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African Mask Plant Care & Growing Guide 2022

Written by Ivy

Nov 10 2022

African Mask Plant Care & Growing Guide 2022

This guide will help you know how to maintain the health and beauty of your African Mask Plant.

Although it is not native to the Amazon (or any other jungle, for that matter), African Mask Plant is a small houseplant from the elephant ear family that is distinguished by its glossy leaves that evoke images of an Amazonian jungle. The most common Alocasia grown indoors is also referred to as the African mask plant.

Read on for thorough growing advice to make sure that your indoor African Mask Plant aroid thrives.

African Mask Plant Information

Common name(s) African mask plant, Kris plant, Alocasia ‘Polly', elephant ear
Scientific name Alocasia x amazonica ‘Polly'
Family Araceae
Height and spread Up to 24 inches high and 10 inches wide
Light Bright indirect
Soil type Aroid soil
Water Keep lightly moist

African Mask Plant Natural Habitat

The cultivar African Mask Plant is one that I mentioned in the introduction. The more precise description is that it's an Alocasia x amazonica variety. It was selectively bred to remain smaller than its parent plant, which is also not a natural species.

African Mask Plant (now more properly known as Alocasia longiloba 'Watsoniana') and Alocasia sanderiana were crossed to create the hybrid known as Alocasia x amazonica. It was created in the 1950s by Florida greenhouse grower Salvadore Mauro, who named the new hybrid after his (now-defunct) Amazon Nursery.

Simply put, this means that alocasia amazonica 'Polly' technically has no natural habitat and did not develop in or near the Amazon.

Still, knowing where a plant came from tells us a lot about what it likes in the home, so let's have a look at where its grandparents originated:

  • Alocasia watsoniana: In Southeast Asia and southern China, tropical forests.
  • Alocasia sanderiana: areas of the Philippines covered in tropical forests.

What is African Mask Plant

It's simple to understand why African Mask Plant appeals to so many gardeners and indoor plant lovers. It is a truly stunning plant, and its leathery-appearing leaves make it very simple to identify. The foliage, which emerges from a central corm, is quite striking: arrow-shaped, very dark green, with lighter, creamy green midribs.

Size is what distinguishes "Polly" from its parent, Alocasia x amazonica. Amazonica can grow to be quite a large plant, too, reaching heights of up to 3 1/2 feet, like other elephant ears can as well.), which makes it all the more spectacular but not ideal for smaller spaces.

Saved by horticulturists, who selectively bred for smaller specimens (a subgroup known as the Jewel Alocasias), we now have the cultivar known as Alocasia amazonica "Polly."

Alocasia X Amazonica Varieties

Although there is only one Alocasia x amazonica "Polly," did you know that there are other cultivars of this plant that have also been developed through selective cultivation? And that horticulturists have actually produced yet more cultivars using ‘Polly as a parent plant? To keep track of it all, I almost need a plant family tree!

These are the varieties I'm aware of (feel free to contact me if you have one to add):

  • Original Alocasia x amazonica: a Watsoniana and Sanderiana offspring. large, gleaming green foliage.
  • Alocasia amazonica ‘Polly': daughter of Amazonica. Medium-sized, gleaming green foliage.
  • Alocasia amazonica ‘Ivory Coast': Amazonian woman's offspring. without the wavy edges, arrow-shaped leaves.
  • Alocasia amazonica ‘Bambino Arrow': Daughter of Polly; dwarf variety; matte, thinner foliage.
  • Alocasia ‘Mandalay': Rounder leaves with more noticeable veins, Polly's daughter.

Remember that there are numerous Alocasia species and cultivars with appearances similar to those described here. For instance, I once owned an Alocasia called "Sarian," which although it has somewhat similar leaves, is a completely different species.

Caring for African Mask Plant

Light and Temperature

Remember the tropical rainforest habitat of your African Mask Plant's grandparents when deciding on care factors like light and temperature. Although species in the underbrush don't get direct sunlight because taller trees block out the strongest rays, they aren't completely in the dark either. Your plant will benefit from a windowsill location in the house that has plenty of light but not too much direct sunlight.

African Mask Plant haven't developed a cold-resistant system because the regions they live in naturally never get very cold. You'll need to keep yours warm inside the house. It's best to keep things at room temperature, but warmer won't be a problem either. Just make an effort to keep the temperature above 65 degrees Fahrenheit to stop your African Mask Plant from deciding it is time for hibernation.

