Amazon Elephant's Ear Plant Profile (African Mask)

Amazon Elephant's Ear (African Mask) plant

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Hailing from Southeast Asia, this popular elephant's ear (Alocasia x amazonica, part of the Alocasia genus) is sometimes called African mask. It's a hybrid that makes a striking and beautiful houseplant and is typically sold as such. It is defined by its deep green leaves accentuated by whitish or light green veins. The leaves are roughly serrated, and in some cases, the leaf color appears as an almost purple-green. Leaf shapes range from wide hearts to slim arrowheads, with textures from slick and glossy to thick and waxy. It is a fleshy evergreen that grows from underground corms. These plants rarely bloom, however, and are grown primarily for their foliage. 

Botanical Name Alocasia x amazonica
Common Name Amazon elephant's ear, African mask
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 2 to 6 feet wall and wide
Sun Exposure Part sun
Soil Type Clay, loamy, sandy
Soil pH 5.5 to 6.5
Bloom Time Spring and summer
Flower Color Green spathe (rarely seen)
Hardiness Zones 9 to 11
Native Area Southeast Asia
closeup of elephant ear leaf
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida
closeup of elephant ear leaves
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida
closeup of elephant ear plant stems
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 

How to Grow Amazon Elephant's Ear

Growing these plants is easy; they like filtered sun or shade and rich, moist soil—and they grow rapidly. A large specimen may grow up to 3 feet, but most are smaller. Like most tropical plants, they thrive in warm temperatures and high humidity and crave plenty of water. Cut away dead and dying leaves for the best presentation, and keep an eye out for mites.

Light

These plants require bright, indirect light. They can survive in 80-percent shade but prefer about 60-percent shade. Do not expose them to strong, direct sunlight.

Water

Keep the soil moist but remember that these plants do not like wet feet. If possible, water in the morning (so they are dry overnight) and from below, at the root zone, to keep the leaves from getting too wet. This plant needs a rest period in winter when you should allow the soil to become almost dry between waterings, and stop fertilizing. If it dries completely it may go dormant, in which case you may be able to dig up the corm and save it until you can keep it in warmer temperatures. 

Temperature and Humidity

Being a tropical plant, Amazon elephant's ear will go dormant or die if exposed to cold. It likes to be in a climate similar to its native Southeast Asia: a temperature between 65 and 75 F and above-average humidity is ideal. You may need to raise the humidity levels in a room artificially by placing the plant in a humidity tray with pebbles or use a humidifier.

Soil

This plant prefers a fast-draining, well-aerated potting soil. An organic, loose soil that contains a good amount of peat moss is ideal. If the soil is heavy, lighten it with some builder's sand or perlite.

Fertilizer 

Amazon elephant's ear tends to be a heavy feeder during its growing period and will respond well to applications of diluted balanced fertilizer. Starting in spring, feed the plant every two weeks. Stop the end of August, then start the cycle again at the beginning of the next spring. Occasionally, the leaves will yellow; if this happens, try adding fertilizer with micronutrients, or sprinkle Epsom salts around the base of the plant once a month.

Potting and Repotting

A well-grown plant may need yearly repotting. Keep in mind, however, that these plants like to be slightly under-potted for best foliage development.

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Propagating Amazon Elephant's Ear

These plants are best propagated by division during repotting in spring. In a healthy specimen with multiple stems, corms can be dug up from the existing pot and repotted into smaller pots.

Toxicity of Amazon Elephant's Ear

Elephant's ear is a poisonous houseplant and should be kept away from children and pets that may eat or bite at the plant.

Symptoms of Poisoning

In humans, symptoms of elephant's ear poisoning include:

  • Stomach upset
  • Redness, pain, and burning of the eyes
  • Severe burning in the mouth and throat
  • Swelling of the tongue, mouth, and eyes

Dogs and cats may experience:

  • Oral irritation
  • Pain and swelling of mouth, tongue, and lips
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty swallowing

If a person or pet is poisoned by elephant's ear, call poison control or go to the emergency room or veterinarian right away. Most symptoms will disappear within several days to a week if treated correctly.

Growing in Containers

When growing elephant's ears in pots, choose a stable container with ample room to support the plant's growth. Alocasias look great in mixed containers, with other foliage plants and flowering annuals that like filtered sunlight and moist soil. The larger varieties add drama to a big pot.

When cold weather sets in, move container-grown elephant's ears inside and enjoy them as houseplants.

Common Pests and Diseases

Amazon elephant's ear is typically not susceptible to diseases but over-watering can lead to fungal infections. If you notice dark brown or black spots with a yellowish rim on the leaves, remove the damaged leaves, move the plant away from your other plants, and treat with a fungicide spray. Mist it with a soapy water mixture every few weeks to help deter pests—such as mealybugs, spider mites, and aphids—and to keep your elephant's ear dust-free.