All Alocasia plants are stunning, but Alocasia Polly may be the most spectacular of the group. Also known as the African Mask Plant, Polly Alocasia (Alocasia x amazonica) flaunts massive leaves with contrasting veining that will not be ignored. This is a statement houseplant, so make sure it has a spot front and center in your home so you can appreciate all its dramatic appeal.
Caring for Alocasia plants isn’t difficult, but this isn’t one that you can neglect. It has specific needs and must be cared for and monitored regularly. It’s generally not a great choice for beginner plant parents.
Alocasia Polly Origin and History
Alocasia plants are from tropical Southeast Asia and Australia, and there are 97 recognized species. In addition to the accepted species, many cultivars and hybrids are developed by nurseries and growers. Alocasia Polly is one of these hybrids.
The exact parentage is unknown, and even the widely used scientific name is a bit of a misnomer. Alocasia x amazonica is not a real species, and the fact that Alocasias are not from the Amazon makes this designation highly suspect. The name was most likely invented by a grower, unofficially, and now has morphed into the commonly accepted “scientific name.”
The mysterious origin story only adds to the intrigue of this stunning houseplant. Alocasia Polly has many common names, including Alocasia x amazonica “Polly (or Poly),” African Mask Plant, and Amazonian Elephant Ear.
Polly leaves are large, growing up to 16 inches long and 10 inches wide. They are thick and leathery, dark green, shaped like arrows with fine pointed tips, and have wavy edges. The most stunning aspect of Alocasia Polly leaves, though, is the brilliant thick white to silver veining that contrasts dramatically against the dark green. All the edges are also outlined in cream or light green, adding depth to the contrast.
Alocasia Polly plants average 2 feet tall. The foliage grows on tall, narrow stalks, which emerge from a central rhizome or bulb. Polly leaves tend to bow forward or hang down, so the face of the leaves are front and center.
Alocasia Polly Care
This section covers important Alocasia Polly care topics such as lighting, watering schedules, temperature, potting, fertilizing, and more.
Alocasia Polly likes lots of bright, indirect light. The key to proper lighting is ensuring that it is indirect. Direct sunlight will burn the leaves and dry out the entire plant. New foliage is especially susceptible to burning.
Place your Alocasia at least a foot away from the window (a south-facing window is best), or use a thin curtain or blind to filter and block direct rays from touching the foliage. If you notice yellowing leaves, the plant is probably receiving too much direct light.
Like many other houseplants, Polly will grow towards the light. To keep it growing straight, rotate the plant 90 degrees every week, and the foliage will rise evenly.
Since they are tropical plants, Alocasias like lots of moisture, but these plants have a special superpower that you need to know about. The tall, thick stems store water, so there is a real chance of overwatering this houseplant if you aren’t paying attention. Polly uses the water in the stems to feed itself, so it doesn’t have to depend on soil moisture.
For the home grower, this means you should always let the top inch of soil dry before watering. If you keep the soil constantly moist, it will overwhelm your Alocasia and lead to root rot and death. To be sure you’re not overwatering, stick your finger in the soil every single time before watering to ensure the top inch is dry.
If you see the stalks drooping more than usual, this is also a sign that your Alocasia needs watering. Some drooping is natural, but significant nodding means it is lacking moisture.
When you water, slowly add enough until it drains out the holes in the bottom of the planter. If you have a saucer under the pot, be sure to empty it of any excess water, as well.
Water treated with chlorine (most city water) is bad news for Alocasias. Use filtered water to ensure the best conditions for your plant.
Temperature & Humidity
Warm temperatures and high humidity are essential for the Alocasia to thrive since it is a tropical houseplant. Household temperatures should be between 60-80F, and humidity is best at 60% or higher.
Most homes don’t have adequate humidity, so you’ll need to supplement for the health of your plant. If you have numerous tropical houseplants, you may want to invest in a humidifier. Another option is to set up a DIY pebble tray humidifier.
Fill a tray with small pebbles, then place the plant on top of it. Next, add water to the tray, being careful that it doesn’t touch the roots or soil of the plant. As the water evaporates, it adds moisture to the room, providing a higher humidity level.
Be extra aware of drafts, air conditioners, heating units, and radiators, as these temperature fluctuations will stress out the Alocasia.
Soil & Pots
Since Alocasia Polly stores water in its stems, it doesn’t rely as much on the soil to retain moisture. The most critical element of good potting soil for Alocasia plants is draining capabilities. Choose a high-quality Aroid potting soil with excellent draining, and your plant will be happy. Add in extra perlite to improve drainage abilities.
Another option is to grow Alocasia Polly in Leca – clay balls that absorb and distribute water as needed. Leca is a fantastic choice for water-sensitive plants like Alocasias. However, since Leca doesn’t contain nutrients like soil, you must be extra diligent about feeding the plant.
Always choose a container with drainage holes so that excess water can drain properly. Again, if your Alocasia gets waterlogged, it is horrible for the plant. A pot with drainage holes will help prevent this issue from occurring. Don’t plant Alocasias in clay or terracotta pots as they absorb moisture, causing the soil to dry out super fast.
