Alocasia Polly Care
Alocasia Polly have quickly become one of the more popular houseplants on the market. And it’s easy to see why! They have large, interesting leaves in terms of shape and color. You may also hear this plant called the African Mask or Elephant Ear plant. The native range is a bit disputed, as Alocasia x amazonica ‘Polly’ is a hybrid of unknown parentage. Most likely, the parents probably come from southern Asia. What is known for sure is that just like many alocasia, this cultivar would be right at home in a tropical rainforest understory. This is true for many houseplants, including some you may be more familiar with such as many species of philodendron. Alocasia as a genus ranges in difficulty from beginner friendly to expert level plants. Alocasia Polly falls in the beginner friendly to intermediate skill range. This care sheet will break down how to properly care for Alocasia Polly like an experienced grower!
Any plant that grows as an understory plant needs to be placed in a shady area outside where they will not receive more than four hours of direct sunlight per day. Inside, this translates to “bright indirect light,” though can tolerate medium light, as well. While we may think our homes are well lit, often it is with the use of additional artificial lighting that is not useful to plants. Taking a walk in the woods on an average day will give you an idea of what kind of lighting these plants require. Too much light will cause scorching of the leaves, large swaths of brown caused by the sun. The brown areas are necrotic and will not recover. Sunburn remains for the life of the leaf. The light can still be too bright without causing sunburn. The leaves will begin to look washed out and pale if this is the case. If placed in too dim of an area, this plant shows it a little differently than other plants you may be familiar with. Alocasia Polly will turn all of its leaves toward the nearest light source, as well as grow longer petioles, the stems the leaves attach to, in order to try and reach for the light. When a plant does this, it is called etiolation. If this is an extreme case of etiolation, the petioles may no longer be able to support the leaves. Adding a grow light to the area will help your plant to thrive. The grow lights have the same precautions that the sun has, be sure to follow the directions on the grow light packaging to ensure you will not mount it too close to the plant, or keep it on a dimmer setting to avoid burning.
Watering is going to be the biggest challenge with keeping your Alocasia Polly happy and healthy. These plants thrive with soil that is consistently moist. If the soil is too dry, leaves will begin to yellow in interesting ways, ultimately leading
to dormancy of the plant. If the soil is consistently soggy, this will cause root rot, which leads to its own consequences. Water when the very top of the soil begins to dry. When you water, do not add a measured amount of water. No matter if you are watering from the top or from the bottom, the soil should be saturated when you are finished watering. From the top this looks like adding water to the soil, avoiding the leaves, until the excess water drains from the bottom of the pot. Watering from the bottom means setting your plant in a tray of water that has enough to saturate the soil. This may mean you need to add water back into the tray halfway through the process. Leave the plant to soak until the top of the soil is damp. This could take minutes to hours, depending on the size of the plant and the pot. Never water your plants without checking the soil first. Not only do plants not run on a schedule where they will always need water on Friday, for example, but this is the most common way root rot to begin. Overwatering occurs when water is applied too frequently, often in smaller amounts and is not related to a large quantity of water. If the soil is too wet, gas exchange cannot occur in the roots like it needs to, which will lead to the suffocation and death of roots. The second most common way for root rot to occur is improper watering, or only giving small or measured amounts of water at a time.
Alocasia grow in areas with high organic content in the soil, as well as with sufficient drainage. This means most potting soils straight out of the bag will be perfect for these plants! If you find yourself to be more on the overwatering side, it would be beneficial to either use a cactus mix with high organic content, the “dirt” portion of the soil, or add soil amendments to make the soil you are using slightly more chunky, but not both. Adding too much of the amendment, be it perlite, orchid bark, etc. will cause the soil to drain and dry out too quickly. Be sure to fertilize regularly according to the directions on the bottle. Different types of fertilizer will require different application methods and frequencies.
Alocasia Polly, like many popular houseplants, are fairly disease resistant and don’t often have many problems. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that they will never have issues! Here are some of the most common problems you may come across during the care of your new Alocasia.
Leaves Dying Off
It is important to remember this plant is able to go dormant before you dub it as dead and toss it in the trash or the compost. If all of leaves die off, but the bulb is still nice and firm and the roots are healthy, it is likely your plant simply went dormant. This could be caused by cool temperatures coming from a drafty window or, more likely, they were allowed to dry too much too often. Simply keep your plant in a spot where it will receive plenty of light when it begins to break dormancy and continue to care for it according to this sheet, not allowing it to dry completely. Older leaves will naturally die off as part of the natural growth cycle.
Brown Leaf Tips
When only the tips of the leaves are browning, this is a common sign that there is not enough humidity in the area. You may have seen this happen on other tropical plants in your collection. It is an easy fix by moving this plant to a more humid room like a bathroom or a kitchen, or by obtaining a humidifier and placing it in the same room as the plant. Alocasia Polly often thrive in room humidity, but if your home is dry, it may need a little bit of help, though it will not need to be placed directly next to the humidifier. The brown leaves are necrotic and will not heal, but will also not cause more harm to the plant to leave them on. If you choose to cut off the browning, leave a sliver of brown on the leaves. This will prevent additional wounds on the leaves, which will also eventually brown along the edge.
Brown Circles on the Leaves
If the brown circles on the leaves are perfect circles, this is a sign that there is a fungal infection. This is often caused by watering the foliage while you are watering the rest of the plant, or when the plant is located in an area with too low of ventilation for a prolonged period of time. The circles will often have a “bullseye” appearance, though this is not always present. It is best if the plants are treated with a systemic fungicide. The brown circles will not heal, but if they are not spreading, this is a good sign. Removing the affected leaf or leaves will not necessarily remove the entire infection, but it is still a good practice.
Mealybugs are a white, sap-sucking insect that produces the honeydew mentioned above. They often hide on the underside of leaves and in tight crevices of new growth. They are easily treated with pesticides, an alcohol mixture, or beneficial insects. For more information on how to identify and treat mealybugs, check out the blog post titled Mealybugs and How to Deal with Them.
Spider mites are tiny, spin webs, and feed on the sap of many houseplants. Often, you will find their webs or see the damage they cause before you see the spider mites themselves. Washing the leaves and increasing humidity will help to decrease and eliminate the population. Insecticidal soap and systemic pesticides may also be needed if the infestation is severe. For more information about treatment and identification, please reference the article titled Spider Mites and How to Deal With Them.
Alocasia Polly are one of the most unique plants you can add to your collection and will thrive with the correct care. It is a relatively low maintenance and easy growing plant which will bring a little something extra to any room in your home! As always, if you have any questions or concerns when it comes to your plants, please do not hesitate to reach out. Send me a photo as well as how you have been caring for your plant to email@example.com and I will be able to help!