POLKA DOT PLANT Hypoestes phyllostachya

Height: 45-60 cm Spread: 30—45 cm.

This small, shrubby plant is suitably described by its common name. The olive-green, oval leaves are speckled with white to pinkish spots and blotches.

The plant naturally sprawls, but shoots can be nipped back to encourage bushy, upright growth. Alternatively, set the plant in a hanging basket and allow the stems to spread and trail. Small lavender flowers appear in summer. Nip these out to encourage better leaf colour. Also recommended:

H.aristaia, the ribbon bush: Upright, rounded shrub. Oval, medium green leaves are crowned with spikes of mauve flowers in summer.

SURVIVAL BASICS

Light and temperature: Bright light, with some direct sunlight; winter temperature of 15 C (59 F).

Watering and feeding: In winter, keep compost just moist, but water freely in summer. In summer, add a weak liquid fertilizer every 2—3 weeks.

Compost and repotting: Use John Innes potting compost No. 2. Repot when potbound; leggy, large plants are best discarded.

Propagation: Take stem-tip cut-tings in spring or early summer.

WARNING: In poor light, leaves lose their attractive markings and turn green.

PESTS AND DISEASES Mealy bugs Scale insects Greenfly Whitefly Wilting leaves indicate that the potting mix is either too wet or too dry. Check and rectify.

Yellow, wilting leaves result if the plant is in a cold draught.