The fast-growing Polly needs lots of energy to develop. To keep it healthy and strong, add a well-rounded houseplant fertilizer once a month during the growing season (spring through the beginning of fall). Stop fertilizing in winter when the plant is resting.
Pruning is rarely needed except to remove old dead or dying leaves.
In general, Polly likes being a little root-bound. This means you will only need to repot every other year. If you want your plant to stay the same size, repot it into the same container.
For continued larger growth, increase the pot size to the next largest one when repotting. Don’t put it in a much larger container, as this leads to overwatering issues, which this plant is susceptible to.
Alocasia Polly is toxic to people and animals. Keep it up and out of reach of children and pets.
Alocasia Polly Propagation
Propagating an Alocasia Polly is actually relatively easy. They grow from bulbs (also called corms), and the plant produces new bulbs throughout its entire lifetime. Alocasia bulbs will grow new plants right in the same pot as the parent. To propagate a new plant, you can collect the bulbs before they sprout a new plant or wait until they’ve grown up a bit and then separate them from the parent.
It can be slightly tricky to collect the bulbs since they are beneath the soil and are rather small. To collect the bulbs, very carefully remove the plant from its pot and look around the roots for them. Sometimes, they are so abundant or ready for a new home that they fall off the parent roots as soon as you lift them from the container. Other times, you’ll need to cut the bulbs off. Always use a sterilized sharp knife to cut, so you aren’t harming the parent plant or passing on any diseases.
The best time to check Alocasia Polly for new bulbs is when you are repotting since you’re already removing the plant from the container. This reduces the root disturbance, so the plant doesn’t get overwhelmed or shocked.
Plant the new bulbs in potting soil and water, so the soil is lightly moist until it sprouts. It may take several months for new roots to grow, so be patient! Don’t overwater, as this will cause the bulb to rot. In time, little white roots will appear, and then a stem.
Pests & Disease
Here are some common pests & issues that you may deal with when keeping Alocasia Polly.
Alocasia Polly roots are soft and highly susceptible to overwatering and drowning. Overly wet roots that are never given a break will develop root rot, which is usually a death mark for the plant. Always verify that the top inch of soil is dry before watering to prevent this problem.
Spider Mites, Aphids, and Mealy Bugs
These tiny pests are rare but can occur as with any houseplants. In small numbers, these pests aren’t super harmful. However, if left untreated, they quickly become massive infestations and can destroy your Alocasia. Always treat pest issues as soon as you see them.
The best treatment for all of these pests is regular applications of a neem oil solution. Mix two teaspoons neem oil with one teaspoon dish soap in a quart-size spray bottle, then fill the rest with water. Shake it well and spray the entire plant, being careful to get the leaf undersides, stems, and soil as well. Repeat every 5-8 days, as needed.
You can wipe the large leaves down with rubbing alcohol or dust them with Diatomaceous earth.
Here are a few of the most common questions about Alocasia Polly care:
Why do my Polly Alocasia leaves have brown edges?
This is due to too much direct light; the leaf edges are burning and drying out. Move the plant to a location slightly further away from the light to prevent this from happening.
What happens during winter dormancy with my Alocasia Polly?
Most plants take a break from growing in the winter, and Alocasia Polly is no different. During this time, you’ll need to reduce watering and stop fertilizing, so the plant can rest and relax before the next growing season.
During dormancy, your Alocasia may drop leaves and look generally sad. This is okay and completely normal. It may even drop all its leaves – this is a common occurrence. Don’t worry; your plant is not dead. Just let it be, and in the spring, you’ll see new stems sprouting. The dropping of leaves is a natural part of the lifecycle for this Alocasia; don’t throw the plant out if it drops its foliage in winter!
What are the leaves on my Alocasia Polly turning yellow and falling off?
Leaves turn yellow before dying and falling off. This isn’t an immediate cause for concern, though, so don’t freak out if you see this. Take a look at the plant and how many leaves it currently has grown. Alocasia Polly can only support a limited number of leaves, so it often will get rid of old ones before producing new ones.
Also, since it often expands quite quickly during the growing season, it will start to drop off the weakest leaves. Once there are more than 5-8 leaves on the plant, this is more common.
What are there little drops of water on my Alocasia Polly leaves?
Alocasia’s sweat when they have too much water. The water droplets are a natural function of the plant as it tries to get rid of excess water. Hold off on watering for a bit if you see this happening, and reevaluate your watering schedule. Remember to make sure the top inch of soil is dry before watering and check every time.
Overall, sweating isn’t bad since it’s natural, but if your plant is continuously doing this, it’s trying very hard to tell you to slow down with the watering!
Is Alocasia Polly rare?
It’s not rare, but sometimes it can be hard to find. The availability varies widely; don’t pass it up if you find a nice, healthy-looking specimen. It may be a few more months before you find another.
If you’ve been charmed by Alocasia Polly, you’re not alone! The dramatic leaves, with their vivid contrasting design, are irresistible. Don’t let the specifics of care stress you out, though. As long as you understand the particulars about watering and light, your plant will thrive for many years to come.