Alocasia: Care, Growth, Habitat and Warning!
Native to subtropical Asia and Australia
The alocasia plant family consists of over 70 difference species. The most notable characteristic of the alocasia is a single leaf that grows from a long stem; this is not a bushy plant. The leaf appearance can vary between species but are typically long and thin and of an arrowhead or heart shape. Many species’ leaves will have a ruffled or scalloped edge. The leaves of a mature plant can become very large; some can grow leaves as large as three feet long. The stems can also grow to be over a foot tall. It’s odd to see such a delicate looking stem support a large leaf but that’s what attracts your attention to this plant family.
Alocasia are not the easiest plant to care for; there is a huge learning curve when figuring what the plant needs to thrive. For that reason, they do not make a great starter/beginner plant and would not be a great plant if you are looking for something that is low maintenance. Each new leaf/stem grows from an existing stem, not from the soil. Thus, it is essential to provide proper care as a damaged leaf/stem will not produce any new growth. Sadly, you get one chance at new growth from every existing leaf/stem. When the plant is growing a new leaf, it will often drop an older leaf; this is completely normal and nothing to be worried about. If you cannot steadily provide the proper care, this is not the plant family for you. However, if you are ready to get into alocasia, it is recommended to start with a common species until you can master its care and then branch out into other species. Once mastered, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful architecture-like foliage.
Bright, indirect light. The plant will not tolerate low light conditions. It should be placed as close to a window as possible without getting direct sunlight. Direct sunlight will burn the leaves. Too little of light will cause the stems to droop but this can easily be remedied by moving it to a space with more light. A stake will help keep it upright while it recovers and straightens up. Since the leaves can become quite large, they will need to be dusted regularly. Alocasia are extremely prone to pests, more so than other plant families, so dusting is a good time to look for pests. Checking for pests should be part of your routine with this plant.
Watering is the hardest part of alocasia care to get right. There is a very thin line when it comes to watering alocasia and it is very easy to over/underwater them. Alocasia prefer soil that is drier than it is wet but it is not a drought tolerant plant. The soil should never completely dry out but also cannot be constantly wet. It is best to check the soil every time before watering to see if it needs to be watered. Usually, when the top 2 inches of the soil is completely dry is when it is a good time to water but this can vary depending on the size of the plant. Brown spots can develop on the leaf if it is either overwatered or underwatered. Make sure to use a pot with a drainage hole, the roots should never be sitting in standing water. The plant will consume more water when it is putting out a new leaf so pay special attention during that time to not let the soil dry out.
Oddly enough, although the plant prefers a drier soil, it loves and needs humidity. The plant will not thrive without humidity. The leaves will develop brown tips if there is not enough humidity. A pebble tray or humidifier is best to increase the ambient humidity. Misting the plant only temporarily increases the ambient humidity and is not enough to keep alocasia happy. You don’t want to accidently wet the soil by misting either. Keeping a high humidity will also help to keep pests away.
Alocasia are a tropical plant family and do not like cold temperatures. The plant will drop leaves if it gets too cold. It must be placed in a space that is above a constant 65°C. Make sure to place it away from drafts and heating/AC vents.
Alocasia can easily enter a dormant state in the winter but also when neglected. Being dormant means no new growth and loss of existing growth. If the plant gets too little of light... dormant. If it gets too dry... dormant. If it gets too cold... dormant. When dormant, the plant can drop some/all its leaves. This doesn’t mean it’s dead but just that it’s shut down for the season. When the conditions have improved, it will come out of dormancy and start putting out new leaves. When the plant is dormant, it is important to decrease watering. Do not stop watering the plant but decrease the frequency.
Alocasia love to eat. They should be fertilized monthly in their growing season and not at all in their dormant season. Fertilizer should only be given when the soil is damp, never when it is dry as it will burn the roots. The perfect time to fertilize is during a watering.
Toxic to animals/humans. Ingestion will cause mouth/stomach irritation and vomiting.