It is October 2022 and I am home. I am always home.
My baby is 5 months old and my daughter has just turned 4. Both are having their own serious health battles and both are experiencing huge life transitions.
I am having my own transition as well. It is no small feat, going from one child to two. Life is hard.
I want so badly to give each child the world and in the process, I am denying myself most things: sleep, food, and any moment to myself. It is slowly chipping away at my sanity.
The same thing happened after I gave birth to my older daughter and I ended up grappling with a serious case of postpartum depression and anxiety.
I am more aware of those risks now, but I am having trouble not heading in the same direction because all of this is complicated by the fact that my wife is also having her own health crisis.
And though it is beginning to get a bit better by this time, she has been relying heavily on me since our youngest was born so I’ve been holding the weight of the world for months.
I’m having a lot of trouble knowing how to put that weight down and she’s having trouble knowing what weight she can pick up.
Life is hard.
I’ve been trying to motivate myself to leave the house for weeks. To feel comfortable enough to go out and believe that my family will be okay while I am gone. It sounds so silly, but I’ve tried it before and it hasn’t always gone well. But I am going to try again anyway. I know I need to.
So I force myself to get ready in comfy mom clothes and mom bun and head out the door after kissing my family goodbye. As soon as I’m in my car and pulling away, I feel free. And a bit anxious. But free.
I pull into my absolute favorite local greenhouse and go in. There are plants everywhere, like always. The moisture in the air clings to my skin like a hug and the smell of the greenery fills me with joy. I missed this place terribly.
I walk around as if I’m hidden in plain sight. I’ve been here a thousand times before, but I always feel undercover. I’ve always considered myself a wallflower, barely noticeable. Someone who bothers no one, but is also pleasant and never a problem.
As I’m making my journey around, appreciating all of the wonderful plants, I stop in my tracks. I spot from a distance these glorious hoyas hanging from the top of the greenhouse trailing all the way to the ground. They are in deep, bright blue ceramic pots and macrame hangers and there are two of them.
I’ve never ever seen them here before and they are freaking amazing. I’ve also never seen Telly’s Greenhouse display plants in this manner. Why are they here?
I look them over carefully. This looks a whole lot like the heirloom Hoya carnosa that I’ve wished our family had to pass down. The excitement fills me. What a find! What beauties!
Are they selling them!? I can’t find a price tag anywhere. I probably can’t afford them anyway, seeing as how they are literally 20 feet long.
I walk quickly over to the section where they sell hoyas, hoping that perhaps some smaller plants would be there. Nope, none. Darn.
I quickly begin to realize that I would have to contend with my social anxiety (which has been particularly bad lately) and actually speak to someone if I want to find out whether these plants are for sale.
I look around and see the owner’s wife, Jan. I walk over and ask her about them. She says: I’m not sure, but they look like plants someone brought us after a loved one passed away. We have family members who bring plants when they aren’t sure what to do with them. Let me find George (the owner). You are one of his regulars. I’ll see what he wants to do for you.
I am shocked.
I am a wallflower with a mom bun and hard times and sadness. No one notices me. I am undercover. And social anxiety. A nobody.
And she and George know me. Recognize me. Me. I am a regular.
She gets George and they talk to me like I am a person who knows things. I tell them about the plant, which they aren’t aware is an heirloom Hoya carnosa. They get excited and decide that they will pull the plants off the floor soon to ensure the plants stay safe. But, before doing that, George takes a cutting off of one of the plants for me and hands it to me.
I fill with excitement and joy that they are so kind. I ensure the cutting is as safe as my baby would be for the ride home and promise myself to place it right in the kitchen where I can care for it consistently.
This moment is so precious that I linger in the car to savor it before leaving the parking lot. Then I finally turn the key to start the car, feeling lighter than I have in weeks, to head home.
I’ve been going to Telly’s Greenhouse since 2015 when I moved in with my wife… but I never knew that Telly’s Greenhouse realized it too! I’ve talked with them plenty of times, but it still never occurred to me. It’s so silly now to think that they never noticed me there over and over and over again, but I didn’t. 🙂
I don’t think they will ever fully realize how much their planty kindness meant to me that day, but it remains one of the most memorable moments of kindness that got me through a very tough year in 2022. I will be forever grateful.
If you want to see a tour of Telly’s Greenhouse, check out the video by Summer Rayne Oakes, who happened to tour my local greenhouse!
Table of Contents
- Why is Hoya carnosa, the heirloom variety, so special?
- Why isn’t Hoya carnosa, the heirloom variety, commonly available today?
- Where can you find a fantastic selection of hoyas online?
- How to Propagate a Hoya carnosa Cutting in Soil
- How to care for the heirloom Hoya carnosa
- Related Articles
Why is Hoya carnosa, the heirloom variety, so special?
The heirloom variety of Hoya carnosa was an extremely common houseplant in the 1970’s along with some other retro plant favorites like Monstera deliciosa, the spider plant, the snake plant, and more.
