AFRICAN MASK PLANTS - ALOCASIA AMAZONICA/POLLY


A Potted History:

African Mask Plants, scientifically Alocasia Amazonica or Alocasia Polly, have a complex origin story spanning a century. The debate revolves around the 'Poly' and 'Amazonica' variants, primarily differing in size. This Taxanomical puzzle makes the history of Alocasia Amazonica captivating and contentious in horticulture.

Some see them as the same plant, while others note chromosomal differences. Initially, it was named A. poly, related to polyploidy, though this was later debunked, adding taxonomic uncertainty. Contrary to its name, 'Amazonica' doesn't originate from the Amazon rainforest. It stems from a Miami hybrid created by Salvador Mauro in the 1950s, in his 'Amazon Nurseries.' The Chantrier brothers played a significant role, crossing A. longiloba and A. sanderiana, leading to Alocasia × mortfontanensis, named after Mortefontaine village in France where they worked. Debate continues on whether 'Amazonica' and 'Poly' are distinct species, further complicated by A. sanderiana's alternative name, A. watsoniana. 


Top Tips and Useful Information:

Care Difficulty - Moderate to Difficult

Alocasia Amazonica, also known as African Mask Plants, can be a rewarding addition to your indoor garden. However, they require specific care to thrive. Here are some essential cultivation tips:

Location and Light:

Place your Alocasia in a bright location with indirect sunlight. They can tolerate being within two meters of a window, but avoid prolonged exposure to strong sunlight, as it can lead to pale, washed-out leaves with potential brown patches.

Watering:

Allow the top third of the soil to dry out between waterings during the active growth period. In autumn and winter, reduce watering to prevent over-watering.

Never use cold water, and if using tap water, let it sit for 24 hours to eliminate chlorine and fluoride.

Be cautious of signs of both under-watering (wilting, little to no growth, greying leaves) and over-watering (rapidly yellowing lower leaves, wilting, brown spots on leaves, and a rotten stem).

Humidity:

Alocasia Amazonica prefers average room humidity. Consider using a humidity tray or misting the leaves regularly, especially during the winter months.

Fertilization:

Feed your plant every four waters during the growing season (spring and summer) and every six waters in the autumn and winter, using a 'Houseplant' labeled fertilizer.

Common Issues:

  • Yellowed leaf sections with browned halos can result from various factors, including insufficient light, overly saturated soil, or the use of cold tap water.
  • Pests such as Spider Mites and Mealybugs can infest your plant. Regularly inspect your plant and take action to eradicate these pests.
  • Wilting can occur due to factors like low light, irregular watering, root dehydration, or environmental shock. Address the underlying issue for recovery.

Maintenance:

Remove yellow or dying leaves and debris to promote a healthier environment for your plant.

When pruning, use clean tools to prevent disease transmission and avoid cutting through yellowed tissue.

Propagation:

African Mask Plants can be propagated through seeds or basal offset division. Separating offsets with a well-established root system of at least 25cm in height is a common method. Follow appropriate transplanting guidelines for success.

Flowers:

Alocasia Amazonica produces inconspicuous inflorescences resembling a white or green spathe with the spadix as the site of pollination. Flowering may indicate stress caused by factors such as irregular watering, root rot, or environmental shock.

Repotting:

Repot your Alocasia every two years in the spring using a 'Houseplant' labeled potting mix. Avoid repotting too frequently, as they tend to perform better when slightly pot-bound.

Pests and Diseases:

Watch out for common pests like mealybugs, spider mites, thrips, and fungus gnats. Diseases such as root rot, leaf-spot disease, botrytis, rust, powdery mildew, and southern blight can also affect your plant.

Toxicity:

Alocasia Amazonica is classified as poisonous due to calcium oxalate crystals present in the plant. Ingesting parts of the plant can lead to symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, and loss of appetite. Seek medical attention for significant ingestions.