Why is my African Mask Plant (Alocasia Polly) turning yellow?

Last Updated: April 1, 2022

In this post, we go through all of the most common reasons why African Mask Plants develop yellow leaves and give you tips to fix the issue. If you have caught the problem early and there are only a few yellow leaves on your Alocasia Polly then you should have a really good chance at bringing your plant back to full health in no time.

Overwatering is the leading cause of yellowing leaves in African Mask Plants

Let’s start with the most common cause of yellow leaves on African Mask Plants – too much water. Although your plant likes some moisture in the soil, they don’t do so well if it becomes quite waterlogged as their roots will begin to rot. This means that your plant is unable to take up water and nutrients from the soil and photosynthesise properly, causing the leaves to go mushy, droopy and yellow.

Before changing anything in your watering routine for your African Mask Plant you want to be sure that this is definitely the problem. The best way to know is by taking your plant out of its pot and inspecting the soil and roots. If the potting mix is very moist and clumpy, and the root system feels a little mushy then overwatering is definitely causing the yellow leaves. You can also check the soil using a moisture meter to determine if it’s waterlogged. They are a great investment for all plant parents – a lot cheaper than having to buy new plants! Replace the potting mix straight away if it is waterlogged. Leaving it to dry naturally will take several days and risks more damage to your plant and its roots.

Trim away the rotten roots and worst affected yellow leaves. This means that your plant can focus on new growth rather than wasting valuable energy and nutrients trying to keep the dying parts alive. After a few weeks, you should start to see your African Mask Plant becoming stronger and maybe even producing new healthy growth. Be patient though as your plant has been through a lot and will need time to recover.

Drainage issues can cause yellow leaves

But what if the soil is really soggy but I am hardly watering? Well, this is where problems with drainage come in and can also be causing your Alocasia Polly to develop yellow leaves. If the water isn’t draining well through and out of the pot, then it can also cause root rot.

One great method to increase drainage is to add perlite to the soil. This aids with drainage and aeration in the soil. Also, make sure that the drainage holes aren’t being blocked by anything. One easy trick is to add a layer of stones to the bottom of the pot to stop them being clogged up by the soil.

We also always recommend using terracotta pots. When you first buy an Alocasia Polly it will most likely come in a plastic pot. These are great for plant shops and nurseries because they can cheap, lightweight and don’t break. However, they aren’t that good for your plant’s health in the long term. Plastic pots keep in every drop of moisture. But terracotta pots are permeable which means that some of the water can escape through the sides. It lowers the risk of root rot and yellow leaves as it prevents the soil from being waterlogged. Terracotta pots might be a little more expensive but they are definitely cheaper than replacing a dead plant. Plus they look good too! We love these pots which are available on Amazon.

Yellow leaves can indicate a lack of humidity

Humidity is an often forgotten part of houseplant care but a lack of it can cause your African Mask Plant’s leaves to turn yellow. Alocasia Pollys are native to the tropics which means they thrive in high humidity levels. Although we couldn’t reach that level of humidity in our homes (and if we could it would be very uncomfortable) we should try to slightly increase the water vapour in the air as ur houseplants will thank us for it!

African Mask Plants will start to struggle in homes with dry air, causing yellowing of the leaves. This is more prominent in winter as heating and less ventilation causes the air to be a lot drier so be more rigorous with your humidity upping routine when the heating is on.

Here are some of the easiest and cheapest ways you can increase the humidity for your African Mask Plant:

Misting the leaves

One of the simplest ways to increase the humidity for your Alocasia Polly is to mist their leaves with a spray bottle a couple of times a week. This is also a great way to get rid of dust as their large leaves are a serious dust magnet! You want to use fresh room temperature water so you don’t shock or burn the plant. We love these amber glass spray bottles!

You also want to avoid misting in the evenings as there won’t be enough time for the water to evaporate before it gets cold and dark. Once the temperature drops, wet leaves are more susceptible to rot which will mean they turn more yellow.

Build a pebble tray

If you like a bit of simple DIY then this is for you! Fill up a tray with small pebbles and fill it halfway up with fresh water. Place your African Mask Plant on top and over time the water will evaporate around your plant hopefully preventing any further yellow leaves.

One thing you want to be super careful with is making sure that the roots and the pot are not touching the water at all as this will cause root rot and waterlogged soil.

Give your Alocasia Polly a shower

Another way to instantly raise the humidity for your African Mask Plant and stop yellow leaves is to give it a shower. However, this is quite a short term solution and the effects don’t last long. Just pop them in the shower with the water pressure on low and wash down the whole plant. It’s also a great way to get rid of dust or any pests that might be secretly hiding on your plant.