Heirloom Hoya carnosa features gorgeous large, dark green leaves with occasional splashing and speckling. The veins are often somewhat visible, which is an added bonus. It can be trained to climb or can be grown as a trailing plant.
Despite being so common in the 1970’s, it is not commonly sold currently but rather passed down through families.
I had mistakenly believed that this hoya was the only hoya that was kept during the 1970s. I’m not really sure why I thought that, but I did.
Regardless, in doing research for this post, I quickly learned that I was wrong (per usual haha) and many of the commonly kept species and cultivars today were also kept then, like Hoya bella and Hoya Compacta. I’m always learning 🙂
Check out another gorgeous heirloom H. carnosa from Haus of Hoya on Instagram below.
Why isn’t Hoya carnosa, the heirloom variety, commonly available today?
I don’t have a definitive reason for why, but I do have an educated guess about why the heirloom Hoya carnosa isn’t being sold regularly today.
There was a long period of time when hoyas were not very popular (I can’t imagine why!) and it likely wasn’t lucrative for plant growers to invest the time, money, or greenhouse real estate to grow many of the various hoya species and cultivars.
This has been true for many plants over time and will become true for many of the plants that are in circulation today. If the plants aren’t selling, growers will stop growing them.
With regards to Hoya carnosa, you can still find some smaller plant shops that sell interesting varieties of Hoya carnosa, all with their own unique characteristics. I do kind of consider these plants’ heirloom varieties. The uniqueness and history of each of these heirloom varieties are what I find attractive about collecting these plants.
You can collect a bunch of heirloom Hoya carnosa that appear very similar on the surface and then get the pleasure and excitement of finding out that they are actually quite different.
I have a plant that Graye’s Greenhouse, another local greenhouse gem, has been growing for a long, long time, which sports new leaves that emerge in the color orange. I have a different variety that a plant friend gave me a cutting of in 2020 and the new leaves on this plant emerge a pretty dark purple. The color reminds me a bit of Hoya pubicalyx Royal Hawaiian Purple.
Some of the leaves are more succulent than others. Some are broader and have a more pillowed appearance. The new growth emerges in various shades of gorgeousness. All are a pleasure to grow and experience.
It is fascinating to see how the plants have grown over the decades, possibly or probably adapting their appearance depending on their growing conditions.
Or who knows, perhaps somewhere in their genetics they are not solely H. carnosa. Sorting that out goes way beyond my expertise. Let’s be real, I have no expertise beyond a deep love of plants, growing them for a long time now, and researching the heck out of them. 🙂 But there are no collegiate degrees backing me up. Maybe one day!
The Hoya carnosa that is commonly sold features smaller, narrower, more succulent leaves. These leaves typically have no splash and are medium green.
To me, they look like a reverted Krimson Princess in leaf shape and thickness (this is the common Hoya carnosa that has variegation in the center of the leaves. It is an okay plant, but nowhere near as gorgeous (in my opinion) as the heirloom variety we are discussing above.
Where can you find a fantastic selection of hoyas online?
While I cannot tell you where to find an heirloom Hoya carnosa, I will recommend a wonderful Etsy shop called The Plant Farm which sells many, many types of hoyas, including lots of H. carnosa cultivars. I have purchased from The Plant Farm lots of times now and have always been happy with what I receive.
Here’s a link to The Plant Farm on Etsy (link opens to Etsy shop). The link is through the affiliate program (there is no cost to you to use this link). Every penny counts! If I make anything from this link, it goes directly to supporting this blog. Thank you to anyone who takes the time to read and support A Natural Curiosity.
Read on to find out how to care for and propagate the heirloom variety of Hoya carnosa and more.
How to Propagate a Hoya carnosa Cutting in Soil
My preferred method for Hoya soil propagation is to prepare a small pot of well-draining soil and plant the cutting into the soil as if it already has roots.
You want to ensure that at least one node of the cutting is deep enough into the soil to grow roots.
What is a node? A node is a place where the leaves have grown. Right below where the leaves have emerged, new roots can grow as well.
In my case, I received a one-node cutting. For thicker-stemmed Hoyas, this is typically just fine for propagation.
So I planted the cutting right up to where the leaves had emerged.
Afterward, I watered the soil with just a small amount of water. I didn’t thoroughly water the pot because the cutting had no roots and I didn’t want the cutting to rot. I just wanted to provide a little moisture to start stimulating root growth.
Then I covered the entire pot with a gallon-size ziplock bag. I did this to keep the humidity higher, which will help the leaves to remain healthier, the potting mix to stay moist, and the plant to root faster.
Every few days, I removed the plastic bag and checked the soil moisture. If it was dry, I’d add a little more water to remoisten the soil.
After a couple of weeks, I would pull lightly on cutting to see if there was any resistance. When the cutting started to resist my pull, I knew it was beginning to root!
My rooting process took many months because I was rooting at the worst time of year using only natural light. Rooting in winter isn’t ideal.
