If you’re curious how hoya retusa care differs from other hoyas, I have good news! Although the retusa is harder to find than many other hoya varieties, it isn’t harder to keep happy.
Learn about hoya retusa care & propagation
Hoya retusa…much like the prayer plant, it’s a plant that I have been back and forth on for a long time. Do I love it? Do I hate it? Sometimes I think I love it. It reminds me a lot of the rhipsalis trailing cactus, specifically my rhipsalis campos-portoana. A trailing mess of sticks.
But then sometimes I think I hate it because…it looks like a trailing mess of sticks. I know it doesn’t really make sense, but welcome to my brain. Anyway…I’m giving it a chance because I am a SUCKER for a plant rehab. And I do love hoyas.
My friend found a rehab on clearance at a local nursery for a crazy-low price of $10 and asked me if I wanted it. Well, sure. Why not. And I’ll tell you what—it’s growing on me! See the cleaned-up, rebounding baby here.
Hoya retusa background
So let’s talk about the hoya retusa. Hoya is the genus, and retusa is the species. Hoya plants are native quite a few countries in Asia, and they are known for their gorgeous wax-like flowers. There are loads of different types of hoyas, and hoya retusa is a semi-rare species.
I say semi-rare because I’ve never seen it in a big box store and only occasionally see it in local nurseries around here. When I do see it in nurseries, it’s usually a small pot. And it’s pricey! (Well, except the aphid-ridden yucky one my friend scored.)
Hoya retusa is an epiphyte, which is a type of plant that grows on the surface of another plant, deriving its moisture and nutrients from the air. However, the retusa also has a root system (albeit somewhat shallow, I’d say) and gets nutrients that way too.
Its leaves are like sticks, really thin with a slightly wider, flat tip. They kind of grow like spider plant babies in little clumps down long stems. Lots of stems and clumps make them look gorgeous and full!
How much light does a hoya retusa need?
Hoyas in general are pretty flexible with their light requirements and can tolerate less-than-ideal light levels. They don’t tolerate low light, though. They do best with bright indirect light.
Watch for light that is too direct and intense. If the retusa gets too much bright direct light, it can start to stress the leaves and give them a darker brown or “burned” look. In my experience, direct morning light doesn’t usually have this effect on hoyas. Late-morning and afternoon direct sun—especially during peak growing season—can be too much, though.
A good balance is near a very sunny window. Outside, I keep my hoyas hanging under my covered porch. This provides them all of the super bright indirect light they need from the scorching summer sun.
When should I water my hoya retusa?
I think that overwatering was probably part of the reason my friend got a retusa for such a steal of a deal. That’s because hoya retusa does NOT respond well to overwatering. Overwatering can lead to root rot and yellow, rotting leaves. As well as moldy soil and the plant’s slow demise.
Retusa likes to dry out between waterings. Hoyas really don’t need to be watered a ton—I find that I am always in danger of watering mine too much! Even when I think they are due, I always check the soil. Most of the time, they aren’t ready yet.
I try to thoroughly soak my hoyas in the sink or shower so that I can also wash off all of the nooks and crannies of the leaves and stems. I soak the soil thoroughly, letting all of the excess water drain out of the holes. Then I shake excess water from the leaves and put the plant back!
Hoya retusa care & soil needs
Soil is a big part of ensuring your plant doesn’t choke out from overwatering. If you use a well-draining soil that isn’t too dense, it will help retain some moisture while not being soggy or wet. I like to amend all houseplant soil mixes for my hoya plants, and the soil for my hoya retusa was no exception.
I took a high-quality indoor plant soil that came pre-mixed with perlite, some coco coir or fine moss, and maybe some sand. But I throw in an extra handful of chunky perlite and some coco coir, too. Coco coir is awesome for drainage.
You can also use orchid bark as a way to enhance drainage, but I don’t love orchid bark because I think it dries out plants too fast. (Read more about soil amendments in my houseplant soil 101 post.)
Want more hoya content? See my 9 Hoya Varieties for Beginners post, as well as my Hoya Bilobata Care guide, Hoya Kentiana Care guide, Hoya Obovata Care guide, and Hoya Rope Plant Care guide!
