Hemigraphis Alternata ‘Purple Waffle’ Care Guide (2022)

purple waffle plant

The purple waffle plant, or Hemigraphis alternata, is a great plant to use indoors as a potted plant or outdoors as ground cover.

Its distinctive foliage makes it stand out from the crowd, despite its diminutive stature.

Although it’s a tropical native, it’s become quite popular not just as a houseplant but as an annual bedding plant in temperate zones.

Scientific NameHemigraphis alternata
Common NamePurple waffle plant, Red Flame Ivy, Metal Leaf Plant
LightBright indirect light
WateringWater if the top ¼ inch of soil is dry
Temperature55° to 75°F (13 to 24°C)
Hardiness Zone10 to 11
Humidity50 to 70%
Soil TypeRich, loamy
Soil pH6.1 to 6.9 (mildly acidic to neutral)
FertilizingOnce a month in spring and summer
RepottingEvery 4 to 5 years
PruningBeginning of the growing season
PropagationRoot in water or soil
ToxicityNot toxic to humans and pets
Mature Size6 to 9 inches as a houseplant
Bloom TimeSummer

What’s Unique About Purple Waffle Plant?

The purple waffle plant is native to the Maluku Islands of Indonesia, where it evolved in the tropical rainforests, growing on the forest floor.

Purple waffle plants are grown for their unique green and purple foliage with the deep indentations that have given it its common name.

Growing purple waffle plant is easy as long as you can deliver on its need for heat and humidity.

Its small size and trailing habit lets you use it indoors or outside as an accent plant or ground cover.

Even better, it’s not toxic to humans or animals, and it filters chemicals out of the air!

Purple Waffle Plant Care

In the Maluku Islands where it originates, Hemigraphis alternata developed in a hot, humid environment in the dappled shade of the tree canopy.

Tailor your purple waffle plant care to achieve that in your own home as much as possible.

For good Hemigraphis alternata care, keep your tropical beauty as warm and moist as possible, while keeping it out of the full sun.

Light 

The original home of the Hemigraphis alternata, the Maluku Islands, lies right on the equator, so the sun is extremely hot and intense.

However, it does not fall directly on this forest floor plant, as the tree canopy filters the hot rays.

As a result, purple waffle plant light requirements are for bright but indirect light, or between 10,000 to 20,000 lux.

Hemigraphis alternata light needs can be easily accommodated by setting its pot in an east or north-facing window, or several feet away in a south or west exposure.

Full sun should be avoided, as it will damage the leaves and dull their metallic good looks.

Watering 

Even in its driest season, the rainforest home of Hemigraphis alternata gets at least some rain on most days, and in June, the daily average is more than half an inch. 

You should water Hemigraphis alternata whenever the top ¼ inch of the soil has dried out.

However, your purple waffle plant watering should never result in the soil being saturated. 

A great way to ensure that your Hemigraphis alternata’s watering needs are met is to set up a watering system.

Set a jar full of water higher than the pot, and run a soft cotton cord from the jar and bury it in the soil.

This will continually wick just enough moisture into the soil.

Temperature 

Daytime highs in the Maluku Islands are usually above 85°F (30°C), and even at night the average is just below 77°F (°C).

Luckily, an acceptable purple waffle plant temperature range is wider than that, as it has been found to grow well between 55° to 80°F (13 to 27°C).

That being said, the higher the temperature for Hemigraphis alternata, the more lush growth you can expect.

Also be aware that it has little temperature tolerance below 50°F (10°C), and no frost hardiness at all. 

If you are growing it outside in temperate zones, treat it as a tender annual or bring it in before it gets too cold.

Humidity 

In the equatorial rainforests of Maluku, it is humid. In fact, the relative humidity never drops below 80%.

Your purple waffle plant humidity requirements are not quite that high in your home, but still, the ideal humidity for Hemigraphis alternata is between 50 to 70%.

To achieve that humidity level for your Hemigraphis alternata, you have a few options.

You can simply spray the foliage with a fine mist of water once a day. Use distilled water to avoid a buildup of minerals and salts on the leaves.

Another way to raise the humidity level is to set your Hemigraphis alternata pot on a pebble tray filled with water.

Grouping together all your plants will create its own microclimate with increased humidity, which you can augment with a small humidifier.

Soil 

On the rainforest floor, Hemigraphis alternata grows in a spongy soil with lots of organic matter, so you will need something similar for your purple waffle plant soil.

