Purple Waffle Plant Care and Essential Growing Tips

If you’re looking for a little cute and colorful plant to spice up your home, the purple waffle plant is a great choice. I love its two-toned leaves that add a boost of color, and the crinkly texture adds an extra layer of intrigue. In my experience, these plants remain pretty small, which means they can fit into practically any space. Plus, I find that they’re easy to care for! Keep reading to learn all about how I grow and care for the purple waffle plant at home.

Purple Waffle Plant (Hemigraphis alternata) Care Guide

Purple Waffle Plant Care Essentials:

Botanical Name:Hemigraphis alternata
Also Known As:purple waffle plant, red ivy, metal leaf
Growing Difficulty:Easy to moderate to grow
Light Requirements:Thrives in bright yet indirect light
Temp & Humidity:Prefers air temperatures between 55-80ºF and moderate humidity
Watering Needs:Aim to keep the soil consistently moist but not wet; water when the top inch of soil is dry
Soil Preferences:Prefers well-draining and well-aerated soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH
Fertilizing:Fertilize with a well-balanced houseplant fertilizer once in the early spring and again in the early summer
Growth Expectations:Approximately eight inches tall and eight inches wide
Toxicity:Non-toxic to humans and pets

Growth Expectations

Purple waffle plants are relatively small plants, so you don’t have to worry about them taking over a space. They max out at eight inches tall and eight inches wide.

What to Do Before Planting

Before you plant a purple waffle plant indoors, you’ll need to obtain a proper pot. Since these plants remain small, choose a container that is four to six inches in diameter. You should also ensure the bottom of the planter has drainage holes.

Since these plants remain small, it should be easy to find a space for them. Some locations that may work well include nestled on a bookshelf, on top of a side table, or on a small plant stand.

The Best Soil Mix

Choosing a proper soil mix is an essential process of growing a healthy purple waffle plant.

When you’re looking for a soil mix, you want to choose a blend that provides plenty of aeration and drainage. However, in my experience, the mix should also be able to hold some water so the soil remains moist between waterings.

Generally, I find a peat moss or coco coir-based potting mix will work well. These two organic materials hold moisture yet also provide aeration and some drainage. Materials like perlite and pine bark fines will further improve aeration and drainage.

As far as pH goes, the potting mix should have a neutral to slightly acidic pH, between 6.0 and 7.0

If you’d like to purchase a pre-mixed soil, you have numerous options. Espoma Organic Potting Mix and Fox Farm Happy Frog Potting Soil are both good choices (via Amazon).

How to Plant

Planting your purple waffle plant is simple. To start, choose a container that is just a few inches larger than the pot the plant is currently growing in. However, do not choose a pot that is larger than six inches in diameter.

Fill the pot with an inch of potting soil, then add the plant’s root ball to the planter. Fill the remaining empty space with more potting soil.

After your plant is snug in its pot, water it well.

Light Preferences

In their native habitats, these plants grow in the understory of tropical forests. Therefore, they receive dappled light. To mimic these conditions, aim to provide your plant with bright yet indirect sunlight.

This means keeping your plant in a bright area but protecting it from the sun’s rays. Placing it on a windowsill of a south-facing window will provide too much light, but putting it in a dark corner will not provide enough light.

I find that suitable locations for these plants include the interior of a brightly-lit room, a few feet away from an east-facing or north-facing window, or near a south-facing window that is covered with a sheer curtain.

Temperature & Humidity Preferences

Since these plants are native to Indonesia, they prefer warm temperatures and moderate to high humidity.

I aim to keep the air temperature between 60-80ºF and avoid large swings in temperature. That means keeping your plant away from drafty areas like next to exterior doors or near heating/cooling vents.

While these plants can survive lower humidity, they prefer when the air is moist. Therefore, if your house is very dry, your plant will benefit from a boost of humidity. I find a small humidifier is the best way to accomplish this, but pebble trays can also provide a small increase in humidity.


These plants like their soil consistently moist but not wet. As long as you choose the proper soil mix and water on a regular schedule, this is achievable.

Green and purple tinged leaves of a small potted purple waffle plant indoors

The frequency you’ll need to water your plant will depend on numerous factors. These include the temperature, humidity, and time of year. Low humidity, high temperatures, and increased day length will require you to water more often.

