The Associated Press
Friday June 21, 2002

Keep Wax Plant Close By/ 


Outdoors is a good place for most houseplants in summer, in a half-shady corner near the house, watered and fertilized as needed but otherwise ignored. One houseplant you might not want to let out is hoya, also known as wax plant. 

For one thing, the plant is so pretty you’ll enjoy it inside. You can leave hoya at a bright window even in summer because its fleshy leaves hold moisture, so the plant does not demand frequent watering. 

If it’s kept inside, you can best enjoy its flowers, too. Each spray of blossoms is composed of 20-or-so small flowers clustered together on short stalks. An individual blossom looks like a small flat star pressed atop a larger flat star — both of them in texture and color seemingly molded from tallow. That tallowy color is tinged pink in the smaller star, deepening to red toward the center of each flower. The flowers seem to appear all of a sudden; you might not even notice any flower buds. (Contrast this habit with gardenia, whose prominent buds sit frustratingly for weeks and weeks before they finally decide to open.) 

Indoors is also where you’ll be able to fully drink in the flowers’ heady aroma.  

The scent is not one that fills a room, but if you press your nose right up against the blossoms, close your eyes, and inhale, you’ll find yourself in a chocolate factory. 

The main ingredient in getting hoya to flower is patience. Periodic dry spells won’t hurt the plant, nor will keeping it cramped in the same pot year after year. Light is needed, but not an excessive amount. Even a cool east window suffices, and provides the coolness the plant likes in winter, when it also must have dryness. 

One note of caution with hoya: The flowers form on short growths, called spurs, that grow off older stems. So don’t prune the plant and never cut off the spent flowers or you could accidentally cut the spur. Because the plant flowers repeatedly on older stems, you can look forward to a hoya plant bearing more and more flowers as it grows older.