African mask plant can be tricky to grow, and many people struggle with their care. So in this post, I’ll give you all of the information you need in order to keep them healthy and flourishing for years to come.
The African mask plant is a unique and very cool houseplant. It can be a beautiful part of your collection for many years, even as a beginner.
Understanding how to properly care for them is the key to enjoying the striking foliage long-term.
In this complete guide, you’ll learn all about African mask plant care, including light, soil, humidity, and water, plus get tips on repotting, propagation, and much more.
What Is An African Mask Plant?
The African mask plant, commonly called the Kris plant, is a type of Alocasia from the Araceae family native to the tropics of the South Pacific.
It earns its name from the unique foliage that resembles carved ceremonial masks from Africa. They’re loved for the silvery, pale-green ribbing that spreads through the deep, almost black leaves that can get up to 2’ long.
The round stems grow from tuberous rhizomes, and can reach heights of around 2-4’ tall, depending on the type.
Different African Mask Plant Types
The most common variety of an African mask plant is Alocasia amazonica. But there are two other cultivars, the ’Bambino’ and ‘Polly’, that are also popular.
They are both much smaller, with the dwarf ‘Polly’ variety reaching a maximum height of 2’, and the ‘Bambino’ never exceeding 12”. Other than size, their foliage as well as their needs are identical.
Though they’re kept more for foliage, African mask plants can flower when given the proper care and growing conditions.
In mid to late summer, small, inconspicuous white or pale-green spathe-type flowers will form among the leaves.
Unfortunately the African mask plant is poisonous to humans, cats, and dog when ingested.
It’s best to keep it out of reach of pets and small children. You can get more info about the toxicity on the ASPCA website.
How To Grow African Mask Plant
Before we talk about African mask plant care, first you should understand the best environment for growing them. Choosing a good location is a great way to keep them happy and thriving.
These warm weather plants are hardy only in zones 11+, and are not tolerant of much cold.
They prefer to stay above 60°F at all times, and can begin to suffer or even die if it gets much colder than that.
So they’re most commonly kept as houseplants during the winter months, if not all year round.
Where To Grow African Mask Plant
If you live in a warm enough climate, African mask plants can be grown in a partial or dappled shade area of your garden.
Indoors they prefer an area with plenty of bright light where they’ll also get warmth and humidity.
In the summer when it’s warm enough, you can gradually transition them outside into a shady area. Be sure to bring them in well before temps start to drop in the fall though.
African Mask Plant Care & Growing Instructions
Now that you have the perfect place in mind, it’s time to talk about how to grow an African mask plant. These care tips will help you enjoy the healthy foliage for a long time.
African mask plants will thrive in high light, but not direct sun. Too much sunlight will cause leaf damage and burning, so it’s best to provide diffused or indirect sources.
They can tolerate medium levels, but in low light they’ll suffer slow growth and small leaves. Indoors you can supplement with a grow light if there’s not a good natural source for them.
In the winter you may need to move them to a brighter location to make sure they’re still getting plenty.
One of the things that makes the African mask plant temperamental is their water preference. They don’t like bone dry soil or wet feet. Too much either way can cause leaf damage.
But it doesn’t have to be tricky. Keep them evenly moist by giving them frequent smaller drinks as soon as the top inch or two of soil is dry, rather than saturating it less often.
A moisture gauge is really handy to help you monitor the perfect levels.
Since they’re native to humid areas, African mask plants will do best when given similar conditions in your home.
You can provide humidity by setting them on a pebble tray filled with water, placing a small humidifier nearby, or misting with distilled or rainwater a few times a week.
It’s also a good idea to wipe the leaves free of dust every few weeks. Using a damp cloth helps to add moisture, and keeping them clean also allows better light absorption.
African mask plants love the warmth. They’ll be happiest in ranges between 65-85°F, and can suffer if it’s cooler than that for extended periods.
In hot weather they’ll need more frequent drinks and misting. They also don’t like temperature swings. So indoors, keep them away from cold windows, drafty areas, and heating or cooling vents.
Fertilizing your African mask plant isn’t a necessary part of their care, but regular feedings during the spring and summer can help them flourish.
But they’re very sensitive to fertilizer burn from chemical brands. So make sure to always use organic, balanced options that are diluted to half strength.
