EXOTIC PLANT WITH ANIMAL CHARACTERISTICS
Elephant ear, alocasia spp.
Also known as the African mask plant, this sub-tropical plant from South-East Asia has eye-catching, large, waxy, heart-shaped leaves, which can be more than 12in (30cm) in length. They have deep veins and often striking leaf patterns, such as the silvery-white veins on dark green leaves of Alocasia × amazonica ‘Polly’ or the leathery, reptilian-like, dark and light green foliage of ‘Dragon Scale’. Alocasia zebrina has plain green foliage, but distinctive striped stems. These plants are toxic to humans and pets, so gloves are recommended when handling. Height and spread 40in (1m).
Conditions: 18-25°C, in bright light, but strong sunlight should be avoided, as this can scorch the leaves. The plant should be positioned away from draughts and additional humidity provided, either by misting daily or placing the plant pot on a pebble tray filled with water. These plants experience a dormant phase in winter, which can result in the leaves dropping and the plant dying back altogether, but new leaves will emerge in spring.
Watering: This plant likes consistently moist, but not waterlogged, soil, so should be watered little and often with tepid water. Feeding: A houseplant fertiliser diluted in water should be applied once a month between April and September. Propagation: The plant can be divided in spring, removing it from the pot and teasing apart any offsets. These can then be repotted or grown on in a jar of water until roots develop, then potted into houseplant compost mixed with perlite and coir.