The Alocasia Polly plant, also known as Alocasia Amazonica or ‘elephant’s ear’, is a popular houseplant, grown for its spectacular leaves.
Growing it, however, can be a challenge, especially if you’ve never had an Alocasia houseplant before.
In this guide, our green-thumbed experts reveal their top tips for growing a beautifully healthy Alocasia Polly.
Alocasia Polly care guide
The main thing to remember is that all Alocasia plants are, originally, tropical plants that grow under the canopy of large trees. As long as you aim to mimic those natural growing conditions, your plant will be healthy and should thrive for many years.
Plant your Alocasia Polly in a rich, well-draining soil mixture, with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. It is essential to provide the plant with plenty of nutrients, as well as ensure that the soil is not compacted. A mixture of one part potting soil mix and one part perlite will work nicely, although you can also use alternatives such as peat, coco coir, or loam mixtures.
Use a plastic pot with drainage holes, as this will preserve the moisture in the soil better than ceramic or terracotta pots. Alocasia Polly actually enjoys being a bit root-bound, so when repotting, make sure to use a pot that is only a couple of inches wider than its previous one.
Alocasia Polly thrives in bright, indirect light. Placing it in a dark corner will cause the leaves to turn yellow, while too much direct sun can scorch them, leading to dry, brown edges.
In order to strike the perfect balance, aim for a room with an eastern or western exposure, where it can get plenty of sun throughout the day, but avoid putting it too close to the window or in direct sun.
Keep the soil moist at all times, but not soggy. Before watering the plant, check the soil with your finger, and only water if the top 2 inches (5 cm) feel dry. You can also tell whether your Alocasia needs to be watered by looking at the stems, which start to droop when it’s thirsty. However, waiting too long in between watering can stress and weaken the plant, making it susceptible to pests and diseases.
Alocasia Polly does not tolerate drought, and although it loves water, too much of it can cause root rot. Again, it’s all about finding the sweet spot.
In warm summer months, watering twice a week is normal, yet you will need to reduce your watering schedule in the cooler winter months when the plant enters dormancy.
Soft water (such as rainwater) is best, but if you’re using tap water, allow it to sit in the watering can for at least a day before use.
As a tropical plant, Alocasia Polly grows best in temperatures between 64°F and 77°F (18°C to 25°C). If the temperature drops below those figures, it can be harmful for the plant, especially in winter. Avoid placing it under an air conditioner, next to a radiator, or in a drafty room, as this can lead to sudden changes in temperature which will damage the plant.
The trickiest part about caring for Alocasia Polly is meeting its humidity requirements. Ideally, you should provide it with at least 50% humidity. Anything below, and you will notice that the leaves start curling, browning, and eventually dropping off. If you have a bathroom with a window that allows for sufficient indirect light, this room would be the perfect spot for your Alocasia.
There are several ways in which you can ensure that your Alocasia Polly gets enough humidity. Misting may seem like a good choice, however, this only increases the humidity level for a brief period of time. If possible, provide your plant with a humidifier. Otherwise, the easiest way to increase humidity is by placing the potted plant on a pebble tray half-filled with water.
Apply liquid fertilizer once a month during the growth period, from mid-spring until early autumn. Alocasia Polly enters dormancy during winter, which means you can stop feeding it altogether throughout those months. Always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for the water to fertilizer ratio, and avoid feeding the plant if the soil is dry, as this can burn the roots.
On average, Alocasia Polly produces a new leaf each month. If you notice that months go by with no new growth, this could be a sign that you need to apply fertilizer, or even repot the plant. A sign of a happy plant is not just regular growth, but also flowers.
Alocasia Polly flowers are usually produced by mature plants that are at least one-year-old. The plant typically produces one flower, which is slightly similar to that of a peace lily, but green in color.
Alocasia Polly care: Indoor guide
Alocasia Polly is a great indoor plant and, if provided with the right growing conditions, it’s not as difficult to care for as you may think. Simply refer to our care guide listed above for its soil, water, light, and temperature needs.
The main thing to be careful of when growing Alocasia Polly indoors is to provide it with the right amount of light and humidity. Often, most of the issues this plant will encounter come from not meeting those two essential needs.
