Looking for an interesting plant that’s easy to grow? The purple waffle plant (PWP) may be the perfect option for you. This tropical plant is an excellent choice for growers at any level, and the purple, crinkly leaves provide a splash of color that can liven up any space. In this article, we’re looking at purple waffle plant care tips, including water, food, lighting, humidity needs, and common pests to look out for.
These unique plants are an excellent choice that you should consider for your space – and they have a surprising amount of benefits beyond aesthetics alone. I’m totally jazzed about it, actually, so read on and check them out.
This article is going to be in-depth. If you’d prefer to navigate to a specific section, feel free to do so here
- Description and Identification
- Where To Buy
- Other Hemigraphic Genus Varieties
- Plants That Pair Well With Purple Waffle
- Care Level
- Growth Rate
- Where To Place Your Purple Waffle
- Surprising Benefits
- Why Is My Purple Waffle Plant Dying
- Is The Purple Waffle Plant Edible?
- Purple Waffle Plant Flowers
- Pests and Diseases
What Is A Purple Waffle Plant?
Also called red ivy plants, these vibrant herbaceous perennials have darker green leaves on top and a purple underside. The purple waffle plant, known as Hemigraphis alternata, is a bushier plant that works well as a hanging basket on a balcony and as a houseplant. It has a rich, purple-tinted foliage and a crinkly texture – similar to waffles. It’s native to tropical regions of India and Indonesia and produces small white flowers.
How To Identify A Hemigraphics alternata
These tropical plants are most known for their rich purple leaves, and many similar cultivars have distinct variegation. Each of these crinkly leaves also has a deep puckering, meaning its surface area is much larger than you’d assume at a glance.
Often called red ivy plant, cemetery plant, or red flame ivy, this plant grows to 6-8” tall, has long fragile stems that either take root or cascade beautifully on hanging pots.
It is most commonly used as a houseplant or hanging basket but can grow outside as ground cover in some areas, specifically zones 10 and 11. They look lovely outside next to a ficus.
Purple Waffle Plants For Sale
PWP is pretty common at a nursery or home improvement store. You can also purchase them online. I get most of my plants these days from Etsy, which you check out below. This often lets me get some steals from individual sellers as opposed to shopping at bigger brands.
Purple Waffle At A Glance
|Care Type||Care Specifics|
|Botanical Name||Hemigraphics alternata (also Strobilanthes alternata)|
|Common Name||Purple Waffle Plant, Red Ivy, Cemetery Plant, Red Flame Ivy|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennial that is often grown and an annual|
|Size||6-8" tall; 8"+ wide (wider if grown as a hanging basket)|
|Soil Type||All purpose, evenly moist soil|
|Potting||Any potting option with good drainage will work well|
|Light||Bright, indirect sun|
|Water||Water deeply but freqency depends on season - see below for details|
|Humidity||50-80% - Mist often, especially in winter months|
|Soil pH||6.1 - 6.5|
|Flowe Bloom Period||Summer|
|Placement||Patio; balcony; indoors in spaces; as a hanging basket|
|Native Area||Indonesia and India|
Purple Waffle Plant Size
As a houseplant, the purple waffle only reaches between 6-8” in height when mature. From here, the purple and greens leaves trail outward, making it a good option for hanging baskets.
Other Types Of Hemigraphis
While the purple waffle plant is likely the most recognizable Hemigraphis, it is far from the only one. Hemigraphis is a plant genus in the Acanthaceae family that includes over 40 species native to tropical Asia. Plants in the genus Hemigraphis are related to those in the genus Strobilanthes. Here are some of the other types of plants inside the Hemigraphis genus – although many of these will be difficult to find at a local nursery or garden center:
- Hemigraphis baracatanense
- Hemigraphis blumeana
- Hemigraphis ciliata
- Hemigraphis cumingiana
- Hemigraphis fruticulosa
- Hemigraphis hirsutissima
- Hemigraphis klossii
- Hemigraphis latebrosa
- Hemigraphis longipetiolata
- Hemigraphis mediocris
- Hemigraphis pachyphylla
- Hemigraphis alternata
Plants That Pair Well With Purple Waffle
Since Hemigraphis alternata is a low-maintenance plant, you don’t need to worry much about what plants neighbor it, assuming they can thrive in similar light and water conditions. Because of this, we like to offer suggestions that pair well with the PWP from an aesthetic perspective.
Here are some of our favorites:
No green (or uh, purple) thumb is required for the purple waffle. This is a low-maintenance plant that will tell you when it’s thirsty. Seriously, the leaves go comically limp when it needs to be watered – this doesn’t hurt the plant, assuming you water the plant promptly.
