soap and warm water. Allow it to air dry after thoroughly rinsing it.
When filling your vessel, make sure it is stable. When a plant is added to some tall, elegant vases, the top becomes top-heavy, so keep this in mind when choosing your vase.
I’ve had more than one disaster in which a thick and verdant vine has fallen from a top-heavy vase, water and plant collapsing and making a dreadful mess.
The importance of clean water in the care of your new hoya cannot be overstated. Filtered tap water is ideal for this because it has high oxygenation and low mineral content.
Avoid rainwater, especially water that has been exposed to the elements for an extended period of time.
Water should carry as little extra material as possible. While rainwater is ideal for watering plants in pots, it also collects spores, dust, and other debris on its way from the clouds to the ground.
Water is very low in nutrients, and it only takes a short time for your hoya to deplete what little there is.
Hoyas, thankfully, are not heavy feeders and will do fine for a while without additional fertilizer.
However, if you want to see any real growth or flowering, you will need to use a foliar fertilizer.
During the warmer months of the year, spray directly on the leaves once or twice a month to allow your plant to produce abundant leaves and the spectacular glossy flowers for which hoyas are famous.
Optional: Rooting Compound
When propagating from cuttings, some people prefer to use a specialized rooting hormone. Hoyas root vigorously without it as an epiphyte, but if you’re using a cutting from a rare plant, you might want to hedge your bets and use a hormone.
When the hormone is applied directly to the exposed tip of a new cutting, the plant produces as many new roots as it can. Check out the prices on Amazon here.
How to Propagate Hoya in Water (Step by Step)
- Use warm water and dish soap to clean your vessel. Allow drying after rinsing thoroughly.
- Trim your cutting after that. Remove the lowest leaves from the parent plant and clip them off. To produce the strongest possible roots, you’ll need two or three inches of bare stem to submerge, preferably with at least one node resting below the water. A minimum of two leaves should remain above the water level at all times.
- Fill your container halfway with water. Make sure it’s stable.
- Now is the time to use a liquid rooting compound if you have chosen to do so. Make certain to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Fill the water with the bare stem.
- Put your hoya in a warm, shady spot away from direct sunlight.
How to Grow Hoya in Water – Best Care Tips!
Now that your hoya has settled, it’s time to make the most of it!
When it comes to water-grown hoya, water quality is critical. After all, it’s the home of your new darling! It must be kept clean and oxygenated at all times.
At all times, make sure the water is clear and unclouded. Because bacteria, fungi, or algae blooms appear as a murkiness, infected water appears foggy at first.
When it comes to fungi, this is especially true. Debris in the water, such as leaves, dust, and other debris, decompose, allowing pathogenic fungi to flourish and set the stage for root rot or worse.
Fortunately, this is easy to avoid with a clear glass vessel. Simply change the water on a regular basis and clean up any debris as soon as possible.
For smaller specimens, you don’t even need to remove the plant from its container. Simply place it where you want it, drain the water, and refill. It’s not as difficult as it appears.
Your water-grown hoya gets the same amount of light as a potted one. It necessitates bright sunlight, but not direct sunlight.
Don’t be fooled by the thick, juicy leaves! Because they’re not succulents, they’ll wilt if exposed to direct sunlight.
Water hoya is particularly vulnerable to direct sunlight. Exposed roots are vulnerable to sunburn, and it’s easy to overheat their water in direct sunlight. Ensure that the vessel is not exposed to direct sunlight.
All hoyas, whether in a pot or a jar, require the same conditions to thrive. They require clean water, adequate lighting, and the proper nutrient balance.
Some challenges are alleviated by growing in water, while others are exacerbated. It is obviously easier to hydrate a plant that is submerged in water!
Clean, freshwater is essential for your hoya to thrive. It should be changed on a regular basis.
Once a week is ideal, but if you notice any debris, cloudiness, or discoloration, change it sooner.
Your indoor hoya does not require a lot of light. Strong direct sunlight can burn the exposed roots of plants grown in water or cause damage by overheating the water.
