Today's Gardener (todaysgardener.com) participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.
Hoya lanceolata subsp.bella is an evergreen trailing and epiphytic species of the Hoya genus (Asclepidaceaea) native to the Himalayas.
“Bella“ means “beautiful“ in Latin and the plant has been vividly and accurately described as “Beautiful Hoya“, “the prettiest of all the pretty ones“, “the most loving of all the Hoyas“, with its copiously leafy branches, slightly succulent leaves and pendant umbels of sweetly scented star-shaped flowers.
As a mountain Himalayan species, the miniature wax plant Hoya Bella prefers slightly cooler conditions. It is advisable to add sand in the light-weight and well-draining potting mix and a little on top of the soil in order to maintain a healthy plant. Since it dies easily of root rot, you can graft it to more resistant root systems. It requires a moderately humid environment, with little moisture during the period of dormancy. Never let it dry out. Feed it with a balanced fertilizer during the growing season.
Continue reading to find out how you can take proper care of Hoya bella, “an amethyst in a silver setting“ (T. Rumpler, 1882).
About Hoya Bella
A professional plant collector Thomas Lobb first discovered it in the Taung Kola mountain, Moulmein (Myanmar) in June 1848, when it was referred to as “the first gem of the air“.
Each Hoya seems to have some distinctive and outstanding features. This particular one will attract you by its spectacular flowers and the soft appearance of the foliage.
It is a true hanging basket plant and certainly not a climber.
Different Types of Hoyas
There are hundreds of different Hoys species, but these are the most popular ones that you can grow indoors:
The magnificent pendant star-shaped Hoya bella flowers appear in small flat clusters of up to 10 flowers each.
The corolla is convex, crystalline white and waxy, with five acute angles. Occupying the center of the corolla is a staminal crown (corona) with five leaflets. It is ovate, concave, clear, translucent and has deep-purple edges with a lighter center. The corona truly resembles an amethyst.
The plant flowers profusely and the flowers are produced intermittently during the summer and fall. That’s what makes this plant so immensely popular among experts and beginner gardeners alike.
The fragrance of flowers is strong and sweet, reminiscent of honey, hence the name honey flower. The scent is most noticeable during the evening.
The branches of Hoya bella are diffuse and copiously leafy.
The stems are initially upright, weak and arching as they grow longer, curved and densely pubescent. The stems can grow approximately 45 cm long.
The leaves form a dark background to the delicate umbels of flowers. They are small ovate-lanceolate, elongate-trapeziform or almost almond-shaped. Moreover, the leaves are waxy, fleshy, one-nerved and borne in pair, intensely green above, paler below. The foliage can become purple or crimson red under strong light.
The peduncles are lateral, about as long as the leaves, each bearing around eight to ten flowers.
Calyxes are a little downy and consist of five elliptical, spreading sepals.
Where can Hoya Bella grow?
Hoya bella is native to Myanmar and can also be found in India and Nepal. It grows in USDA zones 10-11 and it is not a fast-growing plant. It can grow approximately 3 feet tall.
Since the umbels of the Hoya bella flower have an umbrella-like shape, the only way to get a true appreciation of this plant is to observe it in the lying position looking up. Much as it sounds comfortable to lie down and admire the flowers from beneath the plant, that’s not what your visitors will do. Hence it is best to grow it in a hanging basket, letting the stems and flowers fall.
You can grow it indoors or outdoors, though most would agree that it is a tender plant best grown indoors. Steer clear of growing it in glasshouses, though, since it is more likely to be the ideal prey for most insects.
Another option is to grow it in pots or be trained on a trellis.
It could even do well in a cool and bright attic, but it is a shame not to treat your visitors to such a magnificent floral display.
This trailing species might seem a bit more demanding than other species of Hoya because it prefers cooler climates. Provided that you follow the care pattern it requires, it is definitely worth the pursuit.
Hoya Light Requirements
Like most Hoya plants, Hoya bella prefers bright indirect light, preferably the morning sun beside a northwest or northeast window, at least half a day each day.
It can survive if exposed to low light and dappled shade, but the plant may not produce as many blooms as it normally would.
In case you are growing Hoya bella outdoors, find a spot that’s partially shaded on the patio, porch, entry or balcony. That’s because it requires light shade too, such as shade from a tree or balcony.
Artificial lighting – yes or no?
Supplement the plants’ exposure to the sun with artificial lighting in case it receives insufficient light. Make sure that the lights are at a distance from the plant, between 20 and 40 cm, and ensure a blowing fan in the vicinity of it to make the air circulate.