It has to be able to retain moisture without ever being saturated. 

Aim for a pH level for Hemigraphis alternata of 6.1 to 6.9, or mildly acidic to neutral.

You don’t have to get too fancy when choosing a soil for Hemigraphis alternata; most quality indoor potting soils will work well as a soil mix.

If you like, you can mix in some extra peat moss just to improve the drainage.

Fertilizer 

Hemigraphis alternata is used to growing in a nutrient-rich soil, full of decomposing plant matter, so it will always appreciate some extra nutrients, but not too much.

A fertilizer ratio of 6-12-6 is ideal for your Hemigraphis alternata.

The easiest way to add fertilizer for Hemigraphis alternata is simply by adding some well-rotted compost to the soil mix, or in a layer on top of the soil.

Otherwise, you can use a liquid indoor plant solution for your purple waffle plant fertilizer. Dilute it to half the recommended strength and pour it evenly over the soil surface right after you’ve watered.

Only use fertilizers in spring and summer; it will harm the plant if you continue into Hemigraphis alternata’s dormant period in winter.

Potting & Repotting 

Because it grows slowly and never gets very big, you will not have to worry about purple waffle plant repotting very often. Most plants will grow happily in their current pot for 4 to 5 years.

However, when you see roots starting to snake out of the drainage holes, it’s a sign that it’s time for repotting Hemigraphis alternata.

Only move up one pot size, as too much extra soil space can actually set your Hemigraphis alternata’s growth back.

Be very careful when removing the purple waffle plant from its old pot, as the stems break easily. Use a dull knife to pry out the root ball rather than pulling on the plant.

Always use fresh potting soil when you repot your Hemigraphis alternata.

Pruning 

You should do any purple waffle plant pruning in spring or summer, during its growing season.

The most basic reason for cutting Hemigraphis alternata is to remove any dead or damaged leaves and stems.

Not only do they look bad, but they also can be insect or disease vectors. Discard them in the garbage.

The other reason to trim your Hemigraphis alternata is to encourage bushy growth if the trailing stems are getting a little gangly.

Simply snip off the excess length with sharp, sterilized scissors. Cut right next to a node, and new growth will branch out from that point.

Propagation 

Hemigraphis alternata has been declared an invasive species on many tropical islands, including Hawaii and the Dominican Republic.

Obviously, it’s easy to propagate.

The easiest method of purple waffle plant propagation is to divide the plant when you are repotting it. Use a sharp knife to split the root ball.

Another easy way to propagate Hemigraphis alternata is to pin down a stem with a node so that it is nestled into the soil. It will grow its own roots and you can cut the stem and carefully dig out the new baby plant.

Finally, you can go with the stem cutting method. Cut a 5 inch stem tip just below a node, and put the cuttings in a jar of water until roots form.

Common Problems of Purple Waffle Plant

Hemigraphis alternata is pretty low-maintenance, but you may encounter a few purple waffle plant problems.

Most problems with Hemigraphis alternata can be prevented by giving it the best possible growing conditions.

However, if you start to notice that the leaves aren’t looking their best, it’s time to investigate the cause and find solutions.

Pests 

The best way to deal with purple waffle plant pests is by not letting them get established in the first place. 

If you spray your Hemigraphis alternata once a month with an insecticidal soap or neem oil solution, bugs won’t have the opportunity to move in.

Scale insects may look like brown bumps on the leaves or stems, but they’re actually sucking the precious sap from your Hemigraphis alternata. Scrape them off gently.

Mealybugs can be found on the underside of the leaves, looking like bits of cotton fluff. A cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol can be used to wipe them off.

Whiteflies are tiny flies that can quickly grow into large populations. You can vacuum them up, or rinse off the entire plant in the sink to get rid of them.

Diseases 

Most purple waffle plant diseases won’t have a chance to take hold if you are careful with your cultivation practices.

Hemigraphis alternata loves moist soil and humid air, but too much water can open the door to serious fungal and bacterial diseases.

Root rot is the most common threat. You cannot let the soil be saturated with water.

If leaves turn yellow and stems get soft, carefully remove the plant from its pot. If the roots are starting to turn black, you’ve got a case of root rot.

Cut off all rotting parts and replant your Hemigraphis alternata in fresh soil in a disinfected pot.

