Alocasia is also known by the common name elephant's ear. These popular houseplants get their common name because of the enormous heart-shaped or arrow-shaped leaves they produce from tuberous rhizomes. Many species in the genus are prized for their prominent veins or variegation.
These fast-growing, statement-making, tropical aroid species naturally grow large leaves to soak up the sun under rainforest canopies. You can grow alocasia outdoors, but they need warm and humid conditions that mimic their native habitats, that's why it's best to grow them in homes that can offer the temperatures and filtered light they need to thrive. Some enthusiasts move their alocasia houseplants outdoors during the warmer months and move them indoors when temperatures drop.
If you have children or pets, you might want to avoid these plants altogether because the leaves are toxic to humans and animals.
|Common Name||Alocasia, elephant's ear, African mask plant|
|Botanical Name||Alocasia spp.|
|Family||Araceae or Aroid|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennial|
|Mature Size||2–10 ft. tall, 2-10 ft. spread (depends on species and variety)|
|Sun Exposure||Bright indirect light indoors; part shade outdoors|
|Soil Type||Loose, well-draining potting mix or crumbly loam|
|Soil pH||Slightly acidic (5.5 to 6.5)|
|Bloom Time||Spring and summer|
|Flower Color||Light butter-yellow (rarely flowers; not showy)|
|Hardiness Zones||10–12 (USDA)|
|Native Areas||Tropical regions of Asia|
|Toxicity||Toxic to dogs, cats, and humans|
Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for Alocasia Plants
When they have the right conditions, alocasia are easy to care for and can grow quickly in the warm summer months and produce a new leaf every week. In the winter months, the alocasia becomes dormant, but be sure to keep them in a warm indoor location because they love high humidity and bright indirect light.
With proper care, alocasia can grow eight to 10 feet tall depending on the species. Grown in a container indoors, they might not reach the mature heights they would when garden grown in optimal outdoor conditions.
Some alocasia species are considered invasive especially along the Gulf Coast of the United States. Consult with your local municipality before planting this species outdoors in the garden.
Alocasia generally thrive in bright indirect light, which prevents their leaves from scorching, but the amount and type of light depends on the species or cultivar. Some large varieties can handle full direct sunlight, and their leaf color tends to be more defined.
Generally, a location in or near a window with an eastern or western exposure offers the filtered light many species appreciate. Some alocasia will tolerate a shadier spot in your home, but the leaf growth might be slower and less impressive.
Plant alocasia in a loose, well-drained potting mix. They have a preference for slightly acidic soil, which is provided by a standard all-purpose peat-based potting mix or one specially formulated for aroids. These plants don't like wet feet, so if you need to improve the drainage, you could amend the mix with orchid bark or perlite, .
Alocasia are water-loving plants, but there is a fine line with these plants. You want to keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. They require less water during the winter months when the plant is dormant.
Allow the top few inches of soil to become nearly dry before watering. This will help keep the soil evenly moist. Soggy soil makes the plant susceptible to fungal infections and root rot.
Temperature and Humidity
Alocasia will suffer below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Some varieties will die back during colder weather and re-sprout from the rhizome. They require very humid environments. To raise the humidity around your plant, place it on a tray filled with pebbles and add water until the rises to just below pebble surface. Keep them away from cold drafts from windows, doors, and air conditioning.
A liquid houseplant fertilizer with a 20-20-20 formulation is recommended during the growing season. This general-purpose mix contains 20% each of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to promote healthy foliage growth and strong roots. Dilute it to half-strength to reduce the risk of leaf burn, or opt for a slow-release variety that gradually releases the nutrients.
These plants, especially larger specimens, are heavy feeders. So feeding once or twice a month while the plant is growing is a sensible strategy. Stop feeding your alocasia during its dormant phase.
Types of Alocasia
There are nearly 100 species of alocasia, and a surprisingly large number are used as houseplants. Here are some favorite species and cultivars:
- Alocasia macrorhiza (giant taro) is the largest of the houseplant species, growing up to 15 feet tall with three to four-foot-long leaves.
- Alocasia longiloba (tiger taro) has dark gray-green leaves with white veins. It usually grows to no more than about three feet tall.
- Alocasia cuprea 'Red Secret' is a three-foot-tall plant with metallic bronze-red leaves.
- Alocasia x amazonica (Amazonian elephant's ear) is a popular compact hybrid with deep green leaves and striking white or light green veins.
- Alocasia × amazonica 'Polly' is a compact cultivar with ruffled leaves featuring creamy white veins.
- Alocasia zebrina is a finicky but fabulous species that can grow up to three feet tall. It's the zebra-striped stems that make this plant stand out.
- Alocasia reginula 'Black Velvet' is a striking dark green plant with white veins. It is a compact plant that generally stays under 18 inches.
Only prune your alocasia to remove damaged, dying, or dead foliage. Doing this will allow the nutrients to head to the healthy foliage, helping it flourish. It's best to prune your alocasia when it is actively growing in the spring or summer.