If you root at the time I’m writing this post and you are located somewhere it is Spring, you’ll likely have much faster results.
However, I still got my cutting to root and it is putting out new growth! So, the time and patience were ultimately worth it.
Why root in soil instead of water? I wanted to root directly in soil so I didn’t have to mess with transitioning water roots to the soil, which can be stressful for the plant.
How to care for the heirloom Hoya carnosa
Hoya carnosa is a very resilient plant, which is how it has survived many decades and circumstances.
We will talk about what ideal circumstances might look like, but just know that this plant can survive (and has survived) in all kinds of conditions!
Hoya carnosa does quite well in a window that receives a few hours of direct sun with lots of indirect light the rest of the day.
In a world where anyone reading this lives in the Northern Hemisphere AND has windows that aren’t blocked in any way by buildings, curtains, blinds, trees, or bushes, I would recommend an East or West-facing window.
If you have significant cover over your windows (trees, buildings, etcetera) then you may be looking at much less light regardless of what direction the window faces and you will have to judge whether you get sunlight streaming into your window at all and how much.
The plant might be able to tolerate more than a few hours of direct sun if slowly acclimated to it or if already living in those conditions.
Signs your Hoya carnosa is receiving too much light: white or brown crispy patches on the leaves (leaf burn); leaves are fading in color/sun-bleaching
signs your Hoya carnosa is receiving too little light: the plant isn’t growing even though it has been months; the plant isn’t using the water you provide within a week to 10 days; the plant is dropping leaves
Unfortunately, many of these signs can be indicators of other issues as well. Root health, pest problems, nutrient deficiencies, etcetera. However, it is extremely common for light to be THE issue and often fixing the amount of light and watering frequency will solve many of the issues houseplant owners face.
Pot and Potting Mix
What do you need: Some kind of pot that is an inch or two larger than the roots of the plant, a houseplant potting mix, and some type of aerating substrate (like perlite, pumice, orchid bark, or any combination of these)
Hoya carnosa, like many hoyas, is an epiphyte that grows in the wild by climbing on other trees, plants, and rocks. Because of this, its roots are exposed much of the time in tropical jungles both to air and frequent rainfall. It is used to having lots of aeration and frequent moisture.
So, we want to ensure that in our houseplant setup, we provide our hoya roots with aeration and moisture.
Hoyas can be grown in any kind of pot: ceramic, clay, or plastic.
The important part is to ensure the pot isn’t more than 2 inches larger than the plant’s root ball so the plant doesn’t sit in too much moisture, but has room to grow and doesn’t dry out immediately.
Glazed and plastic pots are better at retaining moisture. Clay or terra cotta pots wick water out of the potting mix due to their porous nature.
Knowing this, we can change our potting mix slightly if we want. For example, a mix that is more well-draining can be used in glazed and plastic pots to ensure that a Hoya carnosa does not sit with wet roots for too long.
Whereas we could use a mix with less aerating material if the hoya is planted in a clay or terracotta pot since the pot itself will be drying out the mix as well.
A Note About Hoyas and Clay Pots:
Some Hoya growers are very opposed to growing Hoyas in clay pots because their roots may cling to the sides of the clay pots. Then when you need to remove the plant from its pot, it can be difficult to do so without damaging the roots.
There is some truth to this, however, I find this to be true for any plant that has grown super comfy over time in a clay pot.
I haven’t found any extra issues with hoyas in clay pots, personally. To help ease them out of their clay pots when they seem very root bound, I water them thoroughly first. Sometimes I will even soak their pot in a bowl of water briefly.
That being said, your mileage may vary and I am not an expert. Growing hoyas in terracotta works for me. Will it work for everyone? It may or may not.From my post on Hoya obovata: Care Tips and Personal Experiences, Linked here
Hoya carnosa should be watered when its potting mix is nearly or completely dry. Ideally, it actually prefers to stay just a little bit moist. The roots don’t want to become bone dry, but they can survive it and your plant will be okay. However, the plant will do better if you can catch it before it’s super desert dry.
Ways you can check to see if it is ready to be watered:
Stick your finger as far as you can into the pot, and if it is dry, water the plant
Stick your finger up into the drainage hole of the plant, and if it feels dry or nearly dry, water it.
Lift the plant up and see if the pot feels light. This is particularly easy to do when the plant is in a plastic pot and sometimes easy in terracotta, I find.
You can also try moisture meters; weighing the plant on a scale before and after watering; and more. If you have other ways that you love to use to monitor your plants, comment below!
Hoyas like to be lightly fertilized on a consistent basis. I’ve used both organic liquid fertilizers and slow-release granules with success.
My two preferred products are below. These are linked through the Amazon affiliate program. It costs you nothing to use the links provided. I make very little through the program, but anything I do make directly supports this blog and the ongoing work I do, so I thank you for any support you send me. 🙂
Here’s a link to Espoma Organic on Amazon
Here’s a link to Osmocote on Amazon
Happy growing and see you soon!