Polka dot plants are native to Madagascar, although other members of the family Acanthaceae originate from South Africa and Southeast Asia as well.
In its natural habitat, the polka dot plant grows in humid tropical forest areas in a shrubby manner.
If you want to keep those beautiful variegated leaves, you’ll need to make sure that your polka dot plants get plenty of bright but indirect light. If there’s not enough light, the color and variegation will fade. The plants themselves can (and will!) get leggy as they stretch out in search of more sunlight.
Since they’re tropical plants, polka dot plants like to be kept nice and toasty at around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 26 degrees Celsius). Since they don’t like to get a chill, be sure to keep them away from drafty areas.
When it comes to humidity, polka dot plants like a minimum of 50%. They naturally grow in humid, tropical areas, after all.
If the air in your home is on the dry side, there are various things you can do to create a more humid microclimate for your plants. For example, you can group all your humidity-loving plants together in bathrooms, make use of pebble trays, or buy a humidifier.
Polka dot plants tend to do best in nutrient-rich, well-draining soil. It doesn’t have to be complicated and you can easily mix your own!
For example, you can use general potting soil mixed with perlite for drainage and throw in a layer of compost for extra nutrients.
When it comes to planting your polka dot plants, the most important thing is drainage. Any planter will work as long as it has a drainage hole at the bottom, although if you’re prone to forgetting to water you might want to go for plastic rather than porous terracotta.
If you don’t want your polka dot plants to grow too leggy, it’s recommended to keep them in smaller pots. This helps limit their growth; they don’t mind being a little root bound.
If you do want your plant to go wild, you can grow it in a larger container. Placing it outside, at least during the summer months, also helps. A lot of gardeners plant this species in large pots, which gives it more room to get a bit out of control.