Alocasia is a genus of about 75 species like elephant ears and Mayan mask of tuberous and rhizomatous perennials originally from Subtropical Asia and Eastern Australia. Also known as the African mask, Elephant Ear or Kris plant, Alocasia It is a flowering plant but its main decorative value is in the broad, waxy leaves of this popular houseplants from the Araceae family.
Alocasia is a group of plants, a genus, but all the species and cultivars within this genus need the same basic care. Here is a short summary for proper Alocasia plant care:
It looks pretty straightforward, but these are only the very key points. If you want your Alocasia plant to look fantastic all year round, you will need to read all the detailed and step-by-step guide we have put together for you in this article.
Alocasia Plant Overview
Alocasia is a subtropical evergreen perennial which is famous for its leaves. Depending on the species they can range from 8 to 60 inches in length (20 to 150 cm). Their shape is usually sagittate (spearhead shaped) or cordate (heart shaped).
The leaves of the Alocasia plants are very waxy in texture, they often have very visible ribbed veins, often straight and radiating from the center. Sometimes these veins are of a different color from the leaf, which can range in color from lime green to dark hunter green.
The leaves grow at the end of a long petiole, which can reach 3 to 5 feet in length (90 to 150 cm). The petioles radiate from a central point at the base of the plant, and the leaves on them sometimes pointing up, and sometimes at an angle or pointing down depending on the species.
The African Mask plants have corms underground which contain irritants, but you can eat them if you cook them. The blooms of Alocasia consist of a spathe and spadix, like peace lilies. These can vary in color from light green to whitish.
Alocasia Plant Profile
Botanical name: Alocasia spp.
Common name(s): alocasia, individual species’ common names include giant taro, ‘ape, biga, elephant ears, African mask plant.
Plant type: subtropical herbaceous perennial.
Size: between 2 and 15 feet tall depending on the species (60 to 450 cm, or 4.5 meters). In spread it varies between 2 to 8 feet (60 to 240 cm).
Potting soil: porous potting soil, one part peat (or substitute) one part perlite or coarse potting sand.
Outdoor soil: well drained but always moist loam, clay or sandy soil.
Soil pH: acidic to neutral, 5.5 to 6.5 ideally.
Light requirements indoors: bright and plenty indirect light.
Watering requirements: regular watering but you need to allow the top soil to dry up before watering. Keep the partly dry but with humidity in it.
Fertilizing: frequently (every 2 to 4 weeks) with an organic 20:10:20 NPK fertilizer during the growing season.
Bloom time: especially in spring and early summer, but any time.
There are some famous Alocasia varieties like:
There are many others, of course, but these are some of the most popular and they should give you an idea of the range of colors, shapes and personalities of our plant.
But now, let’s look at the key growing needs of Alocasia.
Step-By-Step Care And Growing Guide For Alocasia Plants
Do you wish to know exactly how to look after your Alocasia, whichever variety you choose? We are going to look at all the needs of your plant, in a simple and clear way, step by step.
Light Requirements For Growing Alocasia Plants
Alocasia needs bright and plenty indirect light. In practical terms, this depends on whether you grow it indoors or outdoors:
Alocasia Watering Needs
Watering your Alocasia correctly can make all the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy plant. It needs regular watering and constant humidity but also a partly dry soil. This may be tricky to achieve. But here are some guidelines to help you.
Alocasia Humidity Needs
Alocasia is a subtropical plant so it heeds constant and fairly high humidity levels.
The Best Soil For Alocasia Plants
Whether you grow Alocasia in the ground or in containers, the soil needs to have three characteristics:
To achieve this balance, we need to distinguish between potted plants and plants in full soil.
Best soil To use For Alocasia Growing In containers and pots:
Best soil to use for Alocasia growing in full ground:
In both cases:
Alocasia Temperature Needs
Alocasia is very sensitive to temperature changes; in subtropical areas, the temperature is very steady all year round. The average indoor temperature is usually right for Alocasia. In detail:
How To Repot An Alocasia Plant
Whenever your Alocasia outgrows the pot, you should repot it. It is a fairly fast growing plant, so this is necessary.
Propagating Alocasia Plants
You can propagate Alocasia by clump division or rhizome division and you can do it in spring and early summer, when the plant comes out of dormancy. This is when the plant is most vigorous and ready to grow new specimens.
How To Propagate Alocasia From Rhizomes
How To Propagate Alocasia From For Clump Division
Once you have planted them, keep them warm and humid for a few weeks (but not wet) to encourage growth.
How To Trim Alocasia
You should not usually prune Alocasia. This is a plant with a naturally beautiful habit and shape. Actually pruning it may ruin its appearance.
How To Fertilize Alocasia
Alocasia needs frequent and regular feeding with a good organic fertilizer. They are fairly hungry plants and they need to sustain a lot of growth. They also come from very fertile regions.
Naturally, indoor and outdoor Alocasia plants have slightly different needs.
In The Ground:
Alocasia is a flowering plant, and it has female and male flowers. They are different, and we shall see how.
After flowering, where the spadix used to be, Alocasia will produce a clump of red berries that will stay on the plant until ripe.
