How to Fix a Leggy Polka Dot Plant (6 ways to Reduce Legginess)


If your Polka Dot plant is looking leggy, you might be wondering how to get it back to its petite, compact best. Don’t worry! It’s quite simple to solve legginess in Polka Dot plants.

In this article, I’m going to explore the reasons why your Polka Dot plant might be getting leggy and give you some tips on how you can solve the issue.

To solve legginess in your Polka Dot plant, you can take a number of steps:

  • Prune the leggy growth from your plant regularly.
  • Move your plant somewhere brighter.
  • Feed your plant only during the growing season.
  • Keep your plant in a small pot.
  • Move your plant to a cooler situation.

What Do We Mean by Leggy?

Indoor potted Polka Dot Plant getting Leggy

If your plant is ‘leggy’, it means that the stems of your plant are longer than they should be, which causes a straggly, ‘stretched-out appearance. 

Some plants, such as the Polka Dot plant, naturally become leggier as they age. This is not necessarily a sign that your plant is unhappy, but it does reduce the aesthetic appeal of the plant. Legginess can also be a sign of several issues with the way you are caring for your plant. 

Causes of Legginess in Polka Dot Plants

There are several reasons why your Polka Dot plant might be growing leggy. Let’s have a look at each of these causes:

Lack of Light

The main reason that plants become leggy is a lack of light. If your Polka Dot plant is not getting enough sunlight, it will put on rapid growth in order to try to reach the nearest light source. 

This leggy growth is often weaker than healthy growth and contains fewer leaves. This is because your plant is not receiving enough light to photosynthesize and tries to save energy and reach the nearest light source by quickly producing ‘emergency’ growth.

If you notice that the leggy growth on your Polka Dot plant is a lighter green than the healthy growth and is growing towards the nearest light source, this is an indication that the legginess of your Polka Dot plant is down to lack of sunlight.

Too much Fertilizer

If you give your Polka Dot plant too much fertilizer, it could produce limp, fast-growing but weak growth, which will have a yellowy-green color. This will probably be accompanied by the lower leaves of your plant yellowing, turning brown, and dying off.

Although your Polka Dot plant does need feeding to keep its foliage bright and luscious, too much fertilizer, especially if it has a high nitrogen content, can cause a variety of growth problems, such as weak, leggy growth. 

Nitrogen helps your plant to produce new cell growth, particularly leaf and stem growth. It is vital for your plant’s survival, but too much will cause your plant to put on too much growth too quickly – causing a leggy appearance.

Temperature

Like most houseplants that originate from tropical areas, Polka Dot plants prefer a warm environment. They are fast growers and will put on a lot of growth quickly given the right conditions.

This isn’t necessarily what you want from your Polka Dot plant, as the growth is likely to be leggy – this is the plant’s natural shape but is not the compact shape that plant owners usually look for in their Polka Dot plants.

Pot Size

If you keep your Polka Dot plant in a large pot, you may well end up with a leggy plant. Your plant will grow quickly to fill the space that it has available, so the more room it has, the bigger and leggier it will get! 

You can maintain the compact shape that most people look for in a Polka Dot plant by keeping it in a fairly small pot and pruning it regularly as it grows.

Age

The classic look that most people want from a Polka Dot plant is cute and compact. However, your Polka Dot plant will get taller and leggier as it matures. Eventually, if left to grow naturally, your plant will produce flower spikes. 

While flowers might sound exciting, it is not a good idea to allow your Polka Dot plant to flower as it will die off once it has finished. Additionally, the flowers of the Polka Dot plant are much less interesting than the foliage. 

Don’t worry! Although your plant maturing is a natural process, you can hold the process at bay almost indefinitely with regular pruning.

How to Reduce Legginess in Your Polka Dot Plant?

If your Polka Dot plant has grown leggy, don’t worry. Your plant is unlikely to be in any immediate danger, and it is relatively simple to solve this problem.

The first step is to work out what is causing the legginess in your plant. Then, you can make the necessary changes in how you are caring for your plant to ensure it grows in a less leggy way in the future.

Pruning

If your Polka Dot plant is leggier than you would like, pruning it is the best way to make it look better immediately. Pruning will also encourage your plant to grow in a more bushy way, out from the base, rather than straight upwards. Regular pruning will also prevent your Polka Dot plant from flowering and dying back.

You can prune your Polka Dot plant at any time of year if your plant really needs it. Be aware that if you prune your plant during the autumn or winter, it won’t grow back very fast, so it’s best not to prune it too hard or too often during this time. 

In the spring and summer, your plant will grow much more quickly and will benefit from a light pruning once a month or so. Pruning your Polka Dot plant is easy.

You’ll need a pair of clean, sharp scissors; while using your fingers is often recommended as it is easy, ‘pinching’ with your fingers results in a ragged cut which greatly increases the risk of infection for your plant.