Avoid placing your Alocasia Polly in direct sunlight, as this will burn the leaves and cause discoloration. Too little light and the plant will become leggy and start yellowing. Achieving the right level of humidity can be tricky, as the average home has a humidity of 30% – 40%. Aim for at least 50% by either providing the plant with a humidifier or placing it on top of a pebble tray.
Alocasia Polly care: outdoor guide
Our recommendation is to grow Alocasia Polly in a pot, even outdoors. This way, you will have more control over its growing requirements, and you can relocate it somewhere warm when temperatures drop too low.
When moving your Alocasia outside for the first time, it’s essential to acclimatize it, otherwise, you risk shocking the plant and killing it. Take it outside for a few hours each day, and bring it back inside during the night, until you’re sure that there’s no chance of temperatures dipping below 59°F (15°C).
Place your potted Alocasia in a corner of your garden where it is safe from the scorching mid-day sun, as well as wind, which can knock the pot over. You will also need to monitor soil moisture levels constantly, so don’t rely on the watering schedule you use for indoor plants. Always check the top of the soil and water when dry, preferably in the evening. Depending on how hot it is outside, you might even have to water your plant every day.
Alocasia Polly can really thrive outdoors, and can even grow faster, producing larger leaves than when it’s grown inside. However, one of the drawbacks is that it’s more vulnerable to insects and pathogens when kept on your porch, or in your garden.
Common pests and problems
As well as plant lovers, Alocasia Polly is extremely popular with a whole host of other critters. Unfortunately, not all of them are friendly and in time, can damage or even kill your plant.
So, let’s take a look at the pests that can damage your Alocasia Polly, but also how to troubleshoot the most common problems.
– Spider mites
The most common pest for indoor plants, spider mites, can be a real threat to Alocasia Polly. They often occur if your plant is kept in a dry and drafty room. Signs of infestation are usually leaves turning yellow at the tips and around the edges. To confirm that your plant has spider mites, check the underside of the leaves: you will notice small, white spots and a light, spider-like web covering the leaf.
If your Alocasia Polly has spider mites, isolate it from your other plants immediately, as these pests are highly contagious. Using the shower, try to wash off the underside of the leaves, in order to dislodge as many of these bugs as possible. In severe cases, it’s better to cut off the infested leaves completely.
The most efficient way to get rid of spider mites is to mix a solution of 1 part isopropyl alcohol (or rubbing alcohol) and 4 parts water, then gently wipe the underside of the leaves with this solution, using cotton pads. Repeat this step twice a week, for at least a month.
Aphids are a common pest, especially if you’re keeping your Alocasia Polly outdoors. They are fairly easy to spot as they form clusters of bugs on the stems and undersides of the leaves. Signs of a plant that has been attacked by aphids are yellowing, shriveled or curling leaves, stunted growth, and a sticky layer covering the damaged areas of the plant.
To get rid of aphids, first hose the plant down, and dislodge as many as possible. Then, make an insecticidal solution using 4 tablespoons of liquid soap (free of any fragrance, coloring, moisturizers, or other additives) in 1 gallon of water. Mix thoroughly and spray the plant once every two days, for a month. Make a fresh batch of the insecticidal solution before each use.
– Fungus gnats
Fungus gnats are insects that look similar to fruit flies, but smaller. They prefer living in damp, moist environments, and can be a problem especially if you water your Alocasia Polly too often. You will usually notice them flying around the infected plant, and landing on the damp soil, where they lay their eggs. Fungus gnats are mostly harmless, but if they grow in numbers, they will cause the plant to yellow and drop its leaves, and can even destroy the roots.
The most effective way to get rid of fungus gnats is using hydrogen peroxide. Use a 3% concentration solution to drench the soil, but avoid overwatering the plant, as this will continue to attract adult insects. Alternatively, you can add Mosquito Bits (or Mosquito Dunks) in your watering can before watering the plant — check the manufacturer’s guidelines for the exact dosage. In the case of severe infestations, however, changing the soil and repotting the plant will be the best option.
– Watering and humidity issues
Most of the problems with Alocasia Polly come from either too much water or not enough. This will stress the plant, weakening it and making it unable to defend itself from pests. For example, too little water and low humidity create the perfect environment for spider mites. Meanwhile, too much water will make your potted Alocasia very attractive to fungus gnats. Therefore, it’s important to strike a balance between the two.
