African Mask Plant: The Perfect Addition to Your Indoor Garden

close up of an african mask plant the text reads african mask plant care alocasia

My dining room is adorned with an exquisite display of plants, but the one that truly steals the show is my African Mask Plant. Its magnificent foliage adds a touch of elegance to the space. However, cultivating this plant can be a challenge for many gardeners. That’s why I’m here to share some valuable African Mask Plant care tips that will help you succeed in nurturing this stunning indoor plant.

Unveiling the Secrets of African Mask Plant Care

Exposure, Watering, and Humidity: The Key to Success

The African Mask Plant, scientifically known as Alocasia Polly, requires special attention when grown indoors. It is known to deteriorate rapidly if it doesn’t receive proper care. The three essential aspects to focus on are exposure, watering, and maintaining a suitable humidity level.

Living in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, where the average humidity is only 29%, presents some challenges. Yet, my African Mask Plant manages to thrive with just a few brown tips. Although it might not be the most robust of my houseplants, it still flourishes. It shares the same family (Araceae) as popular indoor plants such as anthuriums, pothos, and peace lilies. Fascinatingly, plants in the same family tend to share similar traits, which adds to the allure of this species.

The African Mask Plant, also known as Alocasia Amazonica “Polly,” is a smaller hybrid plant developed specifically for the houseplant trade. Most other Alocasias grow much larger, making the Polly a more suitable option for indoor cultivation. Regardless of the name it goes by, whether African Mask Plant or Alocasia Polly, the care requirements remain the same.

greenhouse plant table with a variety of plants growing including alocasia polly african mask plant, rubber plant, monstera deliciosa

Understanding the Characteristics of the African Mask Plant

Versatile Uses and Compact Size

African Mask Plants are commonly sold as tabletop plants in 6″ pots, although they are also available in 4″ and 8″ pots. As they grow, they not only increase in height but also spread out. The foliage can become quite large, making it an excellent choice for a low, wide floor plant, provided you have ample space.

The Alocasia Polly attains a maximum size of approximately 2′ x 2′, which makes it relatively compact compared to other Alocasias that can reach heights of 4-6′. Over the four years I’ve had mine, the leaves have become slightly smaller, resulting in a less voluminous appearance. At its peak, it stands around 20″ tall and 18″ wide.

Moderate Growth Rate and Striking Foliage

Under ideal conditions, the Alocasia Polly exhibits moderate growth. It thrives in warm temperatures and high humidity. My plant experiences a significant growth spurt during the spring and summer months.

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While the African Mask Plant does produce green spathe-like flowers, they are not a common occurrence when grown indoors. The true allure of this plant lies in its foliage. The deep green leaves with prominent veins make it a focal point in any setting.

If you are in search of another houseplant with stunning foliage, I recommend checking out the Pink Aglaonema Lady Valentine.

Mastering African Mask Plant Care

The Light Requirements of the Alocasia Polly

Similar to many other indoor houseplants, the African Mask Plant thrives in bright, indirect light. Moderate or medium light is the ideal intensity for this species. It is important to avoid placing it in low-light conditions, as this will result in smaller leaves and stunted growth. On the other hand, direct sunlight and exposure to hot glass can cause sunburn.

My Alocasia Polly sits approximately 10′ away from an east-facing bay window. Living in sunny Tucson, Arizona, allows me to provide my houseplants with abundant natural light. However, if you are in a region with lower light levels, periodic rotation of your plant every two to three months will ensure that all sides receive adequate light.

During the winter months, it may be necessary to relocate your plants to a brighter location. For more information on caring for your houseplants during winter, refer to our Houseplant Care in Winter guide.

Mastering the Art of Watering

Keeping a balance in watering is essential for the health of your African Mask Plant. The general rule of thumb is to allow the soil mix to dry out approximately 3/4 of the way before watering again. However, the frequency of watering may vary based on various factors such as pot size, soil type, environmental conditions, and the specific needs of your plant.

Personally, I never allow my African Mask Plant to completely dry out. In the warmer months, I water it every six to seven days, while in winter, I extend the interval to twelve to fourteen days. It’s crucial to observe how your plant is responding to its watering schedule and adjust accordingly.

Overwatering or underwatering can lead to yellow leaves, which can be trimmed if necessary. If you’re a beginner gardener, our guide to 15 Easy Care Plants will be an excellent resource for your indoor gardening journey.

Meet the Humidity Requirements

The African Mask Plant, hailing from sub-tropical and tropical regions, demands a moderate to high level of humidity to thrive. Unfortunately, the average humidity level in Tucson, where I reside, is only around 12%. This has impacted the robustness of my Alocasia Polly. To compensate for the lack of humidity, I have implemented a few strategies:

  1. I place the grow pot on a saucer filled with rocks, ensuring that the roots don’t sit in water to prevent root rot.
  2. Periodically, I spray the plant with water in the kitchen sink and allow it to sit there for an hour or so.
  3. To monitor humidity levels, I utilize a cost-effective humidity meter in my dining room. When the humidity is low, which is often the case in the dry Arizona climate, I use Canopy Humidifiers for 4-5 sessions per week, each lasting 6-8 hours.
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If you have a mister bottle, your African Mask Plant will appreciate a gentle spray two to three times a week. To make the process easier, I recommend using a lightweight spray bottle like the one I’ve been using for over three years.

