Hoya benchaii

Hoya benchaii was oiginally collected in Borneo, Malaysia, Sabah, east of Ranau, Telupid area and cultivated at Kipandi Park and vouchered on May 8, 2011. It is named for Ben Chai who collected the type material and at one time had a large collection of Hoya at his home in Sabah.

Hoya benchaii is very similar to Hoya kloppenburgii, but here are a few differences: “Hoya benchaii can be differentiated from Hoya kloppenburgii in having ovate leaves as compared to lanceolate leaves. Hoya kloppenburgii also has a positively geotropic inflorescence with a long peduncle and an umbel of flowers that is flat to slightly concave; however, there are many more flowers per umbel, up to 15–20, as against 4–11 in Hoya benchaii. The basal part of the corolla in Hoya kloppenburgii is cream to pale yellow with white pubescent hairs, but pink and glabrous under the corona in Hoya benchaii. The bi-carpellate ovary in Hoya kloppenburgii is much more pointed, and longer, 2 mm compared to 1.6–1.8 mm in Hoya benchaii, based on the type description.”

Honestly I thought that growing Hoya benchaii would be pretty straight forward and similar to my experience with H. kloppenburgii; nothing could have been further from the truth! I got a small rooted cutting of Hoya benchaii way back in 2017. You have probably heard of some Hoyas being referred to as plastic plants; For myself Hoya benchaii typifies that condition. I went through so many points where the plant would only gather dust on the leaves for months with zero growth. I tried growing it in a lot of different media types over the years with many restarts primarily because of root rot.

The last time I restarted the plant from cuttings was late in 2021. It was particularly painful because I had actually got the plant to around 8 inches in height. I was growing in leca using the semi-hydro method, but like all my Hoyas when grown that way it was succumbing to root rot. By this point, I had moved over to coconut husk chips as a medium so I managed to root 2 small cuttings in it. It took a very long time, but finally I began to see growth in these cuttings in the spring of 2022. Both of my cuttings that sat there for months began to put on some serious growth in late 2022/early 2023. I finally got a peduncle with one developing bud in last summer, and then of course I was crushed when it blasted at about 1/4 inch in size. It seemed as if I was never destined to flower this species. Finally in late November 2023 I had peduncles and developing buds which actually began to open!

Finally in early December, my first set of buds opened. I really earned these flowers after struggling with this plant for six years. I neglected to say that I also had to battle root mealies on these Hoyas as they seemed particularly attracted to it. Anyhow, I finally got these flowers under my belt and now both plants have bloomed a few times since. Hoya benchaii is a great plant that is very similar to H. kloppenburgii. There is probably no reason to grow them both, unless you are an obsessed collector like myself. Despite my many difficulties over the years with the plant, now that I have a large specimen, it is quite striking and worth keeping. Here are the parameters to keep it happy. Grow it in coconut husk chips with a little pumice thrown in. Keep it in a clear orchid pot so watering can be more easily judged and pests discovered before too much damage is done. Keep it warm and humid, and if you are lucky it will eventually flower for you!