Hoya Leaves: Common Problems and Tips

Bella hoya flowers close up
© Nick Pecker/Shutterstock.com

Written by Jennifer Hollohan

Updated: June 4, 2023

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Indoor gardeners regularly turn to hoya plants when they are looking to expand their current collection (or start one from scratch). The clusters of delicate flowers and often waxy, trailing vines make for an eye-catching addition to any home or office. However, what makes them even more attractive is their relatively easygoing nature. Most hoya plants are fairly easy to care for, which makes them an outstanding choice for beginning plant enthusiasts. But, like all plants, hoyas may experience problems that impact their appearance and overall health.

Common Problems With Hoya Leaves

One of the more common issues gardeners find with their hoyas is leaf trouble. Below we will look at some common problems with hoya leaves, including tips and tricks to keep your hoya healthy!

Yellowing Leaves

Many plants develop yellowing leaves, including hoyas. And while it feels a little distressing, finding a solution is generally straightforward. All it takes is a little detective work to determine the root cause. Factors to consider are the amount of sunlight, watering habits, and nutrition levels. 

When a hoya’s leaves start yellowing, take the initial step of changing how often you water. Most hoyas prefer to dry out completely between watering during the dormant (winter) months. Your hoya will require more water in the summer, but overwatering is a common mistake. To avoid this, stick your finger roughly two inches into the soil. It if is damp, hold off on adding more water until those top layers dry out. 

The next thing to consider is how much light your hoya receives. Hoyas require at least six hours of indirect sunlight daily. Anything less than this will result in stunted growth and may cause the leaves to begin yellowing. Consider moving your hoya into a sunnier area or adding a grow light to supplement the natural light. 

Another step is to check how frequently you are fertilizing your hoya. Add a water-soluble, well-balanced fertilizer bi-weekly during the peak growing season. 

Yellow hoya leaf

Yellow hoya leaves may indicate nutrition deficiencies, overwatering, or lack of sunlight.

©Halytskyi Olexandr/Shutterstock.com

Brown Spots on Leaves

Should your hoya develop brown spots on its leaves, it is vital to identify the root cause. Doing so will help you determine the most appropriate treatment steps. Some underlying issues that cause brown spots on leaves include pest infestations, fungal or bacterial infections, or improper watering. 

Start by checking your plant for pests. Scale insects, spider mites, and mealybugs are all attracted to hoyas. While indoor hoya plants are not as susceptible to pest infestation as outdoor plants, it is not impossible. Treat your hoya plant with neem oil or insecticidal soap if you discover pests. You can purchase both at your local garden center. 

If you do not find evidence of pests, the cause may be a fungal or bacterial infection. Removing the affected leaves and treating the plant with a fungicide or bactericide should help resolve the problem. 

In the event neither of these steps resolves the brown spots, check your watering practices and ensure your hoya is in loose, well-draining soil. 

Curling Leaves

When hoya leaves curl, it is a clear sign of some environmental stress. For example, it could be overwatering, low humidity, temperature fluctuations, or exposure to cold drafts.

Take a moment to evaluate your plant’s environment. Hoyas prefer high humidity and temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees (F). If you are concerned about the humidity levels, consider adding a humidifier or pebble tray to increase moisture levels. 

Ensure your lovely plant lives in a warm location free of cold drafts. And double check how much you are watering it. Hoyas are easy to overwater, but doing so may lead to curling leaves.

Leaf Drop

It is not uncommon for hoya plants to start dropping leaves. But thankfully, it is one of the easier issues to address. Leaf drop is an indicator of stress or nutrient deficiencies. The most common culprits behind leaf drop include overwatering, underwatering, low humidity, and lack of nutrients.

Begin evaluating your hoya’s care routine and environment. All hoyas require a minimum of six hours of bright, indirect sunlight daily. If you suspect a lack of light is stressing your plant, consider adding an artificial grow light to help supplement. 

Make sure your hoya is in loose, well-draining soil and has adequate water. During the growing season, you will want to water when the top 2 inches of soil are dry. Watering more frequently will lead to leaf drop and potentially root rot. 

If the plant does not receive enough humidity, consider placing a humidifier or pebble tray nearby to increase moisture levels. Alternatively, you could keep a fine mister bottle on hand to occasionally treat the foliage with added water.

And container plants are particularly susceptible to nutrient deficiencies. You can prevent this by fertilizing regularly. Using a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season will help keep your hoya healthy and prevent leaf drop.   

Tips for Keeping Your Hoya Plant Healthy

Paying close attention to the foliage of your hoya plant will help you spot potential trouble early on. That way, you can address the problems promptly and continue enjoying your stunning plant. However, a few additional steps will keep hoyas healthy and thriving. 

  1. Provide Adequate Light: All hoya plants require bright, indirect light in order to thrive. However, it is vital to avoid direct sunlight. Most hoya plants cannot tolerate anything more than indirect light. Direct and harsh light can scorch the plant’s leaves. Place your hoya near a window that gets at least six hours of bright, filtered sunlight. Consider adding artificial light if this is not possible in your home or office. 
  2. Use Well-Draining Soil: Hoyas are particularly susceptible to root rot. So the ideal soil for them is well-draining and rich in organic matter. Pick a quality potting mix with perlite or sand or one designed for cacti and succulents. 
  3. Water Properly: Once a hoya is happily planted in well-draining soil, it also needs the appropriate amount of water. They prefer to be slightly dry between waterings during the peak growing season. Stick your finger about 2 inches down into the soil. If it is dry, go ahead and water it. However, during the winter months, allow the soil to dry out completely in between watering.  
  4. Maintain Proper Humidity: Hoyas are tropical plants that require a humid environment. Consider placing a pebble tray or humidifier near the plant to help increase the overall moisture levels. You can also mist the leaves with water to increase humidity levels.
  5. Fertilize Regularly: Hoya plants require regular fertilization to remain healthy. Add a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season. However, avoid over-fertilizing, which may lead to leaf burn.
  6. Prune as Needed: One of the reasons hoyas are so beloved is their long, trailing vines. But those vines can easily get out of control unless pruned properly. Prune your hoya plant in the early spring using clean, sharp pruning shears to avoid harming the plant. It is also important to follow these steps to remove any dead or diseased leaves.
  7. Propagate Your Hoya Plant: While this tip won’t technically keep your hoya plant healthy, it will help you expand your hoya collection (or share it with others). Hoyas can easily get propagated using stem cuttings or layering. Propagation is best done in the spring or summer when the plant is growing. 
Hoya leaves with water droplets

Hoyas need adequate water, sunlight, and humidity to thrive.

©Iljanaresvara Studio/Shutterstock.com

Final Thoughts

Although hoyas may experience common problems such as yellowing leaves, brown spots, curling leaves, and leaf drop, it is usually easy to remedy them. Adjusting the plant’s environment and care routine will often resolve leaf problems. And the best part is that, with a little care and attention, your hoya plant can be a stunning addition to your indoor garden for many years.

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About the Author

Jennifer Hollohan is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on gardening, mammals, and travel. Jennifer has over twenty years of writing experience. She holds a Master of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, which she earned in 2005, and is a Herbalist. Jennifer lives in Colorado with her family. She loves hiking, admiring wildflowers, gardening, and making herbal tea.

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