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Alocasia Plant Care

How to keep your elephant ear or alocasia plant happy in the great indoors


arm holding potted Alocasia plant
image by Huy Phan

Alocasia is among the most popular exotic houseplants available today. They come in all shapes and sizes, and are undeniably eye-catching. Hailing from below the forest canopies of Asia and Eastern Australia, alocasias love bright, indirect sunlight, warm weather, and high humidity. In their growing season, they easily pop off - shooting out a leaf or so each week. Once they are in their dormant period (late fall/winter) the growth will come to a halt. Don’t lose your cool if it drops leaves, just continue to nurture until it is growing season again.


The larger varieties of Alocasia are fairly much undemanding (and even sometimes considered invasive), but there are a few things that you need to learn if you have them inside your home.


Light Requirements


Due to the seemingly endless varieties of alocasia, light requirements can range from shade to bright indirect light. Generally speaking, your alocasia will survive in the shade but thrive in bright indirect light. Try to avoid direct sunlight as it could burn the foliage. If it is under a grow light, make sure there is adequate distance or lower wattage (10W-15W) to ensure the leaves are safe from burning.


Motherly Advice: turn your alocasias frequently as they tend to grow toward the sun. If they start to show signs of a heavy lean, it is probably time to sun their backsides.


Water Requirements


You might be wondering, how often should I water my alocasia plant?


The answer is: it depends.


Factors like sunshine, humidity, and temperature changes can affect how your plant is drinking. So, even though it's tempting to just go with a general rule of thumb (like "once a week"), it's always best to check before watering. You can do this by gently pressing the top of the soil with your finger. If it's dry a few inches down, then that means it's time! Be sure to water all the way through until you see a steady stream from the drainage holes in the pot.


Your goal here is to keep the plant evenly moist - not crusty and not soaking wet. When your alocasia goes dormant in the colder months, you will likely need to cut back on watering.



potted Alocasia Frydek
image by Huy Phan

Soil Requirements:


Alocasias are not picky about their soil. You can use a store-bought mixture or create your own well-draining soil mixture. You want to be sure that it is capable of retaining moisture but draining the excess, so a healthy bit of chunkiness (perlite, bark, leca, coco husks) and earthiness (peat moss or coco coir) will make for a happy plant.



Temperature & Humidity:


Your alocasia has joined you from a long line of subtropical plants, meaning they really love that warm, humid weather that most of us spend months trying to escape. If you opt to put it outdoors, make sure that the temperature isn’t dipping below 50° and that it has partial shade. In my experience, lack of humidity is the easiest way to get your alocasia to turn on you. Our houses are not subtropical, so it takes a bit of work to ensure your baby is in its happy place. You want to avoid anywhere drafty (doors, old windows, vents) and be sure that the temperature stays above 60°. Alocasias thrive in 50-60% humidity, which you can monitor using a hygrometer. If you are having humidity issues, you can use a humidifier (my sister swears by this one) or create some ambient humidity by grouping plants together or making a pebble tray with Leca and a nursery tray.



Fertilizer:


Use an all-purpose plant fertilizer every time you water during the growing season. Those big leaves are hungry! Fertilizer is not necessary during dormant periods.



image by Harry Cooke

Propagation:


Of course you want to share your alocasia! They’re gorgeous and there are a trillion varieties. Gotta catch 'em all, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as cutting off or repurposing one of their luscious leaves until roots grow. Alocasias can be grown from corms (also good info here) which are essentially tiny bulbs that grow in the soil. It is easiest to find these when repotting. After collecting them, you can propagate them in water, sphagnum moss, or coco coir. They will sprout best in a high-humidity environment, so consider keeping them covered (never forget the time I grew one in a reused Taco Bell cup).


Toxicity:


Alocasias ARE toxic! Don’t let your kitties, puppies, or small humans chew on your alocasia.


 

Water

Keep evenly moist - water when top 2” are dry

Light

Bright indirect to thrive; low-light to survive

Soil

Plain ol’ well draining soil

Temp & Humidity

​60°F and up; High humidity (50-60%)

Pet-friendly?

NO

Mother's Rating

💚💚💚💚 4/5 - Give them high humidity and moist soil and they will reward you with beautiful foliage.

Alocasias are great for people who have got their feet wet in the houseplant world and want to move on to more adventurous things. They can tolerate low light levels but will be a little happier with more. They like to be evenly moist - but not sitting drenched. While they aren’t difficult plants, they will tell you if you aren’t meeting their needs.


We have the tendency to take fallen leaves personally, but alocasias are just out here reminding us that sometimes you have to shed old leaves to push out new growth.

image by Erik McClean


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