How to Prune Your Polka Dot Plant?

  • First, look at your plant and decide which parts you want to remove.
  • Grip the new growth gently but firmly and pull gently to make space for your scissors.
  • Using your scissors, snip your plant’s stem just above a set of leaves.
  • Try to make clean cuts with one snip – avoid ‘sawing’ at your plant’s stems.
  • Never remove more than one-third of your plant’s growth.
  • Do most of your pruning in spring and summer – only prune your plant in winter if it has become very leggy.

Lighting

Improving the lighting conditions for your Polka Dot plant, combined with regular pruning, is the best way to keep it from growing leggy in the long term. If you think that the legginess of your Polka Dot plant is due to a lack of light, try moving it to a brighter situation. 

Your plant will be happiest in a position with bright but indirect light; around two feet away from a south or east-facing window would be perfect.

Make sure not to keep your Polka Dot plant in a position where sunlight falls directly on its leaves, as this will burn your plant’s leaves and harm its ability to photosynthesize.

If you move your plant to a position with very different conditions, it is best to do so gradually over a few days, so that it has the opportunity to get used to its new home without receiving a shock. Shocking your plant by moving it too quickly can result in slowed growth, leaf drop, or even death.

Feeding

Polka Dot plants need a good feed now and again to keep their beautiful foliage lush and vibrant. Use a good quality general purpose houseplant fertilizer, and feed your Polka Dot plant once every two weeks to once a month during the growing season (spring and summer). 

Reduce this to once a month in autumn and stop feeding your plant completely in the winter as it won’t produce much new growth during this time.

You could also use a spray-on foliar fertilizer which is applied directly to the leaves of your plant. This provides an immediate boost of color and vibrancy to the leaves of your Polka Dot Plant, but again it is important not to overfeed! Follow the instructions for the particular type of fertilizer you are using, and you’ll be fine.

Pot Size 

You can maintain the compact shape that most people look for in a Polka Dot plant by keeping it in a fairly small pot and pruning it regularly as it grows. For a small to medium-sized plant, a pot of 4-6 inches diameter should be fine. Make sure to use a pot with adequate drainage holes so that water can flow easily from the bottom of the pot.

Do not re-pot your Polka Dot plant until you see lots of roots poking out from the drainage holes in the bottom of its pot. If you think that your Polka Dot plant is in a pot that is too big for it, re-pot it into a smaller pot. This will do your plant no harm and will help to keep its size small and compact.

Potting Mix

Your Polka Dot plant will fare best in a rich, well-draining potting mix that allows water to flow freely. 

If your Polka Dot plant is living in heavy, compacted soil or some other kind of inappropriate potting mix, you should re-pot it using a mixture that suits your plant better. A base of general-purpose potting compost, enhanced with one-third perlite or vermiculite to improve drainage, is ideal.

Temperature

Polka Dot plants are native to tropical areas and need a fairly warm, moist environment to thrive. Your Polka Dot plant will be at its happiest if you keep it at a temperature of 65 – 80°F (18 – 26°C), with a humidity level of at least 50%. 

If you find that your Polka Dot plant is growing too quickly and becoming leggy, you could try moving it to a cooler situation. This will slow the growth of your plant.

Make sure that your plant’s new home isn’t too cold and doesn’t regularly drop below 65°F (18°C), as this will harm your plant.

If you move your Polka Dot plant, it is best to do this over a few days to avoid shocking it. Polka Dot plants and houseplants, in general, don’t like sudden changes in temperature, and although moving your Polka Dot plant from one place to another is unlikely to kill it, it could cause it to drop its leaves or stop growing altogether. 

Move your plant to its new position during the daytime, then back to its original position at night. Do this for a few days so that your plant gets the chance to acclimatize to its new situation.

Using Polka Dot Plant Cuttings for Propagation

If you love Polka Dot plants and want more of them in your life, use the leggy parts that you prune away to produce more plants! Propagating Polka Dot plants is simple:

  • Prune a section around 2 – 3 inches long from your plant.
  • Remove the from the cutting apart from one or two at the tip.
  • Place the cutting in moist potting mix and cover the pot with plastic to retain moisture.
  • Keep the cutting in a warm, bright place, out of direct sunlight.
  • Keep the potting mix consistently moist.
  • Watch out for new growth in a couple of weeks.

Final Words

I hope that you now understand what causes legginess in Polka Dot plants and what you can do about it. Whether your plant has grown leggy because it needs more light, or whether leggy growth is just a natural part of your plant’s life cycle, there is a way to solve the problem! 

(Source: Cornell University, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Arifur Rahman

I'm the owner of gardenforindoor.com. After completing my bachelor of science in agriculture, I'm serving as a civil service officer at the Department of Agricultural Extension, Bangladesh. I started Garden For Indoor to make your indoor gardening journey easy and enjoyable.

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