How to Plant, Grow and Care For Hoya Bella
Are you looking for a versatile houseplant? Hoya bella is a unique variety of hoya that makes for a wonderful indoor plant. In this article, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton shares all you need to know about this plant, including maintenance and care.
Hoya bella is a pretty trailing houseplant with an abundance of fragrant clusters of flowers. Once established, this plant is low-maintenance and easy to care for – an ideal addition to any indoor plant collection. As one of the most popular and well-known species of the Hoya genus, it is a must-have for all hoya lovers.
Like all hoyas, this species has lovely green foliage and looks good year-round, especially if trained up a structure or hanging from a pot or a hanging basket.
What makes hoyas extra special is their sought-after blooms, which only appear in the perfect environmental conditions. If you want to keep your hoya healthy and blooming, all you need is this care guide.
Hoya Bella Plant Overview
Plant Type Houseplant
Species Hoya lanceolata subsp bella
Native Area Burma and northern India
Exposure Bright indirect light
Watering Requirements Low
Pests & Diseases Mealybugs, scale, etc
Soil Type Well-draining houseplant mix
Bloom Color White and pink
About Hoya Bella
Hoya bella is an abbreviation of the full scientific name Hoya lanceolata subsp bella. It’s named this way as it is a miniature version of Hoya lanceolata, commonly known as the Miniature Wax Plant or Miniature Wax Flower. The original Hoya lanceolata grows to around 2-3 feet tall, but the miniature Bella grows only to around 18 inches.
Hoyas were named by botanist Robert Brown after his friend and fellow botanist Thomas Hoy. But the species Hoya bella was named by Willam Jackson Hooker, an English botanist and first director of Kew Gardens. He was a specialist in ferns, fungi, algae, and lichens and published more than 20 major works on the subject. ‘Bella’ means beautiful, which describes this plant perfectly.
Its origins lie in northern Burma (changed in 1989 to Myanmar, although it’s still referred to as Burma in the USA) and in northeast India. This explains its affinity for warm temperatures and high humidity.
Although Hoyas can only grow outdoors in USDA Zones 10 and higher, they can grow in any climate when kept indoors or in a greenhouse. Hoya bella is an epiphytic plant from wet tropical regions that loves moisture in the air. The leaves are semi-succulent, holding onto some of this moisture and making them quite water-wise.
The leaves provide a stunning topical look as a houseplant, especially the variegated varieties. But the flowers are where this plant truly shines. It produces clusters of star-shaped, scented, white and pink flowers in summer. They have a waxy feel, giving them the common name Wax Plant.
In general, hoyas are slow growers. But when it comes to Hoya bella, this species grows slightly faster than others and is remarkably easy to care for. Bella is the perfect starting point if you’re a beginner to hoya growing and intimidated by the rarer and more fussy species.
As hoyas are slow-growing, propagation can take quite a while. But with some patience, it is well worth the effort.
Take cuttings of Hoya bella in spring and summer when the plant is actively growing.
Start by preparing a soil mixture. Add drainage materials like perlite or river sand to potting soil in equal parts. Place in a container with drainage holes and dampen the soil.
Next, look for healthy stems and leaves and take a cutting about 5 inches long with at least 2 or 3 leaves. Use a clean pair of shears to remove the stems cleanly and promote quick recovery.
Cut just below a node for strong root growth. Remove the leaves from the bottom section of the cutting, dip the base in water, and then dip in rooting hormone powder. This substance encourages root growth and protects cuttings from early infections.
Make a hole in the container with a pencil or finger and plant the cutting in the prepared soil mix. Water regularly, ensuring not to overwater but keep the soil moist to create the right environment for new growth. Place in a brightly lit area out of direct sunlight.
You can also place the cuttings in a glass of filtered water to root. Change the water daily, and when the roots have formed about an inch of growth, the new plant can be planted in a pot.
One of the most successful ways to propagate Hoya bella is by layering. This replicates how these plants spread naturally and allows them to root while still attached to the main plant, getting all the nutrients and moisture it needs.
Start by placing a pot filled with houseplant potting mix next to the original container. Take a healthy stem from the mother plant and stake it into the soil with a bent wire or pins at a node. Keep the soil moist while the plant takes root and starts growing. This is a less invasive way of propagating and does not risk the chance of shock.
Once the plant has grown new roots and starts growing independently, it can be cut from the mother plant and moved. Keep in a brightly lit space out of direct sunlight.
Seed is not the best way to propagate this plant due to low success rates compared to the other methods. But if you want to give it a go, plant the seeds in a seedling mix as you would with any other plant. Keep moist and place in a warm, well-lit area out of direct sunlight.
