Alocasia Plant Care: Growing The African Mask Plant

Alocasia hybrid

The Alocasia plant is an attractive foliage plant and houseplant capable of growing quite large if given enough humidity and extra light during the winter months.

Its unique foliage make it an interesting houseplant and even more interesting in a landscape.

Alocasia calls the South Pacific home, and many species in particular the Phillipines.

At one time the genus of Alocasia was considered to be part of the Colocasia (elephant ear plant) but was reclassified.

Alocasia and Colocasia Differences

One of the things with distinguishes the Alocasia plant from the Colocasia plant is the Colocasia is edible.

Throughout the Pacific islands and Southeast Asia, the roots or tubers of Taro (Colocasia esculenta) are roasted or boiled and eaten.

Although the Alocasia has a very similar type root, it is not an edible plant.

Eye Catching Leaves

Alocasia hybrid
The demand for foliage plants as decoration in modern homes seems beyond limit.

The African mask plant (some think the plant looks like one) or Kris plant as the Alocasia is sometimes called is a plant meeting the demand.

Many of the 70 or so different Alocasia species have veins with contrasting colors that are clearly defined and leaves which are attractive, eye-cataching and exotic.

Unique in coloring and bold in shape, Alocasias attract the attention of all who see them.

The combinations of bronze, green, silver gray and cream with corresponding variation in the shape of the leaves, make them truly gems among plants grown for their foliage.

Alocasias are still relatively uncommon for the average homeowner and a bit of sleuthing may be necessary to locate them. Although more are available due to tissue culture propagation.

Not All Houseplants

Many interested in Alocasia think they can all be grown as houseplants. But, there are some varieties which grow very tall with a leaf and stem reaching over 6 feet. Much too big for use as a houseplant, maybe a conservatory plant!

Alocasia macrorrhizos Borneo Giant

Some do fine on a sun-porch with plenty of light, others require almost a greenhouse atmosphere to do well.

There are several varieties and hybrids like: Alocasia Amazonica which will grown well indoors with enough light and could use a little boost of artificial light during the winter months.

Big And Out Grown

If you are able to provide the right conditions to grow Alocasia indoors well, overtime, it can outgrow its space.

As the plant grows the leaves grow larger and the stems grow longer. This happens gradually over a period of a few years.

Varieties and Hybrids

As noted above there are over 70 species.

Alocasia Cuprea

Over the years there have been numerous hybrids made as well. One of the most popular is the cross with Alocasia Sanderiana and Alocasia Watsoniana called Alocasia Amazonica.

There are several others but in recent years new hybrids have been made. These new hybrids are all in a effort to produce plants that will grow indoors under normal lighting or create more unique plants for the landscape.

Alocasia Propagation

There are several ways to propagate Alocasia. One method is from the root cuttings (corms -little bulbs) the plant sends out. Another is by suckers cuttings.

Take the stem cutting with a sterile knife or razor making sure an “eye” is in each section. Dress the wound with a fungicide.

Plant the cutting or lay it horizontally on moist soil, lighting covered, keeping a temperature of round 75 degrees.

Begin watering after sprouts start growing. Begin liquid feed after a couple months of growth.

Kris Plant Pests

Indoors especially during winter the dry air can lead to spider mites, along with sections of the plant drying out.

For minor spider mite problem… wiping the leaves while applying a good forceful blast of water may be all that is required.

Mealy bugs can also find their way to plants. A cotton swab with alcohol may do the trick. Alocasia can be tender so what you treat insects with, so be careful. Wipe the leaves regularly using a clean cloth or sponge to keep plants free of dust.

Flowers

The Alocasia are basically for “non-show”, with flowers which are “Calla-lily like” having the flower spike surrounded by bracts.

Buying Tips

Alocasia Sanderiana
Alocasia plants are often in stores and garden centers during the spring and at other irregular times throughout the year.

The best time to purchase plants is in spring or early summer. It is often sold during the brighter warmer months.

This allows time for plants to acclimate and establish themselves before winter. It often rests in the winter time due to poor winter lighting.

With proper humidity and extra light during the winter Alocasia is not a difficult plant to grow.

Alocasia Care

Size and Growth: The varieties grown as a “houseplant” can grow up to 4 feet tall, with leaves 20 inches long or more.

Each leaf begins growing from the ground on a long stem. Some varieties will produce a trunk as they mature and grow leaves of considerable size.

Flowering: Alocasias do flower with a “calla-like bloom” but are grown primarily for their leaves and the decorative value they provide. The flowers have no particular scent.

Alocasia hybrid

Light and Temperature: The Alocasia requires good lighting all through the year. During winter months the plant may “rest” often due to lower and poor light levels.

They also require loots or warmth. The landscape varieties can grow outdoors in full sun. The “houseplant” varieties like bright light but not full sun.

Temperatures below 50 degrees may cause the plant to lose leaves.

Watering and Feeding: The soil or potting media should be kept evenly moist. It responds well to liquid feed delivered at half the recommended label dose.

Soil and Transplanting: The soil should contain be well draining. For planting in pots, 2 parts African violet soil mix and 1 part perlite, will produce excellent results.

With potted plants an a good layer of drainage material at the bottom of the pot can be beneficial. A small pot with poor soil can slow down plant growth.

When planting in the ground, with a good mix of organic material incorporated is advised.

Grooming: The plant requires no real grooming other than removing older leaves with a sharp knife as they whither and die off normally.

Propagating: Sucker, Tissue Culture, or division of root stock.

Its been noted that Alocasia is toxic. Children and pets should be kept away from the plant.


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