Most things you heard about hoyas are wrong

While starting with hoyas I was searching for tips all over the internet. Recently I’ve come to realize that a lot of information is either wrong or at least only half true. Here are some common misconceptions that you may come across: 

Hoyas like the same substrate as succulents

Hoyas are epiphytes that are usually found in tropical areas, climbing trees. This means you can’t care for them in the same way as cacti and other succulents, even though many sites advise that. There will be a lot of suggestions all over the internet to plant them in substrate mix for succulents, mixed with sand. I believe this is a no-no. Hoyas have never seen a grain of sand in their natural habitat, and they certainly don’t need to see one now. They do need an airy and chunky mix, and mix for succulents will not give you that. 

I mix my own substrate, which seems to work well for all of them, and also my aroids. I keep all my plants in the same mix so that I do not overcomplicate my life. 🙂

Read more about my potting mix here >>>

Hoyas don’t like to be watered frequently

They most absolutely do like to be watered frequently! I water many of them every 3 days because they dry out. 

I believe the key problem with overwatering comes from planting hoyas in pots that are way too large for them. I see many people keeping small plants with a few leaves in huge pots. Of course, then they need ages to dry out and most likely have a huge chance of rotting and dying. This is true for most houseplants, especially hor hoyas. They are not at all forgiving in this aspect. So I keep my propagations and baby plants in the smallest pots you can buy (5,5 or 6 cm). And when repotting, only go one size up. The pot must always be as small as possible. This is your key trick to avoid root rot, in combination with the correct potting mix. 

When a hoya dries out, I don’t let it go dry for days. This will most likely result in stunted growth and baby leaves lost. When my hoyas are dry, I water them. Sometimes this is indeed every few days, but certainly not over one week. I am always shocked when I hear someone is watering their hoyas every two months. Something is not right there. Whether the pot is too big or the substrate is too dense. Hoyas really shouldn’t need 2 months to dry out, this is a sure way to kill them in my opinion. 

On the other hand, when you let them go dry for too long, you will again end up losing the roots. The result of the root system drying out too much is basically the same as if it rots. The roots won’t be able to uptake the water any longer and the plant will be dehydrated and eventually die.

Hold with watering till the leaves are soft and wrinkled

If you wish to just keep your hoya alive, this may work for you. However, if you want it to thrive and grow, do not do that. When hoya leaves are wrinkled they are already dehydrated severely and under stress. And this does not make it for a very happy plant! The first thing hoyas do when dehydrated is they stop growing, and if they have been growing before, they will abort all new growth. Bye-bye baby leaves and new vines. 

Hoyas can make it fairly long without water. They will survive your vacations and whatnot, I love this about them. But when underwatered they will stagnate. So if your plant successfully makes one new leaf every 6 months, this is not normal for most species. It is most likely thirsty as hell and trying to work desperately with what it gets.

How and when to water hoyas >>>

Hoyas are slow growers

While you will notice some species grow like weeds, and some are slower, they are all prolific growers if you provide them with correct conditions. 

This means:

  • Small pots, so they don’t put all their energy into making roots
  • Watering frequently at just the right time, so they don’t drop new growth
  • Feeding them (frequently) with a specialized fertilizer 
  • Give them tons of light – if it doesn’t come naturally, get some grow lights. They work wonders.
  • Keeping humidity and temperatures high (some hoyas like cooler temperatures, but mostly they like it warm)

Hoyas won’t bloom unless they are a few years old

You probably know from your experience this is not always true. If hoya is grown from a seed, this may be correct. But if you are growing them from cuttings, they can bloom much sooner.

If the cutting came with an old peduncle, it will likely soon bloom from the same peduncle, given the correct conditions. However, if the cutting doesn’t have a peduncle yet but the mother plant is an established plant, the cutting can also make new peduncles very soon. 

If you have a chance to buy a baby plant or a cutting with an old peduncle, JUST GO FOR IT, this is a great deal! 

So if you are just starting with hoyas, don’t give up on blooms, they might surprise you. 🙂 

To get your hoyas to bloom, you will need PLENTY of light and the correct fertilizer. The ones for green plants will not do the trick, because you need a different N-P-K ratio to get plants to bloom. 

How to treat hoyas that are preparing to bloom >>>

Hoyas hate to be repotted

I don’t find this to be true at all. If by ‘repotting’ you mean taking the established, root-bound hoya out of the pot and transferring it to a bigger pot, this is never a problem. They don’t like it when you mess with their roots. This means switching the substrate, cleaning away the old substrate etc. If the roots are not rotting, just leave them alone. Take the plant out, put it in a bigger pot, add some substrate. I promise the plant will not hate you for this. 🙂 

Do not water right away though, this can be a big mistake. When ready to be repotted, hoyas are usually very root-bound. This means you will likely damage some of the fine tiny roots when pulling it out of the pot. You need to let these roots dry and heal before watering, so they don’t start rotting. Wait for at least a day, then you can water again with no worry. 

More on repotting here >>>

Well, I checked and the roots look fine

When starting with hoyas, it is almost impossible to spot the rotten roots by simply looking at them. Especially if you are used to aroids. The thing is, when hoya roots rot, they don’t become brown or black. They are usually white and look fairly normal. This can be tricky. What you need to do, is pull gently on the roots to check whether they are healthy. If the outer layer comes off easily and you are left with tiny white hair, this is a sure sign that the root is dead and you need to remove it. Cut in small parts, until you see a sap coming out. Hoyas bleed like crazy and it is the ‘blood’ (the sap) that will tell you that you’ve come to the part that is still healthy and alive. If you need to remove the entire root, do it. The plant will grow new ones. 

The same goes for the stem. When you come across the part that is soft and mushy, it is surely rotting. Keep cutting small parts of the stem, until you see the sap coming out. If the stem is firm and there is no visible sap, it is probably still dead and you want to cut further. When in doubt, it is always better to cut more than less, so that you won’t be dealing with the same problem again in a few weeks. 

How to treat a hoya with root rot >>>

Hoyas die fast and unexpectedly

This is fortunately not true at all! 🙂 If you keep an eye on your plants and notice problems soon enough, they can be saved in most cases. Hoyas will tell you when they are unhappy. When you see them dropping yellow leaves, or the leaves becoming mushy at the stem, this is your cue to take the hoya out and inspect the roots. If you do this soon enough, you could end up with only a few rotten roots, remove them and you’re good to go! If you wait longer, the rot can reach the stem and you will need to cut more. Still not a catastrophe though! In this case, cut the stem until you see some sap.

The biggest problem is when you wait for too long and you lose the entire stem. When you spot anything out of the order, do yourself a favor and inspect right away. The root rot is almost never a death sentence, it is waiting too long to fix it. 

If you notice the rotting soon enough, you will have a 100% chance of saving it. Either by removing some roots and potting the plant back or by taking a cutting from the healthy part of the stem and starting again from there.

If you have any further questions or comments, do let me know below!

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