Growing Problems 

Not all growing problems are caused by diseases or insects. Others are simply the result of poor growing conditions. 

Once you’ve tweaked your Hemigraphis alternata’s location, your sick plant should bounce back.

Leggy growth and white spots on leaves probably mean that you’re overfertilizing your purple waffle plant. 

Flush the soil by running water through the pot for 10 minutes, and reduce the strength and frequency of fertilizer in future.

Brown tips may indicate that your Hemigraphis alternata is getting too much sunlight or not enough humidity. 

If all you have is a sunny exposure, hang a curtain to shade your purple waffle plant, and consider investing in a small humidifier.

Toxicity of Purple Waffle Plant

Hemigraphis alternata is not toxic to humans or animals. 

Whether you grow it indoors as a potted plant, or outdoors as an annual bedding plant, you will not have to worry about toxicity.

However, even non-toxic plants should be off-limits from both children and pets, for both the plants’ sake, and theirs.

For Humans 

Hemigraphis alternata is not at all toxic to humans, so you can work with the plant without any concerns about toxic sap causing health issues.

However, children should be discouraged from handling your purple waffle plant for a few good reasons.

Firstly, if you are using insecticides and fertilizers on your Hemigraphis alternata, they can pose a risk to children if ingested, even if they’re organic.

Secondly, young children can’t distinguish between which houseplants are safe and which aren’t.

Finally, you don’t want your Hemigraphis alternata damaged by your child.

It’s best to simply say that all plants should be left alone.

For Pets 

You won’t have to worry about rushing your precious pets to the veterinarian if they get into your Hemigraphis alternata.

However, you may still be in for an unpleasant few hours if your cat or dog does start nibbling at the leaves.

Both canines and felines are carnivores, and their digestive systems simply can’t handle much in the way of plant material. 

The result can be a bout of vomiting and diarrhea.

Obviously, you also don’t want your Hemigraphis alternata to be eaten up. 

Luckily, you can easily tuck your purple waffle plant onto a high shelf or plant it in a hanging basket and let the long stems trail down.

Purple Waffle Plant Appearance

Even if you like the classic purple waffle plant appearance, there are a few different cultivars out there to choose from.

The belgian waffle plant has creamy white margins to its green leaves, while the snow white waffle plant has an overall pattern of white and pink over the green.

Foliage 

The foliage of purple waffle plant provides lots of visual excitement in a small package. 

A Hemigraphis alternata leaf grows to a length of 3 to 6 inches long, in an ovate shape with serrated edges. They are deeply puckered and have a glossy surface.

The top of the leaves are a deep green, and the undersides are an intense purple. The purple shade creeps onto the top of the leaves at the tip.

The leaves have a metallic look, making them particularly vibrant wherever they are used.

The leaves are long-lasting and should be wiped down periodically to keep them clean and glossy.

Flowering 

Whether you are growing your purple waffle plant indoors or outside, it’s a good bet that you will see your Hemigraphis alternata flower.

Flowering is more likely indoors when you keep your Hemigraphis alternata in the brightest spot short of direct sun, with consistently high heat and humidity.

Purple waffle plant flowering occurs in summer. When it’s blooming, you will see tiny white tubular flowers peeking out from amongst the foliage.

They are almost completely white, with thin streaks of purple in the throat.

While the flowers themselves are insignificant, the bright white blooms stand out in stark contrast to the deep, metallic leaves that surround them.

Size and Growth 

Hemigraphis alternata is a small plant that makes a big impact.

The full size of purple waffle plant is 6 to 9  inches tall, with trailing stems a few feet long. It has a spread of 12 to 18 inches.

Purple waffle plants have a slow growth rate.

Outside of its native islands in Maluku, Hemigraphis alternata has a reputation as an invasive species in tropical zones. Growing it as a groundcover in these regions can be a risky undertaking.

However, it’s also used as an annual bedding plant in temperate zones, and there’s no danger of it spreading too far before winter temperatures kill it off.

Purple Waffle Plant Fragrance 

There is no purple waffle plant fragrance. The bright white flowers that sometimes appear in summer have no scent, and the evergreen foliage has no fragrance.

However, Hemigraphis alternata is a powerhouse when it comes to clearing the air.

It is one of the top 5 plants identified by NASA as effective at filtering out benzene, toluene, octane, alpha-pinene, and trichloroethylene from indoor air.