With some basic soil, fertilizer, and bright, indirect light, a healthy Hemigraphis alternata is almost always in reach.
How Often Do You Water A Purple Waffle Plant?
Purple waffles are water-loving plants that need relatively moist soil throughout the year. During the summertime, water your plant when the soil’s surface is dry about ¼ inch. Water deeply until it drains out the hole in the bottom of the pot. Be sure to toss out the water collection tray to fend off root rot.
In the winter, you won’t need to water as much. Water your plants deeply but less frequently.
A PWP droops when it gets thirsty, so you can use this as a sign that you need to water it more.
These plants can be found in bog-like, wet conditions in their tropical home, so you want to emulate that inside your home.
According to ASPCA, the purple waffle is non-toxic to dogs, cats, horses, and humans. Unlike many mildly toxic houseplants, such as Monstera deliciosa, there is nothing in Hemigraphis alternata that could is harmful.
Non-toxic plants are an excellent option for pet lovers and parents with small children. And if you’re looking for info on how to keep your cats out of plants, we’ve got you.
Propagate: 5 Steps
Propagating a purple waffle is easy – like, it’s so easy that a child could do it for a science experiment. Here’s a video if you’re a visual learner, but we’re adding the steps below too.
You can propagate a purple waffle plant in 5 easy steps.
- Identify a stem that’s 4-6 inches long
- Using scissors, cut the stem above the stem nodes
- Place the stem cuttings in filtered water – leave for 1-2 months until roots are present
- Place your cutting in indirect light
- Refill the water regularly and transplant the new growth cutting to soil when roots develop
Once you have a basic root system on your cutting – a couple of inches of roots or so – plant your cutting in a couple of inches of soil. Water deeply. It may be limp at first as it adjusts to life in the soil. This is normal, and it should perk up within a few days.
If you’re looking for ways to expand your gardening square footage, start with the iHarvest, which is a hydroponic system that can grow up to $1,000 worth of greens and veggies a year in a small space.
This tropical plant has adjusted well to indoor living and can thrive in most potting options. Ceramic pots, clay pots, and really any general nursery pot will work well for Hemigrahis alternata. As long as it has a drainage hole in the bottom of the pot, it will work well.
You shouldn’t need to repot your purple waffle until you see roots pushing through the drainage hole. When this happens, carefully remove the plant from the pot. The delicate stem of the red ivy is fragile and can damage easily.
Once you remove the plant, use a trowel to break up the roots if they’ve formed a root ball – they probably have. Don’t worry; gently cutting and breaking some of the roots near the bottom of the soil won’t hurt the plant.
From here, replant your purple waffle plant into a new pot. You can go up a size to a larger pot if you’d like, or you can cut the roots, so they are more manageable in your existing pot. Whatever you choose, PWP makes an excellent container plant.
You’ll want to aim for a slightly acidic to neutral pH, somewhere between 6.1 and 6.5. Most gardening potting mixes will already be at this point, so you shouldn’t need to worry too much.
If you are seeing some trouble with your plants and are doing some troubleshooting, you could do a pH test on the soil to see if this is the culprit.
In terms of extremes, you want to stay above 5.7 and below 7 for this plant. This is a pretty massive range, further highlighting how accommodating the PWP can be.
Interesting in learning more about pH? Start with our 27 Things you Must Know About The pH Level Of Soil article.
A standard commercial potting soil or potting mix is fine for purple waffle plants. In a perfect state, this plant wants soil with a lot of organic material that’s humus-rich. Try to avoid hard clays too.
That said, as long as the soil drains well, it should work for this low-maintenance plant.
Here are some excellent options for soil or potting mix:
This easy houseplant prefers bright indirect light for approximately six hours a day. Too much light and its leaves may start to lose their rich purple color. If you don’t have enough light, its stems will thin, and its leaves may droop.
Avoid putting your Hemigraphics alternata in direct sunlight, as this could severely damage or even kill it.
If you’re worried your red ivy or other house plants aren’t getting enough light, you may need to move it closer to a window or consider using artificial lights. Here are some basic options for you to consider.
If you’re using a grow light, it’s vital that you don’t put this tropical plant directly underneath it, as that’s too much light for it to handle. Even having it slightly to the side of the grow light will help you better mimic the bright indirect light that red ivy needs.
Do Purple Waffle Plants Like Humidity?
Hemigraphis alternata or purple waffle plant is a tropical perennial that prefers moderate to high humidity – often between 50-70%.
