Alocasia plant care can be tricky. Native to the South Pacific Islands, they’re used to growing on the floor of warm tropical forests and jungles. Fulfilling their soil, feeding, and watering needs might be challenging for some plant enthusiasts.
Fortunately for indoor gardeners, Alocasias can grow well in pots, provided they get enough humidity and light. These plants are well known for their beautiful foliage and can brighten up any indoor space. This makes them a real treat to have in your home if you can care for them properly.
For those interested in learning about Alocasia plant care, the in-depth guide below can provide useful tips.
Alocasia Plant Care 101: Origins and Characteristics
Tall stems and bold, arrow-shaped leaves often define a typical Alocasia. Because of its remarkable appearance, many know it as an Elephant Ear plant. Its shiny leaves also have rippled edges and appear much darker than other house plants.
Alternative names for Alocasias include Kris plants and African Mask plants, though they don’t come from Africa. In fact, Alocasias grow natively in places such as the Philippines or Borneo. Alocasias only picked up these names because they resemble the hand-carved ceremonial masks found in the African region.
While Alocasias can produce flowers from time to time, its large leaves are what make it appealing to many homeowners. Since the 1950s, Alocasias have dominated many living rooms as decorative house plants. Because of their vintage vibe, many homeowners continue to use Alocasias today to dress up unpleasant corners in a room. Others use Alocasias to serve as accents since their huge leaves can have splashes of red, bronze, purple, or white.
Interestingly enough, Alocasias have been around for more than 28,000 years. In the past, people would propagate them around the Equator as foodstuff. Additionally, many say Alocasia is the plant described in both the Eastern and Western versions of Jack and the Beanstalk. Thus, it has become a symbol for someone grabbing opportunities despite the risks involved.
Varieties of Alocasia
There are around 80 known Alocasia species, and most varieties can even grow up to 10 feet tall. Many are suitable as house plants, with the exception of the Alocasia Macrorrhizos, which can grow up to 15 feet.
Here are some of the popular varieties of Alocasia plants:
The Alocasia Amazonica is known for its large, dark-green arrowhead leaves with wavy edges. White or light-green veins decorate the leaves, making them an eye-catching house plant. The Alocasia Amazonica can grow up to 3 feet tall, with leaves that can grow up to 2 feet.
Alocasia Amazonica “Polly”
The Polly variant of the Alocasia Amazonica is a small cultivar with glossy, arrow-like leaves and wavy edges. It is also known as a Kris plant as it resembles a kris or a keris dagger. Greenish-white veins mark its leaves, causing it to have the name “African Mask plant.”
Also known as the Persian Palm, the Alocasia Calidora has huge, dark-green leaves. These leaves can grow up to 6 feet long and 3 feet wide. The plant generally grows upright and can be as high as 5 feet to 9 feet.
Alocasia Micholitziana “Frydek”
While it resembles the Alocasia Amazonica, the Alocasia Frydek has a distinct characteristic: its leaves are velvety instead of glossy. The Alocasia Frydek also has more slender arrow-shaped leaves and whitish veins. It can grow between 2 feet and 3 feet, making it a suitable house plant.
Alocasia Macrorrhiza “Lutea”
Often called the Golden Lutea or Golden Lutea Elephant Ear, this variant gets its name from its golden-yellow stems. Other characteristics that define the Alocasia Lutea are lime-green leaves, yellowish veins, and thick yellow stalks.
Alocasia Macrorrhiza “Stingray”
Rippled oval leaves and a long tip resembling a stingray characterize the Alocasia Macrorrhiza. As a house plant, it can grow up to 3 feet.
The Alocasia Odora has huge, paddle-shaped leaves that can grow up to 2 feet long and 1 foot wide. But what sets it apart from other Alocasia variants is that it emits a pleasant fragrance at night. Other names for the Alocasia Odora include Night-Scented Lily or Giant Upright Elephant Ear plant.
Animal-like patterns and long, arching stems often characterize the Alocasia Zebrina. These patterns can come as either creamy-white or light-green markings. Other names for the Alocasia Zebrina include Tiger Alocasia, Alocasia Tiger, or Alocasia Leopard, likely due to its markings.
Alocasia vs. Colocasia
Those who want to grow Alocasias as house plants may have encountered Colocasia. While both are known as Elephant Ear plants and belong to the Araceae family, they are different.
What separates one from the other is that Alocasias grow from both tubers and rhizomes. Colocasias, on the other hand, grow from tubers alone. Alocasia leaves also tend to grow straight up from the stem, while Colocasia leaves flop downwards.
Equally hardy plants, the Colocasia is slightly harder to kill as it’s more tolerant to waterlogged soil. Compared to the Alocasia, Colocasias also require more sun exposure and are often planted outdoors.
Guidelines for Indoor Alocasia Plant Care
As with most house plants, replicating the natural conditions of their original habitat is necessary to make them thrive. This is true for Alocasias, which you need to plant in a particular way. Their soil and light conditions are rather specific, making them challenging house plants for beginners. However, once you’ve mastered Alocasia plant care, you will be rewarded with a gorgeous, eye-catching plant. In fact, when grouped with other plants, Alocasias can make the display look more exotic. With its versatility, it can be used not only as an accent but a focal point of a room.
