The Alocasia genus of plants has gained popularity as a houseplant by leaps and bounds the last couple of years. There are about 70 different species of Alocasia and plenty of hybrids. Many of the plants have sensational foliage. The leaves can be huge, depending on the species, and often have striking color patterns. They’re arrow-shaped, and sometimes the plants are called elephant ears.
Alocasia definitely stands out from other houseplants. They have a bold personality with their architectural style and an almost sculptural art quality to them. They’re native to subtropical areas of Asia and Eastern Australia. Because of their natural habitat, some Alocasias can be quite a challenging indoor plant to care for. But, if you can keep them happy, it’s totally worth it.
Here are some tips on how to care for your Alocasia and keep it happy in very non-subtropical Iowa.
Alocasia Care: Light Needs
Alocasia needs very bright but indirect light. In their natural habitat, Alocasias live on the forest floor, under the tree canopy. But, that doesn’t mean they will tolerate low-light conditions. That just means they don’t love direct sun–it will burn their leaves. Care for indoor Alocasias means finding them somewhere near a large, bright window but protected from any direct sun rays.
Alocasia Soil Needs
Alocasia care can be a bit contradictory–they generally prefer the soil to be a bit on the drier side of moist, but they want lots of humidity. So, if your Alocasia is potted in a traditional potting mix, you can do a couple of things to help it drain better.
Remove the plant from its pot and mix some orchid mix or gravel into the soil to help it drain better, and then repot it. If you don’t have time to repot it, or you want to leave it for a while to reduce moving stress, aerate the soil with a chopstick or BBQ skewer to allow more air to penetrate and encourage better drainage.
Alocasia Humidity & Water Needs
The subtropical forest floor is a very humid environment. Compared to that, our homes are basically a desert. When finding a place for your plant to live, keep it away from any heat, A/C vents, or drafty doors and windows. A humidifier, pebble tray, and grouping plants together will be the best care recipe for Alocasias indoors.
Since Alocasias prefer their soil a little on the dryer side, their watering care may differ from other plants. Wait until the top 1.5-2 inches of soil is dry before watering your Alocasia. Then, make sure to remove any leftover water in the drip tray, so the bottom of the soil doesn’t stay waterlogged. Self-watering planters with a wick system can be really handy for indoor plants like Alocasias.
Alocasia Dormancy Plant Care
Many Alocasias grown indoors will go through a period of dormancy in the winter. If you prefer to avoid dormancy, you may be able to prevent it by supplementing extra light care during the winter with a grow light. Just remember that dormancy for plants is like winter sleep for animals that hibernate; it’s essential for their health. So don’t attempt to put off dormancy forever. It’s healthy to allow your plant to have a dormant period.
When your plant is dormant, it may just stop growing, or it may actually drop all of its leaves. It seems dramatic, but your plant isn’t dead, so don’t chuck the apparently empty planter out. Reduce your watering; they’re especially prone to root rot during dormancy, and just be patient. It’ll start growing again in the spring.
Cleaning Alocasia & Pest Control
Alocasia’s large leaves may get dust build-up, especially once the furnace comes on. Every few weeks, it’s a good idea to wipe them down with a soft, damp cloth, including the underside of each leaf. This is an excellent time to check for pests as well. When the air gets drier in our homes, Alocasia can be prone to spider mites, so look for those telltale signs of webbing and tiny bugs on the underside of leaves.
You can spray the leaves off with water to get rid of the initial infestation, then keep an eye on the plant, and raise the humidity around it with a pebble tray or a humidifier.
Have you added an Alocasia to your collection yet? If not, stop by the garden center for a peek through our houseplant section. We’re always on the hunt for interesting new varieties, so you never know what you might find!