How to Care For Alocasia

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I have a bit of a soft spot for Alocasia. They’re big, beautiful, divas, and I’m always on the hunt for more, despite them being kind of a pain in the bum to care for.

If you get one, you’ll be at its constant beck and call. It will read 7 on the moisture metre one day, and then 2 the day after.

It will put out a new leaf, only to shrivel up a month later, then put out a perfectly healthy one later, even though nothing has changed.

Not for nothing does Kaylee Ellen call it the 8-mile plant.

You will love them anyway. I don’t know why.

Quickfire Alocasia care

  • Light: bright, indirect
  • Humidity: 60%+
  • Temperature: 15C/60F – 26C/80F
  • Watering: when the moisture metre hits 3
  • Fertilise: general-purpose fertiliser once a month
  • Potting medium: house plant potting soil with perlite
  • Propagation: division
  • Pests: aphids, mealybugs, scale, spider mites
  • Bloom? yes
  • Toxic?yes
  • Leca? Ooooooh…yeah, but it’s not the easiest conversion.

Where do Alocasias come from?

Alocasia are found in the wild in southern Asia and Eastern Australia.

Where should I put my Alocasia?

Alocasia are notorious for diva-like behaviour, o make sure you don’t put it anywhere near a draught. Mine live quite happily on my kitchen table and on my mantlepiece, far from any doors or windows that are regularly opened.

Here are my alocasia:

In my experience, Alocasia dragon scale is by far the easiest to grow. I recently overwatered it (left it overnight in my bottom watering tray IN WINTER) and most of the leaves yellowed. However, it’s recovered quickly and is pushing out new growth. In winter. In the UK. What a champ.

What kind of light do Alocasias need?

Bright, indirect light. Alocasia will not tolerate medium to low light, but they can also suffer from sunburn.

They don’t require conditions that are particularly difficult to provide, or different to other tropical plants BUT like anthuriums, they won’t tolerate suboptimal care.

If you only have medium-light available, try it out with a grow light.

Mine do well in my west-facing window. They get a tonne of light though, so if you’re moving plants from somewhere darker, then gradually move them towards the light so they don’t burn. You should be ok with Alocasia with thicker leaves, such as Alocasia amazonica, but thinner leaved varieties such as Alocasia zebrina need to be watched more closely.

What level of humidity do Alocasia need?

Alocasia like to have humidity levels of at least 60%, but would prefer 70% in a perfect world.

As I’ve mentioned I don’t run a humidifier, but my living room tends to stick at the 60% humidity level, and my Alocasia seem fine.

Occasionally it drops to 50%/55% and my Alocasia didn’t seem to mind, but I don’t think it would grow well if the humidity was 50% all the time.

How to water Alocasias

If you’re a serial underwater, go for a larger specimen in a big pot, because they tend to dry out slower, and be more forgiving.

Alocasia can be weird when it comes to watering – I notice this more in my Stingray than Zebrina, but it’s definitely a thing.

Basically, check your Alocasia regularly, at least weekly, more in summer. A moisture metre will become your best friend.

Just save yourself the bother and get a dragon scale. Mine was only £14.99 and it’s far less of a drama queen than the others.

Alocasia are big fans of guttating. I have a whole article on why plants weep here, but it’s perfectly natural.

You may notice after you water your plant that there are water droplets on the ends of the leaves. As the article explains, this is fine BUT it can be a sign of overwatering.

As a very general rule, if your plant is guttating don’t water it. Alocasia do guttate more than many other tropical plants (possibly even more than Monstera, mine certainly do) but they’re also fairly susceptible to root rot.

The problem with Alocasia getting root rot is that not only will the roots rot, but the corm will too – roots grow back easily if you’re quick and diligent, but corms don’t (grow back as easily, anyway.

How to fertilise Alocasias

Alocasia are known to be pretty hungry plants, so use whatever fertiliser (I use liquid seaweed) once a month. I don’t actually know how delicate their roots are, but it’s always good practice to water the plant prior to fertilising, to avoid root burn.

