In the Garden

Michael Miyashiro

Friday, April 23, 2004

Try hoyas to accent
the patio and home

Hoyas have been around for a long time. Back in the '70s, some were patented and sold in supermarkets and garden ads in Sunday TV guides or home magazines. These hoyas were interesting cultivars of the species Hoya carnosa. Cobia patented several varieties with names such as Krimson Princess, Mauna Lei, etc. All these interesting varieties were from one original species with oval leaves and fragrant pink to mauve flowers. Although their leaves and growth habits vary, they are the same plants requiring about the same care.

Most thrive in bright indirect light. Whether the light is from an artificial or natural source, it should not be so bright as to burn the leaves. Bright indirect to near-direct morning light is best. Plants protected from hot afternoon rays also do better in flowering and growth.

Hoya carnosa cultivars grow and look best when they are allowed to become root-bound in their growing containers. Use pots or hanging baskets that do not exceed 6 inches in diameter, and transplant them gradually from one pot size to the next. Add a good amount of drainage material to the potting mixes. A mixture including perlite, pumice, vermiculite and even finer cinders helps in creating good soil aeration. Use mixes not so high in peat moss if possible. A redwood base potting mix is the best as it will not break down quickly and will create a good pH for root growth and development.

Fertilizers are good to add if you want an abundant-flowering plant. I like to add timed-release products -- look for a high middle number -- at planting time. If you want to achieve a large and full plant quickly, try planting several individual plants together in a basket or pot. Pruning or pinching the tips will help side branches develop, creating a multistem plant in the process.

Water hoyas in the early morning, and allow them to dry by nightfall. If you have saucers on your hanging baskets, remove them or tip them sideways after watering to prevent wet-feet or root rot after a good soaking.

When the plants begin to flower, do not remove the stems from which the flowers emerge. These spurs continue to grow and develop, forming new buds and blooms to replace the spent ones. These spurs will grow long, showing the age of the plants and how well it has flowered.

These Hoya carnosa cultivars were once high-priced due to patents, which are no longer in force. Now the plants are more affordable, including some rare and unusual forms. An established plant can flower and last for years. Perhaps your grandmother still has one from the '70s, still flowering and growing, maybe next to a shelf of 12-inch disco singles!

Michael Miyashiro is owner of Rainforest at Ward Warehouse. Contact him at 591-9999 or send e-mail to

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