In brief, Hoya bella requires a perfect balance between direct sunlight, bright indirect sunlight and shade. If you notice that your plant is not doing well, try experimenting with different light intensities and different spots to find the one your plant will love the most.
Hoya Bella Temperature Requirements
Since Hoya bella originates from the mountain region, the foothill of the Himalayas, it prefers cooler climates and won’t mind a bit of cold. This, however, does not mean that that it can stand freezing temperatures.
It will do good with room temperature ranging between 10 and 20 degrees C. The ideal temperature is around 15 degrees C during the day and 12 degrees during the night.
The minimum temperature should be 5 degrees C and never let the temperature level drop below this level since it will damage the plant.
Maintain temperatures above 10 degrees C in the winter.
Humidity Requirements for Hoya Care
Hoya bella benefits from the high humidity of a kitchen or bathroom, as long as it is placed in a warm and well-lit spot.
The humidity levels should be around 60% to 80% both during the day and night.
There are many ways in which you can increase humidity levels. For instance, you can mist your plants with filtered or distilled water, add clean pebbles in a shallow water-filled tray and place the plant on top.
Make sure that the air is never dry so as not to hinder the general health of the plant.
Soil Requirements for Hoya Bella Care
First and foremost, choose a pot that has at least 14 cm opening and drainage holes at the bottom.
Hoya bella likes to be put in a coarse, well-draining soil mix. The best option is to use a combination of (orchid) bark, perlite on top, and regular peat-based soil. Terrarium, peat, and cocus are also recommended.
Besides, it is advisable to add sand in the light-weight and well-draining potting mix and a little on top of the soil in order to maintain a healthy plant.
Having mixed all the ingredients, sterilize the mix in the oven at 180 degrees for about an hour. This will prevent weeds and pests.
The pH of the soil should be between 6 and 7, normal to mildly acidic. You can check the pH using a testing kit and if it isn’t neutral, you can add dolomite lime.
Select the ingredients carefully since they should loosen up the soil, aerate it, provide good drainage and prevent root rot.
Potting and Repotting
In case you were wondering, Hoya bella can remain in a nursery pot that you got it in. It is advisable to keep the Hoya plants in nursery pots until the roots are fully formed. Otherwise, you risk damaging the plant unnecessarily. You can slightly pull the plant with the soil out to see the root system that has developed. Only then can you safely transplant them to terracotta pots or any other pot that you like.
The golden rules to remember are:
- Use sterilized medium.
- Use sterilized pots, a few inches larger than the previous ones.
- Do not repot until absolutely necessary.
- Replant in the spring.
- Water the plant the day before replanting it.
If you encounter no problems, it can be repotted once in two or three years.
Related: Picking the Right Pot for Indoor Plants – 6 Rules
Watering Hoya Bella Plant
Like most plants, Hoya bella is a moisture-loving plant. It is ideal for growing in a self-watering container but do not let it stand in the water since it is susceptible to root rot if the roots are continually soaked or saturated.
Keep the soil moist from spring to fall, but not waterlogged. Watering weekly is ideal, especially if you are not giving it tremendous amounts or light. Water sparingly during the winter only to prevent the soil from drying out.
Make sure that the soil is almost dry between waterings.
Misting the leaves is recommended, especially if you keep the plant near the central heating.
Finally, do not forget to keep your plant hydrated when you are going on vacation and have it welcome you looking healthy and in full bloom.
It is not a novel insight that the plants’ real food is produced by way of photosynthesis. That said, fertilizing cannot compensate for the potential lack of nutrients obtained in that way, but it can supplement your potting mix and underpin the growing and blooming process.
Hoya bella doesn’t require much fertilizer. Feed the plant with a high potash fertilizer (tomato fertilizer) or an orchid fertilizer every two weeks from spring to fall in poor concentrations rather than excessively. Another option is to apply a balanced, liquid fertilizer at monthly intervals during the growing season.
In case you are using synthetic fertilizer, use a milder dose in the case of Hoya bella and use it only once a month during the growing season.
You can also mist the leaves with a balanced diluted fertilizer to provide nutrients for the leaves as well.
Do not fertilize in the winter and when you do, make sure to apply fertilizers judiciously.
