If you want to bring a note of originality and extravagance into your home, then Alocasia Amazonica is the right choice.
Alocasia Amazonica, more commonly known as Alocasia Polly, is an exceptional plant of large dark leaves with pronounced contrasting veins. This is not a species but a hybrid bred by crossing several indigenous species of the genus Alocasia in the middle of the 20th century.
In other words, Alocasia Amazonica is not a plant you can see in any tropical forest in the world!
Mainly, you will not see it in the Amazon forests because the word ‘amazonica’ in its name is not related to the plant’s geographical origin but to a small nursery in Miami (FL) named Amazon, where the hybrid was created.
Alocasia is a genus of about 100 species in the Araceae family, which originate from humid rain forests of Southeast Asia.
Alocasia’s featured look is large decorative leaves on thick stems that grow from the tuberous root creating elegant clumps.
The hybrid Alocasia Amazonica also called the African mask plant, or Alocasia Polly, can grow up to 2 feet high and wide and is undoubtedly one of the most stunning plants you can grow indoors.
The leaves are large, dark green, leathery and shiny, elongated heart-shaped, and coarsely serrated around the rim. Its out-of-this-world appearance is increased by pronounced white leaf nerves and purple underside.
How To Grow Alocasia Amazonica
Despite being a hybrid plant, Alocasia has retained all the characteristics typical of tropical plants. The right conditions for growing Alocasia Amazonica is related to three main factors: proper watering, plenty of bright indirect sunlight, and a uniform temperature throughout the year.
Soil: What Kind of Soil Does Alocasia Amazonica Prefer?
Proper choice of substrate is always a significant factor in the cultivation of any plant, but those of tropical origin are particularly sensitive to unsuitable soil.
Alocasia Polly is no exception and will thrive only if the substrate is nutritious, light, and porous.
In better-equipped garden centers, you can get a ready-made substrate for tropical plants.
However, you can also make your own Alocasia substrate mixture of:
- One part soil
- One part perlite or coarse potting sand
- One part peat moss
This composition will provide good aeration, good drainage and sufficient nutrients.
Soil Alternative: Plant Your Alocasia in LECA!
Excess moisture in the substrate always increases the risk of root rot.
A great way to avoid this issue is to plant Alocasia Polly in LECA. LECA or light expanded clay aggregate are just balls of expanded clay.
Clay balls can be used instead of soil, as the growing medium that will absorb and hold moisture and nutrients for the plant to grow.
Watering: Should I Water My Plant Often?
It may sound surprising, but you do not have to water your Alocasia Amazonica very often, or at least not as often as other tropical plants.
Depending on the season and room temperature, Alocasia Polly only needs to be watered about once every 10 to 15 days.
The reason why this plant does not require much water lies in its ability to store excess water in its thick stems. Thus, the plant has its own reserves and does not depend entirely on the amount of water in the substrate or soil.
How To Know When it’s Time For The Next Watering?
Here is an easy way to know when to water an Alocasia Polly:
- Lift the potted plant to feel its weight
- After a few days, lift the potted plant again and feel how heavy it is
- If the potted plant feels light then the soil and stem are depleted of water so water the plant
- If the potted plant still feels heavy then wait a few more days
Remember Alocasia Polly’s are able to store excess water in the stems.
Light: Sunny or Shady Position?
The African mask plant does not tolerate hot sun or a lot of direct sunlight. The Alocasia Polly should be placed in an area where it will receive bright indirect sunlight.
East and west facing windows are ideal locations since it provides the plant a few hours of direct sunlight but bright indirect light the rest of the day.
The sun will help the plant retain the intensity of the leaf color which helps emphasize the contrasting color of the veins. If it grows in the shade, the African mask plant will develop pale shredded leaves, and the silvery-white ribs may disappear.
On the other hand, too much direct sunlight can cause burns and leaf wilting.
Humidity: How to Create a Tropical Environment?
Growing tropical plants indoors can be challenging because all of them require elevated humidity levels.
