The Alocasia plant, or commonly known as the African mask plant, originates from the South Pacific. Others choose to call it the Kris Plant or Elephant Ear.
This tuberous/ rhizomatous perennial has other species largely found in the tropical parts of southeast Asia, the east side of Australia, and the Philippines.
There are over 80 species spread across these territories. We’ll look at some of the in-demand species in a moment.
Striking Features of The Alocasia Plant
One peculiar feature that makes this houseplant to be sought-after by most homeowners, is its radiant foliage.
As you’d expect from an indoor plant, the African mask creates a unique visual aesthetic that brings natural scenery to your home.
It can grow large over time, so it’s a suitable plant if you need to fill that space in your balcony which sort of feels redundant.
Since the African mask belongs to the Araceae family, it’s identified by the inflorescence ovoid and intertwined spadix that’s surrounded by a spathe which looks like a flower.
On rare occasions, the African mask will produce flowers, but many tend to overlook this part. Instead, they grow this plant for its distinct leaves.
Another attribute is that it juggles as both an indoor and outdoor plant.
You can grow these plants on medium-sized vessels and use it them to glamorize your landscape.
The level of tolerance to different conditions entirely hangs on the variety which you want to grow in your home.
How Do The Leaves Look Like?
One thing you’ll notice hands-on and make you have a soft spot for this plant is the visual structure of the leaves.
The African mask is appealing to the eye. It’s no doubt why Alocasia is also dubbed the Kris plant. And most of all, every homeowner wants a piece of its colorful and fanciful foliage.
Alocasia has veined leaves that grow in a wide range of colors. Some of the most common colors you’ll probably come across include red, bronze, green, silver, purple, and gray.
Again, there are over 80 species, so you can’t miss out on one that’ll make you’ll desperately fall for.
If you want a big houseplant, then the African mask should, almost certainly, be at the top of your list.
This plant lays itself open and wide, making it win over so much attention —especially if you have some extra space in your balcony or shaded patio.
Alocasia plant vs. Colocasia: What’s The Difference?
While both plants are from the Araceae family, drawing a line between these two is quite easy. The main distinction is that Colocasia is an edible plant.
Most Alocasia leaves will grow upwards since they have sturdy petioles that help them elongate in a horizontal direction.
If the leaves are pointing down, chances are, the plant is a Colocasia.
Light and soil
The Colocasia plant also thrives under direct light exposure and grows in wet soil, unlike the Alocasia.
Alocasia doesn’t do well in very wet soil since the roots will become feeble and begin to rot sooner or later.
Colocasia is kind of like a hydroponic which means it can grow in standing water. Under the ground, Alocasia will begin to crop up both rhizomes and tubers.
One effective way to propagate Alocasia is by replanting a tuber from it. Another way out is to separate a rhizome and grow it into a whole new plant.
Colocasia, on the other hand, only produces tubers, so you have one option for propagation.
Is Every Alocasia A Suitable Houseplant?
Of course, we know you’d wish to plant the Alocasia variety of your choice.
Most species can be propagated to grow as indoor plants. But the catch is, not all varieties can thrive as houseplants.
While a great majority of the varieties will have leaves that grow to 6’ feet in height in a short span, say, one month, the smaller ones will take a little while to grow big. Plants with that grow to such a height will, however, eat up so much space in your home.
If you’re mindful of space, you can try growing the Alocasia Frydek type. This variety, whose botanical name is micholitziana, has a maximum growth height of about 2 to 3 feet.
It’s the most common plant amongst households that have a knack for gardening and a preference for medium-sized plants.
Common Alocasia Plant Varieties & Hybrids
Apart from the Frydek breed, there are a few other best-selling Alocasia varieties in the market.
And with over 80 options, together with a couple of hybrid plants, choosing the most appealing will only just leave you spoilt for choice.
