Alocasia Polly (African Mask) Plant Care

Alocasia Polly

The Alocasia Polly is known by its Latin name Alocasia (x) Amazonica, which sometimes makes it confusing for some gardeners when identifying the plant. But, that’s not all. It is also commonly known as Alocasia Amazonica, African Mask, Elephant Ear and a few others.

Part of this is because there are many species and hybrids around. As long as you know that they refer to the same plant, it will be easier to take care of them.

The Alocasia Polly is a perennial evergreen that’s become fairly popular as a houseplant because of its beautiful and unique looks. Its versatility likewise makes it desirable as you can grow in in containers, patios, garden beds and borders.

However, because it hairs from Asia and Australia it prefers tropical conditions. As such, depending on where you live, it may or may not be suitable to grow the plant on the ground.

That said, its most attractive feature are its arrowhead shaped leaves. These come with a dark green hue that is lined by light green to white veins. The plant only grows to about 1 to 2 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide. This makes it easy to display indoors. It also lets you conveniently take outside any time.

As pretty as the plant looks, it is a little trickier to care for because of its moisture requirements.

Alocasia Polly Plant Care

Alocasia Polly Light

The alocasia polly thrives under bright, indirect light. The one place you don’t want to put it is where it gets direct sunlight, which will scorch it leaves.

If you see brown patches on its leaves, it is a sign that the plant is getting too much light. And, you should immediately move it from there.

Similarly, the plant doesn’t do well under low light conditions. Although, it is fine with medium and partial shade. In case you can’t find a suitable place with bright enough light, make sure to compensate by increasing the hours it is exposed to the light. This is able to partially make up for the lack of light.

This is a strategy you can use during wintertime or if you’re living in an apartment whose windows doesn’t get a lot of sunlight.

That said, the best spots for it in a window facing south as long as you keep it at least 4 to 6 feet away from the window. Alternatively, you can use curtains or other coverings to filter some of the light.

Other places your alocasia polly will be happy are in a greenhouse and a shaded garden. You can likewise grow it in container that allows you to move it indoors or outside as needed.

 

Related Articles

 

Alocasia Polly Temperature & Humidity

The best climate for your alocasia polly is one where the temperature stays steady between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It is tender. So, you want to keep it away from locations where the mercury can drop to the mid 50s or lower.

As such, you’ll often see the plant outdoors in USDA zones 10 to 12. In other places, it is better suited as a houseplant.

Similarly, it doesn’t like cold drafts and breezes. This means it is not a good idea to keep on a windowsill of an open window where cold winds can affect it. The same is true for artificial drafts including air conditioning and vents.

It is also worth noting that during the winter months, the plant will go into a dormant state. As such, it will need less water and fertilizer. During the time, it is a good idea to keep it in a warm spot.

Besides warm conditions, the plant also enjoys high humidity. It does best when relative humidity is above 50%. Unfortunately, this can be a problem for some homes since the average humidity indoors is  between 40% to 50%. In the winter, it drops to under 40%.

If you find yourself in this predicament, you can mist the plant a few times a week. Other effective options include placing it in the bathroom, grouping it with other plants and placing it over a pebble tray. You can likewise use a humidifier.

If you are not sure what the humidity is in your home, you can invest in a hygrometer which is very inexpensive. Like a thermometer it will instantly tell you the humidity in any room.

 

Alocasia Polly Watering

In its natural environment, the Alocasia polly lives in damp soil. As such, it grows best when you keep soil moist (and needs a lot of water). However, it is susceptible to root rot when left in wet or soggy soil.

Thus, it is important to find that balance between underwatering ad overwatering, especially when you first get the plant.

The polly is not drought tolerant. So, if it doesn’t get enough water, you’ll see the plant wilt. Similarly, long periods of dryness will cause its leaf tips and edges to turn brown. The good news is, it won’t mind if you miss a watering session every now and then.

During the summer, when the plant is actively growing, it will need frequent watering to keep the soil consistently moist. On the other hand, you’ll want to scale back on watering during the winter.