Alocasia is similar to other tropical plants where it needs higher humidity levels than the average of 40% in most homes.
Thankfully increasing the humidity for the plant is not a complicated endeavor. Here are 3 ways to increase the humidity:
- Misting the plant with a spray bottle
- Placing the plant on top of a pebble tray
- Using a humidifier
Misting the Alocasia Amazonica leaves is beneficial for increasing the humidity and washing off any dust or particulates that may have accumulated on its leaves.
Just make sure to use stagnant room temperature water.
Although misting is beneficial, I am too lazy to spray all my plants throughout the week. So I prefer using pebble trays and humidifiers.
Simple DIY Humidifier: Pebble Tray
Pebble trays are a simple and functional solution to providing more humidity to plants. A pebble tray is just what it sounds like – a tray full of pebbles. To make a pebble tray:
- Select a shallow tray that is larger than the base of the plant’s pot
- Fill the tray with a single layer of pebbles
- Add water so it rises to about halfway up the rocks
That’s it! You have now created a simple but effective pebble tray for increasing humidity.
Next just place your plant on top of the pebbles and add water to your tray if it ever dries out.
Humidifier: Easy Way To Increase Room’s Humidity
An easier solution is to place a humidifier in the room with all of your tropical plants. A humidifier will allow you to adjust the settings to provide the right amount of humidity year round.
I use this humidifier in my room and the water reservoir lasts for about 2 days before needing to be refilled. I highly recommend it for a low maintenance way of keeping the room humid for your houseplants.
Fertilizing: Liquid Fertilizer or Fertilizing Sticks?
Since the Alocasia Polly grows fast and consumes a lot of energy, it needs more nutrients than what can be provided by whats in a flower pot.
If you want a healthy and well-developed Alocasia plant, then the plant needs to be fed with fertilizers once a month from spring to autumn.
Liquid fertilizers intended for plants with ornamental leaves are ideal for these plants. Follow the proportions and doses indicated on the fertilizer label to avoid the risk of over-fertilization and salt deposits on the substrate surface.
It is more practical and often less risky to use fertilizers in sticks or granules. Such fertilizers by gradual decomposition in the soil provide an even intake of nutrients over longer periods and usually last for three months.
The other benefit of using stick or granule fertilizers is that you also reduce the risk of damaging the sensitive rhizome root by a sudden flood of too many chemical components.
Repotting: Does Alocasia Polly Like To Be Root Bound?
The African mask plant should not be transplanted often. The Alocasia Polly should only be repotted every two or three years when the bark has entirely filled the container and veins have begun to appear through the drainage opening.
Transplant your Alocasia into a slightly larger pot since the plant prefers to be root bound. Limited space for rootball stimulates the growth of new shoots.
Shorten the root and keep the old pot
If you have a plant that is several years old at the time of transplanting then you don’t have to transplant it into a larger pot. You can shorten the peripheral parts of the root instead, making sure that it is not more than one-third of the total root mass.
After reducing the root mass, return the plant back to the original pot but fill it with new and fresh substrate.
Temperature: Is Alocasia Amazonica Sensitive to Low Temperatures?
Alocasia prefers warmer temperatures similar to what is commonly found in most homes. The Alocasia Amazonica thrives in temperatures between 60°F to 85°F.
Alocasias are sensitive to low temperatures so fall and winter can become problematic if the plant is outdoors or near a drafty walkway or window. The plant prefer consistent temperatures so any temperature swings of more than 10°F will stress the plant.
The Alocasia plant will go dormant if the temperature reaches 55°F to 60°F. Once the temperature drops below 40°F then the plant will die.
Is My Plant Dying or Going Dormant?
A temperature that stays between 55°F and 60°F for days, combined with a short winter day of little light can force Alocasia Amazonica to enter the dormant phase.
During that period the leaves may get yellow and fall. However, there is no serious issue with the plant and the plant is completely healthy.
Do not fertilize the plant while its dormant and reduce the watering to once a month. Remove all the wilted and yellow leaves and wait for spring for the plant to exit the dormant phase.