Plant Placement

If you have good lighting in either your bathroom or kitchen then we recommend moving your Alocasia Polly in there. These rooms have higher natural humidity due to showering and cooking. Just be careful not to put your plants too close to the cooker or you risk burning the leaves.

Invest in a humidifier

These are a real game-changer when it comes to plant care. They are portable and affordable devices that keep a consistent humidity level in your home. They are also said to be good for you too, promoting better sleep and clearer skin. So this isn’t just an investment for your plants…

We recommend this humidifier from Amazon. We have been using it for years and our plants love it!

Want to know more about how to raise the humidity for your African Mask Plant and other houseplants? We have written a whole guide on this.

How to identify and avoid leaf burn

If your African Mask Plant has yellow patches all over the leaves, then it may be due to too much intense sunlight. They need a bright but indirect light to thrive. If your Alocasia Polly is receiving too much direct sunlight then the leaves can become burnt and scorched. This is more of a risk during summer as the sun is a lot stronger and out for more of the day.

Avoid putting your plant next to a window that receives a lot of direct light (south-facing in the northern hemisphere). We recommend you put them slightly closer to the windows during winter though as the sun isn’t as strong and they don’t do so well in lower light areas. So it’s all about getting that balance right. Light meters are a great way to monitor sunshine levels throughout the day.

Unfortunately, once the leaf has been scorched by the sun there is no going back. We recommend trimming away the yellow parts of the leaf to encourage new healthy growth.

Light deficiency can also cause leaf yellowing

As with a lot of things in the houseplant world, too much and too little of something can have a very similar effect. This makes fully understanding what’s wrong sort of like a puzzle sometimes!

African Mask Plants don’t grow very well in low light areas and will start to produce yellow leaves if they aren’t getting enough light. Try and move your plant to a spot with more natural light (making sure it’s indirect) and your plant should start to produce healthier green growth.

Pest Infestation

A rarer but more worrying cause of yellow leaves on an Alocasia Polly is a pest infestation. Spider mites, mealybugs and scale insects are common to African Mask Plants and can cause real damage to the plant. They suck on the leaves, exhausting the plant and causing the leaves to turn yellow. They are also known to bite small holes through the leaves which is one way to spot there is a problem.

Most pests you can spot just by closely inspecting the leaves. We always use a magnifying glass to inspect the undersides of the leaves and the stem joints as that’s where they like to

hang out. If you do spot pests on your plant, make sure to move them away from any of your other houseplants. Pests can spread between plants if they are close enough so isolate your infected plant immediately.

Each type of pest needs to be treated slightly differently but the first steps are always to wash your Alocasia Polly down in the shower before treating with an insecticidal spray or soap. There are other treatments such as neem oil that are also quite successful in curbing the infestations. If you have caught the problem before it has turned the whole plant yellow then you should be able to get rid of the infestation.

You can find out more about identifying, treating and preventing pests in our downloadable ebook.

Natural ageing can cause the odd yellow leaf

If none of the above really fits with that is happening to your Alocasia Polly, then it may just be due to natural ageing. Like most other houseplants, African Mask Plants will occasionally drop their oldest, lowest leaves in favour of producing new growth. These leaves will turn yellow before falling off the plant. It is totally normal for this to be happening and isn’t because of anything you are doing wrong.

If there are no more than 1 or 2 leaves turning yellow every few months then it’s nothing to worry about. But we do recommend you monitor how often the leaves are yellowing and falling just to check the rate of shedding doesn’t increase. If more leaves are starting to turn then check over the reasons above again to see if you can determine what is causing the leaves to go yellow.

Should I cut away my Alocasia Polly’s yellow leaves?

We get this question a lot when it comes to yellow houseplant leaves. You may be wondering if it is beneficial or damaging to your plant in any way to get rid of them. We always recommend trimming off the leaves. Not only does it make the plant look better and healthier, but it stops them wasting any energy trying to revive parts that are already dead or dying. Instead, your African Mask Plant can focus on producing new healthy green growth!

Those are the most common reasons why your African Mask Plant is developing yellow leaves. It can be quite a worrying problem to have so it’s important to act early. If the issue hasn’t spread to the whole plant then you have a good chance at solving the issue and getting your plant back to full health. It’s important to regularly check up on your plants, check their root system and their leaves as this will give you the best chance at spotting any issues early.

If you want to learn more about how to best care for your plant then check out our African Mask Plant care guide.

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