Hoya obovata: Care Tips and Personal Experiences

In March of 2019, I paid $20 USD for a 6-inch pot of Hoya obovata from a California-based company that no longer exists. It was the first online houseplant purchase I ever made and I was both super excited and pretty darn nervous about how it would go.

Because I was a newbie to mail-order houseplants, I had no idea what to expect. Could plants survive the way mail is treated, tossed into vans and trucks, hitchhiking across the country? I had no idea, but I had to find out.

Why? Because at the time that I purchased the plant, Hoya obovata was nowhere to be found locally.

While I was very worried about how the plant would tolerate its cross-country trip, I oddly did not worry about the fact that it was pretty darn cold in Michigan in March.

Why didn’t that occur to me? I haven’t a clue. But it didn’t and I don’t recall having a single concern regarding the temperature upon arrival of the plant, which was April 9th.

Maybe it was a warm winter, or maybe I was too distracted to worry about the weather because I was busy being a new mom with a 6-month-old baby.

When the plant arrived, it looked to me like an ancient plant that had weathered a storm. The leaves were rough, not shiny. The soil was completely compacted and brick-like. It seemed very thirsty. It looked like it had been to war and back.

But I didn’t care. It was my Hoya obovata that I had been dreaming of and wishing for and I couldn’t be more proud.

I cleaned up the plant, loosened the soil, gave it a good drink, and when its leaves had plumped and relaxed from getting the water it needed, I took the first photo you see below. 🙂

HoyaObovata2019 2
Hoya obovata – April 9, 2019

Now 4 years later, my plant is huge. It grows in a roomy, 10-inch terra cotta pot and is currently forming its first buds. I’m not sure whether those buds will turn into blooms. But I am sure that It makes me incredibly happy to be able to say that I still have this plant so many years later.

The main photo of this post and the photo below is of my proud 4-year-old Hoya obovata. Keep reading to find out my care tips for this lovely hoya.

I recommend it highly for anyone interested, beginner and expert alike. It is a super resilient plant that has been through both good and bad times in my life, surviving extreme neglect and consistent love.

Besides its many wonderful traits that you can see below, its resilience is sure to make it a huge winner.

HoyaObovata2023
Hoya obovata in 2023
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Table of Contents

How to care for Hoya obovata

How much light does Hoya obovata need?

Hoya obovata likes a good amount of light, but not direct sunlight all day. A few hours of direct sun in the morning or afternoon would do fine with indirect light the rest of the day.

I have been growing Hoya obovata near a West or South facing window for the last 4 years. It has never sat directly in the South facing window where direct sun would hit all day.

I believe the leaves would likely burn or fade in color if it received that much direct sun. But it has sat right next to the West window where blinds are down, but open, diffusing the light a little.

This setup has allowed the plant to always receive an ample amount of light.

Given that I live in Michigan (northern United States) I do not worry quite as much about leaf burn anyway. But it may be something to think more about if you are somewhere closer to the equator.

Signs your plant may be receiving too much light: Brown crispy or white patches on the leaves (leaf burn), leaves that are pretty evenly fading in color from the rich dark green

Signs your plant may be getting too little light: Its potting mix is staying wet for longer than a week and/or it hasn’t grown in a very, very long time

What type of pot and potting mix does Hoya obovata prefer?

I’m starting to link pot choice and potting mix together in care guides because the truth is that your decisions regarding the pot and potting mix should often go hand-in-hand.

Pot

Hoya obovata can be grown in any kind of pot: ceramic, clay, or plastic. I will include a note about clay/terracotta pots later, but suffice it to say that I’ve been successfully growing mine in terracotta for years.

The important part about choosing a pot is that you do not want the pot to be more than an inch or two larger than the root ball. This will provide room for the plant to grow, but not so much room that the plant is swimming in more water than it can use.

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.

Potting Mix

If you choose a glazed pot or a plastic pot, these materials are better at retaining moisture. This is important to note because we want to ensure that the potting mix for Hoya obovata has aeration to provide the roots with the oxygen it needs.

Epiphytic or epilithic plants, like Hoya obovata, are used to climbing and clinging to trees or rocks in nature where their roots are exposed and receiving lots of air and pretty frequent rainfall. This means that they aren’t sitting wet for long and they aren’t sitting dry for long. So we have the hard work of trying to mimic these airy, but not super dry, conditions in our pots.

It sounds like this would be hard to achieve, but I promise you it isn’t. We just have to use a houseplant potting mix with some perlite, pumice, orchid bark, or similar added.

