Polly wanna humidifier?

Number three on my most killed plant list is the stunning Alocasia Polly, often called an African Mask Plant. Unlike the String of Pearls and Spider plants that I kill over and over again with no idea why, I suspect I know what I’ve done to wrong the stunning Polly. Too much light, either too much or not enough water, and I misted the poor dear. You see I knew that Polly wasn’t a “drought tolerant plant” and that it needed more moisture than some other tropicals. And I thought I could make do for her by watering regularly and misting. I also made sure she had plenty of light to keep rot from misting and watering at bay.

But you know I just had no clue what I was doing. The more I read the more I understand where I went wrong. I think. If I’m reading the signs and the posts about Alocasia Polly correctly I’ve been messing up almost everywhere.

Let there be light

Not too much light, Polly doesn’t thrive in bright light. But you can’t put Polly in the dark corner either. Polly thrives in medium light. What does that even mean, you may be asking yourself? Don’t worry, it’s not just you I certainly asked myself that. And then I did a little research. Medium light is any light that is diffused between its source (say a sunny window) and the plant. Putting Polly in a sunny windowsill would burn the leaves. But putting it in a shaded corner would keep it from getting the light it needs. So when a plant needs medium light it should get light from a shielded source. The most obvious example is a sheer curtain or frosted glass.

Water frequently but don’t overwater…

This plant likes its soil to stay moist. But not damp. Or wet. Or soggy. Or any of those other wet sounding words. So you should water frequently but don’t overwater it. Also even though it likes to stay moist it’s pretty forgiving when you forget to water it. As long as you water it frequently. But again not too much.

Did that makes sense to anyone? Because it didn’t make any sense to me. But let me parse that the best I can: This plant should be on a weekly watering schedule. You don’t have to wait for the soil to be fully dry and start to pull away from the sides of the pot or anything, but you don’t want to water it if it’s still wet when you touch the top of the soil. Keeping it too wet tends to lead to root rot and mold.

Speaking of rot and mold this plant loves humidity but it doesn’t necessarily like being wet. I know I know… it’s complicated. But from what I can tell you should not mist Polly, but you might want to place her near a humidifier. Or maybe in a bathroom that gets steam from a shower on the regular. I admit to having misted all of my late great Alocasia Pollys because I thought they’d like it. I was wrong.

Alternately you could try keeping Polly’s pot in a tray of rocks that is frequently refilled with water, keeping the air near her more humid without getting the plant wet.

Look out, she sheds.

More than other tropical plants, this variety is known to shed off old leaves. So if the old leaves seem to be dying off but the younger leaves seem to be in good shape and there’s no sign of mold, rotting, or burning you’re probably okay. Snip those old leaves off at their base and say bye-bye.

How am I taking care of Polly this time?

I’ll start this off by saying that if this plant starts to look sad I’m moving it to my bathroom where there is a frosted window and steam at least once a day… But I’m hoping not to relegate this beauty to the bathroom so first I will try setting up a new plant area. I have a few plants that need medium light and varying amounts of water. Now that I know what medium light is I think I have a place that will work well for them. Since that area already has an essential oil diffuser near it I will try running it with just water in it for a couple of hours each day and see how Polly does. I’m poised to pivot on her lighting, watering, and location the moment she seems to feel poorly though.


You may have noticed me struggling with my plant vocabulary… Or at least struggling to share what those words means in context in these posts. I’ve had to look up enough terminology over the past two weeks that it has become very clear that someone needs to do something to keep track of all this jargon. WORDS WORDS WORDS WORDS. And since I happen to love words at least as much as I love plants, I’ll be sharing an exciting plant word related update tomorrow-ish.

plant nanny?

I’m on sabbatical at the moment but when I’m not I have to travel for work from time to time. Also sometimes a person just likes to get away. I have a kid. I have a couple of cats. So I’m not unfamiliar with needing to make sure someone is around to handle things while I’m on the road, whether that be for work or a getaway. But Until the past couple of months the instructions for plant care while I’m away have been super simple.

water those on Sunday…

But that’s just not going to cut it anymore, you know. I’m currently resisting counting the number of plants I have in the house. Partly because I’m not sure I want to know, partly because what counts? Full grown plants and baby plants? Plants in the kid’s room? Starts in water? That tray of succulents I’m playing around with to see how they do? If I have one planter with many plants in it does that count as 1 plant or 8?

Better just not to count them right? Not to reveal the depths of my plant depravity.

But I do need to document these sweet sprouts and full-grown plants in some way so it’s not just all in my head.

This feels kind of like when my daughter was much younger and obsessed with My Little Pony. First of all, yes I was totally stoked. I loved MLP when I was a kid and to have her into them was AMAZING. But here’s the thing, I had to know all of their proper names. You know their Hasbro given names. But I also had to know all of their kid given names. It was a complex dance that my daughter and I did and if some adult that wasn’t me was playing ponies with her… HOW WOULD THEY POSSIBLY KNOW THE PONIES’ NAMES AND PERSONALITIES?!

Well the answer was simple, they could just ask the kid. She was always more than happy to tell them.

But my plants, last I checked, don’t speak. And my people, while patient, don’t read the tell-tale signs of plant health and wellness. They won’t remember which plants need water daily and which need to dry out between waterings. Which plants like to be misted and which like to have their water poured. Which should be moved into the sunny spot for a couple of hours, which need to just stay there all the time, and which prefer to dwell in darkness.

If only the cats could be trained to do plant care…

But because I can’t possibly expect my cats or my family to keep track of all of that and there’s no way I’m going to document all of that here I’m thinking of starting a little plant journal, probably complete with polaroids, in the hope that when I come back from a week away this fall I won’t return to a house full of drooping, damaged, or dead plants.

It’s that or garishly colored post-its on every surface in all the rooms. Maybe I should flip a coin.

If you have a house full of plants how do you leave care instructions while you’re away?