Purple Waffle Plant: Care Guide and Background

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A closeup photo of a purple waffle plant, with soft green leaf tops and purple coloring at the leaf tips.

If you’re looking for a small, low-profile plant to add that wow factor to your home, look no further than the purple waffle plant! 

This easy-to-maintain, showy plant is whimsical and packs a colorful punch.

Let’s take a dive into the world of the purple waffle and how you can maintain it in your container plant or garden collection.

RELATED: Looking for more cheery houseplants? Check out our posts on the Pothos N Joy and Lemon Lime Maranta!

Purple Waffle Plant Background

Purple waffle plant’s native habitat is in the tropical regions of India and Indonesia where it thrives in the jungle. You can also find it growing outside in the Pacific Islands and in Florida’s southernmost tip. 

Purple waffle plant is a low, spreading grower, so it fits well at the base of another plant. And it makes an attractive ground cover in very warm climates, like USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11.

But if you’ve got a purple waffle plant outdoors in zone 9 and lower, think of it as an annual, since it doesn’t get along with cold temperatures at all!

The waffle plant is a member of the Acanthaceae family that comes in several different varieties, or cultivars.

Each one has its own special characteristics:

  • Purple waffle plant alternata: Leaves are dark green or gray on top, purple undersides. This is one of the more common varieties. 
  • Purple waffle plant exotica: Leaves are glossy and green with magenta undersides.
  • Snow white purple waffle plant: Leaves are dappled white and pink, magenta or purple undersides.
  • Hemigraphis moonlight: Leaves are deep purple-green and have a silver shimmer.
  • Belgian waffle: Leaves are green with cream around the edges and middle, purple undersides.
  • Dragon’s tongue: Leaves are narrow and alternating green and purple, rippled edges.
A purple waffle plant with soft green foliage and purple leaf edges.
Waffle plant
A clump of purple waffle (hemigraphis) exotica plants, with bright magenta leaf tips.
Hemigraphis exotica
A purple waffle (hemigraphis) alternata plant with dark green leaf tops.
Hemigraphis alternata

Not only does the waffle plant come in several beautiful varieties, but it can also benefit the air in your home. In fact, Phys.org lists purple waffle plant as one of the best air-purifying plants out there!

The purple waffle plant can purify the air by removing potentially toxic compounds, including:

  • Benzene
  • Octane
  • Toluene

Where to Buy Purple Waffle Plant

Even though the purple waffle plant isn’t particularly rare, it’s also not the easiest to come by- especially if you don’t live in an area where they are natives. 

Check the tropical houseplants section at your local garden and home improvement centers. Ask your local experts if they know where to find them in your area if you haven’t had any luck. 

But if you can’t find them in stores, don’t fret! You can also find them online in several places. 

If you want the widest selection to choose from, visit Etsy. You have no shortage of options of standard waffle plants or unique varieties, including variegated and Snow White cultivars. 

Here are some of our favorite Etsy sellers that usually have purple waffle plants:

And if you prefer to shop Amazon, you can find a 4-inch live Snow White waffle plant.

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Purple Waffle Plant Care

The purple waffle plant is pretty low maintenance both in a container as well as in the soil. Just meet a few basic needs and your waffle plant should do well.

Container

If your purple waffle lives in a container, choose one that’s at least 4-6 inches deep and 6 inches across.

Any type of pot will do, including hanging pots which will lead to trails of vines spilling over the sides (quite dramatic!). Just be sure there’s good drainage to prevent water-logging.

Soil

Any all-purpose potting soil will suffice for growing a purple waffle plant. This Miracle-Gro formula is a popular choice. 

If you decide to plant your waffle plant in your garden, add some compost to enrich the soil and improve drainage. 

An overhead view of a grouping of purple waffle (hemigraphis) plants.

Light

Indoors, the purple waffle loves indirect light in a bright room. A few feet back from a window in a south or east-facing room is usually a prime location.

If you don’t have a bright room, not to worry- a full spectrum grow light is a good supplement. This clip-on model is affordable and versatile. 

For outdoor growing, choose a spot in partial shade.

Remember, this plant is native to the understory or jungle areas where trees and taller plants filter the sunlight. So be careful not to place your plant in direct sun since this can lighten and scorch the leaves. 

However, don’t place your waffle plant in full shade. If there’s not enough light, the leaves won’t be so purple. 

Water

This plant loves moist soil that drains well. As long as you water it occasionally to prevent the soil from drying out, the waffle plant will be happy and healthy.

But make sure to avoid standing water. Avoid planting in low-lying areas that are prone to water pooling, and add some organic matter (like compost) to clay-heavy soil. 

In our post on watering a rubber plant correctly, we’ve covered this specific topic in a lot more detail. Stop by to learn more!

Temperature

The waffle plant is not a fan of cold temperatures- at all. It prefers warmer temperatures from 50- 80 degrees F. This makes it an ideal houseplant anywhere, and outdoors, it thrives year-round in USDA zones 10-11.

If you live in zone 9 or lower, you can bring your container-grown waffle plant outside for the summer. Wait until all danger of frost has passed and average nightly temperatures are above 55 degrees F.

In the fall, bring your plant back inside before nighttime temperatures drop to 50 degrees F. 

Humidity

As a tropical plant, this one loves high humidity.

If you live in a warm, humid climate, your plant should be perfectly fine with no extra humidity help from you. 

But most of us don’t live in USDA zones 10-11, so placing the waffle plant in a bathroom with some steam and a window can help revitalize a plant that’s getting a bit too dry. 

You could also mist your purple waffle about once a week, or use a plant humidifier if you live in a dry area. 

RELATED: Visit our post on our favorite plant humidifiers to get some shopping inspiration!