Being aware of these shifts allows you to avoid overwatering it when it is in its dormant state. Another sure sign that your watering routine isn’t working is if the plant’s leaves start to turn yellow.

This can be symptom of over or underwatering. Either way, it is a sign that you need to reassess how you water your plant.

A good way to gauge whether it is time to water the plant is to see if the top 2 inches of soil is dry. Once it does, it is time to water. You don’t want to let it get much drier than that because the plant likes moist soil.

Similarly, if you water before the topsoil gets dry, you run the risk of overwatering and the possibility of causing root rot.

As you get to know your plant better, you’ll be able to quickly tell the plant is low on water by just lifting the pot. This is similar to chefs who can estimate how much of an ingredient to add without having to measure it.

 

Soil

Your alocasia polly’s ideal soil is one that is rich in organic matter, moist and well-draining. Since it likes living in moist to wet soils, you want to use a potting mix that is able to retain some moisture.

But, the more important aspect is it needs to be well draining. Otherwise, the plant will end up sitting in water for long periods of time.

Thus, the best option is to use a jungle mix or jungle mix soil that’s available in garden centers. This kind of soil mixture is light and loose, allowing water to easily drain. In doing so, it prevents the plant from getting wet feet.

If you prefer making your own mix, use a combination of perlite, coco coir and horticultural charcoal to make the substrate light enough to drain moisutre quickly.

 

Fertilizing

Feed your Alocasia amazonica once every 2 to 4 weeks during the growing season. You can use a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted to have strength. Once fall arrives, start scaling back before completely stopping feeding in the winter.

To makes sure that your plant doesn’t suffer from fertilizer burn, avoid over feeding it. This is a common problem with houseplants because most owners believe more plant food equates to faster growth an a bigger plant.

But, too much fertilizer can actually kill the plant.

Additionally, using a lot of fertilizer causes salt residue to build up in the soil. To avoid this from harming your plant, you want o flush the soil every 3 to 4 months.

This is easily done by slowly pouring water onto the soil for about 5 minutes. This will soak the soil and cause it to leak liquid from the bottom of the pot. Along with the water, excess salts and other minerals leak out with it as well.

 

Pruning Alocasia Polly

When it comes to pruning, your alocasia polly is fairly low maintenance. That means you don’t need to trim it too often to keep it under control or limit its bushiness.

The plant is a moderate grower. But it only gets to about 20 inches tall and wide. Additionally, its stems don’t sprout lots of leaves like other plants do.

So, your main pruning chore for this plant is to trim off yellow, brown or damaged leaves. Removing old and diseased leaves will likewise help keep it healthy.

As always make sure that you apply rubbing alcohol on the blades of your scissors when pruning. This ensures that there are no bacterial passed on from the tool to your plant.

 

Alocasia Polly Propagation

The best way to propagate your alocasia polly is through division. Because this entails removing the plant out of its container, it is a good idea to do it at the same time you’re repotting.

That way it reduces the amount of shock experienced by the plant from being moved in and out of its container.

Here’s how to propagate alocasia polly through division.

  • Carefully take the plant out of its container. You’ll want some space to work with. So, you can do this in the sink or lay out newspaper on the floor. You can likewise do it outside during warm weather, so there’s less cleaning to do.
  • Inspect the root ball as you would when repotting the plant. Use your fingers to spread all the roots so they don’t wrap around the root ball.
  • Ideally, you want to look for offsets. These are plantlets that can grow into their own plants.
  • You want to gently take these offset from the mother plant. Some can be easily pulled out. For others you will need a knife or pruning shears.
  • Plant the offsets in a container with loose, well draining potting mix.
  • Water the soil and place the new pot alongside the mother plant or in conditions similar to that of the mother plant.

 

Transplanting & Repotting

Like pruning, repotting isn’t something you’ll need to worry a lot about with the alocasia polly. At most, you’ll need to repot it once every 1 to 2 years. However, in most cases it will take more than 2 years before you need to do so.

The only time you need to repot is when the plant has outgrown its container or it becomes rootbound. That said, some gardeners like to repot their alocasia polly to refresh the soil.