After the seeds germinate and the first few leaves appear, plant these plantlets into pots filled with well-draining houseplant mix. Once established, you can care for them like mature hoya plants.
Repot your hoya every 2-3 years to replenish the soil and increase the pot size as it grows. It’s best to repot in spring so the plant gets enough time to settle in its new container before winter. Choose a container about 2 inches larger so it has the space to grow well in the next few years. Don’t choose a pot that is too big, or you may have a problem with flowering.
Set up the day before and water the plant well so it won’t suffer from shock when moved. Set up the new container with a mix of potting soil and drainage materials like vermiculite, perlite, or clean sand mixed together well. Carefully remove the plant from its current container and try not to disturb the roots too much while removing as much old soil as possible.
A gentle touch is best – take the time to do it properly for the best results. Plant in the new pot with the aforementioned soil mix and water well. Install supports if you plan on training the vines.
How to Grow
Bright indirect or filtered light is best for this hoya. They need a full day of this type of light to thrive. With too little light, they will likely grow slowly and not produce flowers.
Sunlight determines this plant’s flowering ability. The better the light, the better your chances of flowers. If placed in a spot with low light, the stems will become leggy and new leaves that appear (if any appear at all) will be small and diminished. Once flowers appear, it’s best to stop rotating the pot and limit movement as much as possible.
Protect the leaves from getting scorched in the direct summer sun. If they need an extra boost, an hour or so of direct morning sun is fine, as long as it is gentle. East-facing windows are preferred, but they can also grow in front of south or west-facing windows where the sunshine is filtered.
The thick leaves of your Hoya bella should give you a clue as to how much water they need. Since the leaves store some water to manage periods of dryness, they don’t need to be watered as often as other houseplants. This also means they are quite sensitive to overwatering and hate sitting in soggy soil.
Water moderately but consistently during the growing season. Allow the soil to become almost completely dry before watering again. You can test the top layer with your finger and water when about half the pot has dried out. Lifting the pot to feel its weight can also help you assess how much moisture is left in the soil, as the moisture increases the soil weight.
Never water when the soil is still moist, as excess water can cause fungal growth, leading to root rot. You can also slow watering dramatically in winter when evaporation is slower as the plant absorbs less water.
An airy, well-draining houseplant potting mix is an ideal soil mix for Hoya bella. It can be planted in hanging baskets and allowed to trail over the edge or trained on an upright trellis or moss pole.
Add bark chips and perlite to regular potting soil to improve drainage if you can’t find any houseplant potting mix at your local nursery. As these plants are epiphytic and can survive with minimum soil, high drainage levels are essential for improved airflow. Also, ensure the container has drainage holes for the water to drain through, or well-draining soil won’t have the same effect.
Temperature and Humidity
Hoyas like to be in humid environments, preferably with humidity of over 50%. But they won’t struggle too much if humidity is slightly below this preferred level. Because of the waxy leaves, it can survive without added humidity for a while. General household humidity is usually suitable, but avoid placing plants in the path of drafts.
Hoyas prefer a warmer temperature range of between 75F and 85F. In the colder months, move them away from cold windows or doorways to avoid damaging the leaves.
Hoya bella needs fertilizer every few weeks during the growing season. Use a houseplant or hoya-specific plant food. This is especially important if you want to encourage your hoya to flower.
In the spring, a fertilizer high in nitrogen will encourage healthy foliage. Just before they are expected to flower, feed with a fertilizer higher in phosphorus to give the flowers a more intense color and form.
Avoid feeding in winter when growth slows down. New foliage produced at this time will be more vulnerable to cold damage.
Do not remove the flower stalks after blooming, as new flowers will form on the old spurs. Prune lightly to maintain shape and remove any damaged or dead leaves. If your plant only produces one or two long stems, you can prune these back to encourage the plant to branch. This will make the new growth much fuller.
This tropical plant can experience issues when its needs aren’t met.
Root rot is a problem caused by overwatering a hoya. If the leaves of the plant are dying off unnaturally, wilting, or yellowing, check that you are not drowning the roots by overwatering. Root rot can also be caused by compacted soil, limiting aeration around the roots.
Once root rot sets in, the plant can no longer absorb nutrients and may become stunted. Other root rot symptoms can include an unpleasant smell or the presence of tiny fungus gnats on top of the soil where they lay their eggs. When these larvae hatch, they will start eating the small roots of the plant.
