purple waffle plant

Growing and Caring for the Waffle Plant (Hemigraphis alternata)

Sharing is caring!

Would you like to diversify your houseplant collection a little bit? The wonderful waffle plant has incredible, metallic foliage with dark green and purple hues. The best part is, this plant is easy to grow, provided you follow a few basic steps. 

Read this guide to learn everything you need to know to grow and care for your very own purple waffle plant. 

The waffle plant is a tropical perennial creeping plant that stays below a foot (30cm) tall. It makes a wonderful garden plant for warm areas, but can be grown as a potted houseplant just about anywhere in the world. 

These plants do flower but are much better known for their heavily textured, crinkled foliage that is usually green above and purple below. The oppositely arranged leaves have toothed margins and measure up to about 3 inches (7.5cm) long. 

Plant Facts

Scientific nameHemigraphis alternata, Strobilanthes alternata
Common namesWaffle plant, purple waffle plant, red flame ivy, red ivy, metal leaf plant, cemetery plant  
FamilyAcanthaceae
Plant TypeHouseplant, Perennial herb
Height and Width6-9 inches tall (indoors), 12-18 inches wide (indoors)
OriginForest floor environments in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Java, and Indonesia
Flower colorsWhite
Foliage colorMetallic dark green, purple, silvery, variegated 
Sun ExposureBright indirect light, limited direct sunlight
Soil Type & pHWell-drained, slightly acidic soil
Special featuresLow maintenance, evergreen, beginners plant

How to Grow a Waffle Plant

The purple waffle plant is a relatively easy, low-maintenance plant that can be grown both indoors and out. As an evergreen container plant, they are ideal for pots and hanging containers, and can even share a large pot with a tall, upright species. Let’s take a look at the details. 

Propagation

Waffle plants are easy to propagate by cuttings. Simply take 4-6 inch (10-15cm) long cuttings from the ends of the purple stems. You should make your cut just below a node, and strip the leaves, leaving just the top two in place.  

You can set your cuttings in water, or directly in the soil. If rooting in the soil, be sure to keep your cuttings moist since waffle plants prefer high humidity and damp soil. To do this, you can cover your cuttings in clear plastic or something like a ziplock bag.

Soil

These tropical forest plants prefer rich soil, containing plenty of organic material. A standard potting soil containing organic compost will be adequate. 

Mixing in a little peat or sphagnum moss will help the soil drain freely while holding onto the right amount of moisture. These organic materials also help to keep the pH down to the slightly acidic levels this plant is most comfortable in. 

Pruning

These plants stay short and prostrate and therefore do not need to be managed for height. They will, however, spread laterally, often trailing out of their container. 

If you would like to keep the plants contained, you can prune out whole leaves from the outside of the plant, just be sure to use sharp, clean tools to limit damage to your plant and prevent introducing any disease. 

Repotting and Transplanting

You will know your waffle plant needs to be repotted when the roots start to grow out of the drainage holes, water does not drain into the soil, or the plant has been in the same container for more than a year and its growth has slowed. When the time comes to repot your waffle plant, select a container that is one size up from its current pot as this will make it easier to maintain the right soil moisture. 

These plants have relatively sensitive roots, so water the plant well the day before, and be sure to loosen the soil carefully in the container before tipping the plant. Do not pull on the plant’s stems or leaves to remove it from the pot. 

Fill the bottom of the new container with soil, set the plant onto this, and then fill in the soil around the root zone. Be sure to close up any air pockets, without compressing the soil too much. Spring is usually the best season for repotting houseplants. 

purple waffle plant

How to Care for Purple Waffle Plants 

As one of the easiest plants to take care of, waffle plants are undemanding houseplants and are easy to keep, even for beginners. Read on for more specific information on caring for your waffle plant. 

Water

These tropical forest plants need consistent access to moisture, without having their roots remain saturated. The timing will vary with the conditions in your home, pot size, and some other variables. 

Using a glazed or plastic container with drainage holes is the best option as this limits drying of the soil while allowing excess moisture to drain freely. Try to make sure the soil always feels moist to the touch at the surface level. These plants will need less water in the winter when they are not actively growing and transpiring, so adjust your watering routine accordingly.  

Sunlight

These plants will look and grow best if placed in an area with plenty of bright, indirect light. An east window is a good option. If grown outdoors, partial shade is recommended. 

They can tolerate some direct sunlight, but too much will burn the leaves. Not enough light will result in leaves that lack color. 

Temperature and Humidity

Waffle plants need a humid environment to grow at their best. In most homes, these plants will do fine, but if you live in a particularly dry climate, you will need to take steps to steam up its environment.

This can be as simple as growing the plant in a naturally humid room like the bathroom or kitchen, or you may need to invest in a humidifier. A simple and affordable technique is to set your plant’s container on a tray of stones, filled with water. 

Misting is another option, but aim to provide moisture in the mornings and allow it to dry, rather than leaving the foliage saturated overnight. Outdoors, these plants can be grown in USDA zones 10 and 11.  

Fertilizer

You can feed these plants monthly in the growing season with diluted liquid fertilizer. An application of compost, or simply growing the plant in soil containing a good proportion of organic material is generally all these plants need to thrive. 

Pest and diseases

Waffle plants are not overly sensitive to pests and disease, but they can be affected by some common problems. When it comes to pests, you should keep a lookout for scale, spider mites, and whiteflies. 

Like so many plants, this species is susceptible to root rot if overwatered, especially when grown in containers without adequate drainage. This often shows up as soft, yellowing leaves. 

Common Varieties and Cultivars

There are a few fantastic cultivars of this plant available in the horticultural trade. The most popular examples are:

  • ‘Exotica’: This form has the typical dark metallic green upper leaves with deep purple undersides. 
  • ‘Snow White’: If you like variegated plants, the pink, green and white foliage of this snow white waffle plant will earn it a spot in your collection. 
  • ‘Belgian Waffle’: This is another wonderful variegated form with hints of cream and yellow on the leaf surface. 

Conclusion

Add some diversity to the colors in your plant collection with the brilliant waffle plant. This unique species will certainly play a role in greening up your indoor environment, all while improving the air quality in your home.

*image by Akchamczuk/depositphotos

Scroll to Top