Many homes fall in the lower end of the range already, but if you’re concerned about your humidity or if you see brown edges on your plants, consider these options for increasing humidity.
- Group your houseplants to create a more humid microclimate through transpiration.
- Mist your plants – purple waffle plants love this!
- Use a humidifier
- Place your pots on a tray with an inch of pebbles and water. This is called a pebble tray and is often associated with bonsai tree humidity.
During this plant’s growing season – the spring and summer – fertilize your purple waffle once a month using a basic indoor slow-release granular fertilizer. Slow-release fertilizers allow your plant to access the nutrients when they need them.
Dilute the fertilizer to half strength for a healthy plant
In the fall and winter, when plant development naturally slows, there is no need to use as much fertilizer – if any at all.
Your purple waffle plant prefers warmer temperatures but can grow well in a range between 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. That said, they prefer a consistent temperature, so keep them away from vents and doors that could let in cold air.
The temperature needs often work in tandem with humidity requirements. Be sure to review the section on humidity, as well.
The growth rate of a Hemigraphics alternata is medium to slow. At about 8” tall, it stops growing upwards and begins growing outward, becoming bushier as it matures.
Where to Place
These tropical plants are incredibly versatile and, in many situations, can live either outside or inside. As an inside plant, they do well in areas that get bright indirect light – perhaps in a dining room or living room a few feet away from windows.
When growing PWPs as houseplants, consider keeping them away from windows or doors, especially if you live in a place with seasons or extreme weather. A purple waffle plant can handle a lot, but it doesn’t like to change once it’s comfortable.
If you’re putting this plant outside, consider growing it in a large pot on a patio or in a hanging basket. If you go with the latter, it allows the stems to cascade beautifully downward. It also reveals the tiny white flowers better, which can be hard to see in a regular pot.
Benefits Of Purple Waffle Plants
The purple waffle plant is not just a pretty option for your home. It also has some real benefits for you and your space.
In a 2009 study by the University of Georgia, 28 different indoor houseplants were tested on their ability to remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Of the ornamental houseplants studied, they highlighted three as being some of the best for removing VOCs like benzene toluene, octane, alpha-pinene, and TCE.
Those three plants were the purple waffle plant, English ivy, and a variegated wax plant.
In other words, Hemigraphis alternata has been shown to remove toxins from the air.
Stanley Kays, UGA horticulture researcher and one of the study’s authors, said that “simply introducing common ornamentals into indoor spaces has the potential to improve the quality of indoor air significantly, but further research could help scientists refine the concept.”
Hemigraphis alternata Medicinal Uses
While documented studies of Hemigraphis alternata’s medical uses are limited, it’s a common folk medicine used to stop bleeding in wounds, heal hemorrhoids, and is even said to alleviate certain skin irritations. Some also say that it can be a cure for gallstones.
In a review of the pharmacological effects of Hemigraphis alternata, several potentially medicinal attributes were discovered in the leaves and roots. There may be many future opportunities to use this plant for health and treatment.
Is The Purple Waffle Plant Edible?
The tropical plant is non-toxic, meaning it doesn’t include any of the harmful oxalates, goitrogens, or tannins found in many common houseplants. While there’s not much information on this plant being eaten for nutritional purposes, there are instances in Asian folk medicine where the PWP is ingested to treat a wide variety of ailments.
Why Is My Purple Waffle Plant Dying?
While the purple waffle is hard to kill, it’s certainly still possible. Here are some ways to troubleshoots why your plant is dying.
Leaf drooping and yellowing: This can be a sign of mealybugs or downy mildew, known for attacking the PWP. Overwatering and overfertilizing can also cause these issues.
Overwatering could also lead to root rot, which will kill your PWP. Make sure you remove the water tray beneath your pot after watering. If you leave it, your roots may begin to rot.
Leaf drooping: If your plant is just drooping, have no fear. This is your plant’s way of telling you it needs a drink. The PWP is very expressive and lets you know it’s thirsty.
Brown Tips: If you see the tips of your waffle plant turn brown, this could be a sign that your plant is getting too much sunlight – or a sign that your home lacks proper humidity.
Chewed-up leaf edges: This is one of the rare houseplants that isn’t even a little bit toxic to cats or dogs. If your pets are anything like mine, they may try to make a snack out of your PWP.
If this is the case for you, check out our article on how to keep cats out of plants.
Purple Waffle Plants – Aquarium Care
The PWP enjoys moist and humid temperatures. It’s commonly sold as an aquatic plant – along with its cultivar cousin Hemigraphis exotica – for aquariums. In truth, it’s not a true aquatic plant, but like a wide variety of plants that don’t rot immediately in water (aluminum plant, lucky bamboo, etc.), it regularly gets mislabeled.
