The Alocasia Polly is a houseplant favorite. It is a tropical perennial known for its leathery arrowhead leaves and prominent light green veins.
Caring for your Alocasia Polly takes some commitment. It is a temperamental plant that requires >70% humidity, deep watering when its top 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm)of soil is dry, and bright indirect light. Indoor temperatures must be kept stable to avoid leaf drops.
LECA is a good growing medium for this plant, as it is sensitive to overwatering. Protect fragile roots by choosing a gentle fertilizer. You’ll also need to check regularly for spider mites.
Daunted yet? Don’t be. We’ll break it down for you!
What is the Alocasia Polly?
The Polly is a man-made hybrid between Alocasia Longiloba and Alocasia Sanderiana. It comes from the Alocasia genus, native to tropical rainforests of South-East Asia and Australia. You may also know it by one of its nicknames:
- African Mask Plant
- African Shield
- Elephant Ear
- Alocasia Amazonica
How to care for your Alocasia Polly
To avoid disappointment, keep your Alocasia Polly in bright but filtered light for at least 8 hours a day. In low-light conditions, its growth will slow, leaves yellow, and fall off. On the other hand, direct sunlight can scorch its leaves, resulting in brown edges.
Your best bet is choosing an East or West-facing window that receives ample filtered sunlight. Place Your Alocasia right next to the window, without touching the windowsill.
If a South-facing window is your only option, ensure you protect your Alocasia from direct light by using a 20-40% shade cloth.
Every week, rotate your plant 90 degrees to ensure that your Alocasia receives the same amount of sunlight on all sides. Being a phototrophic plant, the Alocasia grows towards the light. So rotate for even growth!
Getting watering right for your Alocasia can be challenging, but is so critical to helping your plant thrive. In its native environment, you can usually find it growing near a water source, so it enjoys evenly moist but not soggy soil.
In addition, Alocasia Pollys have thick but fragile roots and store moisture in their stems rather than drawing it from the soil, making them sensitive to overwatering.
Here’s how to rise to the watering challenge:
- Allow the top 2 inches (5cm) of soil to dry out between watering in growing months (top 3 inches, 7.6cm in winter). Checking if the topsoil is dry is the best way to determine if your plant needs watering. Avoid watering on a set frequency.
- After watering, check your plant’s saucer and discard and excess water. Your Alocasia does not like to be sitting in water! This can invite root rot.
- This plant is not drought-resistant. If your plant has browning edges, it is a sign of underwatering, so dial up the water in this case.
Aim for a humidity level of >70% for your Alocasia Polly. This is likely much higher than what you can provide naturally. We recommend using a simple plant humidifier if your budget allows it.
Check out other suggestions on how to increase humidity levels here.
Your Alocasia Polly grows best within a tight temperature range between 60 – 80 degrees F (15 – 27 degrees C). Too-cold temperatures will cause your plant to go dormant.
Do not place your plant in front of air vents or in the way of cool drafts. Temperature stability is as important as staying within that tight range… or you may find dropping leaves as a result! (We warned you she is picky!)
Since your Alocasia Polly holds its moisture inside its stems, you need to look for a growing medium that drains well.
Peaty, organic-rich, and well-draining soil is a good option for your Elephant’s Ear. A simple mix of equal parts indoor potting soil, orchid bark, and pumice will do the trick.
Alternatively, you can plant your Elephant’s Ear in LECA. We’re a fan of LECA for fussy Alocasias, as it reduces the risk of over or under-watering, and provides airflow to your plant’s fragile roots. (You can read more about the pros and cons of LECA here.)
If planting in soil, use a container with drainage holes to ensure your plant is not sitting in a pool of water. Terracotta or clay pots are also a good option as they help wick away excess water.
If you are planting your Alocasia in soil, use a high-quality liquid fertiliser (this is a good option) and dilute with water. Fertilize once every 2 weeks in spring and summer at half-strength and hold off in winter and fall.
If you are using LECA, however, please use a hydroponics fertilizer.
Your plant likes to be slightly root-bound, so there is no reason to repot your plant unless you notice a handful of roots pushing through the bottom of the pot. This usually happens every 2-3 years.
When repotting, ensure you provide fresh soil for your plant or sterilize your LECA balls. Repot to a container 2 inches (5cm) bigger than the last to avoid overwatering your plant. You can check out our repotting step-by-step guide here.
Unfortunately, according to ASPCA, all plants in the Alocasia genus have insoluble calcium oxalates in their stems and leaves, making them mildly toxic to animals and children. Ingesting parts from this plant can lead to an irritated mouth, nausea, and vomiting.
It’s best to keep this plant out of reach of your children and pets… perhaps a high shelf will do?
Your Alocasia grows from rhizomes (modified stems) in the ground. Spring and early summer are the best months for propagation, just after dormancy.
Division is the easiest method to propagate an Alocasia Polly. And it’s so simple!
Our only caution is to propagate sparingly, as it is stressful for your fragile Polly. Make sure your plant is well-established before propagating, and expect that it may need some time to recover afterward.
