The mighty alocasia is well-known for its impressive verdure and is a striking houseplant. It boasts broad leaves and is a perennial, which makes it an excellent addition to your houseplant collection.
The alocasia has its roots in the tropics, stemming from countries along the equator. It comes from a large family of plants, with different alocasia species found all around the world.
Alocasias have always been revered as great houseplants. Some varieties of this notable plant have impressively won gardening awards in the UK.
Alocasias have served as eye candy for households since the baby boom of the ’50s. These legendary plants are the perfect way to add a retro vibe to your living room.
Most houseplants require maintenance and the alocasia is no exception. They need adequate light, enough water, and the occasional repotting or trimming.
So, how do you make sure that your alocasia thrives? Give it the best possible treatment by reading this guide on how to take care of alocasias.
Origins of Alocasia Plants
Alocasia is a genus of the Aracaea family. This diverse family consists of grass-like flowering plants. They usually produce flowers on a kind of inflorescence called a spadix. This flower’s structure is like an arum-lily in appearance.
Alocasias do produce a flower but they are very rare and when they do, it’s very subtle. Alocasia flowers often hide among the wide leaves, out of sight.
The wide leaves of the alocasia can be shaped like an arrowhead or a heart, depending on the variety. Alocasia leaves can grow upwards of two feet. Alocasia macrorrhiza has big leaves, up to four feet long.
Found in subtropical Asia and eastern Australia, alocasia typically grows on the floor of tropical environments. They are rhizomatous plants – which means they grow from a bulbous root similar to a yam.
Alocasia has a history of being made into food. People who live at the equator have been eating the root of alocasia for around 28 000 years. Only the roots from a select few species of alocasias are edible, while most others are considered toxic.
During the 1950s, alocasia was a dominant decorative plant in western households. It served as the centerpiece for many living rooms at the time.
Types of Alocasia
With more than 100 alocasia cultivars available, choosing the right one can be difficult.
There are 79 known alocasia varieties that can be found in their native habitats. These are the original breeds. Most of the alocasia that you can buy as houseplants are hybrids or cultivars of the original breeds.
If you are looking for a houseplant that you can eat, you are out of luck. Alocasia varieties that were bred as houseplants are not edible.
If you are looking for a type of houseplant that you can boast to your plant friends about, an alocasia is perfect. In fact, two types of alocasia have won the award of garden merit – Amazonian Elephant Ear and Variegated Alocasia.
Pink Dragon is one of the most popular varieties because of its light pink stem and white veins that juxtapose the dark green of its leaves.
Alocasia Polly is the original trendsetter. This popular houseplant resembles the hand-carved lines on an African mask. This is why it has rightfully earned the nickname the African Mask Alocasia.
Alocasia Care Advice
When you are looking for that special houseplant with a striking appearance, alocasia should come to mind.
However, owning one of these plants comes with a set of responsibilities and you will need to provide consistent care. Indoors, you probably have the best chance of making it thrive.
What Type of Soil Do Alocasias Need?
Alocasia plants thrive in moist soil that drains well and is rich in nutrients. This may sound like a lot of soil requirements but there are plenty of options available to the common gardener.
The best soil for alocasia is composted soil or potting soil. This type of soil is nutrient-rich, drains well and is also good at retaining moisture. Remember that your pot should have a drainage hole at the bottom.
You can line the bottom of your desired pot with coco coir or peat moss. This is said to improve your pot plant’s drainage.
Do Alocasias Need Sun?
Alocasias need plenty of bright indirect light. They should not be placed in direct sunlight because this will burn their leaves.
Make sure that the spot they are placed in is bright enough, or else your alocasia will not grow. Inadequate lighting is also treacherous for alocasias. LED lights can be used to increase brightness. Make sure that your LEDs are positioned far enough from the plants.
If you think about its natural habitat, this all makes sense. Alocasias are positioned on the floor of tropical and subtropical jungles, beneath the foliage of other plants. This means that they get no direct sunlight.
If you plan on keeping your alocasia outside, then make sure it’s placed underneath other plants. This will ensure that it gets indirect sunlight during the day.
How Do You Water an Alocasia?
Firstly, assess your alocasia’s watering needs. If the top 25% of the soil is dry, then your plant needs watering. How much water is enough? Water until you start to see run-off from the drainage hole.
It’s clear that alocasias like to be in soil that sits a bit on the dry side. However, they also like humid environments. The answer to this plant riddle? A spray bottle. Mist your alocasia frequently.
Make sure that you empty the saucer of any excess water. Alocasias don’t like to be over-saturated. They are prone to developing root rot and fungal infections if they are left waterlogged for too long.
What is the Best Temperature for an Alocasia?
The optimal temperature for alocasia growth is between 65 – 85 degrees. As a general rule, keep the room where an alocasia grows above 60 degrees.
You can keep a heater around your alocasia to help keep the temperature high. Consider adding a pebble tray around the plant too. The combination of heater and pebble tray will also help to keep the humidity high.
Avoid a room with cold drafts for growing your alocasia. Sudden temperature changes can shock your indoor plant and should also be avoided as much as possible.
Common Alocasia Plant Problems
Alocasias come with their own set of problems. Take a look at how to identify and solve some of these common issues.