To successfully grow Alocasia plants of any variety, take note of the following conditions that can help them flourish:
Soil Requirements for Alocasia Plant Care
Well-aerated, organic, loose soil that contains a suitable amount of peat moss works best for Alocasia plant care. For soil that seems heavy, adding a builder’s sand or perlite will do the trick. An ideal potting mix is house plant soil, peat moss, and perlite, all in equal parts. This should let the soil hold just enough moisture while promoting excellent drainage. Inorganic matter such as pumice or crushed gravel can substitute for perlite to help the soil drain better.
Keep in mind that Alocasias need moist soil but cannot survive damp, soggy conditions. This is a vital factor in their growth as many Alocasia variants are tuberous. Excess moisture can cause their roots to rot and decay quickly.
When growing Alocasias indoors, you can choose to put them in small or large pots. Choose a pot size based on how big you want them to grow. Fill the pot with potting soil about three-quarters of the way. At the center of the pot, nestle the tuber root-side down. Generally, your tuber should be around 8 inches deep by the time the pot is full.
Light Conditions for Alocasia Plant Care
Light conditions for Alocasia plant care are rather specific. They need very bright sunlight for around six to eight hours a day but no direct sun exposure. Similarly, Alocasias won’t survive dark or gloomy spots. Thus, finding the right balance is crucial. For instance, some variants, like the Alocasia Amazonica, may struggle with prolonged sunlight exposure. On the other hand, the Alocasia Zebrina and Macrorrhiza variants may prefer morning or late afternoon sun.
Find a spot indoors that can provide the right lighting conditions. If sunlight is too harsh, move your Alocasia to a spot with partial shade or behind sheer curtains. This is especially important during warmer months. Alocasias with singed or bleached leaves often indicate excessive exposure to harsh sunlight. Conversely, Alocasias situated in spots with adequate lighting can grow faster and have bolder, more vibrant leaves.
Alocasia Plant Care Water Needs
Just like lighting, watering Alocasia plant care requires finding a balance. As mentioned earlier, the soil needs to be moist but not soggy. Watering methods often involve soaking the soil and letting it dry, but this doesn’t work for the Alocasia. Instead, Alocasias need little water but at frequent intervals.
To keep the soil evenly moist, allow 2 to 3 inches of the soil to dry out before watering. Soggy soil, overwatering, and wet leaves put your Alocasia at risk of acquiring fungal infections. During the colder months, cut down on watering, especially during winter, as this is the Alocasia’s period of dormancy.
Fertilizer Requirements for Alocasia Plant Care
From spring until late summer or roughly March through September, fertilize your Alocasia every two weeks. Basic house plant food diluted to half its recommended strength should do well for Alocasia plant care. A slow-release plant fertilizer, diluted complete liquid fertilizer, or fish/seaweed emulsion are also suitable alternatives.
Since Alocasias become dormant during winter, avoid fertilizing them during this period. Too much plant food causes salt buildup in the soil, which can burn the leaves. Additionally, never use chemical house plant fertilizers. These also cause mineral salt buildup in the soil that can lead to root burn. Also, avoid tap water as this may contain chemicals that can affect your Alocasia’s growth. Only use natural, organic house plant fertilizer to prevent harming your Alocasia.
Dormancy for Alocasias
Being natives of tropical regions, Alocasias enter a period of dormancy during winter. If you see the leaves turning brown and falling off, don’t panic because it’s probably not dead. It’s merely entering its dormancy period. Stop watering and feeding your Alocasias during dormancy. If your Alocasia doesn’t go dormant, simply reduce watering and move it to a warmer spot if possible.
Toxicity of Alocasias
The leaves and stems of an Alocasia contain high levels of calcium oxalate crystals in its sap. This can be extremely poisonous to both humans and pets. Severe swelling in the mouth, throat, and lips are just some of the side effects of getting poisoned. Vomiting and skin irritation upon contact may also occur, so keep your Alocasia away from pets and children.
Humidity Needs for Alocasia Plants
High humidity is important for your Alocasia plant to thrive and survive. In fact, they require 50% to 60% humidity levels to flourish indoors. However, household air might be too dry, so use a room humidifier to regulate humidity. Placing the Alocasia’s pot on a pebble tray half-filled with water can also work wonders. Make sure the plant is sitting on the pebbles and not on the water. Avoid misting your Alocasia’s leaves as this can result in fungal infections. If you want to mist the plant, do this in the morning so its leaves can dry within the day.
Additionally, keep the plant warm, especially during winter. Never place your Alocasia near an air conditioning unit and protect it from drafts as well.
Temperature Requirements for Alocasia Plant Care
Alocasia plants flourish best in warm temperatures between 60°F to 80°F (15.6°C to 26.7°C). During the summer months, an Alocasia can grow a new leaf every week. It’s also possible that new leaves will grow twice the size of previous leaves. However, temperature fluctuations can cause leaf damage, so keep this plant away from drafty windows, heating vents, or exterior doors.