Signs of an overwatered plant are soft, limp, yellowing leaves. Often, you will notice brown spots on the leaves, caused by fungal infections due to overwatering. If the plant is under-watered or it doesn’t have enough humidity, the leaves will start browning and crisping at the tips, slow or stunted growth, as well as a wilted look. To prevent this, water your Alocasia Polly when needed, and always make sure to check that the top two inches of the soil are dry. Also, aim to keep the humidity levels in the room around at least 50%.
– Too much or not enough light
Even though Alocasia Polly loves bright, indirect light, too much sun can be fatal to this plant. The first signs that it is getting too much light are pale, discolored leaves, and in severe cases, even brown scorch marks. However, the discoloration can also be a sign of too little light, especially if you notice that your Alocasia is becoming leggy and only making very small leaves — or none at all.
Provide your Alocasia Polly with plenty of indirect light to ensure healthy growth. Avoid placing it on windowsills and any parts of your home where the leaves are exposed to direct light, especially in summer.
Can you revive a ‘dead’ Alocasia Polly?
Sometimes, if your Alocasia is too stressed or badly damaged by pests, it can shed all of its leaves. Does this mean that the plant is a goner? Well, not necessarily. As long as the roots are healthy, there’s still some chance that you can bring it back to life.
In order to check that there’s still hope for your Alocasia Polly, dig out the roots (or rhizomes) and inspect them. Healthy roots should be light in color and firm to the touch. If they’re soft and blackened, that’s a sign of root rot, which will make salvaging it almost impossible. Often, you will also find small, round bulbs (or corms) in the soil, which you can use to propagate a new plant. Check that they’re hard to the touch and that they still have a few roots attached to them.
Place the rhizomes or corms in a small pot with damp potting soil and perlite mix. Cover with a light layer of soil, and use a spray bottle to water regularly. Keep in a warm, humid, and bright spot until you notice that the leaves are starting to grow back. You can keep it on a windowsill, but move the pot away from direct light as soon as the leaves make an appearance, to prevent burning them. Also, be patient: the process of reviving your Alocasia can take many weeks, even months.
Some yellow leaves are normal
If you notice your Alocasia Polly leaves turning yellow, you don’t need to worry straight away. Sometimes, as the plant grows, it will reuse nutrients from the older leaves to sustain new growth. One yellow leaf every now and then at the bottom of the plant is normal for Alocasias.
Don’t cut the yellow leaf off, just allow it to wilt and dry off naturally. It may not look pretty, but your plant still needs the nutrients in the leaf to grow healthy.
However, if you notice that your Alocasia Polly is constantly producing yellow leaves, especially new ones, then it’s time to inspect the plant. Check for pests and make sure that you’ve ticked all the boxes when it comes to the right growing conditions.
A note on toxicity
All parts of the Alocasia Polly are toxic to both humans and animals. The plant produces calcium oxalate crystals, which can irritate the skin and eyes, as well as the gastrointestinal tract. If consumed, the plant can induce nausea, vomiting, pain, breathing difficulties, and in severe cases, even death.
Always keep your Alocasia Polly out of reach from pets and children. When handling the plant, try to use gardening gloves, and avoid touching your face. Wash your hands immediately afterwards, especially if you’ve come into contact with the sap.
Alocasia Polly is a gorgeous houseplant that is, sadly, often misunderstood. This plant may seem high maintenance and not very beginner-friendly, yet with the right care guide, we’re sure you’ll enjoy it for many years to come.
Let’s do a quick recap of your Alocasia Polly essentials:
- Alocasia Polly is a tropical houseplant that enjoys lots of moisture and bright, indirect light.
- It is perfect for growing indoors, yet it can also be acclimatized in an outdoor garden.
- Common pests are spider mites, aphids and fungus gnats.
- Yellowing leaves are typically caused by watering and light issues, but also pests.
- With enough care and patience, it’s possible to revive it even if it’s lost all its leaves.
- All parts of Alocasia Polly are toxic to humans and animals, so always handle it with caution!
Now all that’s left to do is to get gardening and enjoy the beauty and majesty of a healthy Alocasia Polly!
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