If you’re a foliage fanatic, chances are you’re a fan of Alocasia. Containing many beautiful species ranging from the tiny Alocasia ‘Polly’ to the gigantic Alocasia macrorrhizos, this genus really brings the tropics into your home.
Alocasia varieties are sometimes considered ‘divas’ that can be difficult to keep alive, but is it really that bad? Keep reading for everything you need to know about care for Alocasia and growing these amazing houseplants in your own home.
|Name(s) (Common, scientific)||Kris plant, elephant’s ear, African mask plant, Alocasia|
|Recommended lighting||Bright indirect|
|Water||Keep lightly moist|
|Soil||Peat-based with perlite|
Alocasia natural habitat
The genus Alocasia contains 79 plants, many of which can be grown in the home. Their worldwide popularity is due to the large, unusual leaves and attractive colors. And as if their natural wasn’t enough, nowadays there are also many different man-made cultivars and varieties of Alocasia out there.
In the wild, Alocasia plants are mostly native to southeast Asia, where they grow in (sub)tropical areas. Found on forest floors, they grow a lot larger in their natural habitat than in our home, with some species reaching massive adult sizes.
Alocasia light and temperature
Since Alocasia plants are naturally found on the forest floor, they thrive best in bright but indirect, dappled light. After all, in their natural habitat, taller trees would block out the harshest rays of the sun.
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, an east-facing window is probably the ideal spot for your Alocasia. They don’t need to be sitting directly in front of the window, but should still be no more than two or three feet away from it.
If all you have to offer is a window that receives direct sunlight, you can filter the light by using sheer curtains or blinds. It’s important to take this extra step since too much sun can scorch Alocasia’s delicate leaves. Alternatively, if you can’t quite place the plant in a spot that gets enough light, you can try supplementing with artificial lighting.
Since they come from the tropics and subtropics, Alocasia plants won’t respond well to being cold. Avoid drafty areas and single-paned windows: if the plants get too cold, the leaves can die off or they may go dormant.
Ideally, the temperature should be room temperature or up (around 21 °C/70 °F). Don’t let things drop below 15 °C (or 60 °F) in order to prevent issues.
Tip: Seriously, don’t let the temperature drop too low. Some Alocasias go into dormancy when it gets too chilly, dropping (almost) all of their foliage. If this happens, place the plant in a cozy and warm spot with plenty of light and keep the soil nice and moist. This should generally wake it back up.
Alocasia soil and planting
As with many other houseplants, the most important factor to consider the choosing a soil type for your Alocasia is drainage. These guys are Aroids that don’t like standing water, so be sure to go for something nice and loose.
Many houseplant enthusiasts use mixes that don’t contain any potting soil, although this doesn’t mean that you should cut it out entirely. For a nice Aroid soil, though, you can use sphagnum moss mixed with perlite and bark chips to keep the soil loose for good drainage and aeration. You could also consider a pre-mixed Aroid soil.
As with most houseplants, you’ll want to use pots with drainage holes for your Alocasias. After all, even though the species likes its soil lightly moist, excess water still needs to be able to drain. To help keep moisture in the soil, try to stick with plastic or ceramic pots since clay is porous and breathes out moisture.
These plants don’t mind feeling a bit cramped, so there’s no need to repot them every year. If you do notice your Alocasia outgrowing its pot, you can repot in the spring. Although they will tolerate being repotted during the fall or winter, most houseplants do best when handled in the spring.
How often you water your plants will depend on a lot of different factors, like humidity and how much sunlight they get. During the summer, you may need to water once or twice a week. In the winter, you can let the top 1 or 2 inches of the soil dry out before watering since your Alocasia most likely will not be in all-out growing mode.
You may only need to water once a week or every 10 days during the cooler months, but don’t let the soil go too dry for too long or the plants will struggle.
When taking care of Alocasia plants, keep in mind that they don’t just like moist soil. They need plenty of humidity in the air as well. This is one of the reasons that this species is often labeled as a diva, since they really won’t thrive very well in dry environments.
A greenhouse is the ideal spot for an Alocasia, but that doesn’t mean you can’t grow it in your home as well. These plants do best when kept in a kitchen or bathroom since these tend to be the most humid rooms in an average house.
Misting your Alocasia won’t do much good in terms of air moisture, as it’s been shown to make very little difference. There are other options, though. You can help with humidity by grouping a bunch of plants together to take advantage of the humidity created as they transpire. Sort of like a mini jungle inside your home!
Tip: If the air is still too dry after taking the above measures, you may want to consider just getting a humidifier (without scented additives). This can help with your own health as well, since very dry air can irritate our sinuses and cause other annoying health issues.
Alocasia plants aren’t demanding when it comes to fertilizing, even when they are in peak growing condition. Bi-weekly to monthly applications of a general all-purpose liquid fertilizer (diluted with water to be half or quarter strength) during spring, summer, and fall is all they need.
Stop fertilizing during wintertime when your plants aren’t actively growing.
Propagating Alocasia plants is easy! While repotting your plant, just cut the rhizome and plant the cuttings during spring or summer. They can be propagated during fall and winter, but the survival rate for the new plants will be lower.
For more information about propagating your Alocasia, head over to the Alocasia propagation guide.
Problems with Alocasia
There are mixed feelings about how difficult it is to take care of Alocasia plants. While some people seem to have great success, others think the species is too difficult to bother trying.
- One of the most common things you’ll deal with when taking care of Alocasia plants are drooping leaves. Just like with other houseplants, the drooping leaves can be caused by any number of things.
- Drooping can be a sign of under- or overwatering, too little or too much sunlight, low humidity, and low temperature. It can really be anything! It may take some trial and error while tweaking your Alocasia care to find out exactly why the leaves are drooping.
- Spider mites are a pest that you’ll have to watch out for during your regular Alocasia care routine. Thankfully, these little buggers are less likely to be an issue if you have high humidity and wipe down the leaves on a regular basis.
- One thing you may not know when it comes to Alocasia care is that it’s considered to be an invasive species because of how aggressively some variations grow, especially when used in outdoor gardens. If you decide to move some of your indoor Alocasia plants outdoors, be sure to check with local regulations first (especially if you’re in the U.S.) and do your best to contain them.
There are many types of Alocasia. For example, Alocasia ‘Polly’ and Alocasia ‘Amazonica’, two man-made cultivars, seem to be growing in popularity at local stores and nurseries. Other Alocasia cultivars and species, like the coveted Alocasia ‘Stingray’ and the unusual Alocasia cuprea, can still be tricky to find.
If you don’t want to waste your time bouncing from store to store with no success, try buying your Alocasia online! Amazon offers many species of Alocasia.
Is Alocasia toxic to cats and dogs?
According to the ASPCA, Alocasia is toxic to cats and dogs, as well as people and other animals. This is due to the insoluble calcium oxalates content of the leaves, stems corm. Calcium oxalates can cause pain and swelling of the mouth, lips, and tongue, as well as difficulty swallowing, excessive drooling, and vomiting, if ingested.
So if you’re taking care of Alocasia plants, be sure to keep them away from children and pets! You may even want to wear gloves yourself when repotting and handling your plant if you have sensitive skin.
If you have any more questions about care for Alocasia or if you want to share your own experiences with this beautiful houseplant genus, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below! 🌿
Cover photo © SEE D JAN on Adobe Stock.