One of the reasons people fall in love with the alocasia is its dark green leaves. But what happens when those leaves start turning yellow? Don’t fret – it’s not as bad as you think.
Overwatering is the main culprit. Make sure that you stick to a fixed watering schedule and that you drain the excess water afterwards. Yellowing is also the first sign of root rot, usually caused by overwatering.
Low humidity levels are a common cause of yellow leaves too. This can be improved with regular misting from a spray bottle or the addition of a humidifier to your room.
Some yellowing when new growth occurs is normal. The older leaves will fall to the bottom of the pecking order and receive less nutrients, causing them to yellow and eventually fall off.
Today your alocasia may be vibrant and perky, but tomorrow is another story. What does it mean when your precious plant baby is suddenly looking limp?
It could be because of dry soil. Remember the 25% rule – no more than this amount of the top layer of soil should be dry. Remedy this problem by making sure that you follow the rule more regularly. Do not make any sudden fixes in case you overwater your plant.
Make sure that the humidity levels are right. Inadequate light can cause the leaves of an alocasia to droop. Even if your alocasia is dark, it prefers to live in the light. Make sure your plant is in a bright enough spot.
Alocasia Lost All its Leaves
Watching that last leaf fall off your alocasia may seem like the end but don’t worry – there is hope! Thanks to the energy stored in alocasia’s thick tubers, it is able to bounce back from losing all its leaves.
Prevention is better than cure. If you do suspect that your alocasia is going through some rough times, position it outdoors in a place that gets indirect sunlight during summer or spring. This simple trick has brought many alocasias back from the brink of death.
Any seasoned alocasia grower will tell you, these plants are especially susceptible to spider mites. There is nothing worse than seeing those annoying little cobwebs on the base of your precious plant.
Once you have confirmed that your plant has mites, separate it from the rest of your plants. Wash the leaves and stem of your plant with soapy water and then apply neem oil. You can now return the plant to its original place.
Spider mites hate humid places and thrive in dry conditions. You can try to get rid of your pest problem by increasing the humidity via misting or pebble trays.
Alocasias are extremely susceptible to root rot. The main cause of root rot is usually under or over-watering. Sometimes stress and other external factors can lead to root rot and sometimes you can get it from the nursery, already affected by it.
Root rot will slowly (and oftentimes quickly) kill your plant. And if they don’t kill your plant, the wet environment will attract fungus gnats, and then you can say goodbye to the remaining healthy roots.
Try inspecting your roots for obvious signs of root rot. Remove the affected roots with a sterilized pair of shears to avoid further infections. The healthy roots should then be washed in a fungicide before repotting the alocasia.
This is the only way to treat root rot but it is quite invasive to your plant. This remedy should be kept as a last resort for your affected alocasia.
Alocasia Frequently Asked Questions
People typically have similar questions about their plant babies. They all revolve around keeping their alocasia green and thriving.
View some of the most frequently asked questions about alocasia plants below.
Is an Alocasia Easy to Care For?
Alocasias are low-maintenance plants. This makes them an excellent addition to your houseplant collection, even as a beginner plant parent.
They do require consistent maintenance like feeding and repotting but other than that you don’t have to stress too much. Just make sure that you stick to a regular watering schedule and that it gets the correct light.
Does an Alocasia Purify the Air?
Yes, an alocasia does purify the air. As a matter of fact, it appears on NASA’s list of air-purifying plants – which is a pretty high recommendation.
Does My Alocasia Need To Be Repotted?
Regardless of whether your alocasia plant is indoors or outdoors, it will need to be repotted.How frequently does it need to be repotted? This depends on the current pot size.
For small tabletop plants, you will need to re-pot every 12-18 months. As a rule of thumb, you will choose a new pot that is 1-2 inches bigger than the previous one. This is to stimulate root growth.
For medium and small plants, you will typically re-pot every 18-24 months. You should put them in a new pot that is 2-4 inches larger than the old one.
Spring or summer is when the plant will be at its strongest. This is the best time for repotting your alocasia plants.
How Often Should You Feed Your Alocasia?
Your alocasia prefers nutrient-rich soil. This means that you will need to feed it regularly during certain months to ensure that it gets all the nutrients that it needs.
You should feed your alocasia with liquid plant fertilizer once a month during spring and summer. No feeding is necessary during it’s dormant months in the winter and fall.
Will an Alocasia Die in the Winter?
No, an alocasia is a perennial plant meaning it survives all year round. It is normal, during winter, that your alocasia will become dormant and growth will slow down.
During the winter months, your alocasia will need less frequent watering. However, do not allow it to completely dry out. Stick to the 25% rule.
Your alocasia still wants to be kept warm, even in winter. Make sure that your plant is in the warmest part of your house.
So, Should You Choose an Alocasia As Your Next Houseplant?
There are many reasons to adopt the charming alocasia into your plant family. With its many varieties, there are different looks and styles to choose from. This allows you to choose an alocasia that best represents you.
Most domestic species of alocasia make great beginner houseplants. They can be kept anywhere in the house and thrive in your bathroom (especially after a shower). Remember – alocasias need routine care. Luckily, you have this guide to help your alocasia thrive at home.
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