Soil and Planting

The family Araceae, also known as the aroids, is made up of the genus Alocasia as well as well-known houseplants like syngonium podophyllum, Monstera deliciosa, and rhaphidophora tetrasperma. Most of these plants prefer a loose, well-draining soil type. This also applies to African Mask Plant.

Compact mixes, which limit the amount of air that reaches the roots and may not drain quickly enough, are not something it particularly enjoys. It's true that this cultivar prefers its soil to be lightly moist, but that doesn't mean that it needs to be soaking wet. Instead, the medium needs to allow excess water to drain quickly to keep the corm from rotting.

Aroid soil, which may or may not include potting soil, is said by the majority of houseplant enthusiasts to be best for African Mask Plant.

Aroid soil is available for purchase in specialty plant stores, but it's also fairly simple to make your own with the right ingredients. All that is required is a material that can hold back some moisture (such as sphagnum moss, potting soil, or coco coir) combined with components that aid in drainage (such as orchid bark, perlite, pumice charcoal, etc.).).

Potting soil, bark, perlite, and sphagnum moss mixed equally are some examples of simple mixtures.

As for finding the ideal planter, as long as it has a drainage hole, you're good to go. Although you should repot to a larger container if the soil begins to dry out too quickly or the roots protrude through the drainage hole, this species isn't particularly picky about pot size.

1. African Mask Plant2

Water and Humidity

African Mask Plant needs a lot of humidity, just like tropical rainforests do, so it can thrive indoors. At all times, especially in the hot summer months, keep the soil around your plant just a little bit moist. During the winter, you can allow it to dry a little bit more, but never entirely.

When it comes to humidity, using a hygrometer (humidity meter) can be useful to determine whether you're in the clear or need to take action. It should read 50 percent or higher for a happy Alocasia

If it's significantly lower, your plant can suffer, so consider one or more of the following options:

  • putting your African Mask Plant in a more humid part of the house. If they provide enough light, the kitchen or bathroom can be more humid while still functioning well.
  • putting plants in groups so they can share the moisture that each one exudes.
  • running a humidifier close to your plant.
  • utilizing a terrarium, humidity box, or greenhouse cabinet lined with sphagnum peat moss.

Fertilizing

Although African mask plants like this one aren't heavy feeders, they still value a boost now and then during the spring and summer growing seasons. Once a month, when watering your houseplants, you can use diluted regular fertilizer.

If your Alocasia isn't growing well or demonstrates signs of dormancy (more on that below), stop fertilizing during the winter months. The additional nutrients won't be able to be absorbed by it.

Pruning

Generally speaking, your African mask plant won't require any pruning, with the possible exception of occasionally removing a leaf that is tattered or dried out. If your plant has gotten too big for you, it would be best to look at the propagation section below.

Dividing Or Repotting

As was already mentioned, you probably won't need to move your African Mask Plant to a bigger planter too frequently. Only occasionally every few years is a repotted necessary because the plant prefers to be slightly rootbound. In spite of this, it occasionally appreciates some new soil. Repotting works best during the spring and summer growing seasons.

An Alocasia can typically be divided in addition to being repotted. It's possible for what appears to be a single plant above the ground to actually be made up of several corms and clumps, each with its own root system. If you would rather have several smaller plants than one large one, these can be potted separately.

How to Propagate African Mask Plant

African Mask Plant develops from a central corm like every other variety of Alocasia, including alocasia zebrina and Alocasia "Black Velvet." Unfortunately, this means that it cannot be propagated from stems. If you want to spread out your plant, division is your best option.

A mature African Mask Plant should fortunately do the majority of the work for you because it grows in clumps that should make it simple to separate.

If you'd like to divide your African Mask Plant, you can do so as follows:

  • Get the plant out of the pot, then shake off any extra soil. To see what you have, spread it out on a trash bag. Often, at this point, various sections will have already separated.
  • Any of the clusters you're noticing connected to one another? Cut them apart vertically with a clean knife, being careful to preserve the root systems on each one.
  • The clumps can be rooted in water or moist sphagnum peat moss if any of them don't have roots.
  • In typical aroid soil, clumps that have roots can be potted. Give them some water to drink. They might pout a little at first, but they should keep growing normally.

Where the African Mask Plant Comes From

This plant, which is also known as the African mask plant and the Amazonian elephant's ear, is actually native to the South Pacific jungles. Numerous species are native to New Guinea, the Philippines, India, Southeast Asia, and other regions. The Alocasia Polly, a small hybrid that is frequently kept as a container plant inside homes, is the most prevalent variety you'll find in the United States. Although the African mask plant rarely blooms when it is grown in a pot, it still makes a striking houseplant.