Note that Alocasia does not have a proper blooming season. Most often, they will bloom in spring or early summer, but they can bloom at any time.
Finally, they are not easy bloomers; it is fairly rare for one of them to flower outside its natural environment. It happens more often in greenhouses or parks where they have ideal conditions, less often indoors.
Pests And Diseases Affecting Alocasia Plant Growth
Alocasia suffers from some common diseases, including root rot, crown rot, stem rot, leaf spot and Xanthomonas. It can also be affected by parasites like spider mites (red especially) and scale insects.
In most cases, problems are due to excessive soil or air humidity.
Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Alocasia Plants
Now, that’s all you need to know to make your Alocasia happy, but how about your curious questions? We have found out the most asked questions about this plant and also written down the answers for you!
Is Alocasia Poisonous?
Unfortunately Alocasia is very, very poisonous indeed! Never eat any part of the plant. If infested, it is really serious for humans, cats, dogs, horses and virtually all pets… It is not “just poisonous” it is lethal and it can kill you. The sap of Alocasia is also an irritant. So, if it touches your skin, it may give you rashes.
Also be very careful with the sharp edges of the laves of this plant. They can cut you (depending on the species) and irritate your skin and wound.
Why Are The Leaves Of My Alocasia Drooping?
Drooping leaves is a very typical symptom that you Alocasia is not a happy plant. In fact, with its big and sometimes heavy leaves, one of the first things it does when it needs to tell you that something is wrong is droop its beautiful leaves.
The causes though may be many… It may be any of these:
It may also just be that the season is changing. Yes, sometimes these plants suffer the change of temperature and light and droop their leaves.
My Alocasia Has Dropped A Leaf, Is It Ok?
Alocasia plants do drop leaves every now and then. Usually, though this happens sporadically and with one leaf at a time, and well spaced out from the next leaf.
If there are more than one leaves dying at the same time, you should worry.
Also check that when the leaf dies, it simply dries up naturally, starting at the tips.
If you see any signs of rotting, unhealthy coloring, scattered lesions and spots, then your plant may not be well. Check the list of common diseases with Alocasia in this article if this is the case.
What Happens After An Alocasia Plant Drops A Leaf?
First of all, help your plant and as soon as it has dried up, remove the dropped leaf. Next, wait for a few weeks and you will have a beautiful surprise! Your plant should soon start growing a new leaf..
Yes, these plants like to drop a leaf and grow a new one. And member that when they do that, they will be very thirsty indeed. And if you have not fertilized it in a while, a new leaf may be a good chance to give your beautiful plant some feeding…
My Alocasia Leaves Are Changing Color. What’s Happening?
First of all, let’s distinguish if it is changing color because of a disease or other reasons. If it has spots, lacerations, if it is rotting etc. then it is an infection (fungal or bacterial). This also happens fairly fast and in localized spots on the leaf.
However, if the change of coloring is gradual and diffused, regular throughout the leaf, it is another reason altogether. In this case, it is a matter of light!
If the leaf of your Alocasia is turning paler, it may well mean that you need to give it more light. The leaves of Alocasia will reduce the chloroplasts inside the leaves and the quantity of chlorophyll when there is too much light. It makes sense if you think about it… It would have too much photosynthesis…
However, if the leaves are turning dark, it is the opposite case: your Alocasia plants needs more light. In this case, the opposite is happening, the plant is trying to compensate for the lack of light packing its cells with chloroplasts.
What Is The Difference Between Alocasia And Colocasia?
Alocasia and Colocasia are similar plants in many ways, but with a little distinction…So what is the difference? Alocasia has rhizomes and tubers or corms, Colocasia only has corms.
They are members of the same family. They originate from the same region. Not exactly the same because Colocasia does not grow spontaneous in East Australia, but only in Subtropical Asia. They have broad, beautiful cordate or sagittate leaves on top of long petioles…
There are also aquatic species of Colocasia, like water taro (Colocasia esculenta). And the corms of this plant are used in many dishes in cuisines all over the world.
Can I Move My Alocasia Outdoors In Summer?
Yes you can move them outdoors! Actually you Alocasia may lie a bit of fresh air. But make sure that the temperature does not drop under 60oF (15oC) even at night before you move it.
This will usually happen from late May or early June in most temperate regions.
Also make sure you find it a sheltered spot away from strong direct sunlight, especially noon and afternoon Sun.
I Have Seen Alocasia Plants Next To Ponds. Can I Grow My Alocasia Next To My Pond?
No you cannot grow Alocasia plants next to ponds. And I need to correct you: you have not seen Alocasia plants growing next to ponds… They were Colocasia plants, which look similar, but can grow in wet and boggy grounds.
Alocasias would die in those conditions, and they would die very fast indeed. Remember they need very well drained soil and like it humid but on the dry side. If your pond would do with beautiful leaves like Alocasia’s then plant a Colocasia there.
Alocaisa And Your Own Tropical Paradise
Whether you grow Alocasia indoors or outdoors, these plants have foliage like very few you can find in the world.
Showy, glossy, and sometimes even colossal in size, these leaves can turn your living room, your terrace and your garden into a perfect looking, lush and exotic tropical paradise of your own. And now you know how to make this paradise look healthy and happy too!
Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.