How to Grow and Care for Alocasia Black Velvet

Big green leaves of alocasia reginula black velvet in a white pot

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Alocasia Black Velvet (Alocasia reginula) is the perfect houseplant to make a big impression in small spaces. Most plants in the Alocacia genus are known for their large, tropical-looking, heart or arrow-shaped leaves (which is where they get their common name of elephant ears). Black velvet is much more slow-growing and smaller than many in the genus. It's sometimes referred to as a jewel alocasia because it's a diminutive gem.

You're not growing this plant for the flowers. It rarely blooms, and the white inflorescence is fairly inconspicuous when it does. Instead, the most distinguishing feature of this eye-catching evergreen perennial is the contrasting silver veins on the thick, textured, dark green (almost black) foliage. It isn't necessarily a plant for those with brown thumbs, as it can go dormant or lose its leaves without the right attention. Alocasia Black Velvet is a lover of high humidity, making it the ideal plant for a steamy, sunny bathroom.

If you live in a house with inquisitive animal paws, you'll want to keep this out of reach of pets. Alocasia Black Velvet is toxic to humans and pets.

Common Name Alocasia Black Velvet, Black Velvet Elephant Ear
 Botanical Name Alocasia reginula A.Hay
 Family Araceae
 Plant Type Herbaceous, Perennial
 Mature Size Up to 1.5 ft. tall
 Sun Exposure Partial
 Soil Type Well-drained
 Soil pH Acid, Neutral
 Bloom Time Very occasional
 Flower Color White
 Hardiness Zones 10+ (USDA)
 Native Area Southeast Asia
Toxicity Toxic to people, toxic to pets

Alocasia Black Velvet Care

Alocasia Black Velvet is somewhat particular and does best when kept in a location that mimics the tropical warm, bright, and humid conditions it favors.

Light

Unlike some bigger Alocasia varieties, which you can train to handle full sun, Black Velvet thrives in dappled, bright but indirect light⁠—similar to conditions found on the floor of a tropical jungle. A north or east-facing window works well, providing the morning light isn't too intense. Too little light often results in straggly, leggy stems, and the lush, dark foliage color won't excel.

Soil

Even moisture is the key to success for this plant, so opt for a loose, well-drained potting medium. Root rot is a common problem, so selecting a tropical mix with bark, sand, and loam is a good choice. It's best to avoid those high in absorbent peat moss or coco coir.

Water

When caring for Alocasia Black Velvet, a cardinal rule is to make sure it's never left to sit in water. Getting the watering schedule wrong is one of the main reasons these plants die. Overwatering and wet feet invariably result in root rot.

Although they do like a decent amount of water in the growing season, it's best to water deeply, drain away any excess, and allow around 20 percent of the topsoil to dry before watering again. Don't make the mistake of thinking they need as frequent watering as the larger Alocasia species.

Placing the pot on a tray with water and pebbles will help prevent wet feet while still providing the humidity levels this plant enjoys.

During the winter, watering is still advised, but much less frequently, and the soil can be allowed to dry out more in between.

Temperature and Humidity

As you would expect with a tropical lowland plant, Alocasia Black Velvet needs high humidity and warmth to thrive. Drafty, cold winter rooms and dry, air-conditioned environments are not this plant's friends. Because they prefer humidity levels well over 50%, you might need to mist and use a pebble tray or humidifier, or grow this compact plant in a terrarium—especially during the winter months. They grow best when temperatures are over 70 degrees Fahrenheit but can survive in temperatures as low as 60.

Fertilizer

Don't think that dousing the Alocasia Black Velvet in fertilizer will encourage this slow-grower to suddenly burst into action. However, regular but not heavy feeding does sometimes benefit this plant. Feeding every two weeks to monthly during the growing season with a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer typically does the job. Unlike with the larger Alocasia species, supplemental feeding isn't required in every case.

Pruning

There are no onerous pruning requirements with this plant. However, even on the healthiest mature plants, you'll need to trim away dead or dying foliage to make way for new leaves. Doing this helps to direct the nutrients to the new leaves more effectively.

Alocasia Black Velvet rarely flower and, when they do, the blooms are not impressive. If you do see flowers appearing, removing them helps to divert the energy to the main event—the foliage.

Propagating Alocasia Black Velvet

It's impossible to propagate Alocasioa Black Velvet by stem cuttings or leaves, and growing from seed is tricky and slow. However, these plants spread by rhizomes (underground horizontal stems). The rhizomes produce new upward growing shoots that give the plant a clump-forming habit. You can propagate Alocasia Black Velvet by dividing clumps or potting rhizome cuttings of mature plants, as follows, with relative ease:

  1. Wait until spring, after your plant has come out of dormancy
  2. Wear gloves as alocasias can irritate the skin
  3. Remove the plant from its pot and gently shake off the soil around the roots to expose the rhizomes
  4. Use a clean knife to cut some healthy-looking rhizome offsets from the central stem
  5. Pot the cuttings in a moist, well-drained potting mix and keep them in a humid, warm environment.
  6. Wait for the roots to grow and take hold. It usually takes at least a couple of weeks for new growth to appear.

The plants also often produce individual corms (little underground bulb-like plant stems) that produce new plants. These don't tend to propagate well in soil because of the lack of appropriate humidity. But, you can remove them and propagate these Alocasia corms by placing them in shallow water and covering them to produce the right humidity levels.

Potting and Repotting Alocasia Black Velvet

Alocasia Black Velvet is a plant that likes to be slightly rootbound. And with their slow-growing habit, it's unlikely you'll need to repot yours more than once every couple of years or when you plan to divide rhizomes.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

These plants are, fortunately, generally not bothered by diseases. They can, however, suffer from spider mite infestations. Spider mites thrive in dry environments, so making sure the humidity levels are high enough will help keep the pests at bay, and your moisture-loving Alocasia will thank you for it.

Common Problems With Alocasia Black Velvet

While Alocasia Black Velvet needs a warm, humid spot to survive, you should be treated to an impressive foliage display if you can provide this and are careful with your watering schedule. To keep your plant thriving, watch out for the following:

Curling Leaves

This is usually a problem for plants positioned in direct sun. If you spot leaves crinkling at the edges, try moving to a spot with more dappled light. Watch out for letting your plant get overly dry too.

Yellowing Leaves

Because Alocasia Black Velvet can't handle sitting in standing water, yellowing leaves are often a sign that you need to pare back the watering or use a better draining potting medium.

Brown Tips

Although overwatering is a bigger problem for these plants, if they don't get enough water, one of the early signs is brown leaf tips. Too much fertilizer can burn leaf tips too.

FAQ
  • How fast does Alocasia Black Velvet grow?

    These mini jewels are much more slow-growing than their bigger Alocasia counterparts. It can take two to five years for them to reach maturity. Even when fully grown, they rarely grow taller than 18 inches.

  • Is Alocasia Black Velvet rare?

    Native to Borneo, this plant is rarely found in the wild. Thanks to its growing popularity, more specialist nurseries are now cultivating Alocasia Black Velvet for the commercial market. However, it's still pretty rare to find the plant in standard garden centers.

  • What's the difference between Alocasia Black Velvet and Alocasia Green Velvet?

    The Green Velvet Alocasia (Alocasia micholitziana 'Frydek') is another Alocasia that is growing in popularity because of its attractive, arrow-shaped dark green foliage and distinctive contrasting color veins. However, unlike the silvery veins of Black Velvet, Alocasia frydek has white veins, and it grows faster and larger, reaching heights of up to 3 feet.

Article Sources
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  1. Are Plants in the Alocasia Genus Poisonous? Poison Control.