How Do You Bring a Dormant African Mask Plant Back?

Alocasias, including African Mask Plant have the ability to go dormant. If they are kept too cold or in the dark, this protective reaction takes place. If your windowsills have a tendency to get cold, it may occur during the winter.

A dormant African Mask Plant won't produce new growth and will probably start to sputter off its leaves. Even if it eventually becomes nothing more than a corm in the ground, it is still not considered to be dead. You can try to rouse it once things warm up in the spring. The corm should return fine if it's still firm.

Here's how you do it:

  • Provide warmth: To keep the heat inside, put the planter on a heat mat or inside a clear plastic bag.
  • Provide light: Locate a location near a window or think about adding artificial lighting.
  • Provide water: Think jungle rainstorm, preferably lukewarm.

Within a few weeks, if you continue doing this while not over-soaking the soil, you should start to notice the first signs of life.

African Mask Plant Common Problems

African mask plants can be picky, even with the best care. The longer you grow them, the more likely it is that you will encounter one or more problems. Here are my top suggestions for restoring their health.

Yellow Leaves

Inconsistent watering is frequently the cause of yellow leaves on African mask plants. Without becoming too dry or developing wet, soggy feet, they prefer to be kept at a constant, even moisture level.

When the top inch or so has dried out, use a moisture gauge to help you determine when to water more frequently in smaller amounts.

Leaves Turning Black

Your African mask plant may have black leaves for a few different reasons. First, the color of the skin can be quite dark, almost black.

But your plant is in trouble if the black leaves are wet or fragile. Moisture, temperature, or humidity problems are the most frequent causes.

They should be kept in evenly moist soil away from vents and drafts in an area that will receive consistent warmth. A pebble tray or humidifier can raise humidity levels.

Brown Spots

Brown spots can be brought on by changes in temperature, inadequate lighting (either too much or too little), illness, pests, or burns from too much fertilizer.

They should be kept in an area that is bright and out of direct sunlight, with temperatures that are consistently above 60°F.

Any pests must be treated right away. Rust can be treated with a natural fungicide if the spots are small, numerous, or turning into pustules. Airflow can also be beneficial.

Common Questions About African Mask Plant

How Fast Does African Mask Plant' Grow?

The African Mask Plant grows quickly. It typically adds one to two new leaves per month, though smaller plants might begin their growth cycle a little more slowly.

How Do You Keep African Mask Plant Leaves Shiny?

Cleaning your African mask plant's leaves not only keeps it looking good, but it also gets rid of dust and cuts down on pests like spider mites. The best way to make your leaves shine is to gently wipe down the top and bottom of each leaf with a soft, damp cloth.

The leaves of alocasias benefit from a couple of lukewarm showers in the sink or bathtub per year to remove debris like dust, dirt, and pet dander.

Can African Mask Plant Go Outside?

Without a doubt, African Mask Plant thrive in warm environments outside. During the summer, you can relocate your potted Alocasia plant outside in areas with dappled shade to partial sun (for example, beneath a porch or a tree canopy). Just keep in mind to bring it inside if the temperature falls below 65°F, and avoid leaving it in the sun for an extended period of time because the leaves can burn.

Is African Mask Plant Toxic to Cats and Dogs?

A burning sensation is unfortunately brought on by calcium oxalate crystals found in African Mask Plant, especially when they are touched in the mouth. Pets and children should not be around this plant.

Does An African Mask Plant Bloom?

When given the right care, an African mask plant can indeed bloom. They will Flower sometime during the summer if you keep them in a warm, sunny location and provide them with regular water and humidity.

Why is My African Mask Plant Dying?

Numerous factors could be at play if your African mask plant is in trouble. Unproper watering (typically too much), exposure to sunlight, and/or changes in temperature are the three main causes of death.

Where Should I Put My African Mask Plant?

Your African mask plant needs to be placed where it will experience constant, warm temperatures, lots of humidity, and bright, diffused light.

When Should I Water My African Mask Plant?

When the top inch or so of soil feels dry to the touch, water your African mask plant.

To maintain the health and vitality of your African mask plants, use the advice in this article. You can successfully grow these tropical beauties now that you are aware of their precise requirements.

Summary

Care for the African Mask Plant, also known as the Alocasia Polly, can be challenging, but it is definitely worth a shot. The three main things you should do are increase the humidity level, make sure it gets plenty of natural light, and avoid letting it get completely dry or remain wet.