Fertilizing

The purple waffle isn’t a particularly heavy feeder, only needing fertilizing a couple of times per year.

We like this indoor plant formula that supplies nitrogen, phosphate, and potash and also includes sulfur to help your plant absorb the nutrient goodness. 

However, if it seems like your purple waffle is getting too leggy, you may need to skip the next dose of fertilizer. 

Pruning

The waffle plant can grow up to 6 inches tall and 18 inches wide with trailing vines, especially in hanging pots.

If you’d like a fuller-appearing waffle plant, you can pinch the tips of new growth above a bud or leaf.

Another naturally vining houseplant is pothos. We put together a guide on how to achieve or maintain a bushy pothos, and you can apply many of those same steps with a waffle plant. 

Otherwise, just let it go and it will form long, lovely trails.

A purple waffle plant with bright purple leaf undersides and delicate white flowers.

Re-Potting Your Purple Waffle Plant

Depending on the size of your pot, plan to re-pot your purple waffle plant about once a year. The best time for re-potting is in the spring or early summer when your plant is actively growing.

During these months, the purple waffle is a fast grower. Not only can this require a larger pot, but your plant will likely need a soil/nutrient refresher.

These are some common signs that re-potting is in order:

  • The leaves are wilting or drooping
  • The soil is constantly dry
  • You see roots growing out of the pot’s drainage holes

It’s a fairly delicate plant, so when preparing to re-pot this beauty, don’t handle it from the stems. Follow these steps for the greatest success with re-potting your waffle plant:

  1. The best method is to invert the plant with your hand cradling your waffle plant, then tap on the bottom to release the plant.
  2. Look over the roots for any signs of damage or rot, and carefully trim away sections that appear brown or mushy. 
  3. Place it in a slightly larger container or pot with some good potting soil and water.
  4. If you had to trim away any roots, hold off on watering for a few days to give your plant a chance to heal. Otherwise, give it a light watering to moisten the soil.
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Potential Problems with Purple Waffle Plant

The waffle plant is a pretty easy-going specimen, and it usually doesn’t run into too many problems both as a houseplant or outdoors. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s immune from the occasional issue. 

The most common problems are related to: 

  1. Watering too much or too little
  2. Insect attacks
  3. Not enough sunlight

1. Incorrect Watering

Like many other plant species, you might run into problems with your waffle plant if you water it too often. This happens especially often to indoor plants. 

If you see leaf yellowing and drooping stems in your purple waffle, it may be getting too much water.  Check the soil moisture using the finger method.

Stick your finger into the soil about an inch deep. Ideally, the soil should feel moist. If it feels wet or you have clumps of damp soil stuck on your finger, there’s too much water.

Don’t give your plant any more water until the soil dries out to the “just-moist” level. Also, ensure proper drainage from the bottom of the pot to prevent root rot from too much moisture.

On the flip side, if you notice your purple waffle wilting or losing color, the soil is likely too dry. 

Use the finger test again. If your finger comes out dry or the soil feels hard, your waffle plant is thirsty! 

Give it a drink, enough to let the excess water run out through the drainage holes. 

2. Insects

The purple waffle plant doesn’t have serious problems with disease or pests, however, you’ll want to watch out for whiteflies and scale. 

A large group of whiteflies on a plant leaf
Whiteflies
Scale insects attached to a tree trunk
Scale Insects

Whiteflies are tiny insects with wings that live on the underside of leaves and cause yellowing and mottling of the leaves. 

Scale appears like bumps on the leaves, which turn yellow and cause drooping in your purple waffle plant. 

For both whiteflies and scales, a good blast of water can help you wash the pests away. Insecticidal soap is another treatment option. This one from Miracle-Gro comes pre-mixed in a spray bottle, so it’s easy to use. 

3. Insufficient Sunlight

If you notice your purple waffle plant is drooping or looking dull, it may not be getting the right amount of (indirect) light. 

Consider moving it closer to a window and make sure it’s getting at least six hours of indirect sunlight daily. Or use a plant light to keep your waffle plant looking bright and colorful.

How to Propagate Purple Waffle Plant

Purple waffle plants are vigorous growers, and they’re very easy to propagate given that every node can produce new roots.

What’s a node? It’s the small bump at the base of each set of leaves. During the growing season, the purple waffle puts out new leaves (and therefore new nodes) rapidly.

You know what this means?  Endless purple waffle plants! 

There are only three steps when propagating your waffle plant:

  1. Clip a growing stem with one or more nodes, even one near the soil. Make sure your scissors or garden shears are clean and sharp!
  2. Put the waffle plant clipping in some potting soil and water.
  3. Water your waffle plant clipping until new growth appears- then water as needed to prevent soil from drying out.

That’s all there is to it!

Frequently Asked Questions about Purple Waffle Plant

Yes! During the summer a purple waffle plant will grow bright white, delicate, tubular flowers. It’s a bit infrequent, but a nice sight to see against the purple leaves!

According to the ASPCA, the purple waffle plant is considered non-toxic and bears no threat to kids or pets. 

Some stores sell purple waffle as a terrarium or aquatic plant, although it’s not really fully fit for an aquarium. 

It will only survive in an aquarium for a short time before it basically melts away. 

But because it loves heat and humidity, it can do well as a terrarium plant.

Yes, during the winter months. You’ll know when it’s going dormant because its growth will slow way down. 

Be sure to continue to water your dormant purple waffle plant just enough to prevent the soil from getting dry.

Final Thoughts

With all of the different names and cultivars available, this brilliant plant would make a great addition to your collection! 

If you’re like me and love the color purple, you’ll want to buy one today and enjoy the benefits of this easy-to-grow beauty. 

After all, can you really have enough purple plants?

We want to hear from you! Are there any other questions you have about purple waffle plant or their care? 

Let us know in the comments!

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