The Polka Dot Plant is one of the most delightful of houseplants, but if it is not happy it soon starts to droop and look sorry for itself.
The Polka Dot Plant normally droops because of water issues but this problem can soon be rectified if you catch it early. In addition, temperature stress, low humidity, lack of light, excess fertilizer application can cause polka dot plant drooping.
We will look at all of the possibilities for this issue, but you can take peace of mind from the fact that they are generally easy to correct with a little care and attention.
Reasons why Polka Dot Plants Might Droop
In this section, we will look at the diverse reasons that your Polka Dot Plant might be starting to look unhappy and see if we can’t turn the situation around.
While the list may look a bit comprehensive and intimidating, rest assured that all of the issues we look at can be dealt with quite easily. The most important factor is to address problems early.
Whenever a plant shows signs of stress, the first thing to do is to check the soil to see if it is suffering from too little or too much water. Poke your finger down into the soil and feel for moisture.
If the top half is dry and the lower half is damp then this is not the problem you face. If the soil has dried out completely, then you can be sure this is the reason for the sorry state of your plant.
Once you have established that the plant is too dry then you need to water it thoroughly. Stand it in a bowl or saucer, and water the top of the soil until the water begins to run through the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot.
Once that happens, allow the excess water to drain away completely and replace the plant in its original position. It should quickly start to pick up. Try not to wet the leaves when watering.
As with underwatering your Polka Dot Plant, overwatering will cause the leaves to start to droop and look unhappy. At first, you might be a little confused because you are getting the same symptoms for totally opposite reasons.
Don’t worry. As soon as you touch the soil you will feel if it is overwatered or not. If it is cold and damp, overwatering is the issue here.
You need to get the soil drained as quickly as possible or root rot might set in and that is a far more serious issue. If the problem is not acute, ensure that the container can drain freely and allow the plant to dry out.
In more serious cases, remove the plant from its container and stand the root ball on a sheet of newspaper for a couple of days until it is dry.
After that, re-pot using fresh potting soil and don’t water again until the top half of the soil is dry. Add perlite or some other material to the soil to increase drainage. Twenty to thirty percent would be enough to give the soil adequate drainage capacity.
Loss of Turgor:
As a gardener, you will hear this term used from time to time. All it really means is wilting, and this is as a result of underwatering. The walls of the plant cells are no longer pumped up with water and the plant loses its rigidity. (Turgidity)
Polka Dot Plants are very prone to this and will wilt quickly if allowed to dry out. Normally, they will soon regain their previous healthy texture if given a good drink.
Ideally, these plants like to be kept at a temperature of between 70 and 80°F (21-27°C). When temperatures start to deviate too much from these norms, the plant might start to wilt.
If the temperature is too high, then the plant cannot absorb moisture at the speed at which it is respiring, and if it is too low it cannot raise moisture through its roots at speeds fast enough to keep it upright and healthy.
Choose the position where you home your plant carefully. Avoid drafts and take into account issues such as air-conditioning, and central heating. If you are not sure what the temperature is in the vicinity of the plant then you might need to think about buying a thermometer.
Polka Dot Plants like to be kept humid. Their ideal range is around fifty percent which is somewhat above the humidity levels that you will find in most homes.
Unless you really are pumping up the central heating in your home then this should not be too difficult to resolve. Grouping plants together raise humidity levels.
Another option is to stand the pot on a tray or saucer filled with gravel and then topped it up with water. This will keep the base of the plant clear of the water while at the same time the plant will be exposed to evaporation which will raise the humidity level.
Another thing to consider is misting the plant once or twice a week will also decrease the dryness of the air.
If the humidity remains too low, you may need to consider purchasing a plant humidifier. These machines are not prohibitively expensive and they enable you to control humidity levels very accurately.
Polka Dot Plant Droops after Re-potting
You re-pot your plant expecting it to reward you with a healthy disposition, and instead, all it does is pout and droop. Don’t panic. Often when plants are rehoused in new soil they look sad for a day or two.
Providing you have used a good quality potting soil and the medium is damp but not wet, then it will soon get used to the new conditions and bounce back. You did plant it into a pot with drainage holes, didn’t you?
If you water your plant with regular tap water, over time the chemicals used to purify the water for human consumption will build up in the soil and slowly start to become toxic to your plant.
Polka Dot Plants prefer to be watered with filtered water or captured rainwater. This will prevent any build-up of undesirable chemicals in the soil which eventually harm the plant.
This is one of the more important issues to get right if your Polka Dot Plant is to remain in good condition.
Not only will getting the light correct keep your plant healthy, but it will also determine how well the plant displays those delightful markings for which you bought it in the first place. If the light is wrong, the colors will fade.
These plants benefit most from bright but indirect light. In other words, no direct sun hitting the foliage.
Placing the plant on an east-facing windowsill or slightly away from a window in brighter rooms should enable you to achieve the correct balance.
Polka Dot Plants are quite heavy feeders. If they lack the nutrients that they require they quickly lose condition and begin to fade.
During the spring and summer months, feed your plant with well-balanced house plant food once a month.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the more you feed it, the quicker it will grow. Stop feeding altogether outside of the growing season.
