Hoya wayetti (2016)

PhotoBy Bob Williams (October 2016)

The HSCSS picnic at Drummond Nursery is getting better every year, and that includes the plant selection, as well as the food. After I overindulged at the buffet table, Marge and I were walking off some calories by browsing through the greenhouses.

In the greenhouse that houses the specimen succulents, we spent a great deal of time admiring the nice plants for sale. Every time we walked to the door, a plant caught Marge’s eye. It was sitting on a pedestal opposite the tables. Every time we went by this plant, Marge would say, “What an interesting plant.” After the third comment, I knew that plant was calling her name, and in our box it went.

After talking to Gladys Drummond and some searching, the plant calling out to my wife was identified as a variegated Hoya wayetti.

The genus Hoya is a member of the family Asclepiadaceae. There are almost 300 individual species of hoyas that have been identified. They are found in the tropical regions of Southeast Asia through Australia. They are adaptable plants found everywhere from true rain forests to the slopes of the Himalayas, from semiarid areas in Australia to damp forests.

They range from vines, the most common form, to shrublike growth. Most are epiphytic. Being from the tropics, hoyas grow best with bright, indirect light. Full sun will result in sunburned leaves. Trying to grow these plants in full shade will inhibit flowering.

Hoyas prefer high humidity of 40 to 60 percent. This can be hard to maintain when growing inside. Misting helps when growing indoors summer or winter. Growing hoyas outside in Missouri, low humidity would not be much of a problem, however. Hoyas are not winter-hardy and will need to be brought inside in the winter.

Hoyas can adapt to a wide variety of potting soils. Standard potting mixtures are fine. I would assume the cactus mixtures we use will be OK also. As with most succulent plants, a fast-draining soil mixture is recommended. During the growing season, weekly watering with a weak fertilizer solution is key to good growth.

Flowering can occur any time during the growing season. The main flowering period occurs in spring and early summer. A way to promote flowering is to fertilize with a high-phosphorus fertilizer in the early part of the growing season. Hoya flowers are small, but the plants form large “balls” with up to 40 flowers each.

Hoyas are easy to propagate. They can be grown from seed, but the easiest way is to propagate by stem cuttings. The stems form air roots. Cut the stems that have these roots and place them in your potting mixture. You will soon be overrun with hoyas.

Hoya wayetti is found in the tropical rainforests of the Philippines. This plant was first described in 1993. The leaves are very small – 2 inches long and one-half to 1 inch wide. The plant forms very dense foliage and branches freely. The flowers are fuzzy and ball-shaped (3 to 4 inches in diameter), and the color is maroon/purple with darker coronas. There are 20 to 30 flowers in each ball.

The fragrance is said to be very sweet, like butterscotch. The flowers last five to six days. These flowers produce lots of nectar that sticks to everything. They are attractive to bees, butterflies and birds. In this area, they may attract hummingbirds. Hoya wayetti is best grown as a hanging plant.