Make sure your hoya gets plenty of indirect but bright light.
These gleaming wonders thrive in the wild’s jungle understory and dislike direct sunlight.
It’s also critical to keep your growing vessel out of direct sunlight.
Too much light, particularly during the hotter months of the year, can cause a slew of issues for your plant. At best, it promotes the growth of algae alongside your hoya.
In the worst-case scenario, the temperature around your roots can skyrocket, causing heat stress. A glass vessel in direct sunlight is a recipe for disaster.
Your beautiful hoya is a tropical plant. They thrive in warm weather. A cold plant will simply go dormant and will not grow until it warms up again.
Aim for a temperature of no less than 68°F (20°C). Keep these trailing beauties between 70°F (21°C) and 75°F (24°C) for best growth.
Water propagated plants are more difficult to fertilize. If you get the balance wrong, you’ll end up with blooms of algae, bacteria, and fungus in your growing medium.
Your hoya isn’t going to stand a chance. However, if you are too frugal, it will grow slowly or not at all.
The most straightforward way to avoid these pitfalls is to use a foliar fertilizer. This is sprayed directly on your hoya’s succulent leaves, avoiding the roots entirely. Check out the Amazon prices here.
Hoyas thrive in high humidity as well. While they will tolerate lower levels, 60 percent or higher is ideal for best growth.
Obviously, this is a difficult threshold to achieve in a typical indoor environment. Consider putting your hoya in a bathroom or a well-lit ensuite, or buy a humidifier.
Just like a potted hoya, keeping them warm, well-nourished, and in humid air will provide them with the nutrients they require to grow quickly.
Common Problem of Hoya Growing in Water
Hoya Dying In Water
A few things could be wrong if your cutting isn’t rooting.
Investigate your growing environment. Hoya cuttings can be harmed by extreme temperatures. Is it warm enough?
Hoyas appreciate being kept warm. Temperatures of 68°F (20°C) or higher are ideal for your hoya.
If you expose your new darling to too much cold, it will not be able to take root and will die. However, it is possible to overheat your hoya cutting.
Allowing the plant’s water to become too hot will result in it being boiled.
This is most common when the vessel has been exposed to direct sunlight, especially during the hottest parts of the day.
You only have a limited amount of time to establish roots.
If the exposed tissue on your plant becomes soft or discolored, or if the water becomes murky with a film on the surface, the conditions are likely poor and your cutting is rotting. (Source: University of Florida)
Problems Associated with Growing Hoya in Water
Easily the most common problem found in water-grown plants is algae buildup. Algae is a plant, too.
When you set the conditions for your hoya to thrive, it’s common for algae to take full advantage and thrive right along with it.
Look for green deposits in your growing vessel, and green fuzz on your roots. Ideally, your roots should be white, or pale yellow.
Green suggests that algae are growing on the surface of your roots. If left undisturbed, that algae will eventually form a film that smothers your hoya’s roots and kills the plant entirely.
The easiest way to prevent algae buildup is to change the water in your vessel regularly.
Place your plant in a bucket or tub full of water, and take the time to wash your growing vessel with soap and hot water.
Rinse it thoroughly, and once cool again you can return your plant. Take the opportunity too and rinse the algae from your hoya’s roots too.
Simply place them under a gently flowing tap and move them carefully to remove the green fuzz.
If you have persistent problems with algae, it may be worth moving your plant to an opaque vessel, like a ceramic vase or canister.
No plant survives the darkness, and algae are no different. Of course, the ultimate solution is to simply move your plant to a pot.
For water propagated hoya, especially ones that have been raised for some time in a vessel, I’d recommend you pot into an orchid medium with very little soil.
Keep it quiet drenched for a day or two after, to allow your roots to acclimatize.
Be particularly gentle with your roots while potting. While hoya roots are sturdy, they too can be damaged by rough handling.
Stunted leaf growth
It’s heartbreaking when your hoya produces stunted or misshapen leaves. It’s more than just unsightly – it’s a symptom your plant is struggling with.