Replacing the spend soil with fresh potting mix allows the plant to grow faster. It also helps loosen the soil making it drain moisture better, which is a key element with the Alocasia amazonica.

The best time to repot is during the spring. Doing it early in the plant’s growing season allows it to quickly recover from the shock of being moved. With fresh soil and more room for its roots to grow, it is also able to better take advantage of this time.

When choosing a container, always keep in mind the plant’s penchant for sitting in water. As such, only go up 1 to 2 sizes max with the new container. Pots that are much bigger than its existing one will increase the amount of soil you need to fill the extra space.

Thus, when you water it, a lot of the volume in the pot will be filled with water relative to the plant. This causes it to be overwatered. It also lets it sit in moisture for longer periods of time.

Additionally, always make sure the container has a few drainage holes. This will allow excess liquid to drain.

You may also want to choose pots made from porous materials like terra cotta instead of plastic. While costlier and heavier, they allow some moisture to seep out gradually.

How to Repot Alocasia Polly

  • Gently take the plant out of the pot. The more rootbound the plant is the harder it will be to slide it out of the container. So, work slowly and carefully.
  • Check the root ball. Dust off any excess soil and dirt. Untangle roots that are curling or wrapping around one another or the root ball itself.
  • Prepare the new container by adding fresh potting mix. Measure the height you need to fill it by placing the place side by side against the new pot.
  • Insert the your alocasia polly into the container. Then fill the remaining space with soil
  • Water the soil thoroughly.

 

Toxicity

As a group, alocasia plants are toxic to humans and pets. Ingesting any part of the plant can cause moth, throat or digestive tract irritation leading to nausea, swelling and vomiting.

Needless to say, it is a good idea to keep the plant out of the reach of curious pets and young children.

 

Pests and Diseases

The alocasia polly is fairly resistant to pests and disease. As long as it is healthy and give the proper conditions above, you shouldn’t experience major issues with either of the two.

That said, because the plant likes water and humidity, the threat of disease and pests never completely goes away. Damp conditions are breeding grounds for bacteria and fungus. So, you always need to be aware of how you water. Plus, regularly inspect your plant from potential problems.

Of the diseases, the biggest problem faced by the Alocasia amazonica is root rot as a result of overwatering. Here, prevention is the best cure.

However, in case you suspect or notice symptoms of root rot (limp stem, slow growth, leaves dying) you’ll want to look into it deeper. Unfortunately, the only way to ensure root rot is to see the roots.

This means taking the plant out of the container. If the roots are mushy or they appear back and dark brown, then you’ve got a problem. With root rot, the earlier you discover it, the better the odds of recovery.

Here’s how to deal with root rot in alocasia polly plants.

  • Take the plant out of the pot. Brush away the excess dirt and soil so you can carefully examine the root.
  • Check for root problems. This includes mushy roots, soft to the touch, black or brown colors. Healthy root should look white, off white or slightly tan. To help you visualize better, remember how the ends of some veggies in the store look. Their small tips look light tan to whitish in color. That’s what the roots should look like.
  • Here you’ll see one of two things. The affected area is small. That is, only a small part of the entire root system is damaged. If so, cut those areas off by trimming the damaged roots. If the rot affects a large part of the root system, you don’t really have much of a choice but to discard the plant.
  • Once you have trimmed off the rot, put the pot in a new container with fresh soil. Make sure it is in well draining soil. And, the pot has holes at the bottom. Leave it be for at least a few days to help it stay drier from its overwatered condition.
  • Then water the soil, making sure it is moist but not soggy.

When it comes to pests, spider mites and mealybugs are the two common problems that hound your alocasia polly.

Once you discovery any pest infestation the first two things you need to do is separate the infected plants then inspect the other plants near it. If any of the other plant are infected, move them away as well.

Once you’ve done that, immediately start treatment.

Of the two, spider mites are more dangerous to your Alocasia amazonica. They will suck the life out of its leaves and the rest of the plant. So, you want to treat it as soon as possible with insecticidal soap and water.

Mealybugs are likewise bothersome, but much less dangerous. With these, you want to use cotton with rubbing alcohol to remove them from the leaves of the plant.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.