Wax plant's showy flower clusters produce a beautiful chocolaty fragrance.
Wax plant is a vining succulent that roots along it long, branching stems. The several cultivars of wax plant are popular indoor container plants, but in the wild, the species climbs trees and scrambles over rocks, growing continuously and reaching lengths of 20 ft (6 m) or more! The leaves are smooth, thick and fleshy, up to 3 in (8 cm) long, and paired on opposite sides along the stems. Twenty or more star shaped flowers about a half inch (15 mm) across are borne in pendulous convex clusters (umbels) two or three inches (5 or 8 cm) across. The leaves and the flowers are often described as "waxy". As is typical for members of the Asclepiadaceae (or milkweed) family, the flowers have a central corona of petal-like structures in addition to the true petals around the perimeter of the bloom (the corolla). The corona is pink or red and the corolla is usually white. The flowers are quite fragrant, especially in the evening when the delicious chocolaty scent wafts through the night air.
Perhaps the most commonly grown form of wax plant is the cultivar 'Krinkle Kurl', (aka ‘Green Curls’) which is also called Hindu rope. The leaves of Hindu rope are twisted and contorted, crowded along the stem, and folded lengthwise. 'Exotica' has leaves with pink and yellow variegations; 'Picta' has leaves with white margins; 'Latifolia' has very broad leaves and 'Compacta' has leaves crowded very close together.
Wax plant is native to southeastern China, India, and Burma, where it climbs on rocks and trees in subtropical forests.
Light: Position wax plant in bright light, with some direct sun, but not direct sun all day. Wax plant will not bloom if the light isn’t bright enough. Moisture: Wax plant likes a humid environment and should be watered freely when growing, even every day. Reduce watering in winter to just enough to keep the soil barely moist. Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 11. Hoya carnosa is a little more cold hardy than other members of the genus and can be grown outdoors in zone 9. Propagation: Wax plant is easy to propagate from stem cuttings and by layering.
A Hindu rope vine cascades from a container suspended from the wall of Steve's porch.
Hindu rope and other cultivars of wax plant are usually grown indoors in hanging containers or containers that allow the plant to climb. You can fold the stems back over the pot when they get too long. Hoya carnosa can tolerate the drying climate of a living room better than other members of the genus, and it’s less vulnerable to cold temperatures. New flower clusters are formed on the peduncles (flower stalks) of the old flower clusters, so don’t remove the dead flowers or prune off the leafless flower stems after they bloom. Instead, prune the main stem to encourage more side shoots that may produce flowers later. The flowers will always face toward the brightest light. Do not turn the plant when flower buds are forming or it may abort the blooming process.
If you like weird succulents, Hindu rope is an easy to grow house plant with long lasting flowers that smell like chocolate. There are more than 200 species of Hoya occurring in the tropics of Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands. Many make interesting house plants, but none is easier to care for than H. carnosa.