If any plant is going to get root burn, it’ll probably be your most expensive alocasia.

I don’t like to repot Alocasia often, because they’re picky little buggers and you never know what’ll make them decide to drop every leaf they ever grew overnight SO if you’re worried about root burn AND repotting (justified, tbh) then I’d advise you get yourself some worm castings and replace a little bit (say, 10%) of the existing soil with worm castings.

Remove the top layer of soil, add in the worm castings, and voila, your Alocasia will be well fed and none the wiser.

Pests common to Alocasias

We’ve had spider mites, and we can’t seem to shift them. On the plus side, the plant doesn’t actually seem to be that bothered. Fair enough.

Also thrips.

Pests can cause your Alocasia to grow smaller, deformed leaves. The only I found that worked to get Alicasoa pest-free, short of cutting all the leaves off, is keeping them in the bathroom and showering them off basically daily.

Keep them away from other plants, since they’re VERY contagious. I’ve come to conclude that pests don’t actually particularly LIKE Alocasia, so they’ll quickly spread to other plants BUT they’ll leave one or two bugs on the plant, you know, just in case.

What potting mix do Alocasias like?

This aroid potting mix is ideal, but house plant mix with some added bark, coir, and perlite will work pretty well. Since they’re a hungry plant, add worm castings if you’re likely to forget to fertilise.

If you buy an Alocasia in a really dense potting mix, and you’re new to them, I’d consider repotting.

As well as roots they have a corm (it’s like a bulb, though I’m sure botanists would disagree) which is pretty susceptible to rot, so a well-aerated mix is important..

What type of pot do Alocasias need?

Alocasia likes to be quite snug in their pots, so I haven’t repotted any of mine. Since they like their soil to retain some moisture, I would go for a plastic or ceramic pot rather than terracotta, unless you think you’re likely to overwater.

How to propagate Alocasias

Alocasia have corms (like bulbs), and you can propagate them by division. The plant will produce a little pup at the base of the mother plant, and you just gently ease the roots apart and pot the baby in their own pot.

My Alocasia Amazonica corm is currently in soil awaiting a miracle. I bought it for £2.99 because it was growing horizontally out of the pot, but it was doing well – it put out a new leaf and then bloomed.

Then, tragedy struck. I left it in my trusty tray of water to bottom water, and it fell over (some would say my boyfriend knocked it over, but he felt so bad we’re going with the ‘it fell over’ line, though the fact I mentioned it here suggests I’m feeling some residual animosity).

It snapped.

Like, the top fell off. The good bit, with all the leaves.

So now we wait. But I think it got too wet. Oh well.

By the way, Alocasia Amazonica leaves look amazing when they’re, ahem, coming to the end. They turn an incredible array of colours, second only to Philodendron micans when it comes to providing a colourful autumnal display.

Are Alocasia toxic?

Yes.

Well, actually not all of them. In fact, some of them are bred for their edible corms. Don’t try it though.

Dormancy in Alocasia

Whilst it is true that Alocasia can drop all their leaves in winter, only to grow new leaves again in the winter, it isn’t a done deal.

You see, Alocasia practice something called consequential dormancy – in layman’s terms (because I don’t know the fancy words), the alocasia gets too cold, has a massive hissy fit, and drops all its leaves. It will now sulk until spring

But dormancy in Alocasia isn’t inevitable.

None of my Alocasia went dormant. I mean my Zebrina hasn’t put out any new growth, and my Amazonica snapped (and not in the good way) but my stingray has put out two new leaves.

Ok, don’t tell him I said this but the new leaves are very…winter growthy. They’re tiny compared to the others, and the one it put out in January has all but shrivelled up. But it definitely didn’t go dormant.

If you want to know how to stop your plants go dormant, I have a whole post on it here.

Do Alocasia flower?

Yes! In fact, here’s a picture of my Alocasia dragon scale blooming:

As you can see, we have the traditional aroid spathe-and-spadix setup here. I leave mine on the plant until they grow brown and gross, but you can cut them off.