To sum it up for you, here are a few Alocasia varieties you’ll probably crave for —besides the popular Frydek species:
1. Alocasia Amazonica (Polly)
Polly is one most notable Alocasia species you’ll ever come across. This plant’s indigenous place of origin is in Southeast Asia.
It’s a hybrid with large dark-green leaves and edges so sharp like an arrow.
Alocasia Amazonica is known by many names. Some refer to this breed as “the Elephant’s ear”, while others typically call it “the African mask.”
The African plant comes with an immense potential to grow up to 18 inches or 1.5 feet, thereabout, in height and width.
Since this hybrid has long enough been taking all the rage, you can easily find one at your nearest gardening retail store.
2. Alocasia Zebrina
The Zebrina is one kind of a stunning tropical plant. It has quite a few traits you won’t find on other species.
And presuming that you’ve spotted the Zebrina before, even on the background of an Instagram post, you’re probably aware that it doesn’t have the white veins that typically develop on leaves for many of the other varieties during their growth stages.
Zebrina, instead, has quite a different color code made of yellow and a black zebra print texture on the stalks, hence its name and appraise for its visual aesthetic.
However, since it looks a little thinner and feeble, you’ll need to handle both the leaves and stalks with tender care to prevent its appearance from fluctuating.
This particular species doesn’t need tight-lipped watering intervals. One of the discernible symptoms for overwatering this plant is sweating of the leaves.
Since this plant only supports about 5 leaves at a time, you might see some of the old ones beginning to wither.
But that’s not a red-flag for improper care, so don’t panic. They naturally shed off in a bid to bring life into newer and revitalized leaves.
With the right growing conditions, humidity, and a regulated temperature you can grow the Zebrina as an indoor plant to about 3-feet in height and width.
3. Alocasia Macrorrhizos (Giant Taro)
If you want a houseplant that profusely fills up that idle space in your apartment’s balcony, you can never go wrong with the Gaint Taro.
This tropical variety is also well known as the Elephant’s Ear for its cosmic and hulking leaves.
It has gleaming and fine-textured green leaves that grow up to 5-feet in height. It also spans to about 3-5 feet in width.
Compared to the Zebrina, the Giant Taro is far more sturdy and doesn’t bend downwards limply.
To cap the pace which this plant sprouts at, it’s highly recommended to grow it indoors. The Elephant’s Ear is sort of unruly and grows so huge on an outdoor patio. It can vanquish your garden in no time.
4. Alocasia cuprea (Red Secret)
By far, the Red Secret Alocasia is at odds with many other varieties. The foliage is two-toned(red/pink), making this plant fall under the Jewel category.
Most Jewels in the Araceae family have nearly peltate leaves.
A peltate leaf, in plain words, is one which is shaped like a shield and has a stalk attached to the center-lower part rather than the base point —which means it’s not entirely separated into parts.
And that’s exactly what makes the Cuprea an admired and in-demand variety. As the Red Secret ages, it turns to dark green, but the pink color remains dominant.
During its prime time, the plant will grow up to 3-feet in height. What’s incredible about this particular species is that the width spans proportionately to the overall height.
If you leave the Cuprea to overgrow, it can reach to about 15-inches in length.
5. Alocasia Cuculata (Hooded Dwarf)
Hailing from tropical rain forests of Southeast Asia, the Hooded Dwarf is a rare species in the Araceae family that has long enough, been appraised by Buddhists from Thailand and Laos.
It’s believed that this plant brings about prosperity and affluence, hence the name Buddha’s Hand.
Alocasia Cuculata grows to its optimal potential on a moist surrounding that’s considerably above the typical humidity level.
As the name suggests, the Hooded Dwarf doesn’t broaden as much as other species do. It only grows up to 3-feet in height and width.
This Alocasia variety is a bit sensitive to direct light, so make sure to designate some shaded space.
Alocasia Plant Care Blueprint
Soil & Repotting
The African Mask, to be precise, should be planted on moist soil that drains with ease if you want it to grow to its peak.
