The Jewel Alocasias: Spotlight on Alocasia reginae 'Miri' aka Alocasia 'Elaine'
Of Queens, or of The Queen?
The plant illustrated in the photo at right is known as Alocasia reginae 'Miri', and is endemic to Borneo. "Princess Miri" is available from Malesiana Tropicals in Malaysia. The jewel's counterpart, Alocasia 'Elaine', is the variety available in the United States from Agri-Starts. The scientific description indicates that this plant is likely a variable species, so the two plants are probably varieties of the species A. reginae. The specific name means "of Queens" or "of The Queen", placing this plant firmly in the royal category. While not as regal as A. reginula, the Little Queen, both Princess Miri and Princess Elaine are, nonetheless, card-carrying members of the royal family.
While close relatives of the Little Queen, these two are not quite as temperamental as Her Majesty, being more tolerant of moister soil. However, with the voice of experience I can say that you are far better off treating Miri and Elaine with the same royal deference as you show towards your Little Queen. Royalty can be unpredictable at times, so you are well advised to take note.
The two Princesses
These two varieties of A. reginae are markedly different in some respects. Miri is a larger grower, producing more leaves and multiple crowns. Her leaves are dark red on the reverses (see photo, left) and a deeper green or bluish-green on the upper surfaces, with the main veins just a somewhat darker shade of green. Elaine, on the other hand, has much smaller and fewer leaves, just patches of pale red on the undersides of the leaves, and a much lighter and bluer upper surface, with more contrast between the leaf proper and the main veins (see photo below, right). Elaine also grows much slower than Miri, and blooms at a much smaller size as well. So if you wish a pot full of Elaine leaves, you must have several to many plants in the same pot. One Miri will do in a pot, though, as she will grow faster and multiply to fill the pot.
Both plants have leaves of thicker substance than the familiar garden varieties of Alocasia. This is your clue that keeping them in a well-draining soil medium, on the dry side, with just occasional deep waterings, is best for these Princesses.
Just right for the windowsill?
The size of these plants would seem to indicate that they are the perfect size for a pot on your windowsill. This is true only if the windowsill in question is in your bathroom or in the kitchen, over the sink. Being from Borneo, these Princesses are not going to be happy without high humidity and warmth, as well as bright light, but not direct sunlight. Best to keep them together with your Little Queen and other Jewels you might collect so they remain a happy royal family.
My experience has shown me that you need to watch for three different insect pests on Miri and Elaine. They are aphids, mealybugs and spider mites. A light infestation of mealybugs or aphids can be eliminated by hand, but if you see more than just a few, you should consider bringing in some ladybugs to take care of them. This is, of course, assuming that you have your Jewels in a closed greenhouse where you can release ladybugs. If you are lucky enough to find some ladybug larvae (they look like tiny alligators), so much the better, as they have voracious appetites for aphids and mealybugs.
Mites are another story, and usually are a signal that the humidity is too low. Mites abhor high humidity and moisture on the leaves, so misting the plants regularly and before any mites make an appearance is a good deterrent. If you see fine spiderwebs and tiny moving dots on the leaves, you've been invaded by mites. One non-toxic method I've used to control them is to take my Jewel outside, put my Fogg-It nozzle on the hose, hold each leaf individually in turn and "pressure clean" the mites off with the water spray. Do both upper and lower surfaces of the leaves, rubbing gently as you spray to dislodge any spiderwebs and associated mites. If you do this thoroughly and several times in a two week period, you stand a good chance of eliminating the mites. Be careful not to supersaturate the soil while your are performing this clean-up, as then the cure could end up becoming worse than the disease! Also make sure you don't have mites infesting any other plants nearby, as the nearby mites will just move in when you return your Jewel to the spot next to them! Keeping the humidity up in the greenhouse via light misting will discourage mite infestations.
Photo credit: LariAnn Garner, Aroidia Research
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