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Known for their large, heart-shaped leaves with attractive contrasting veins, kris plants can add a striking, jungle-like vibe to your space. And you know us: We're always looking to add that tropical feel to our homes. Part of the Araceae family—which contains 70 alocasia species—the kris plant (Alocasia sanderiana) is often confused for its cousin, colocasia (or elephant ear plant) because they look almost identical. However, there's one huge difference between the two: Colocasia has edible roots, but alocasia can be fatal if consumed.
Even though they can be pretty dangerous, we love kris plants because they're just so darn beautiful. If you're new to the plant game, this is a good starter plant because it's fairly easy to care for—just be sure to keep it out of reach of children and pets.
- Botanical Name: Alocasia sanderiana
- Common Name: Kris plant
- Plant Type: Flowering perennial
- Mature Size: 18–30 inches high
- Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
- Soil Type: Moist, well-draining potting soil
- Soil pH: 5.5–6.5
- Toxicity: Toxic
Since kris plants are native to tropical jungles, they need consistent moisture in their soil. The key to keeping them happy is to make sure the soil evenly moist because, if it dries out completely, your plant will probably die pretty quickly. That said, your plant may need a little less water when growth slows in the winter, so keep an eye on the soil during the spring and fall transition periods.
As you can probably guess, kris plants benefit from high humidity. Place your plant on top of a tray of pebbles with just enough water so that the pebbles elevate the bottom of the pot above the waterline; this will add humidity to the air around your plant as the water evaporates.
You can also group your humidity-loving tropical houseplants together, which can help to create a more humid microclimate in your space. Consider running a humidifier near them to create the best conditions.
Kris plants can also do well on a windowsill in your bathroom, where they'll get good light and plenty of moisture from the shower steam.
Feed your kris plant with half-strength liquid houseplant fertilizer three or four times per year. Plan to repot it every couple of years or when it becomes root-bound (signs include roots growing out of the bottom of the pot and soil that drains too quickly because it's too bound up in the roots to absorb water). Be sure to cut back any shriveled or rotten roots before replanting with fresh soil in a slightly larger container.
Your kris plant may bloom, but its flowers won't be particularly showy. The tiny flowers grow on a buff-colored stem, surrounded by a pale green or white spathe, which is like a thick spike growing off of a stem.
Best Growing Conditions for Kris Plant
Plant your kris plant in a container with loose, well-draining soil. You can also use a potting mix made of two parts African violet mix or a blend of equal parts coarse sand or perlite, peat, and potting soil.
Kris plants grow best with lots of bright, indirect light, so a window that doesn't get harsh direct sun, like a north-facing or east-facing window, would be an ideal spot for this plant to thrive.
If you have an outdoor space, your kris plant will love living alfresco in the warm summer months.
Kris Plant Varieties
There are many striking varieties of kris plants that come in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes. Look for houseplant-specific or compact varieties that won’t grow too large to be enjoyed as an indoor plant; the following types typically don't grow more than two feet high.
Alocasia x Amazonica, also known as 'Polly,' features shiny deep-green leaves with angular edges and contrasting white veining. Another compact variety, 'Silver Dragon,' has pale silvery-green leaves with dark green veining and red undersides. Alocasia regulina, or 'Black Velvet,' is a smaller variety with soft, velvety round leaves colored almost black with contrasting white veining.
How to Propagate Kris Plant
Like many of their cousins in the aroid family, such as philodendrons, pothos, monstera, and ZZ plants, kris plants are easy to propagate via root division. The best time to divide your kris plant is in spring or early summer at the start of the growing season.
Step 1: Carefully remove the mother plant from its pot, and use your fingers to loosen and remove soil from the roots.
Step 2: Gently pull apart the root ball into clumps, making sure that each clump includes at least a couple of potato-like tubers among the roots. Use a clean, sharp blade or pruners to separate the roots if needed. Each clump will grow a new plant.
Step 3: Plant your divisions in appropriately sized containers with well-drained potting mix, and then water the new plants. You can also place small divisions in water to allow new roots to grow before planting in the soil. Keep divisions in a space free from drafts or temperature fluctuations while their root systems re-establish, and then care for them as usual.
Common Growing Problems
As much as we love kris plants, they can be quite sensitive and, therefore, prone to a whole slew of growing issues. They're pretty susceptible to diseases, including crown, stem, and root rot. Another issue common among kris plants is Xanthamonas, bacteria that can cause leaf spots. If left untreated, it will take over and slowly kill your plant. As soon as you notice the spots, remove those leaves, and replace the soil in the pot. Xanthamonas is water-borne, so there's a good chance it's already in the water and will just continue to wreak havoc on your plant.
Is Kris Plant Toxic?
Unfortunately for those with kids or pets, alocasia is highly toxic. Even a little taste can be fatal for humans and animals. It doesn't stop there, though: If you touch the leaf for a few seconds, you'll get skin irritation. Here's why: Your kris plant is chock-full of calcium oxalate crystals, which have super sharp edges. Touching it will feel like you just grazed a tiny needle. We recommend keeping this plant out of reach and making a concerted effort to wear gloves when caring for it.