An excellent way to determine when to water a purple waffle plant is to feel the soil with my finger. When the top inch of soil is dry, it’s time to water. Generally, you will need to water your plant every one to two weeks, in my experience.

While tap water is typically okay to use, hard water can be an issue. If you’re unsure about the quality of your water, you can use filtered water or rainwater to be safe.


These plants aren’t heavy feeders, but they can benefit from low doses of balanced fertilizer. Choose a fertilizer designed for houseplants and apply it once in the late spring and again in the late summer.

Be sure to not overfertilize, as this is more dangerous than not applying enough fertilizer.


While purple waffle plants don’t require pruning, trimming them can help improve shape and form. If you notice your plant is becoming leggy rather than bushy, pruning can help.

Start with a pair of sharp and sanitizer pruning shears or scissors. Trim the top inch of each stem, while being sure to not remove more than a third of the plant at one time.


A cluster of purple waffle plants displaying green and purple leaves

Since these plants max out their growth relatively quickly, you won’t need to repot very often. In general, repotting every four or so years is sufficient. However, if your plant develops root rot or another soil-borne disease, you may need to repot more often.

To repot, spread a towel or tarp on the ground and remove the plant’s root ball from its container. Dust off any excess from the roots and inspect them for signs of disease. If disease is present, trim the infected portions with a pair of shears.

Obtain a pot that is just an inch or two larger than the original. Make sure it has drainage holes and has been cleaned if it was used for another plant.

Fill the new pot with an inch of soil, then add the root ball to the pot. Fill the remaining empty space with soil, then water well.

Common Problems & How to Treat Them

When caring for your purple waffle plant, keep an eye out for the following issues.

Yellowing Leaves

Unfortunately, yellowing leaves can be caused by various factors. This means it’s often difficult to determine why the leaves are discolored. With that said, you can look out for some of the most common causes.

Wet soils can cause issues with both water and nutrient uptake, leading to yellow leaves. Both overwatering and poorly-draining soil can lead to wet soil.

Another common cause is cold temperatures. Remember to keep the air temperature above 60ºF.

Leggy Plants

Some plants may look like they’re stretching rather than developing a lush, bushy form. This can occur due to a lack of light or too much fertilizer.

Try moving your plant to a brighter location. You can also prune off the leaf tips to encourage lateral growth.

About Purple Waffle Plants (Hemigraphis alternata)

A potted Purple Waffle Plant (Hemigraphis alternata) with green and purple leaves

The purple waffle plant is a tropical understory plant native to Indonesia. It often forms a groundcover in its native range.

The plant is a member of the Acanthaceae family, which also includes the nerve plant and polka dot plant. While the purple waffle plant used to be a member of the Hemigraphis genus, it has recently been moved to the Strobilanthes genus. Its species name is alternata.

This plant is low-growing and rarely grows over eight inches tall. Each plant only grows eight inches wide, but since the plants grow in clumps, they often cover a wider area.

Plants produce oval leaves that are dark green on the upper side and dark below on the underside. The leaves have a crinkly texture, which leads to the name purple waffle plant.

During the spring or summer, the plant produces tiny white or light purple flowers.

Growing Purple Waffle Plants FAQs: 

How Big do Purple Waffle Plants Get?

Purple waffle plants only grow eight inches tall and eight inches wide. However, multiple plants often grow together outdoors to form a groundcover.

How Fast do Purple Waffle Plants Grow?

Purple waffle plants grow relatively quickly, but they quickly max out their growth. You can expect them to grow upwards of an inch a month in proper conditions.

Are Purple Waffle Plants Considered Rare?

No, purple waffle plants are not rare. They have become quite common both as outdoor plants and houseplants.

Are Purple Waffle Plants Poisonous to Dogs and Other Pets?

Purple waffle plants are non-toxic to dogs, cats, and other pets. With that said, you should try to prohibit your pets from eating these plants.

Can a Purple Waffle Plants Tolerate Low Light?

While these plants can tolerate low light, they will thrive in bright, indirect light. Poor light can lead to stunted or spindly growth as well as discoloration.

Wrapping Up 

If you’re looking for a plant that has a big personality in a tiny package, the purple waffle plant is for you. Remember to provide it with bright, indirect light, keep the soil moist, and provide warm temperatures.

Further reading: Discover 25 amazing and unique types of purple houseplants.

Contributing Editor | briana@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

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