Temperature & humidity needs
Like other hoyas, retusa is a tropical beautiful. So optimal hoya retusa care means warm temperatures. It will do just fine in a variety of normal household temperatures. This plant is not cold hardy—but if you have it outside and a night or two drops down into the 50s, it’s no biggie. They are pretty resilient.
Humidity is a bigger concern than temperature, I’d say. While hoya retusa does well in a wide range of indoor household humidity levels, it loves humidity. Unlike some other hoyas that have thick, juicy leaves, these little sticks can dry out fast! So I’m choosing to keep mine in a bathroom window for the extra heat and humidity.
If you don’t have a bathroom with decent lighting, you can put the plant by a humidifier. That’s where I have most of my hoyas for the winter. The air indoors is so dry! During the summer—even indoors—I don’t bother with the humidifier.
Fertilizing the retusa & growth rate
As I’ve mentioned a million times, I haven’t fertilized my plants with a traditional houseplant fertilizer in years. Instead, I work organic worm castings in to the soil to infuse it with fresh nutrients. I might change this approach in the future, but for now, it works for me!
Hoya retusa isn’t a fast grower, but it isn’t a super slow grower, either. Maybe average? I don’t know. Let’s call it average. I just know that I haven’t noticed it to be any faster or slower than any other hoya plants. But in ideal growing conditions, hoya retusa grows quite well!
You likely won’t need to repot your retusa frequently. Hoyas don’t mind being a bit snug in their pots. You could probably even go a few years before repotting depending on how nicely your plant is growing. Check for roots growing out the bottom of the pot’s drainage holes.
How to make a hoya retusa flower
Retusa plants produce small star-shaped white flowers. Hoya flowers are so cool. They don’t even look real! To help encourage your retusa to bloom, make sure it has ideal growing conditions and plenty of light. Also, sorry to say, the plant needs to be mature before it flowers. So have patience.
How to propagate a hoya retusa plant
I love propagating hoyas! They root so easily and transplant beautifully in soil. First take a cutting from your retusa that’s a few inches long. Make sure there is at least a few nodes on the cutting. (Nodes are where the leaves meet the stem. You can just remove the bottom set of leaves if you need to.)
I prefer rooting hoya cuttings in sphagnum moss and perlite. Mix the two together and wet the mixture. Drain the excess water from the moss so that it’s damp, not wet. And then stick the nodes in the mixture.
Keep humidity high by either putting the propagation in a DIY plastic propagation box or popping a bag over the cutting and mixture. Monitor for root growth, and when the roots are a few inches long, you can transfer the cutting to soil!
For more hoya propagation info, check out my hoya carnosa propagation guide!
Putting hoya retusa care into action on a retusa rehab!
So here is the big rehab plant I got from my friend. As I mentioned, she grabbed it for a crazy-low price of $10 on clearance at a local nursery. At first I couldn’t believe it—these plants are so tangly and bushy that it was hard to see the extent of the damage.
My friend treated it heavily with insecticide when she first got it because it had aphids. So I kept it away from my plants for the first few days of having it. Then I decided it was time to do some surgery!
I started pulling off the yellow and rotted leaves and pulling out the clumps of dried, dead leaves. I have a few pics below to show some of the damage. After a few minutes of pulling stuff out, I realized that I definitely wasn’t going to get this done without major surgery.
So I popped it out of the pot! And started gently breaking the dirt away. I was shocked at how much dirt was in the pot…it was like 20% roots and 80% dirt. I have a feeling that’s part of what led to the yellowing leaves. The soil was also really caked and moldy on the top. I was glad I was getting rid of it!
You can see below that I was able to pull apart a ton of plants! This took me about 1.5 hours total. When I took off each plant, I pulled away dead leaves too and as much of the soil as I could. Then I cleaned each piece in warm soapy water. In the pic below, they are drying.
You can see the extent of the carnage. I love it! It already looked so much better. I only ended up chucking a few small pieces that still had decent growth on them. There was so much good stuff left that I didn’t sweat it.
Final potted plant!
I let all of the hoya retusa bits chill overnight and potted them up first thing the next morning. I used well-draining indoor potting soil with some extra chunky perlite added in, as well as some coco coir to help with drainage.
Oh, and I threw in some worm castings to help with nutrients. We’re heading into winter, and it probably won’t be doing too much growth over the next 5 or so months. But I am hoping it will take off in the spring!