- Gently lift the plant out of the pot. The plant grows in “clumps” of corms (bulb-like structures) and roots, so you can usually see multiple clumps that you can separate.
- Clean the roots with tap water and separate the clumps, being careful not to damage the roots.
- Replant the separated corm and roots. That’s it! 🙂
When your Alocasia goes into dormancy, it kicks into a phase of lower metabolic growth. During this time, your plant recognizes that growing conditions are not optimal, so it focuses on keeping itself alive and well-prepared for future growth.
This means letting its leaves wither and fall off. It also means busying itself with storing energy and converting carbohydrates to lay the foundation for new leaves later.
Your Alocasia enters dormancy when it notices winter approaching. It senses a drop in temperature, less sunlight, and drier winter air. All of these conditions are less favorable for growth. Dormancy usually lasts through the winter months, with your plant perking up again in spring.
During this time,
- If your Alocasia has completely lost its leaves, move to a shadier spot as it does not need as much sunlight. If not, leave it be.
- Stop fertilizing – your plant does not need it.
- Water your plant less. During dormancy, aim to keep the soil a bit drier than normal. Allow the topsoil to dry out to 3 inches, 7.6cm (instead of 2 inches, 5cm) between waterings.
While your Alocasia appears bare and lacking vibrancy, it’s important to remind yourself that dormancy is natural and does not harm the plant. As we’ve explained, it’s actually sensible for your Elephant Ear to re-prioritise its energy in this fashion! 🙂
Why do the leaves have brown edges?
Too much direct sunlight causes brown margins on your Elephant Ear. Remember that your plant should be kept in bright but filtered light for at least 8 hours a day. You can use a shade cloth to protect your plant or relocate it to a more shady location.
Why are the leaves yellow?
Yellowing leaves usually indicate over or under-watering. Remember always check if the topsoil is dry before watering.
However, note that old leaves will naturally turn yellow and shed. This is because your plant focuses its energy on staying alive and developing new leaves. So if the yellowing leaves are confined to a select few older leaves, there’s nothing to worry about.
Why are the leaves fading and dying?
If you are approaching winter, it could be that your Alocasia is turning dormant. Refer to the Dormancy section for plant care during this time.
Why are the leaves limp?
There are 3reasons why your plant’s leaves are limp: your plant could either be i) under-watered, ii) not getting enough light or iii) lacking humidity.
If you accidentally allow your Alocasia’s soil dry out completely, you need to revive your plant by soaking it in water.
- Place your potted plant (without its saucer) in a basin filled with tap water up to 4 inches high. Ensure you use room-temperature water.
- Leave to soak for 45 minutes.
- Touch the topsoil of your plant to check if it is damp. Has the water reached the top?
- If not, water your plant from the top.
- Release the water from the basin and move your plant back to its original spot.
Another option is that your plant is not getting enough light. Move to a location where it receives ample bright, indirect light. East or West-facing windows are best; ensure it is placed directly next to the windowsill!
Lastly, your plant could be suffering from a lack of humidity. Recall that Alocasia Pollys prefer high-humidity climates (>70% is optimal). Invest in a humidifier if your air is too dry.
Frequently Asked Questions
How big does an Alocasia Polly get?
Grown indoors, your Alocasia Polly can reach up 3 feet (1 m) tall.
How fast does Alocasia Polly grow?
They are fast-growing plants if the right conditions are met. They can grow 1-3 leaves a month.
Do all Alocasias go dormant indoors?
No, not all. Alocasias go into dormancy only when they sense a drop in temperature, low-light and drier air conditions. If your plant is not exposed to these conditions (e.g., if you live in a country where the temperature is warm year-round), your plant will not go into dormancy.
How do you make Alocasia leaves bigger?
A loose, airy growing medium is key to helping your Alocasia leaves bigger. Opt for a peat, pumice, and bark-based mixture, or use LECA for optimal breathability.
Also ensure your Alocasia is getting sufficient sunlight by placing it right next to an East or West-facing window with ample bright filtered light.
Should I prune my Alocasia?
Alocasia Pollys do not require pruning for shape or size. However, its good practice to snip off dead or damaged foliage. It helps your plant focus on new growth! 🙂
Does Alocasia Polly produce flowers?
Your Elephant Ear can produce white, spathe (long, spiky looking) flowers but rarely does so when planted indoors. We must say… it is a strange-looking flower!
My Alocasia has lost all its leaves! What should I do?
If your Alocasia Polly’s leaves have all fallen off, snip them off at the base and keep the pot with the plant’s roots and bulb somewhere warm and bright. Give it water when the top 3 (7.6cm) inches of soil are dry.
Though it looks sad on the surface, it stores energy under the soil in its rhizomes and roots. It will bounce back again in the spring.
Where can I buy an Alocasia Polly?
You can try your local nursery or online here. They should be reasonably priced, around US$15-20 for a starter pot.
Other Alocasias we love
- Alocasia Melo
- Alocasia Sarian
- Alocasia Black Velvet (Alocasia Reginula)
- Alocasia Lauterbachiana
- Check out our Alocasia Round-Up (w/PHOTOS!)
Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.