Botanical name: Alocasia x amazonica
Alocasia amazonica also called Elephant's Ears Plant, Alocasia Polly or African Mask is a strikingly beautiful houseplant with erect stems which bear enormous arrow-shaped leaves with distinctly white-colored veins. It is a hybrid of Alocasia longiloba and Alocasia sanderiana both species of the family Araceae. There are 79 species in this family which are native to tropical and subtropical Asia to Eastern Australia. This hybrid is the one to be most commonly found growing indoors. It has darker leaves contrasting sharply with the bold white veins. The large leaves can grow up to 2 ft long. The flowers grow at the end of a short stalk but they are not conspicuous; they are often hidden behind the leaf petioles.
Bright, indirect light is ideal for African Mask. Keep it away from direct sunlight as it may lead to sunburn on the leaves. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants
African mask prefers the soil to be kept moist at all times during the growing season and watering to be reduced in the cold season to keep the soil barely moist. This Elephant's Ears does not like soggy soil as it is prone to fungal infestations. Learn more on how to water your plants in this guide.
Average warmth with a minimum of 160C is ideal for Alocasia Polly. Below this temperature it may drop all its leaves. It also needs to be protected from draughts as it hates sudden changes in temperature.
Alocasia Polly requires average room humidity. To raise the humidity levels during the hot season, mist the leaves regularly or place the pot on a wet pebble tray. Clean the leaves by damp wiping them with a soft cloth to get rid of dust.
Feed Alocasia Polly with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer every 3-4 weeks during the growing period. Withhold feeding during the cold season as the plant undergoes dormancy during this period. Flush out accumulated salts arising from fertilizers every 2-3 months by running a stream of water through the soil until the water comes out through the drainage holes. Let the stream of water run for a few minutes and repeat several times.
Alocasia Polly prefers to be root-bound. Repot once a year during the growing season only if the roots have grown out through the drainage holes. Use a rich, free-drainage soil and a pot with drainage hole(s) to prevent waterlogging which can lead to fungal infestation.
Pruning Alocasia Polly is easy as it only requires removal of yellow and diseased leaves as they occur to maintain the plant neat and to reduce chances of diseases and pests infestation.
Alocasia Polly is propagated by division at the beginning of the growing season. Remove the plant from its pot and gently divide the rhizome into sections by cutting through with a sharp sterilized knife while ensuring that each section contains 1-2 stems. Plant the divisions in individual pots in moist rich, free-draining soil at the same depth that they were in the previous pot. Place the set up in a cool place and maintain the soil moist until new growth emerges after which routine care can begin.
The reason for this is inadequate light; African Mask prefers bright filtered light away from direct sunlight, move it to a brighter spot. Learn more about light for your plants on this guide on understanding light for houseplants.
If the the temperature is too low Alocasia Polly will drop its leaves and if the fault is not corrected, the plant will die. This often happens during the cold season where the plant undergoes dormancy. Even if the foliage may die, the underground rhizome is still alive and can regrow under warm temperatures. To prevent this from happening, ensure the temperature does not go below 160C.
The cause of this is low humidity especially where the air temperatures are high, the air humidity is likely to reduce significantly. Employ these techniques to raise humidity for Alocasia Polly.
Accumulation of salts in the soil can also cause browning of leaf edges. It is important to regularly flush out the accumulated salts arising from plant fertilizers.
There two causes of drooping leaves in Alocasia Polly. One is is inadequate light and the other is underwatering. Move the plant to a brighter spot and ensure the soil is kept moist during the growing season. Learn how to water your African Mask in this guide.
Low humidity is the reason. Employ these techniques to raise humidity for your Alocasia Polly.
However, it is natural for the old leaves to turn yellow and drop as the plant continues to grow. Remove such leaves by snipping them off at the base with a clean sharp knife or a pair of scissors to keep the plant neat and reduce pests and disease infestations.
This is an indication of Leaf Spot Disease which is enhanced by waterlogging of the soil. Isolate the plant immediately, remove the damaged leaves and treat with a fungicidal solution. Avoid waterlogging by ensuring proper drainage of both the soil and the pot. Keep the leaves dry (avoid misting and wetting the leaves) and provide good air circulation. Learn more on Leaf Spot Disease and how to control it.
Alocasia x amazonica is toxic to both humans and pets. It contains crystals of calcium oxalate which if ingested can numb and swell the tongue and pharynx leading to difficulty in breathing and sharp pain in the throat.