The level of humidity adjustment required depends on the dryness of your home and the well-being of your plant. Note that small brown leaf tips may be a response to dry air.

Embracing the Warmth

The African Mask Plant thrives in warm temperatures. While it can tolerate cooler temperatures, it won’t grow as vigorously or be as content. Providing a warm environment will encourage optimal growth for this species.

Fertilization: Nourishing Your Alocasia Polly

In addition to my biennial worm compost and compost routine, I feed my African Mask Plant six to seven times a year during the growing season, which spans from spring through early fall. Due to the extended growing season in Tucson, I fertilize from mid-February to October. For regions with colder climates, fertilization can begin in late March or April.

I take new growth and leaf emergence as an indication to start feeding. Depending on your climate zone and the length of your growing season, feeding two to three times per year may suffice for your indoor plants.

I alternate between different fertilizers such as Grow Big, liquid kelp, and Maxsea during the growing season to provide a balanced nutrient profile. Other popular options you might consider are kelp/seaweed fertilizer and Joyful Dirt. However, be cautious not to over-fertilize, as excessive use can lead to salt buildup and root burn. Adjust the frequency of fertilization based on the available light, as lower light levels require less frequent feeding.

If you are looking to add some greenery to your office, our Office Plants For Your Desk guide will provide some excellent options.

multiple 6 inch pot alocasia polly african mask plants growing in plant nursery

Creating the Perfect Soil Mix

To ensure proper aeration and drainage, it is crucial to use a well-draining potting mix for your African Mask Plant. My preferred mix consists of a combination of 1/3 coco chips, 1/3 pumice (perlite can be used instead), and 1/3 potting soil. Additionally, I add a few handfuls of charcoal, although it is not necessary. The charcoal helps sweeten the soil and facilitate drainage.

Upon planting, I incorporate a couple of handfuls of organic compost into the mix, as this plant benefits from a rich soil blend. To promote continued health, I top-dress with a 1/4″ layer of worm compost followed by a 1″ layer of regular compost.

Repotting: Best Practices

Spring or summer is the ideal time for repotting or transplanting your African Mask Plant. If you reside in a warm climate, early fall is also acceptable. Avoid repotting indoor plants during winter, as it is their resting period. The need for repotting will be determined by the growth rate of your plant.

For the Alocasia Polly, repotting every two to four years is sufficient, considering it prefers a slightly crowded environment. When repotting, I recommend moving up 1 pot size. For example, if your plant is currently in a 6″ grow pot, transplant it into an 8″ grow pot. Ensure that the pot has proper drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.

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If you require more guidance on plant care, our comprehensive collection of houseplant guides will be a valuable resource. Topics such as watering, repotting, cleaning, winter care, humidity, and buying houseplants are covered extensively.

Propagation: Expanding Your Collection

The most effective way to propagate Alocasia Polly plants is through division. This process is best carried out during the warmer months, ranging from spring to early fall. For a detailed guide on the division process, refer to our tutorial on How to Propagate ZZ Plants.

Pruning: Minimal Intervention

Pruning is generally not required for African Mask Plants. Occasionally, you may need to remove yellow leaves, but aside from that, minimal intervention is necessary. Ensure that your pruners are clean and sharp before performing any pruning tasks.

If you’re just starting out on your gardening journey, we have an assortment of Easy Care Floor Plants and Easy Tabletop & Hanging Plants to help you create a green oasis in your home or office.

Pests: Vigilance Is Key

Fortunately, my African Mask Plant has not encountered any pests. However, it is known to be susceptible to mealybugs, which tend to hide deep inside the new growth. To combat them, a gentle spray in the kitchen sink usually suffices. If necessary, you can use a cotton swab dipped in a mixture of alcohol and water to target the pests. Be on the lookout for scale insects, spider mites, and aphids as well, as they can multiply rapidly. Prompt action is essential to prevent infestations from spreading from plant to plant.

Pet Safety: Awareness Is Crucial

Like all plants in the Araceae family, Alocasia Polly is considered toxic. To understand the specific toxicity of this plant, I recommend consulting the relevant information on the ASPCA website. As a pet owner myself, I find it essential to be aware of any potential risks posed by houseplants. For a list of non-toxic alternatives, refer to our collection of 11 Pet-Friendly Houseplants.

A Video Guide to African Mask Plant Care

Watch our comprehensive African Mask Plant Care video guide to gain a deeper understanding of how to care for your Alocasia Polly.

African Mask Plant Care FAQs

In summary, African Mask Plant care, or Alocasia Polly care, can be challenging but immensely rewarding. By focusing on maintaining suitable humidity, providing bright, indirect light, and establishing a balanced watering routine, you can successfully cultivate this captivating plant.

African Mask Plants have gained popularity recently and are more readily available than in the past. You can find affordable 4″ plants on Etsy. The foliage of this plant is undeniably captivating.

Please note that this article was initially published on 1/11/2020 and updated on 2/25/2023 to provide you with the most accurate and relevant information.

Happy gardening!

Signed by Nell Foster

Don’t miss out on the chance to explore the wonderful offerings of the Ames Farm Center.