If you have another plant flowering you could try to pollinate the flower and get seeds BUT before you do that, let me just say that Alocasia take their sweet time to grow from seed, so you’re not going to become a millionaire overnight.

Also, should you manage to get a plant to produce seeds, the seeds themselves are rather like avocados, in that you need to harvest them at exactly the right time or they won’t be viable.

How to care for variegated Alocasia

I think variegated Alocasia are STUNNING, BUT I wouldn’t pay extra for a variegated Alocasia over a regular one.

Variegated alocasia are renowned for reverting, or at least being very fickle with their variegation. You do you, but I’m not paying hundreds of pounds for a variegated Alocasia that stops producing variegated leaves. Nah mate.

That being said, sport variegation is pretty common on Alocasia. I picked up my variegated Alocasia from Marks and Spencer for £12 (including a rather lovely ceramic pot).

She has very kindly produced two new leaves whilst in my care that perfectly demonstrate how up and down variegation can be in Alocasia:

The leaf on the left has a pretty high amount of variegation, whereas the one on the right has a speckled bit on the left-hand side, and some white around the veins and at the tip of the leaf.

Is this the end of the variegation? Is the next leaf gonna be totally white? There’s no way of knowing.

Pleasingly, due to the purple leaf-backs, the white actually looks pink,

When it comes to differences in actual care for variegated vs non-variegated Alocasia, the only difference I can see is that variegated plants are more susceptible to overwatering. In fact, the white parts seem to soften and rot quite quickly, which isn’t something that happens with, for example, my Monstera Thai Constellation.

Can you keep Alocasia in LECA?

Yes.

But also they’re one of the plants that I wouldn’t recommend semi-hydro beginners to convert. It’s the corms again. If they rot, the plant is basically fucked.

I have a whole ultimate guide to leca post here.

I would highly recommend buying a cheap Alocasia and converting that before you think about converting one of your prize Alocasia to LECA.

You see, if you search any Facebook groups or even YouTube comments for information on converting Alocasia to leca, you get a lot of people saying to NEVER water prop them, and a load more saying that they water prop like a dream.

Personally, I wouldn’t water prop.*

*Though if you want to, a common tip is to remove the outer layer of the corm. I have no idea why, but it’s recommended a lot.

Start by removing all the soil. Alocasia roots are pretty delicate, and you may have a couple of corms hiding in the potting mix, so go careful here.

Once the roots are clean, I would let the roots dry out for an hour or two, and then put the plant straight into LECA.

I would add a reservoir BUT I’d make sure it was well away from the corm. I would definitely add Superthrive to the water in the reservoir, but don’t add nutrients (I use these ones from General Hydroponics) until you see water roots forming.

It seems to be fairly common for Alocasia to drop their leaves when they’re converted to leca.

I mean, they drop their leaves when someone leaves the door open for a fraction of a second too long.

Clearly having their substrate changed and having to change the type of roots they grow will make them a bit miffed. Don’t be surprised if this happens, but keep a close eye on the roots and corm for signs of rot.

How much are Alocasia, and where can I get one?

There are a tonne of Alocasia varieties, but the more common types are fairly common in garden centres and even supermarkets/grocery stores.

I wouldn’t pay more than £20 for a more common Alocasia, including:

  • Alocasia Polly or Amazonica (largely the same, but Polly’s are smaller)
  • Alocasia zebrina
  • Alocasia dragonscale
  • Alocasia stingray

Please remember that just because these plants are common to me, they might be rare (and therefore more expensive) in your area.

For those of you in the US, I’ll leave some links to Etsy stores below that routinely stock Alocasia. If you’re in the UK, check out Cowell’s garden centre. They’re based in Newcastle, but they do deliver, and in my experience, they provide a great service at a great price.

Final thoughts

I love Alocasia, honestly I do, but they’re a bit fickle.

Whilst I think they’re fine for beginners looking to learn more about house plants, they do have a tendency to do things like drop leaves and, er, die for no apparent reason. So not for those of you that take it to heart when plants die.

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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