For a container plant, you need to ensure that the pot has sufficient drainage, to prevent the roots from rotting.
If you’re looking to grow your Alocasia plant on a pot, pick a fairly large one. Small pots don’t give room for growth, so you can’t go frugal on this part.
Your potting mix should preferably be composed of pine bark, some bits of peat or coir, perlite, and a bunch of organic material with nutritional value.
It’s also ideal to use a potting medium that’s not too compressed.
You need loose loam soil that doesn’t stay soggy for long. The recommended soil pH for growing the African Mask is anywhere between 5.5 to 6.5.
Keep a close eye on the duration which the topsoil takes to dry out. Too much moisture beneath the soil can cause a bacterial infection on your plant.
When the plant grows large, repot it into a bigger pot to allows space for drainage, and split the rhizomes to keep up with your preferred reproduction pace.
This guide will help you pick the right potting soil for your Alocasia plants.
If you already fully developed plants, you just have to follow the basic care tips in a definite pattern.
Add a drop of ammonia on each quart of water you use on your Alocasia plant if the foliage color is fading off and you desperately want to improve it.
You can change the top-dressing every once in a while to revamp the growing condition for easy nutrients intake.
Keep the ventilation open regularly to allow clean airflow for your houseplants; they need to breathe and photosynthesize, to keep the foliage glossy all year round.
Water & Humidity
You should moderately keep the soil moist. During winter, these plants don’t need too much watering.
They also do well in humid conditions, so don’t keep your houseplant close to an AC; it’ll die a slow death.
You can mist it regularly using a spray bottle, say, once or twice a week. Species with weak stems and thinner leaves such as the Zebrina shed off so quickly if you don’t water them at close-range intervals.
You don’t need to do any maintenance routine to the flowers since they’re too small and don’t possess any significant value or aesthesic to the plant.
Light & Temperature
The light conditions vary from one variety to the other. With proper care, the foliage for the African Mask tends to glow better with more light.
Alocasia plants thrive in an environment with a temperature of 60° F. Anything below that will cause the plant to derail its growth rate.
Pruning & Propagation
Grooming your Alocasia plant is as simple as plucking the aged leaves since they’ll naturally shed off in the long run.
Propagation, on the other side, is the easiest way to reproduce your Kris plant, without spending an extra buck.
Cutting off fresh rhizomes and replanting them into new pots is one doable option to help you propagate your Alocasia plant.
But that boils down to the variety you want to re-plant in your garden. While most will develop well using this method, the growing conditions will not be the same for every single species in the Araceae family.
The peak time when the African Mask hits the market is during the warmer seasons.
So you might find it far more beneficial to purchase one or two of the Alocasia varieties during spring or the early weeks of summer.
The Alocasia plant usually takes leverage of this grace period to sprout before winter checks in.
During winter, the plant will experience a downturn in the rate of growth due to a restricted light exposure.
If you want your plants to develop normally during this season, look out for alternative light sources and regulate the humidity levels, accordingly.
Studies show that most parts of the Alocasia plant, including its leaves and flower, are poisonous when ingested.
Same as the Calla lily, the African mask contains calcium oxalate crystals which are harmful and irritate sensitive human body parts such as your eyes, mouth, nose, and throat after chewing.
It’s also poisonous to pets, so you’d need to set feasible boundaries.
Disease & Pest Control
Sadly, quite a large number of species in the Alocasia family tree are prone to diseases that attack both indoor and outdoor houseplants.
While some are treatable, others cause excessive damage, so you’ll need to pluck off the whole plant.
You’ll frequently have to inspect the stems and leaves for visible symptoms, to fight any pest infestation before the damage worsens.
Some of the common diseases include roots rot, dark spots on the leaves, weak stems, crown, and Xanthamonas.
You’ll also need to watch out for pests like aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs. Such kinds of pests drain nutrients from your plants and make their roots weak.