You can apply either liquid or slow-release granules once a month during the summer, and top dress with worm castings or compost outdoors in the garden.
Since the don’t like wet feet, you’ll need to use a very fast draining mix to prevent overwatering. They’ll do best in a high quality or slightly acidic, aerated soil.
If you tend to overwater, then amend the soil with perlite or pumice, and some coarse sand. Mixing in peat moss will help increase the acidity, and prevent the soil from drying too quickly.
African mask plants prefer to be slightly root-bound, so you won’t need to repot more often than every 2-4 years.
When growth slows significantly, or roots begin to peek out of the drainage holes at the bottom of your container, it’s time for repotting. Move up one pot size during the spring or summer.
There’s no real need to prune an African mask plant as part of their regular care unless you’re removing damaged or dead leaves and flowers.
Use clean, sharp pruners to snip the stem near the base. You can do this as needed without harming your plant.
Pest Control Tips
With the proper care, healthy African mask plants rarely have issues with pests, especially indoors. But on occasion, mealybugs, aphids, scale, or spider mites can become a problem.
You can trim away a couple of the most heavily infested leaves (but never remove them all). Then wash the rest with a natural insecticidal soap to remove visible bugs.
Or make your own by mixing 1 teaspoon of mild liquid soap with 1 liter of water. Neem oil is very effective for longer-term control.
It’s natural for African mask plants to enter a period of dormancy and even stop growing in the winter. During this time, let them dry out a bit more, but never completely, and stop fertilizing.
Cold temperatures below 60°F may trigger some leaf drop. But as long as they’re kept above 40°F, they should come back just fine in the spring.
African Mask Plant Propagation Tips
The best way to propagate your African mask plant is by division. They do not produce viable seeds, and cannot be multiplied by the leaves alone.
In the spring or summer, gently remove the plant from its pot and tease apart the roots. If necessary you can use a sharp, sterile knife to separate the rhizomes.
Replant divisions at the same depth in well-draining potting soil, and resume your usual care.
Troubleshooting Common African Mask Plant Problems
Even with the ideal care, African mask plants can be finicky. The longer you grow them, the more likely you are to run into an issue or two. Here are my best tips for getting them back into good health.
Yellow leaves on an African mask plant are typically caused by inconsistent watering. They like to be kept evenly moist, without getting too dry or having wet, soggy feet.
Use a moisture gauge to help you evaluate, and water in smaller amounts more frequently when the top inch or so has dried out.
Leaves Turning Black
There are a few reasons that your African mask plant can have black leaves. First, the natural color can be very deep, almost black.
If the black leaves are soggy or brittle however, your plant is under stress. The most common causes are moisture, temperature, or humidity issues.
Keep them in evenly moist soil in an area where they’ll receive consistent warmth away from vents and drafts. Increase humidity levels with a pebble tray or humidifier.
Brown spots can be caused by temperature fluctuations, poor lighting (either too much or too little), disease, pests, or burns from excess fertilizer.
They need consistent temps above 60°F, and should be kept in a bright location out of direct sun.
Treat any pests immediately. If the spots are small and numerous, or developing into pustules, it’s likely rust, which can be treated using a natural fungicide. Air circulation can also help.
African Mask Plant Care FAQs
Here I’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions about African mask plants. If yours is not on this list, please add it to the comments section below.
Does an African mask plant bloom?
Yes, an African mask plant can bloom when given the proper care. If you keep them in a warm, bright location, and give them consistent water and humidity, they’ll flower sometime during the summer.
Why is my African mask plant dying?
There are many reasons why your African mask plant could be dying. The most common causes of death are improper watering (usually too much), direct sunlight, and/or temperature shifts.
Where should I put my African mask plant?
You should put your African mask plant in a location where it will maintain an even, warm temperature, receive plenty of humidity, and lots of diffused or indirect bright light.
When should I water my African mask plant?
You should water your African mask plant when the top inch or so of soil is dry to the touch.
Follow these African mask plant care tips to keep them thriving and healthy. Now that you know exactly what they need, you’ll be able to grow these tropical beauties successfully.
Are you tired of struggling to maintain healthy and happy indoor plants? Then you need a copy of my Winter Houseplant Care eBook! I will teach you all you need to know in order to keep your houseplants thriving all year round. Download your copy today!
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Share your African mask plant care tips in the comments below.
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