Indoor gardeners generally view with alarm strange spots appearing on the leaves of their plants. But plants that are naturally spotted or freckled add zest to an otherwise plain green garden. Two such plants are the Pink Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes sanguinolenta) and Gold Dust Plant (Dracaena godseffiana) - not at all alike, but each captivating it its own way.
The Polka Dot Plant, or Freckle Face, is a delicate plant with small rounded green leaves, sprinkled with rosy-red dots. Its minute lilac flowers in summer are a welcome dividend. I think it is best used as a specimen plant, that is, one plant per pot. Keep it at less than 12 inches tall by frequent pinching, for once established in a favorable situation it tends to grow out of bounds. As a rangy plant it is suited for a hanging basket. By pruning, it can be trained as a colorful symmetrical windowsill specimen. Save the pieces to grow more plants; they root easily.
White Polka Dot, a new look in Freckle Face Plants, was introduced this year. It is like Pink Polka Dot except its freckles are white.
Filtered or diffused sunlight is best for the Polka Dots. The better the light, the bigger and more colorful the freckles. Foliage coloration dulls if the plants are grown under poor light conditions.
Keep the soil moist, but don't flood the pots. Since Hypoestes originates in Malagasy (formerly the Island of Madagascar), the plants like a warm spot with nights no cooler than 65 degrees and humidity of 30 percent or better. Fertilize with any balanced houseplant fertilizer. After the plants bloom, reduce watering and let them rest. When you notice new growth, resume regular watering and increase frequency of feeding.
The Polka Dots can be planted outdoors in partial shade as annual bedding or edging plants. Here, also, they need to be sheared to keep them in good form. My plants, without any pinching, grew to be about two feet tall and were less attractive than when maintained as small bushy individuals.
Pink Polka Dot Plants can usually be found at garden centers or among houseplants offered at supermarkets or drugstores. Because White Polka Dot is new this year it may be harder to find.
Polka Dots can be easily grown from seed. Both White and Pink are listed in the catalog of George W. Park Seed Co., Greenwood, S.C. 29647. The Polka Dots are good indoor light garden plants, and for this setting seed can be planted at any time.
The Gold Dust Plant is one of a durable tribe. Large, colorful and sometimes bizarre, the sturdy Dracaenas enjoy widespread popularity. Most frequently seen are Dracaena marginata varieties, Dracaena deremensis warneckii and Dracaena sanderiana. The one I like best is Dracaena godseffiana, Gold Dust Dracaena. It is so different in manner of growth that it is sometimes not recognized as a relative of the others.
This perky plant has almost oval leaves, whorled in pairs of threes in horizontal tiers on wiry stems. The leaves are dark green, splotched with cream or yellow. A variety called Florida Beauty is heavily spotted, appearing almost more white than green. Sponging the leaves with tepid water brings out the luster of green and gold.
Gold Dust Plant needs strong light. While a mature, plant can grow to six feet, it is most often seen as a bushy pot plant specimen of about 2 1/2 feet. Small plants are often included in florists' dish garden arrangements combined with Neantha Bella palm and sansevieria.
Allow the soil to dry out between waterings. In my experience, the Gold Dust Dracaena does not seem to resent the presence of fluoride in the water as do some other Dracaenas.
Slow growing and adaptable to adverse conditions, the Gold Dust Dracaena certainly merits attention.
Indoor gardening questions may be addressed to Jane Steffey at The Weekly, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW. Washington, D.C. 20071. Please include your address and telephone number.