While you still could have some luck with PWP in an aquarium, they work much better in terrariums.
Purple Waffle Plant Flowers
The PWP produces beautiful and delicate flowers during the summer (sometimes!). They are tubular and bright white. They’re easier to show off in a hanging basket than as a houseplant, as the leaves in a pot tend to cover them partially.
Common Pests, Diseases, And Problems
As a whole, the PWP is a disease and pest-resistant plant. But there are times when you need to treat garden problems, especially mealybugs and downy mildew.
Downy mildew is a fungal infection that is most frequent in greenhouse-grown plants, but it can also be a problem for houseplant lovers.
Downy mildew thrives in cold, wet environments. Since your PWP should usually be moist, it can be a breeding ground for this infection.
Once downy mildew is present, it spreads quickly and can kill many plants. You’ll need to quarantine any plants that are experiencing this infection.
What Does Downy Mildew Look Like?
Symptoms of downy mildew include discolored leaves that turn yellow or become mottled, slowed growth, and the absence of flowers. When downy mildew is left untreated, it makes diseased plants more susceptible to other issues, making infected plants weaker – often to the point of death.
How To Prevent Downy Mildew
Overwatering is the leading cause of this infection. It’s much easier to prevent a wet condition than to treat a case of downy mildew. Only water your plants as much as they need it, don’t water their leaves (just the soil and roots), provide good air circulation, and provide sufficient drainage.
Also, get rid of any leaves or other plant debris that fall onto the soil. This is a breeding ground for downy mildew.
How To Treat Downy Mildew
While in severe cases of this infection, it’s better to toss the infected plants to keep them from infecting others, most can be brought back from the brink with a fungicide.
Since we’re already talking about the joys of mildew, let’s also discuss powdery mildew. This common fungus can affect your PWP and appears as powdery white spots on the infected leaves. As the fungus spreads, the plant becomes more susceptible and damaged.
Powdery mildew usually thrives in warmer, dryer climates, but it does like humidity. While your PWP shouldn’t be as susceptible to powdery mildew, it’s still a danger if you’re overdoing it on misting or with the humidifier.
Again, prevention is your best bet. Good air circulation – like a fan or air purifier – can do wonders for preventing this fungus.
Treating Powdery Mildew
In most cases, you can remove the infected part of the plant, increase airflow, and ensure your PWP isn’t flooding in humidity.
In serious cases, you’ll need to consider a fungicide before the disease spreads. In terms of diseases of purple waffle plants, powdery mildew probably isn’t the worst or most common. But, left untreated, it could severely damage the plant.
The PWP may attract whiteflies, which are gnat-like creatures that feed on the sap of your plants. They are super annoying. They also lay eggs o the tops of leaves, and larvae hatch out and start chomping on the underside of your leaves.
An insecticide can be a good option for whiteflies. You can either buy one online, or you can make one with the following recipe.
Homemade Whiteflies Recipe
- Five drops of dish soap – make sure it doesn’t have any bleach in it!
- 1 cup vegetable or olive oil
- Mix ingredients in a cup to get your base
- Add 1.5 tsp of solution per cup of water, shake well, and then add to your spray bottle.
- Make sure you spray under the leaves of the infected plants.
Scale insects may resemble lumps on a plant’s stems or branches rather than insects. The little bugs, which come in colors of green, gray, brown, and black, usually stay in place once they’ve latched on to a plant.
Light Infestation Care
If your infestation isn’t too severe – on a single plant or part of a single plant – you can use a teaspoon of neem oil in water to help keep new scale insects from attacking your lovely PWP.
While not everything can be killed with neem oil or horticultural oils, it will absolutely do some damage. Other options include introducing scale insect predators, like the fearsome ladybug.
Larger Infestation Care
If you have a more significant infestation, it becomes more about saving the many than the few. You don’t want a single plant to become patient zero for an outbreak in your indoor garden. Start by using an insecticide. But it’s not cutting it, your PWP may need to take one for the team. Removing the plant from the space until the infestation is under control may be the best option.
If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of the purple waffle plant. First and foremost, it’s easy to care for (we have a new baby, so that’s a massive plus). It also cleans my air and provides a beautiful splash of color in my space. Its crinkly purple/silver/green leaves may look a little alien, but we love it in our space.
And did we say how easy it is to care for? It basically tells you when it’s thirsty! How about that?
Do you love the PWP as much as I do? I’d love to see how yours is growing!
Please send pictures to email@example.com, and we may include them in this article!