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I inherited my Hoya, aka Waxflower or Porcelain flower, from my mother, that was ten years ago, I don't know for how long she had had it, I guess that the plant is between 30 and 40 years old. I don't know anyone else who's got such a plant, I've always seen my specimen as singular. When I browsed the net for some background information, I learned to my surprise that nobody can say how many species there are, but an estimated figure is 200 - 300. Why such a vague estimate? Many new species are still being found in Eastern Asia and Australia, and until a find has been categorised, it's not clear if it is indeed new or if it's already in the list. The plant is named after Thomas Hoym, gardener to the Duke of Northumberland at the end of the 18th century. There are a lot of Hoya fan clubs and the net is full of wonderful photos of the different species.
I've learned that I've got a Hoya carnosa, the most widespread houseplant variety. The leaves of the evergreen plant are thick and succulent, about 12 cm long and 5 cm at their widest point. Once a year in early summer umbels of star shaped, pink-white blossoms flower for about two weeks, please have a look at the piccie at the top of the site (it's life size), in contrast to the specimen you see here the blossoms of my Hoya are threefold, the outer layer is light pink, then comes a smaller, even lighter, layer with the tips between the tips of the outer layer, and in the middle is a dark small layer, its tips also between the ones of the layer underneath. One umbel has about thirty to forty blossoms, they look indeed as if made of wax or porcelain, hence the names Waxflower of Porcelain Flower.
In the evening and at night the flowers give off a sweet and sickly fragrance which is not unpleasant, the theory is that in their natural habitat Hoyas are probably pollinated by night active insects. Near the end of their lives a sticky drop appears in the blossoms which eventually falls down, do the flowers weep before they die? As our plant stands on the landing in front of the flat on the second floor, they drip onto the steps to the first floor, our staircase is made of wood, I leave the sticky spots there until the last dried up flower has fallen off.
My mother loved her Hoya and was rather unhappy that the plant obviously didn't love her back with the same intensity, it only flowered occasionally. When I researched on the net, I came across a Hoya Forum where a woman cried out to the world at large, "Why doesn't my Hoya flower?" I don't have what the Germans call 'a green thumb', but what can I say, my Hoya flowers every year. What is my secret? What do I do?
The answer is: next to nothing, in fact I rather neglect it. In the ten years after my mother's death I haven't once changed the soil or put the plant into a bigger pot, I haven't given it any fertiliser and water it irregularly. According to the Hoya specialists this is just the right treatment! Let me quote some sentences: "Hoyas are easy to grow." "These plants are rather forgiving and undemanding." "It needs well-drained, though not necessarily especially fertile soil." "The biggest reason why Hoyas do not flower is too much fertiliser." Here you've got it, I'm a natural Hoya expert!
If I don't forget it, I water the plant once a week, mostly with water, sometimes with coffee. I'm sure this needs some explanation, I've learnt this from my cousin whose living-room is a veritable jungle thanks to the coffee she feeds to all her plants. I don't drink so much coffee, but when I do, I drink filter coffee and after making a cup for myself, I fill the pot with water again instead of throwing the remains away. Plants just love this weak coffee infusion and it costs me nothing. Twice or three times a year, when I see a layer of dust on them, I spray the leaves with water. Is that all? No, we let the upper flat in front of which the Hoya stands to foreign language assistants who come to one of the secondary grammar schools in our town, and I tell them that it's part of the rent to look at the Hoya in a friendly way whenever they pass it. Once I told an Italian girl to water it, too, after many weeks I discovered that she had forgotten about it, did the Hoya mind? No, it didn't. I can't tell you anything about fighting pests because my Hoya has never been affected up to now.
Because of its twining habit, the Hoya should be supported by a trellis, my Hoya hasn't got one but it has got the railing of the staircase into which it has twined in a way that I wouldn't know how to get it out if I ever had to move. This year's flowering, weeping and dying happened at the end of June / beginning of July, now we can only watch the vines getting longer and twisting around more posts of the railing.