Part of the reason for that is the waffled surface of the leaves, which adds lots of extra surface area to breathe in the chemical-laden air.

As well, fragrance-free plants are often a better choice in public settings where people with fragrance sensitivities might be exposed.

Suggested Uses for Purple Waffle Plant

The purple waffle plant is a versatile plant for using indoors.

Because it doesn’t get much taller than 8 inches tall, with a few feet of trailing stems, Hemigraphis alternata can fit into almost any space.

In a small studio apartment, you could line up a few hanging planters filled with purple waffle plant to create a living screen for a bedroom nook or office corner.

Hemigraphis alternata is a natural choice for a bathroom, where it will love the extra humidity.

In a temperate climate, feel free to use purple waffle plants as an annual bedding plant.

However, in tropical zones it can become an invasive ground cover, so be more careful where you plant it.

FAQ

What is purple waffle plant? 

The purple waffle plant is an evergreen tropical perennial native to the Indonesian islands of Maluku, where it grows as a spreading ground cover in the rainforests. 

How to identify purple waffle plant? 

The purple waffle plant is a low-growing plant with leaves in shades of metallic green and purple. They are deeply indented and grow to from 3 to 6 inches long.

How to care for purple waffle plant? 

The purple waffle plant needs to be grown in consistently moist, rich soil in bright but indirect light or  partial shade and in a warm and humid environment.

How to grow purple waffle plant indoors? 

The purple waffle plant can be grown in a spot with bright light out of the full sun, in soil that drains well but always stays slightly moist.

How to grow purple waffle plant outdoors? 

The purple waffle plant can be grown as an annual bedding plant in temperate zones. In tropical climates care must be taken to prevent it from becoming invasive.

How fast does purple waffle plant grow? 

The purple waffle plant has a moderately slow growth rate when grown indoors as a potted plant. It does not need repotting frequently as a result.

How tall does purple waffle plant grow? 

The purple waffle plant will only reach a full height of 6 to 9 inches, with a spread of 12 to 18 inches, and trailing stems a few feet in length.

How to make purple waffle plant grow faster? 

The purple waffle plant will grow the fastest when it is kept in bright light but not the full sun, watered and fertilized lightly but regularly, and kept warm and humid.

How to stake purple waffle plant? 

The purple waffle plant does not need to be staked. Rather, it can be planted in a hanging basket or set on a high shelf to allow its stems to trail downward.

How to pot purple waffle plant? 

The purple waffle plant needs to be planted in soil that holds a moderate amount of moisture but drains well. Use a pot with good drainage holes.

How to revive purple waffle plant? 

The purple waffle plant soil needs to be kept moist at all times, but if the leaves have become limp from lack of water, soak the pot until the soil is saturated.

Why is my purple waffle plant dying? 

Your purple waffle plant may have root rot, a common disease of houseplants caused by overwatering. You need to remove all affected parts and replant it in fresh soil.

Why is my purple waffle plant drooping? 

Your purple waffle plant may have too dry or too wet soil. Either water it well or replant it in new soil to get it off to a fresh start.

How cold can purple waffle plant tolerate? 

The purple waffle plant will not grow properly below 50°F (10°C), and frost will kill it. While you can grow it as an annual bedding plant, it will not survive fall frosts.

How to get rid of pests on purple waffle plant? 

The purple waffle plant can be protected from insects by spraying or wiping the leaves once a month with insecticidal soap or neem oil mixture.

Is purple waffle plant toxic to cats? 

No, the purple waffle plant is not toxic to cats. However, because cats are carnivores they have trouble digesting plant material, and may have vomiting and diarrhea if they eat too much. 

Is purple waffle plant toxic to dogs? 

No, the purple waffle plant is not toxic to dogs. However, canine digestive systems are not equipped to deal with vegetative matter, and this can cause stomach upsets.

Is purple waffle plant toxic to children? 

No, the purple waffle plant is not toxic to children. However, any chemicals that you have used on your houseplants can be toxic, so keep kids away.

Is purple waffle plant toxic to humans? 

No, the purple waffle plant is not toxic to humans. You can undertake all routine maintenance tasks including pruning and repotting without taking any precautions.

Does purple waffle plant have a scent? 

The purple waffle plant foliage and flowers are both fragrance-free, so you can use it around people with fragrance sensitivities or in settings open to the public,

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