You must remove the plant from its pot and study the roots to determine how to treat root rot. If they are mushy but not too far gone, cut off any infected roots with a clean pair of shears. Unfortunately, if you have to cut off more than 60% of the roots, you may be unable to save the plant. Prepare a new pot with fresh soil mix and replant. Change the watering schedule and give your Hoya bella time to recover.
While trying not to overwater a hoya, you also run the risk of underwatering too. If the leaves appear wrinkled and dried out, it may be a sign that your plant is not getting enough water. It may also go limp and become lackluster as the cells lose the ability to hold their structure. The soil should be dry to the first few inches of soil but moist underneath this before you water again.
There are many reasons why your hoya may stop growing outside the winter dormancy period.
The first thing to check is light levels. They need a full day of bright indirect light to grow their best. If photosynthesis slows down, so does the growth of the plants. Add extra lighting, such as grow lights or a fluorescent lamp, if necessary.
Another reason growth may be slow or stunted is a lack of nutrients. In this case, feed the plant with a liquid fertilizer high in nitrogen for healthy leaves and vigorous growth.
In the winter, hoyas tend to lose some of their leaves. This is natural but may also be caused by drops in temperature from cold drafts. Move the plant to a warmer area and increase humidity to prevent further leaf drop. This should solve the problems and keep the leaves intact for the next season.
Young hoyas will not flower for a few years. Only mature hoyas will flower, so patience is key if you’ve purchased a young plant. For mature hoyas that aren’t flowering, ensure they have enough sunlight.
Also, check the pot size, which may be too large for the plants. Too much water or too much fertilizer can also prevent plants from flowering.
Pests and Diseases
Although these plants are known to be relatively pest- and disease-free, they can be susceptible to a few problems:
These common sap-sucking insects are found on a range of houseplants and can migrate to your hoyas too. When they suck the sap from the leaves, they weaken the structure and excrete a honeydew substance that leads to the growth of sooty mold. Mealybugs thrive in warm conditions and can be found on indoor plants year-round.
Often mealybugs can be brought in on an infected plant, so it’s wise to check each plant before adding to your collection. Once you have identified the pests, isolate your Hoya from any other plants and treat it with insecticidal soap.
If there are only a couple of adult mealybugs, use a cotton swab dipped into rubbing alcohol to force them to release from the plant, then treat the plant with the insecticidal soap to eliminate any hidden eggs. Follow up with further treatments to remove the eggs completely before adding the plants back into your collection.
Hoya bella is also susceptible to scale, although this issue is not as common. Scale is a larger category of sucking insects that attach to leaves and stems and weaken the structure of the cells. They can be identified by the brown-to-beige bumps that appear and stick to the leaves and stems.
Treat with insecticidal soap with several follow-ups to get rid of them, treating individual adult scale with the same rubbing alcohol on cotton swab method as for mealybugs. Although only the males have wings to fly to other plants, the wingless females can reproduce without the males. But it is still advisable to move infected plants away from other plants until the infection has been dealt with.
Webbing between leaves and stems is a sign of an infection of spider mites. These are also sucking insects that cause damage to plants by sucking the sap from the leaves, causing them to wilt or turn yellow. These pests hide underneath the leaves and are often not found until infestations are severe.
These mites prefer warm and dry conditions. Keep the humidity levels higher to prevent infection, and treat any mites that you see with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
Sucking insects like aphids can attack at any time during the growing season, and they love the taste of new shoots on a plant. Spray vigorously with water to remove them, or use insecticidal soap or neem oil to protect the plants from infection. Remove the top layer of soil and replace it with new soil to avoid eggs hatching and causing another infection.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do Hoya bella flowers smell like?
Many people smell different things in their flowers, from ylang-ylang to chocolate and honey. But this sweet and diverse fragrance is certainly strongest at night.
Is Hoya bella slow-growing?
This particular hoya is a little faster growing than other hoyas. You will still need to wait a few years for it to flower if you buy the plants young. Look out for mature plants in the nursery if you want the flowers earlier or even better, a plant already in flower.
How do you make a Hoya bella bloom?
Giving them the right care, especially in lighting and nutrients, will encourage your Hoya bella to flower. Make sure to prune the plant to make it bushier and encourage more branches or stems. This will create more space for flowers. Also make sure the plants receive enough light as this is important for the plants to flower prolifically. Increase the number of hours the plants are exposed to daylight or even invest in grow lights to improve lighting.
Now that you know all there is to know about Hoya Bella, your next steps are to welcome one into your houseplant collection. This easy to care for plant will grow for many years if provided proper maintenance and care. They are also easy to propagate, and make an excellent semi-succulent houseplant for beginners.