My “Wax Plant”

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For as long as I can remember (because it had been there long before I was born) my Grandma had a viney plant in the kitchen window of her and Grandpa’s house. I later came to know this as the wax plant, and I am now its custodian.

The actual name of this plant is Hoya Carnosa (commonly known to many as a wax plant), and ours is a Variegata variety. This plant is a part of the milkweed family.

My happy (not so) little plant came home with me in 2019 because my grandma had been moved to a nursing home and wasn’t going back home. We cleaned out the house and were preparing for a living estate sale when I came to know more about the history of this particular 67-year-old plant (which happened to be the only houseplant that remained alive after being mostly neglected for eighteen months).

My grandma’s wax plant was the result of a cutting from her German grandmother – Grosmama’s original plant. The plant currently hanging in my kitchen window was from my great-great-grandmother’s plant. The original plant was from around 1900. My grandma had always loved seeing the original in Grosmama’s kitchen window and was given a cutting as a gift when she married my grandpa. The cutting flourished in the window of Grandma and Grandpa’s farmhouse kitchen window for 60 years.

As I mentioned when my grandma went to the nursing home the plant was largely left neglected. It was in a hot and stuffy house and only watered once a month (if that) when someone was able to make the trip to check on the property. When I brought it home it was pretty sad looking, but still alive. I put it in my kitchen window and hung it up with small ribbons looped over thumbtacks placed over the trim.

After some research I discovered that the Hoya Carnosa prefers dry feet, so I water it once a week with about ¾ cup of water. I also read about how to fertilize it…I now feed it liquid worm castings on the last Saturday of each month.

It has come a long way since coming home; from dropping brown and dried leaves to adding length and blooming recently! I have no recollection of having ever seen it bloom before, however both my mom and dad have previously seen it bloom.
It makes sense that I would not have seen its blooms before because based on the blooms last week they don’t last very long. Also, my grandparents lived five hours away and we generally only visited for a weekend once a month when I was a kid.

Here are some more interesting facts I learned about the Hoya Carnosa plant while doing my research:

  • It is quite common for these particular plants to be passed from generation to generation. (Just like mine!)
  • They prefer cramped growing conditions, so don’t upsize their containers very often.
  • They rarely bloom indoors – which makes my latest/first bloom sighting even more exciting.
  • When they bloom their bloom clusters have a star shape in a star shape. The blooms may form sticky nectar in the center of blooms (mine did not this time but my parents both recall the drop of “wax” in the center of the blooms). Also, the wax plant blooms best when slightly root bound.
  • The Hoya Carnosa is native to southern India. 
  • It needs bright but indirect light. In direct light their leaves will burn. They prefer north facing windows (in my house that isn’t an option because I have no windows on the north side of my house).
  • They are a climbing vine, so some cup hooks or ribbons with thumbtacks help support it as it climbs around your window frame.
  • This is a fairly fast-growing plant. It can grow from a cutting to a mature plant in 2 years.

Tell me, do you have a “wax plant”? Did your grandma?

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