If you choose a terracotta pot, as I have, the mix doesn’t need to be as aerated. Yes, there should still be aerating materials, but the potting mix will dry out much more rapidly because the terracotta pot will be wicking away water from the potting mix just as the roots will be, so there is less opportunity for stagnant water.

I use about two-thirds houseplant mix to one-third aerating material and the plant seems to be very pleased.

Below is a photo of Hoya carnosa (sadly I couldn’t find a pic of H. obovata) clinging to rock in Taiwan. Amazing!

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Hoya carnosa climbing rock wall in Taiwan, Photo by: Kuan-Chieh (Chuck) Hung, iNaturalist, Source

How often does Hoya obovata need to be watered?

Hoya obovata provides clues about its watering needs. Its dark green, wide leaves are often associated in the Hoya world with needing a bit more water to really thrive. What does that actually mean or look like? That means that Hoya obovata prefers to be regularly watered and not experience periods of dryness.

How do you achieve this as your plant’s caretaker? You’ll want to monitor the moisture level of your plant and provide it a thorough watering upon drying out or nearly drying out.

You can monitor using your finger by pushing your finger as far as you can into the potting mix to ensure it is completely dry.

You can monitor by using the weight of the pot and ensuring it is light before thoroughly watering (a task that is particularly easy when using a plastic nursery pot).

You can also use any number of other methods that might work for you.

For example, I like to look at both weight, the surface of the potting mix (which changes color from dark to light as it dries), the sides of the terracotta pots (which lighten in color as they dry out)…

And sometimes I will stick my fingers up the drainage holes if I’m really questioning a plant and want to ensure I’m not overwatering. It’s a little awkward for me and the plant, but sometimes health checkups are like that. 🙂

I do not recommend waiting for the leaves to be soft. I would have recommended that years ago when I didn’t know any better. This is actually a sign of extreme dehydration and isn’t really health for your plant.

It’s similar to seeing a person, skin cracked and tongue dry, begging for water before offering them a drink. Will the person survive? Yes. Should we really wait that long before offering them a drink? No. Not if we are trying to take good care of them.

How often does Hoya obovata need to be fertilized?

Hoya obovata does well with regular fertilization using a gentle strength organic fertilizer throughout the year.

I’ve used Espoma organic fertilizers previously at half or quarter strength, with fantastic results.

I’ve recently started using Osmocote granules instead, simply because I now have a baby and a toddler who are adorable and also keep me very busy. This lack of time was preventing me from regularly fertilizing my plants, so I switched to something that required me to only do it every few months instead of every couple of weeks.

I will link both of my preferred products below. They are affiliate links to Amazon and it costs you nothing to use them. I make almost nothing if not actually nothing, but anything I do make from these links will directly support 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

Espoma Organic Indoor Plant Food

Here’s a link to Osmocote on Amazon

Osmocote Smart Release Plant Food for Indoor or Outdoor

You could also use higher-strength synthetic fertilizers, but I would definitely use a quarter strength of the recommended dose or at the very least half strength to ensure I didn’t burn my plant by accident.

Please note I fertilize year-round. I used to only fertilize during the growing season but I changed my practices after listening to a soil scientist talk about how we should actually be fertilizing year-round. Why?

It turns out that our houseplants are not actually dormant like we think they are. Yes, they aren’t producing growth above the soil level. But guess what!? They are doing tons of work below ground – and we know that to be true because super cool, nerdy soil scientists used imaging technology to discover that the plants are hard at work during the winter producing roots.

“In reality, the lack of sunlight gives the plant time to focus on roots. Remember there’s a whole other world underneath the soil. Arguably the below-ground biomass is more important than the above-ground biomass.” Should You Fertilize Your Houseplants During the Winter Months?, Gardening in Canada, Click to check out the post

Are there different varieties of Hoya obovata?

Yep! There are variegated varieties, splashier varieties, and probably some varieties I don’t know about.

I used to think I had a good handle on all the different types out there and over time have come to realize there are so many hoyas and so many plants in general that it is silly of me to think I will ever be aware of them all. 🙂

I do grow one other variety that I purchased as Hoya obovata splash, which just has more splash than my original baby. It also happens to have an inner variegated leaf on one vine, which is a lovely bonus. I will include a photo below.

I purchased this one from The Plant Farm on Etsy (link opens to Etsy shop), an amazing shop for tons of houseplants including Hoyas. The link is through the affiliate program here (there is no cost to you to use this link).

I own A LOT of houseplants from The Plant Farm because they are AWESOME and their selection is unbelievable. They are one of very few companies that I will purchase from time and time again when I’m looking for something specific.

Hoya obovata Splash
Hoya obovata Splash

Happy growing and see you soon!

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