Native to Asia, the Alocasia plant is often also referred to as the Elephant Ear plant or African Mask plant because of its extremely large, glossy, heart-shaped leaves with wavy edges. These bold, veined leaves come in various shades including blue-green, red, bronze and purple.
If you are searching for something that is bold and a little bit out there, this versatile plant is a great option and one that suits a variety of different homes and lifestyles. The plant can be as small as six feet high or as tall as a tree.
These plants do however require a little extra care and attention, especially if you have pets and children as Alocasia plants are considered poisonous to certain individuals.
An Alocasia plant requires extremely bright indirect light. It is therefore important to place your plant in a position that avoids direct sunlight as this can affect its ability to grow and thrive.
Allow the top two to three inches of soil to dry out before watering your Alocasia plant. Try to keep the soil at a level that is evenly moist. Wet leaves, saturated soils and over-watering can make an Alocasia plant susceptible to a number of serious fungal infections.
It’s pivotal to check the soil levels and quality on a regular basis, at least until you are sure of the plant’s watering requirements. Alocasia plants need less water during the winter months when it is dormant.
Fertilize your plant every two weeks from late March through to late September or early October. For best results use a basic houseplant food diluted to half the recommended strength and refrain from fertilizing your Alocasia during the winter months.
Too much plant food can cause a build-up of salts in the soil which will ultimately result in the burning of the leaves.
Alocasia plants are privy to warmer temperatures, preferably between 60°-80°F (c. 15°-27°C). These plants will become dormant when exposed to prolonged temperatures that are below 60°F (c. 15°C). If this happens, it is likely that they will shed all of their leaves.
For best results, pick a spot for your Alocasia plant that is away from air conditioning systems and cold drafts. During the warmer summer months, these plants can produce a new leaf every week, with each new leaf often being twice the size of the previous leaf.
Alocasia plants thrive in high humidity. To increase the humidity, position the plant on a tray filled with water and pebbles. For best results, make sure the plant is sitting on the pebbles and not directly in the water.
You can also boost the humidity by placing a small humidifier near the plant or by grouping plants together if you have many of them. Avoid misting the plant as this can encourage disease to spread.
The blooms of an Alocasia plant are very small, with the large beautiful leaves often making them look even smaller. It’s also important to note that plants will not always produce flowers, but ultimately the Alocasia plant is not purchased for its flowers!
Like all plants, this species does suffer from pests, including the likes of scale, mealy bugs, aphids, and spider mite. Spraying your Alocasia plants with a mixture of warm soapy water every few weeks helps to prevent these pests from attacking your plant. It also helps to keep the large leaves of the plant dust-free.
If you notice your Alocasia has become infested, spray with Neem Oil or an ultra-fine commercial insecticidal oil to rid the plant of both the pests and their eggs. It’s also a good idea to isolate the plant to prevent it from affecting others, especially if you have lots of them.
When an Alocasia plant’s leaves are consistently wet or they’re over-watered, they can develop a variety of diseases such as root rot, stem rot, and crown rot, as well as Xanthomonas and leaf spot. Keep an eye out for black or dark brown spots forming on the leaves. These spots will be surrounded by a yellowish rim.
The best way to stop your plant from becoming susceptible to diseases is to avoid over-watering it. You should also ensure the plant has good air circulation and that the leaves are kept clean and dry. Once an Alocasia plant is infected, it is important to act quickly by removing damaged leaves and any leaves that have fallen off.
You should also isolate the plant from any other plants, and treat the infected Alocasia with a commercial fungicide.
Opt for a well-aerated, organic loose soil that comprises a good mix of peat moss. Simply add some builder’s sand or perlite if the soil seems a little heavy. Most potting soil that is available from your local garden center can be used, provided that other elements are added to it.
Pot-sizes and needs
Alocasias plants prefer to be root-bound in small containers, so you should avoid rushing to place them in larger pots. As they grow larger in size you can increase the pot size, but it is not a necessity.
Speedily remove any yellow leaves or leaves that have started to show brown or black spots, as this likely means your plant has the fungal disease. Otherwise, you can keep pruning of your Alocasia plant to a minimum.
For best results, propagate your plants using a plant division method. This is where you can divide a singular plant into several and there are a number of ways of doing so. If you’re unsure of which approach to take, do some research before propagating.
During the late autumn and winter, an Alocasia becomes dormant for up to several months. Depending on where you are placing the plant or what you expect out of it, it’s important to keep this in mind.
Poisonous plant information
This species is classed as an extremely poisonous plant and has a high toxicity level. With this in mind it is imperative you keep your Alocasia plants away from small children and pets. If either becomes in contact with the plant, seek medical advice immediately.