Use sterile, sharp pruning shears or scissors to cut the stem of the flawed foliage at the base of the plant. Because of the plant's toxicity, use gloves when pruning this houseplant.
Type of Pot to Use for Alocasia
The key component when repotting this houseplant is to choose one with ample drainage holes. Alocasia don't respond well to sitting in standing water.
Although these plants don't mind being a little root bound, they are fast-growing. The smaller varieties might need repotting every year to 18 months. Select a pot that is one to two inches larger in diameter than the current pot and repot during the spring or summer growing season. If you use a pot that is too large, it could cause the plant to struggle to absorb water. While they like consistent moisture, soggy soil isn't good.
Larger floor plants will likely only need repotting every 18 months to two years. Choose a pot that is two to four inches larger in diameter than the existing pot.
There are pros and cons to using a porous or nonporous container for your alocasia. Clay pots allow decent airflow to the roots and soil, but nonporous plastics or glazed ceramics help to maintain the even moisture that these plants appreciate. Using a heavier material, like clay, helps weigh a tall plant down so it is less likely to get toppled over by a playful pet or toddler.
You can propagate most alocasia plants by clump or rhizome division, something that's easy to do and will produce many more plants. Perform this task in the spring.
- Use a trowel to gently dig your plant out of its container and choose root clumps that have gotten bigger over time, ensuring plenty of rhizomes to divide.
- With clean pruners, cut off pieces of the underground rhizome and pot them up separately in a moist potting mix.
- Keep pots warm and moist until new growth begins, usually a couple of weeks. They are ready to be potted when you tug at them and they have enough roots to resist.
How to Grow Alocasia From Seed
This plant is very easy to propagate by root division, so propagation by seed is not frequently done. But if you have a mature plant that flowers and produces seed pods, you can extract the seeds from the dried pods and plant them in a rich, peat-based potting mix. Sow the seeds on the surface, then sprinkle a thin layer of potting mix over them. Keep the potting mix damp but not soggy until they sprout.
But be patient because it can take years to nurture seedlings into full-sized plants with the characteristic huge leaves.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Alocasia plants are not commonly victims of disease. However, most alocasia species are prone to spider mites. Their large leaves are also at risk of being torn by strong winds, so keep them in a protected area, especially during storms.
How to Get Alocasia to Bloom
Alocasia plants are grown more for their foliage than their flowers, but they can bloom in the spring. This is more common in older mature plants than it is with young plants. The flowers are unremarkable, but if you want to try to coax flowers for the benefit of seeds, make sure your plants are spend time outdoors in the spring and summer. They are unlikely to flower when kept in indoors year-round.
Common Problems With Alocasia
Alocasia are easy plants to grow, if they receive the amount of light and water they need to thrive. Have problems with yours? Hopefully, these fixes will help.
There are several reasons why your alocasia leaves have yellowed. It's likely a watering issue—too much, or possibly too little, can cause leaves to discolor this way. Alocasia drink a lot; several inches of water a week. If you're giving them less or more, that might be the reason for the yellowing.
They also need a good amount of filtered light, and if they're receiving less than the desired amount, this can cause leaf yellowing. Their leaves can also turn yellow if they're growing in a pot that is too small. When was the last time you replanted? Are they pot bound? Repotting might be the answer.
Shriveled or drooping leaves
If your alocasia is suffering from drooping leaves, you are likely getting it wrong with watering, light, or fertilization. These plants need even moisture, so change your watering habits if the soil is soggy or too dry. Move your plant to a spot with brighter indirect light if it is located in a shady corner, and consider feeding more regularly if your fertilization schedule is lax.
How long does an alocasia live?
With so many species to choose from, the lifespan of an alocasia differs depending on the species. However, with regular repotting and division, you can keep your plant alive for many decades.
Why are my leaves turning brown?
Alocasia like warmth, but they don't really care much for direct sunlight. Direct sunlight can cause the leaves to turn brown and die. Find a spot that's still bright but not in direct sunlight.
Why do the leaves keep dying?
There's a good chance there's nothing wrong at all. Alocasia are very fast-growing, and they will naturally lose leaves as they are producing new ones. Simply trim off the leaves that begin to lean and collapse.
How should I use this plant in my decor?
Alocasia are so striking and geometric that they tend to work best in modern decor styles or in tropical-themed rooms.
How many leaves do alocasia have?
The number of leaves your alocasia has depends on the age, species, and size of the plant. Young plants typically only have a few leaves. When a new, larger leaf grows, an old smaller one will die. While your plant might not end up with more than five large leaves, these can look impressive on a healthy, mature specimen. Plants grown indoors often also have fewer leaves than those living outdoors.
Are Plants in the <em>Alocasia </Em>Genus Poisonous? https://www.poison.org/articles/are-plants-in-the-alocasia-genus-poisonous-221
Alocasia. North Carolina State Extension.