Check for pests first. If the way aphids, mealybugs, and other sapsuckers attack hoya is any indication, I’m pretty sure they’re spectacularly delicious.
Look for bugs at the leaf junctions. Aphids look like small, sesame seed-like blobs that range in color from green to black.
Mealybugs resemble small balls of fluff. Scale bugs resemble shields, and all sap suckers attract ants due to the honeydew they exude.
Water-propagated plants, thankfully, are pest-free. For minor infestations, simply use a cotton tip dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove the bugs.
For larger infestations, thoroughly rinse them with a showerhead or garden hose.
Unlike soil plants, you don’t have to worry about soaking your growing medium and causing root rot, and hoyas enjoy the humidity that an occasional trip to the shower brings.
Only use neem oil or topical insecticides for severe infestations. Your other issue could be malnutrition.
To grow strong leaves and shoots, your hoya requires nitrogen, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Apply a dilute foliar fertilizer once a week until your hoya begins to produce good foliage.
Yellow or brown leaves
Yellow or brown leaves are a symptom of many problems. I’ve written at length about it here.
Furthermore, malnutrition is a common issue in water propagated plants.
Even though hoyas do not require much fertilization, they do require a low level of nutrients to develop their distinctive thick, glossy leaves.
Infestation of pests, low light levels, or damage to the roots is another possibility. Your water propagated hoya’s exposed roots are especially vulnerable to damage.
Your hoya cannot sustain the demands of its leaves without functional roots and will shed them one by one. It will eventually perish.
As previously discussed, applying a foliar fertilizer should prevent leaf discoloration caused by malnutrition. Another good line of inquiry is to look for pests.
But first, examine your roots. If they are brown, green, or blotchy, you may have other organisms in the water with your hoya! This is especially true if there is scum or a foul odor in the water.
Make it a habit to change your water on a regular basis. For smaller vessels, I recommend weekly water changes, and monthly for larger ones.
If you live in a warmer climate, you might have a hoya sprouting houseguest! Mosquitoes, midges, and other flying insects will congregate in any tub of standing water.
They lay their eggs on the water’s surface, which hatch into larvae. This stage appears as wriggling lines in the water or as tiny swimming worms.
While they pose no danger to your hoya, it’s a different story when these wrigglers grow wings and come looking for a human to bite!
Change the water in your hoya as soon as you notice any small critters swimming around among the roots.
Give the root mass a gentle rinse to ensure you’ve completely gotten rid of these uninvited guests. Keep debris out of your water.
Larvae eat decaying plant matter, such as shed leaves, so the cleaner and clearer your water is, the less appealing it is to your neighborhood flying bloodsuckers.
Never use rainwater to propagate your water hoya because insects love to lay eggs in open basins and tubs outside.
If you do not pay attention to the roots and the water in which your hoya grows, this is the end result. Fuzzy roots that are brown, black, or even orange are rotting.
Examine the water for chunks of root that have broken away from your plant, as well as scum on the surface.
If your hoya’s vessel smells like a sewer, swamp, or rotten eggs, it’s a sign that something is seriously wrong in your water.
Replace your water as soon as it becomes cloudy or smells bad.
During water changes, make sure to thoroughly clean your vessel and only use clean, filtered tap water.
Damaged roots rot faster than whole ones, so be gentle when changing the water.
If your vessel has a narrow neck that requires you to manhandle the root mass into place, consider using a larger opening, such as a large jar or vase.
Consider potting your hoya if this problem proves difficult to solve.
As previously stated, a loose orchid mix is an excellent growing medium for water propagated hoya.
Allow your medium to dry completely between waterings once it has settled. This will make it extremely difficult for pathogens that cause root rot to thrive.
Tips for Maintaining Hoya in Water
- Keep that water clean! A crisp clear vessel of water is a healthy one.
- Bright indirect light is best. Avoid strong sunlight, especially on the growing vessel.
- Fertilize regularly for maximum growth and your best chance at flowers.