Proper care for alocasia - African mask (?)

Philadelphia, PA

I just got a very nice alocasia from my neighborhood nursery. I was told it would do okay on a west-facing windowsill... does that seem right? I've noticed a little bit of browning around the edges of a few leaves. Could it be getting too much light?

I know these plants like humidity but it's very hard for me to do much about it until the weather warms up- my house has baseboard heating along every exterior wall (which means under every window), and several of my plants are looking slightly crispy at the tips.

Portage, WI(Zone 5a)

Yes, the crispy brown edges are probably a sign of need for more humidity. Have you tired the method of placing it over a tray of pebbles that you keep wet?

Saugerties, NY(Zone 5a)

Next winter you should get yourself a humidifier they work wonders for plants & you also...

Philadelphia, PA

I will try the pebbles trick, thanks! The radiators will only be needed for another week or two, hopefully.

Also, a humidifier will probably be worth the money next year. I've been feeling a little crispy myself.

Portage, WI(Zone 5a)

Yes, humidify the whole place. I try to keep my house between 40-50% in the winter. Very healthy for me and the plants. I do have a number of plants under a grow light sitting on top of my 125 gal fish tank. But, perhaps that is too much trouble just to introduce some humidity to your plants.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

I think low humidity levels can indeed contribute significantly to spoiled foliage - particularly burned leaf tips and margins, but I think it's ignoring the elephant in the room to skip over what in almost all cases is the primary underlying issue, which is poor root health or inhibition of root function due to poor conditions in the root zone. Simply put, it takes a healthy root system that functions well to move enough water to the plants distal parts to keep the entire foliage mass hydrated. As root function diminishes, the most distal parts begin to die. Low humidity increases demands on the root system and in doing so is a secondary contributor to spoiled foliage.

I've posted hundreds & hundreds of pictures of plants here at Dave's and at Garden Web - all with unblemished foliage - no burned tips or margins. I attribute that to the fact that I use my own soils that are built to ensure excellent aeration, even immediately after completely saturating the soil from top to bottom, so there is nothing to impede root health or the uptake and movement of water throughout the plant.

The plants I grow in my basement grow area (mostly tropical bonsai or succulents) do get humidity around 50-55%, but the rest of my houseplants are typically in air with less than 30%, and I have no difficulty keeping foliage healthy and unblemished.

Soils that remain soggy after watering also tend to allow salts to accumulate as the grower waters in small sips to avoid root rot. This increase in the TDS (total dissolved solids) in the soil solution makes it increasingly difficult for the plant to take up water. Couple that with inhibition of root function and spoiled foliage is virtually unavoidable.

Al

Athens, PA

I have an African Mask - mine is in a pot with pea gravel in it and then water up to the top of the pea gravel with the potted AM sitting on top. I have found that this plant does like to be misted every day, although it does not like tap water. Let your water sit a good 24-48 hours before using it on your AM.

I also let mine dry out a tad between waterings. As Tapla mentioned, you don't want to rot the plant, but you want to meet the requirements of the plant.

Good luck.

Philadelphia, PA

Oh boy. I think this plant was a bad choice for me... it's been in my house for less than two weeks and all of the leaves are getting worse. I tried more humidity (letting it hang out in a steamed up bathroom) and moving it away from direct sun. Some of the leaves are even dripping a purplish fluid occasionally. It may very well be a bad soil situation, as Al says, but I haven't had it long enough to neglect the soil, so I'm going to put that on the store that sold it. Buyer beware, I guess!

Portage, WI(Zone 5a)

Don't feel bad. Not every plant was meant for every house and/or every person. Maybe you learned something. = good news.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Most often, poor soils and more enthusiasm than is good for the plant when it comes to deciding on when to water go hand in hand. It's possible to grow healthy plants in marginal quality soils if you know what you're doing, but it's a whole lot easier and less fraught with frustration if you learn to water carefully until you can get your plants into an appropriate soil. I've decided, for myself, that I'll set the minimum standard for being able to call a soil a GOOD soil to where the soil can be watered copiously at will - to the point where the soil is fully saturated and at least 15-20% of the total volume of water applied exits the drain, with no concern on the growers part that the soil will remain soggy for so long it causes issues with root function or causes root rot. If you can't say that about the soils you're using, you're probably leaving a considerable amount of potential untapped.

Al

Philadelphia, PA

Hi Al- I've watered it exactly once, because I read that they like moist soil, and it felt dry. Then I refrained because it was not looking good. Obviously the soil it was sold in is no good. I'm going to try to repot this weekend in your soil recipe, although my hopes are not high and I'm not going to heroic measures for a $20 plant ;)

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

How is it doing?

Being an Alocasia, I'd expect good capacity to rebound.

Philadelphia, PA

Hi Sallyg,
Thanks for asking! I repotted it in a different soil mix (Al's 5:1:1). It actually seems to be doing okay; the damaged leaves are still damaged, of course, but I've managed to stop it from getting worse. Hopefully some new growth will come along eventually to replace the bad leaves.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

It ought to like the warm weather too...WHEN we ever get it!

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