After the day lengthens and the temperature rises, the sleeping beauty will continue to grow.
Propagating: Can I Get a New Plant From Cuttings?
The African mask plant leaves grow directly from the tuberous root, which means you cannot propagate this plant from its cuttings or by rooting its leaves.
However, it does not mean that you cannot get propagate new plants. We just need to use other methods to propagate new Alocasia Polly plants.
Dividing Adult Plants
Alocasia grows in clumps, and it may seem that all the leaves belong to the same plant, but that is not the case.
If you take the plant out of the pot, you will notice that the clump consists of several individual plants, with their part of the rhizome root.
All you have to do is divide or split the adult plants so that each of them still have some rootball and plant them into separate pots.
Offset: Three Steps to Get a New Plant
When you take the plant out of the pot, usually next to each clump, you can see tooth-like offsets that are more or less attached to the parent plant and even have partially developed roots.
Each of them is actually a new plant. Here is how to start new plants from offsets:
- Carefully separate the offsets from the mother plant.
- Clean the offset from all dirt or ground
- Place the offsets in a bowl with clean water.
The fourth and last step is to just wait until the offset develops leaves and enough roots to be transplanted.
Problems: What is wrong with my Alocasia plant?
Q: Why Are The Leaves of My Alocasia Amazonica Yellowing or Spotting?
A: Overwatering is the most common reason for yellow or spotting to develop on the leaves of Alocasia. Another possible cause is poor soil permeability or lack of drainage hole on the bottom of the pot. Excess water needs to drain out for this plant to thrive.
Q: Why is My Alocasia Weeping?
A: This very characteristic phenomenon is called guttation – it is the release of water from the plant through tiny holes in the leaves that cause the leaves to shrink and droplets to form at the top of the leaves. This natural defense mechanism helps the plant survive in conditions of difficult transpiration. Your plant ‘cries’ if the humidity level in the air is too high for the plant.
Q: Why Does My Alocasia Amazonica Have Brown Tips or Leaf Edges?
A: The two most common reasons for brown tips or leaf edges is underwatering or too much direct sunlight. Lack of water will cause the peripheral parts of the leaves to remain thirsty and gradually decay. Too much sunlight will dry out the leaves which will also cause the leaves to brown.
Pests: What Pests Like Eating Alocasia Polly’s Leaves?
The most common pest that target Alocasia Amazonicas are spider mites. However, spider mites prefer drier air so maintaining a high level of humidity in the room will prevent a spider mite infestation. If these unwanted guests still settle on your plant then it is best to treat the plant with some homemade remedies.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Does The African Mask Plant Bloom?
A: A mature Alocasia Polly plant can occasionally surprise you with a cob-like flower that has a pleasant scent. The flower is inconspicuous and has little decorative value, reminiscent of a kale flower with a light green or white bract.
Q: Is Alocasia Amazonica Toxic?
A: All plants of the Araceae family contain calcium oxalate, a poisonous substance that can cause various health problems in humans and pets. In contact with the skin, irritation causes redness and itching, and when taken into the digestive tract, it can cause vomiting and kidney disorder. Be sure to wear gloves when handling this plant.
Q: Can Alocasia Polly Grow Outside?
A: Alocasia Polly plants can grow outdoors in climate zones 10 to 11. Since the plant is very susceptible to low temperatures, Alocasia is mainly grown as a houseplant, but it can spend the summer outside in a shaded bright place in the garden or the terrace. Yet, even in zones 10 to 11, cold can cause the above-ground part of the plant to die. However, if the temperatures do not remain unfavorable for too long, with the arrival of warmer weather, there is a chance that it will start growing again.
The striking, beautiful, and unusual Alocasia Amazonica is a plant that is impossible not to notice in any space, even when surrounded by other plants. These large kite-like leaves with a drawn rib are unique and distinctive to this plant.
However, the leaves are only one unique feature of this plant.
On a hot summer day, if you suddenly see tears on the tops of its leaves, you can expect rain soon because your plant will register the increase of air humidity much before you notice the first raindrops!