Too Hot to Handle?

Alocasia infernalis is relatively new on the ornamental plant scene. The first time I saw it offered was a few years back when the plant appeared on the availability listing of Malesiana Tropicals. Since then, I have seen it grown and sold locally, and it is now being produced from tissue culture by Agristarts in Florida.

This little gem surprised me when I first saw it live, because the first photo I viewed of it showed a plant with firey reddish leaves. The specific epithet, "infernalis" means, literally, "from Hell", a horrid reference to make about such an interesting little plant! I imagine that it is meant to refer to the reddish color, but that still doesn't really fit. However, I do have an idea as to why someone could decide that "infernalis" is a good specific name for this plant. Alocasia infernalis leafWhen viewed in the right light, the leaves seem to have a firey red sheen that appears, then disappears if you move slightly. It is as though a fire is burning within the plant, a fire that you can see only if you look at the plant in just the right way.

How a short plant can stand too tall!

As Jewel Alocasias go, this Infernal Jewel is easier to grow than most of the others. It does have a distinctive shortcoming, however, that you need to keep in mind if you try growing one, and that is the height of the stem. I know, you're thinking, "no way!", because this is such a small plant. But the fact is that, unlike most Alocasias, the distance between leaf nodes is greater in ratio to the overall size of this plant than it is in other Alocasias. Furthermore, the base does not thicken up as with the other Jewels, because the internodes are much longer, relatively speaking. What this means in a practical sense is that as the plant matures, it gets floppy. The base of the stem ends up much smaller and thinner, not thicker as in other Jewels, so the whole plant becomes top-heavy and leans or falls over. So while you will do well to provide well-draining soil media and refrain from too much water, you also need to be prepared to add some soil mix to cover the ever-lengthening stem of the plant.

When you are "infernalis", you like it hot!

Alocasia infernalis likes to be kept warm. I mean it; if you let your plant get cool, like in the range of 50 to 60 degrees F (10 to 15 degrees C) or cooler, it will gradually defoliate and go dormant. It may even die out on you, so to avoid this, you need to keep this plant as warm as the 70 to 80+ degrees F (21 to 29 degrees C) range, and also as humid as 60 to 90 percent relative humidity. This means it will do fine with the rest of your Jewels, because that is the kind of environment your others will appreciate as well.

The specimen shown in the thumbnail image at the beginning of this article is a mature sized plant. Since it is growing in a squat 6 inch nursery pot, you can see that this is a small plant. I've seen blooms on these plants at this size. To see an example of the red or "infernal" look that this plant can display, click on A. infernalis "on fire".

Photo credit: LariAnn Garner, Aroidia Research