Toxic Beauties

Toxic Beauties

Most of my plants, I can say, I have mastered their care. However there are a few that I still haven’t figured out. Calatheas and boston ferns, are among the few. They died before I could ever make a post about them, so in light of this I have decided to stay one step ahead this time.

Look at these two toxic beauties. Alocasia micholitiziana (aka Alocasia frydek) is the velvety looking one. Its deep green leaves with contrasting white veins is so rich and reminds me of lightning. Alocasia amazonica also known as the African mask plant is also of the same family. Its leaves are more glossy and leathery with scalloped edges, but pretty much has the same pattern on its leaves.

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As pretty as these plants are, they are the most demanding plants I’ve ever owned. They are not very happy in the average home unless great concessions are made. I don’t think they will last through the winter and so I’m blogging about them now for posterity.  I’m still learning all I can on how to make them happy and let me tell you, it takes a lot.

First of all, these plants need a lot of humidity. I am talking about greenhouse kind of humidity. The African Mask plant almost always have rolled up leaf edges which I think its due to how dry it is here especially this winter. I try to mist once in a while but it doesn’t do the job. In fact I lost a couple of leaves when I first got them about 2 months ago. Probably because of their new environment.

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Both of them like to be watered frequently in order to keep the soil moist at all times but not to the point of it being soggy. They would do best then in fast draining soil.  I’m amazed at how fast the soil dries a few days after watering. Perhaps I need to repot them, although I don’t think that is the cause.

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When I brought the African Mask home, both of them starting drooping for no apparent reason. I thought it was repositioning for better light but no matter how far or close I placed it from the window they still drooped. They look much better now. When I brought the Green Velvet Alocasia home 2 weeks ago, it started drooping as well as you can see in the picture below. I’ll probably end up losing a few leaves. They do like indirect sun as direct sun will burn their leaves.

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I have had spider mites attack the African mask, twice. It seems Alocasia and spider mites go hand in hand if they are kept in a dry environment. Humid environments will probably keep the spider mites at bay. I usually get rid of the mites by washing them under blasting water and wiping the leaves down. Alocasias can also be attacked by none other than the annoying mealy bug, aphids and gray mould. No glimpse of them so far. The leaves can sometimes die back if conditions are not favourable. This usually happens in winter. Don’t lose hope. If this happens, either your plant is totally dead or dormant. Keep the planter and water sparingly as the rhizomes may still be alive. If it is just dormant, it will grow back. When, I’m not sure but perhaps in the spring. If it doesn’t then accept your plant is dead. IMG_2776The African mask is so called because they look like African masks not because they are from Africa. They are actually from the Phillippines.  The Alocasia genus is usually confused with Colocasias. Although parts of both plants are edible there are significant differences. Many Colocasias are cultivated for their edible tubers, taro (yeah, like the bubble tea flavour). On the other hand, some Alocasia have edible stems. These stems, however have to be thoroughly cooked as they are poisonous when eaten fresh. Yikes! Please don’t go cooking your Alocasias unless you know what you are doing 🙂 I am not entirely sure if this kind is even edible. Needless to say, they are TOXIC so keep away from children and pets.

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I am still learning on how to care for Alocasias so please share your experiences below.

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6 Comments
  • Emily Liu says:

    I have 2 Alocasia Amazonicas, for almost a year now (through the whole winter), and only lost 1 leaf. It seems to thrive by my large north facing window away from direct sun light, next to a humidifier. They are on a weekly watering schedule right now, since Vancouver winter is quite dark. One thing I learned from the nursery is that they are very picky about their water – they need room temperature water that have been sitting for a few days. Cold and harsh water with chlorine can shock their roots. Sometimes, they lost a leaf when a new one is about to come out as well.
    Good luck with yours!

  • Darryl Cheng says:

    Nice post! Even in my bathroom with a skylight, my African Mask plant is slowly losing leaves. I had a spider mite issue with mine too. That velvety one is pretty cool – I might get one to document in my “leaf profile” pictures – I’ve done this with Calatheas as my roseopicta is also slowly dying 🙁

  • Nini Tjäder says:

    Alocasias are beautiful. I hade one once.Managed to kill it pretty fast so haven’t tried again. I’m normally good at keeping plants alive, but not alocasias. Visited the greenhouses in Palermo, Sicily once some years ago. There they had real big and healthy alocasias. And a very warm and humid environment with misty water continually sprayed onto it. I think it is impossible to create such an environment at home.

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