Pruning Hoya Bella Plants
Do not prune when the flower buds begin to swell and do not remove the old flower spurs (peduncles) since new blooms will arise there. So if you cut any stem with peduncles, the places where flowers will appear, you are removing new growth and depriving yourself of the possibility to get more blooms. Allow the flowers to fall naturally.
In case your plant develops an odd shape, you can trim those stems and branches to make the appearance more appealing and lead them in the desired direction. Removing dead branches and leaves can also enhance new growth.
To prune, always use sterilized and clean shares to do that. Avoid over-pruning in order not to impede the blooming process.
Hoya Bella Propagation
There are few ways to propagate Hoya bella.
1. Propagation from stem cuttings
The easiest one is from stem cuttings, in spring or summer. Follow these steps to do it correctly:
- Use sterilized scissors or a knife to take 7 cm long stem cuttings with two nodes. The cuttings will produce white latex, so keep your children and pets away.
- Remove the lower leaves and group up to 5 cuttings to a pot filled with houseplant compost or a porous, well-draining potting mix and keep it moist.
- Bury the lower node in the soil.
- Water weekly, keep the pot in a warm spot (above 20 degrees C) in the partial sun, and increase the exposure gradually.
The roots will start to appear within few weeks.
2. Propagation with the help of liquid medium
Another option is to propagate via the liquid medium, i.e. water, in the spring or summer. Here is how you should do it:
- Make a clean cut directly below a node using shears or a knife. The cutting should have at least two nodes, one for new foliage and the other one for root development.
- Remove the lower leaves.
- Place the cutting in a jar or lukewarm water, with at least one node in the water, and keep the leaves above the water level.
- Replace the water every week and keep it warm.
- Once the roots are at least two inches in size, you can plant the cutting in soil.
- Ensure a proper amount of humidity and protect the newly propagated plant from direct sunlight.
- You can also make a terrarium from a plastic bag to increase humidity and protect the plant from any potential pests.
Pests, Diseases and Other Hoya Plant Problems
To safeguard against any issues, you can isolate your plants from time to time and inspect them for any insects, pests, and diseases. In his way, you will be able to tackle any potential issues easily and prevent the plants from transmitting pests and diseases to your other plants.
Some common issues with Hoya bella are:
- Insects like Aphids or mealybugs often pose a problem. Mealybugs thrive in nitrogen-rich potting soil, so avoid overfertilizing. If they appear, however, dab them with alcohol-soaked cotton pads or use Malathion or Cygon outside the house.
- Snails, slugs, and grasshoppers can also be a problem. Get rid of them by placing diatomaceous earth around the pot or use metaldehyde-based baits and liquids.
- Red spiders and thrips can appear in warm and dry conditions (low humidity), especially during the winter.
- On the contrary, fungus diseases like Phomomis occur because of high humidity. Although this occurrence is rare, ensure good airflow to prevent this issue.
- Seedlings are subject to damp-off organisms, so use a systemic fungicide like Benomyl or copper-based fungicides.
Be ever watchful of the presence of these insects. Isolate the infected plants, wash them with insecticidal sprays or soaps and install sticky traps to attract flying insects.
Do remember that some sprays are poisonous, so move your plants to an outdoor area for treatment.
The plant exudes a milky latex when the stem is cut and it is poisonous when ingested, so keep away from children or pets to avoid any potential allergic reactions or irritations.
Care Tips in a Nutshell
- Provide enough shade and light, supplementing it with artificial lighting if necessary.
- Bring the plant inside should the temperatures drop below 5 degrees C.
- Do not let the soil become dry.
- You should not transplant frequently, certainly not when it is flowering.
- Do not remove the old spurs once the blooming period is over.
- Inspect for any potential issues.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can you enhance blooming in Hoya bella?
Expose the plant to enough bright indirect light beside a north-facing window, water it deeply yet infrequently. Next, keep the humidity level above 60% and mist the plant often or even place a humidifier directly below the plant. Feed it with a fertilizer that contains potassium and phosphorous. Do not prune the stems when the plant is flowering. Rather, prune the stems in late winter.
What does foliar feeding mean?
Foliar feeding is a method of providing nutrients through the foliage instead of the roots. All epiphytes get a large portion of nutrients in this way in nature and we should try to mimic that when growing these varieties as houseplants. This includes misting, for instance.
This amethyst-like plant usually strikes people as being a demanding one to grow, but do not let it deter you from cultivating it.
Given the right conditions and the proper care, it will make an eye-catching display, especially if grown in a hanging basket. You will greatly enjoy the sight of it at the start of a hectic working day.