I realise this is rather an odd introduction to a plant, but if you’ve never tasted the nectar of a hoya flower, you’re missing out. It is so sweet and rich that it forms into globules that hang off each flower. If you don’t remove it, it will turn your floor sticky, so you might as well lick it off. It tastes of Parma Violets and a hint of maple syrup: it’s no wonder pollinators go nuts for this stuff.
Hoya, or the wax flower, is a large genus of tropical climbers mostly native to Asia and Australia. They have extraordinary flowers that are best described as looking like furry starfish, and grow in umbels numbering such masses that they hang like baubles off the vine.
Many are heavenly scented, particularly in the evening. Their scent is powerful enough to perfume a room when they are out in flower en masse, which a happy plant will do on and off from late spring into autumn.
They make a good houseplant in part because they are very tolerant. They have thick, rubbery, succulent leaves, so they don’t need watering often; are shallow-rooted, so don’t mind small pots; and thrive in root-bound conditions. This means they don’t need repotting often. If you do repot, use orchard bark, grit and potting compost in equal portions.
As hoyas are climbers, they can either be given a support or allowed to trail. I have two plants that twine up string and along a pot holder in my kitchen window, and one that climbs around a vintage bird stand from a hanging basket. If they are to trail, then they need to be in a very heavy pot or suspended from something. Otherwise the compost will dry out quickly and the weight of the leaves will mean the whole plant topples over.
Hoyas will flower profusely, under the right conditions. They need bright but indirect light. If you have a south-facing window, place them a couple of feet from the pane so the leaves don’t scorch. In summer, they need warm, moist conditions, followed by comparative dryness and cool in the winter. Many plants continue to produce flowers from the old flower stalks or nodules, so don’t prune these off when the flowers are over.
One of the easiest to grow is Hoya carnosa with its pale-grey shoots, waxy green leaves and light to dark pink, highly scented, furry flowers which produce an excess of delicious nectar. ‘Tricolor’ is a white, green and pink-leaved form. If you get into them, hunt out Hoya pubicalyx ‘Red Buttons’, which has dusky, greyish-violet flowers with dark-red centres and long, pointed leaves that are dark red when young. It’s very goth and rather stunning.