Common Polka Dot Plant Pests:
Most of the pests that you are likely to encounter with these plants are sapsuckers. If a plant is being attacked by pests they will rob it of the nutrients it needs to remain healthy and it will start to droop and look unhappy.
- Scale insects are small immobile creatures that resemble warts or scabs. They protect themselves with a scale-like outers skin while underneath they are quietly sucking the juices from the interior of the plant.
- Mealybugs are tiny little sapsuckers that look like innocuous little pieces of wool or cotton.
- Aphids don’t need too much introduction as most gardeners are familiar with these little creatures. They can multiply incredibly fast.
- Whiteflies are tiny little flying insects that are not actually flying at all. They are more closely related to aphids and mealybugs. They too suck sap, and they often gather on the underside of a plant’s leaves and on tender new growth.
The primary defense against all houseplant pests is close observation. If you spot them early then you are far better able to deal with them than once they have become established.
Also, the earlier you spot them, the less damage they will be able to do to your plants. Check your plants closely. All of these little sap suckers rely on disguise as their primary means of protection.
Don’t forget to check beneath leaves, in leaf nodules, and particularly on new shoots which they delight in. Another important factor to bear in mind is that healthy plants are less susceptible to attack than a plant that is weakened through some other health issue.
Early infections of scale insects can often be scraped away with a fingernail. Wiping the leaves once a week with neem oil or some other insecticidal soap will deter attacks and destroy any early colonies before they can become established.
Polka Dot Plant Diseases:
Though not overly prone to disease, there are some fungal diseases that you need to be aware of. The most notable of these are powdery mildew and root rot.
Powdery mildew looks exactly like the name suggests. A white powder-like substance that appears on leaves and stems.
Root rot is caused by overwatering and allowing the roots to remain soggy. As they rot, they become less able to supply nutrients to the leaves, and your plant will wilt and decline rapidly.
Root rot can be avoided by following the correct watering regime and ensuring that there is adequate drainage. If you suspect your plant has it, take it out of its pot and examine the root ball.
Rotten roots are brown and flaccid. Cut them back until you reach healthy white root material. After that, re-pot into fresh potting soil and don’t water for a few days or until the top half of the mix has become dry.
Powdery mildew can be wiped away using neem oil. It manifests when humidity is too high and when overwatering has occurred.
Your Polka Dot Has Outgrown Its Container
If your plant becomes too big for the pot that you are growing it in, then the root ball will become too small to supply the plant with the water and nutrients required by the leaves.
This may not cause too much harm, but it will prevent it from achieving maximum growth and potential. One obvious sign that the pot has become too small will be that the plant stops gaining size.
Other signs to look out for are roots appearing through the hole in the base of the pot or the root ball becoming so root bound that you can’t poke your finger into the soil to check the moisture level.
A root-bound plant often loses water quickly because there is no room for soil and so the water you give it simply runs straight out of the pot.
This will lead to both lacks of moisture and nutrition. Normally you would re-pot in the spring as the plant begins its growth period.
You can, however, re-pot at any time if you see that a plant has outgrown its container. Knock the plant from its pot and examine the roots to see they are healthy.
If they have become bound up in a tight knot, then gently tease them out a little. Now re-pot into a new container that is one or two inches larger than the one the plant has just come out of. Don’t use a very much larger pot because the excess soil will retain water and you will be exposing your Polka Dot Plant to all of the same risks as you would if you were overwatering.
What Potting Soil to Use?
Choosing the right potting soil is an important consideration whenever you pot up a plant. With the Polka Dot Plant, you are not going to need to opt for anything too unusual as far as the potting mix is concerned.
This plant needs free-draining soil with a pH of 5.6 and 6.5. In short, that means that most good quality potting soil will meet your plant’s requirements.
I usually add twenty percent extra perlite or sharp sand to ensure that I have that little bit of extra drainage that this plant prefers.
Lack of Roots
If your Polka Dot Plant has a root ball that is too small it will wilt and droop. The normal reason for this is that the grower potted on the plant before it was mature enough. Some nurserymen will do this in an attempt to boost sales.
If the roots are too small to supply the leaves then the upper parts of the plant will be calling for more water and nutrients than the plant can effectively supply.
One simple way of dealing with this is to prune back the leaves slightly. Just pinch them back a few leaf nodes and the plant should gradually become more balanced.
Polka Dot Plants sometimes become leggy and so if you pinch back the top two leaves on each stem on a weekly basis, the plant will eventually become bushier as growth from the base is encouraged.
One thing that new gardeners often do is to overfeed their plants in the mistaken belief that if they give them more food, then they will grow faster.
In fact, too much fertilizer can have the opposite effect and you risk harming your plant if you fertilize it too often.
Excess fertilizer can build up in the leaves of the plant and block the pore-like stomata underneath the leaves. This will eventually damage the plant’s health.
A well-balanced liquid feed will prove ideal for your Polka Dot Plant. Record when you feed it and then only do so again a month later. That monthly feeding will keep your plant in pristine condition.
Feed according to the manufacturer’s instructions and only during the growing period from early spring until late summer. The plant won’t benefit from any food it receives during the dormant period.
So, I have explored all the possible reasons of your polka dot plant might be drooping. This will help you identify the exact cause and come up with a solution to fix the problem.