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Top tip for buying house plants: if you see a plant in a garden centre that you’ve never seen before, and you’re blinded by its beauty, assume it’ll be a pain to look after.
If a plant is beautiful, unique and suuuper easy to care for, we’d all have one.
Alocasia are often touted as being unsuitable for house plant beginners, but I disagree. I think they’re great for beginners because they’re relatively difficult to kill and fairly cheap (depending on species) to replace if you are unlucky.
Sure, they’re hardly a set-it-and-forget-it plant, and they do NOT thrive on neglect. They thrive on attention, and they’ll go out of their way to contract spider mites just to get it.
- Alocasia are picky about water quality
- Alocasia hate drying out
- Alocasia prefer high humidity
- Alocasia need the right light
- Alocasia hate being sat in a draught
- Alocasia are vulnerable to transport shock
- Alocasia are vulnerable to cold shock
- Check your Alocasia for Pests
- Alocasia don’t like to be overwatered
- Alocasia need fertilising
1 – Alocasia are picky about water quality
Poor water quality can cause Alocasia to drop leaves, but it is not as clear cut as ‘all Alocasia need filtered water’.
Some Alocasia are pickier than others – White Fusion variegation will brown if there are high levels of certain chemicals (such as chloramine) in the water. It’s best to water them with rainwater.
Other Alocasia are fine with tap water – my Zebrina is 100% brown tip free, and only gets tap water. My dragonscale and Amazonica are perfectly healthy if they’re watered with tap water, but they will get the occasional brown tip.
This is largely, I’m afraid, a case of trial of error, because there are a lot of variations between specimens (except white fusion, they’re all divas).
Be aware that there are a LOT of factors that influence whether your plant can have tap water or not – in North Yorkshire, we have pretty great tap water, but you may not. You can get test kits to test it, or just try it out. Peace lilies are pretty good for having brown tips if the tap water isn’t great, but otherwise not being affected.
2 – Alocasia hate drying out
The innate problem we have with house plants is that we’re trying to bring a plant that lives in the tropical rainforest into our homes. It’s difficult enough to emulate that warm, humid, bright environment without also having to make your home seem like it’s quite close to water.
Alocasia typically live on river edges so are used to having damp soil that is regularly flushed through. It very, very rarely dries out, so Alocasia haven’t really evolved a defense against drying out.
I do have Alocasia, even though I’m an underwaterer, and can confirm that some are perfectly happy to dry out completely with little repercussion (Dragonscale) whereas others will drop a leaf in retaliation (Amazonica).
3 – Alocasia prefer high humidity
Alocasia have quite thick leaves, so they’re not AS dependent on some plants (for example Monstera Obliqua or Calathea). However, if your Alocasia is dropping leaves, then it’s definitely worth checking your humidity.
As well as causing leaf drop, low humidity (which for Alocasia is anything below 55%) can increase the risk of spider mites. The risk is high for Alocasis anyway, so we don’t want to increase it further.
Low humidity can also cause the newly emerging growth to be a bit deformed and smaller than it could be:
We also need to remember that Alocasia can be picky about water quality and that that extends to the quality of the water suspended in the air. If you use a humidifier, don’t use tap water if they don’t like being watered with tapwater.
Weirdly, they don’t seem bothered by the humidity created by drying laundry, and yet when I pour the water from drying laundry out of my dehumidifier it smell of detergent.
4 – Alocasia need the right light
A lot of aroids do well in bright, indirect light, but will thrive on bright light, provided it’s diffused or they’re acclimated.
Alocasia, however, don’t seem to do better in bright light even if they are acclimated. They’re not climbers, and whilst they can live in open areas, they tend to be shaded by the rainforest canopy.
In other words, don’t waste bright light on them.
Buuuut, they also do like indirect light for a long portion of the day. I’ve found that a few feet away from a south or west-facing window works best, or an east-facing one in the middle of summer. If they don’t get a decent amount of light, they can get super leggy.
Burned leaves will shrivel up and drop quickly, so make sure when you move your Alocasia, you keep a close eye on it.
5 – Alocasia hate being sat in a draught
This is true of most tropicals plants to be fair, but it’s especially true of Alocasia. Don’t put them near air vents, open windows, or doors that are used frequently.
I actually like to put mine on my coffee table. It’s about four feet from south-facing French windows, and having it right in front of me makes sure I don’t forget that it exists.
6 – Alocasia are vulnerable to transplant shock
Don’t be at all surprised if your Alocasia drops leaves on its way home from the garden centre. Some online sellers even issue warnings saying that Alocasia may drop leaves in the mail.
The good news is that Alocasia grow pretty quickly when given the right conditions.
The bad news is that discovering what those ‘right conditions’ are for your particular specimen may require a little trial and error.
Your Alocasia may also drop leaves when it’s being repotted, or even if you move it within your home. It’s not alway because it’s unhappy – I swear they just like to keep us on our toes.
7 – Alocasia are vulnerable to cold shock
It is EXTREMELY common for Alocasia to drop all their leaves in the winter.
Here is one I’m currently looking at:
This will happen if your house gets too cold for the plant to grow. It’s not dying, it just feels the energy from those leaves is best stored until the spring.
If your house stays pretty warm over the winter, then this may not happen, but don’t worry if it does. Check the soil every week or so and moisten it when it dries out (I like to bottom water for 15 minutes to ensure I don’t rot the corm).
8 – Check your Alocasia for Pests
Be sure to keep your Alocasia dust-free. I like to dust them every week (those makeup eraser cloths are great, even dry) and wipe them down monthly with diluted castile soap.
As I’ve already mentioned, Alocasia are a magnet for spider mites, so washing them regularly is a great way to, if not eliminate or even preempt them, then definitely stop them from building up to a full-blown infestation.
They also get thrips, but thrips get freaking everywhere.
9 – Alocasia don’t like to be overwatered
Yeah, I know. Leaf drop can be caused by underwatering AND overwatering. I have an article about underwatering vs. overwatering here, but in general, if the soil is wet and the corm is squishy you’ve overwatered. If it’s super dry you’ve underwatered.
I know it sounds obvious, but sometimes we forget to look at what’s in front of us.
Alocasia don’t rot in the wild despite living in very damp soil for a few reasons. For one thing, the huge volume of roots in the soil will stop the soil from compacting too much, and the fact that rivers, er, flow means that the water isn’t stagnant – it’s being oxygenated all the time.
10 – Alocasia need fertilising
Ok, so Alocasia do need fertilising, though they’re not particularly hungry plants. They’re actually more like to drop leaves if you over fertilise them than never fertilise them at all.
If you google fertilising Alocasia, it seems no one can decide whether they’re heavy or light feeders. To me, this suggests they’re just…normal feeders.
So what to do?
Just pick a house plant fertiliser – a 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 is fine. Use half as much as the manufacturer recommends and water it into your alocasia soil every month or six weeks.
It’s good practice with all house plants to only fertilise damp soil, but I think it’s particularly important with Alocasia because they don’t like having dry soil. Adding fertiliser to thirsty roots can cause them to take it up too quickly and result in root burn.
Whenever I write about Alocasia I always worry that I’m putting people off them. I think they’re gorgeous plants that are so rewarding to look after and can be great for people that love to smother their plants with attention.
They are also finicky little divas though.
You have been warned.