Sometimes the popularity of a plant is based on easy maintenance.
Yet, some plants, such as Alocasia Amazonica ‘Polly’ (a-loh-KAY-see-uh am-uh-ZOH-nik-uh), have gained popularity despite more restrictive care requirements.
This perennial cultivar has many names:
- African Mask Plant
- Amazon Elephant Ear
- Amazon taro
- Kris plant
- Alocasia Polly
Oddly enough, the origin of this cultivar and its parent plant is a mystery.
Some believe that Alocasia Amazonica may be a hybrid between Alocasia watsoniana and Alocasia sanderiana.
Others believe the plant was created in the 1950s at Amazon Nursery in Florida, as there are no Alocasia species native to South America.
Its relatives are all native to southern Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Australia. This only adds to this mystery.
Despite the confusion about its scientific name, ‘Polly’ is still considered to be part of the Araceae family (commonly referred to as aroids) with its many namesake species.
Alocasia Polly Care
Size & Growth
Polly is more compact than its parent plant, growing up to 2′ feet tall and about as wide. It takes several years to reach its maximum height.
Its claim to fame is the large, glossy arrowhead leaves, which sport three-dimensional silver-green to white veins. These evergreen leaves may themselves reach 1′ to 2′ feet in length.
It’s not uncommon for only one new leaf to appear per month during the summer when growth is at a moderate rate.
Flowering & Fragrance
Polly rarely flowers indoors and produces an unremarkable display when it does.
Its flowers form a spathe around a central spike.
The spathe is light green, while the flowers themselves are a creamy white to yellow.
Light & Temperature
Polly prefers bright, indirect light to medium light. It’s sensitive to direct sunlight and may suffer burns when exposed to the midday sun.
When placing near a window, make sure to protect it with a curtain or set it to the side of the window.
Also, avoid low light conditions, for which Polly has no tolerance. As with all tropical plants, this plant loves high humid environment.
Greenhouses and climate-controlled rooms are ideal. But these indoor plants will still do well in moderate household humidity.
Use a humidifier or water tray to augment the local humidity for better results.
When potted, Polly can be grown outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 8B to 12. Bring it inside when temperatures dip below 65° degrees Fahrenheit.
This plant is not at all cold-tolerant and cannot handle temperatures below 54° degrees Fahrenheit.
An ambient temperature around 86° degrees Fahrenheit away from drafts is ideal.
Watering & Feeding
Polly doesn’t like to sit in water and keeps a store in its stem for dry periods.
As a result, overwatering can be a severe problem.
Instead of maintaining a calendar watering schedule, do the finger test. When the soil is dry 2″ – 3″ inches down, your Amazon elephant ear is ready for a drink.
Add either distilled or rainwater until it begins leaking from the drainage holes. Like Calatheas, Alocasia is sensitive to tap water and the chemicals, salts and chlorine it contains.
Your African mask plant tends to be a heavy eater. Give it a quality liquid houseplant fertilizer with added iron once per month.
It’s usually best to dilute the liquid fertilizer by half, as underfeeding will have fewer adverse effects than overfeeding.
In autumn, cut the feeding down to one time and avoid feeding in the winter.
Some terrarium-based Alocasias will benefit slightly from a single winter feeding. Still, unless it’s living in perfect tropical conditions, your plant will be dormant during this time, and feeding will do more harm than good.
You can also use fertilizer sticks, which you will only need to insert once per season as they last approximately 100 days.
Potting Soils & Transplanting
This plant requires a well-draining soil mix to avoid the risk of root rot. Always plant using a pot or container with a drainage hole.
A good mix is one part potting mix, one part perlite or coarse sand, and one part peat moss or coconut coir.
The mix not only provides excellent aeration but holds the perfect amount of water for the plant without making the roots too moist.
Ensure the pot you use has adequate drainage holes not to trap any excess water in the pot.
Repot your Polly each spring, using fresh soil and upgrading the pot by one size as needed.
Spring is also a perfect time to divide an older plant, which gives you more Amazon taros and allows you to keep the size down.
Grooming & Maintenance
Alocasia Polly is very low-maintenance when placed in a good environment.
Pruning is generally limited to occasionally clipping a damaged or dead leaf.
As this isn’t a fast grower, it’s usually better to divide the plant when it reaches adult size instead of trimming it back.
How To Propagate Amazon Elephant Ear
While there are many ways to propagate an Alocasia, it’s best to use rhizome division for a clumping plant such as Polly.
Choose an adult plant and aim to divide in mid-spring to give it the most growing time.
- Lift the plant from its pot, gently shaking the soil from its roots.
- Separate the rhizomes into thirds and allow them to dry overnight.
- Plant the newly divided plants into separate pots, making sure the top of the rhizome is above the soil.
- Mist the soil to dampen it and place your new plants in bright, indirect sunlight.
Kris Plant Pests or Diseases
Alocasia Polly is vulnerable to several diseases.
- crown rot
- leaf spot
- powdery mildew
- root rot
- southern blight
- stem rot
Regularly wiping down the leaves with neem oil will help prevent infestations and dust buildup.
The plant is both rabbit and deer-resistant.
As with all aroids, keep Polly away from pets and children.
The plant contains calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause kidney stones in humans and are toxic to pets.
Excessive drooling, irritation or burning of the mouth, nausea, and vomiting are common symptoms of ingesting calcium oxalate.
In some cases, skin irritation may also occur when handling the plant.
Suggested Alocasia Amazonica ‘Polly’ Uses
While most commonly used as a houseplant, Polly is excellent for outdoor borders and containers in warmer climates.
Polly also thrives in terrariums.