Repotting Your Alocasia Plant
Repotting is not often a necessary part of Alocasia plant care as they are rootbound. However, when your plant has outgrown its pot or has produced a lot of offsets, repotting might be needed. Remember to exercise caution when repotting, as this can stress the plant and temporarily cause drooping leaves.
If you’ve decided to repot your Alocasia, consider splitting the rhizome in two and planting the halves in separate containers. Since this plant doesn’t like standing in water, a terracotta pot is a good choice. Whatever pot you choose, pick one that’s 1 to 2 inches larger than the current one. While repotting, check for signs of damage or decay.
Propagation of Alocasia Plants
Plant division is the best way to propagate Alocasias. For best results, do this during spring. All you need to do is cut its tuberous rhizome roots into sections and plant them in another pot. Similarly, you can cut the small “baby” plants growing near its base and plant them in another pot. Don’t forget to gently remove the offsets and carefully unwind the roots if they’re tangled up. Avoid fertilizing the newly propagated plants for at least three months.
Additionally, don’t be alarmed if growth seems slow after propagation. With the right conditions, your Alocasias should start growing normally again in a few weeks.
Growth Speed of Alocasias
During spring and summer, Alocasias grow at a moderate speed. They can produce an average of one new leaf per month or even one per week. You only need to start worrying about your Alocasia if it hasn’t grown any leaves in six months. When this happens, consider repotting or fertilizing.
While flowers do occasionally appear from an Alocasia, they’re rather insignificant compared to the plant’s beautiful and massive foliage. In fact, keeping the plant healthy focuses mainly on keeping the leaves in good condition.
Pruning as Part of Alocasia Plant Care
Alocasia plant care doesn’t require much pruning since they grow in stems rather than branching out trunks. But while pruning isn’t essential, it may encourage new growth. Prune your Alocasia during the spring or early summer to give your plant time to recover.
When pruning, use clean, sharp shears. Remove old or yellow leaves and leaves that are beginning to show spots. Brown or black spots can indicate that your plant has a fungal infection. Prune infected leaves immediately to prevent the infection from spreading further.
Alocasia Plant Care Problems You Need To Watch Out For
Common house plant pests, fungal infections, and excess water or sunlight can pose problems for your Alocasia.
Here are some ways you can deal with them for more effective Alocasia plant care:
Mealy Bugs, Aphids, Scale, Spider Mites
While Alocasia plants can be poisonous to humans and domestic animals, they can provide a good home for pests. Some signs that your plants are being inhabited by pests include:
- Misshapen leaves
- White residue
- The presence of the bugs themselves
When this happens, spray your Alocasia with neem oil or ultra-fine commercial insecticidal oil. This will kill both the pests and their eggs. You can also polish the leaves with diluted neem oil every few weeks as this is a natural pest repellent. Keeping the humidity levels high will also discourage pests from living in your plant.
Overwatering and Exposure to Direct Sunlight
Overwatering your Alocasia can cause rot. A sign of overwatering is brown leaves with yellow markings. Make sure your pot has excellent drainage to avoid soggy, waterlogged soil. If left unaddressed, your Alocasia can develop a variety of diseases such as:
- Crown, stem, and root rot
- Leaf spots
Additionally, direct exposure to sunlight can also cause problems for your Alocasia. Pale or patchy brown leaves often indicate excessive sun exposure. This can also occur when you move your plant from a dark spot to a bright spot too quickly.
Low Humidity Levels
Dry and crispy Alocasia leaves are a sign that humidity levels around your plant are too low. Be sure to regulate the humidity levels in the air by using a room humidifier.
Find Balance for Effective Alocasia Plant Care
Caring for Alocasias, regardless of their variant, is all about finding balance. As with many house plants, replicating the conditions of their original habitat is a must for them to survive. While this plant may not be beginner-friendly, successfully growing Alocasias can lead to a gorgeous, exotic-looking plant. With the right Alocasia plant care, you will have a plant that can brighten any spot in your home.
Frequently Asked Questions About Alocasia Plant Care
Winter is when Alocasias enter a dormancy period. During this season, make sure to keep your plant in a warm place. Cut down on watering and fertilizing until spring arrives.
Alocasia leaves and stems contain high levels of calcium oxalate crystals. Keep them away from pets and children, as they are poisonous.
Alocasias need bright but indirect sunlight. Direct exposure to sunlight can cause its leaves to become pale or patchy brown. However, they also cannot survive in dark places. Put them in a spot that gets bright sunlight but no direct exposure.
Unlike other house plants, Alocasias need little water but frequent watering. This is because its soil needs to be moist but not soggy. Give leaves time to dry, as wet leaves can result in fungal infections.
A: Alocasias may not be the best plants for beginner gardeners or plant enthusiasts. This is because the conditions for its growth tend to be very specific. You must achieve a balance when it comes to sunlight, watering, and humidity levels. However, when grown properly, Alocasias yield beautiful foliage that can make for exotic decor.