The tropical plants of the genus Alocasia have beautiful leaves with which they quickly become the center of the room. There are many Alocasia species. The leaves come in light green, dark green, red, purple and brown. A well-known nickname of the Alocasia is Elephant Ear. The plant owes this nickname to the shape of its leaves.

Some species remain very small, sometimes only 10 centimeters high. Other varieties grow so high that they touch the ceiling. Under the right conditions, they can grow very quickly. At the same time, they are also sensitive plants that need to be treated correctly. If you do this right, you will enjoy your Alocasia for years to come.

On this page you can read everything about the growing method, care and other tips to keep your plant happy. A final note beforehand: it is good to know that the sap in the stems is poisonous. This makes an Alocasia not a suitable plant for a house with small children or pets.

alocasia

Alocasia growth habit

Originally Alocasias grow in tropical areas in Asia. These eye-catchers for your living room simply grow in the verge, along the road. In this natural environment they can grow very tall. They easily reach a height of 3 meters. You may have come across these plants in a tropical botanical garden, where they often grow that high.

As a houseplant, an Alocasia never gets that big. The conditions are simply not sufficient. Even so, they can still grow quickly as a houseplant. In the summer months you sometimes see a new leaf every week! Below in the photo you can see how such a new leaf unfolds. If the plant is doing well, each new leaf can be up to twice the size of the previous one. That way, your Elephant Ear will grow in height quickly.

In the fall this growth stops and the plant goes into rest. You will then have to make do with the current number of leaves all autumn and winter. Of course you still have to keep taking care of the plant. As soon as the days get longer, the plant will resume growth.

The shape of the leaf varies by species. Some species have slender leaves with a point, others rather heart-shaped. Often the leaves are thick and have veins that are clearly visible. You can read details about the different types further down this page.

alocasia new leaf
New leaf is rolling out

Alocasia care

Pitch and light

The first step in caring for your plant is choosing the right location. The location determines the amount and type of light that the plant receives. Light is very important for good growth. Too little light is not good, everyone can imagine that. But did you know that too much light can also be harmful to your Alocasia? So what is the right amount of light?

This plant needs a lot of light, but watch out for direct sunlight. Direct sunlight on the leaves can cause brown or black spots, this is called leaf burn. So place your plant in a windowsill on the east or north. There is a lot of light there, but little direct sunlight. Do you choose a west or south-facing window? Then place the plant a bit away from the window. Then the sun’s rays do not hit the leaves. Incidentally, the Alocasia Zebrina can tolerate more direct sunlight than other species.

Plenty of light is important for healthy growth and for maintaining color. For example, for the Alocasia Polly, this is important to keep the beautiful dark colors on the leaves. These colors will fade if there is too little light.

You will notice that your plant grows towards the light. The leaves then face the window. This is not a sign that the plant should move closer to the window unless they are really growing very obliquely (almost horizontally). You can turn your plant a quarter turn every week to make it grow nicely symmetrically.

=> Prefer something smaller? Then take a look at the Peperomia or the Fittonia .

alocasia care

Water elephant ear

These plants like a good amount of water, much more than the average houseplant. They consume a fair amount of water, but there is a fine line between the desired amount and too much water. Watering is therefore a difficult part of the care of your Alocasia, but with the right approach it should go well.

The basic principle: never let the potting soil dry out completely, but never too soggy. It is a matter of going by the needs of the plant. A simple test is to stick your finger in the potting soil. If soil sticks to it, the soil is wet and you are not watering yet. If no soil sticks to your finger, the soil is dry and you can water.

How often you water depends on several factors. In the summer this will sometimes be several times a week. While in winter this is often only once a week or two weeks.

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It’s a matter of trying out what the best frequency and amount is for your Alocasia. Rather start with a little too little and then build up. You get signals from the plant as feedback. Does the Alocasia hang limp? Then he’s thirsty!

elephant ear plant

Temperature

The temperature should not be too low for these plants. Preferably not below 15 degrees. That can happen in winter, when a window is open. Then you can notice damage to the leaves. If it takes too long, an Alocasia can even die from this.

In any case, you have to be careful with rapid temperature fluctuations. These can be caused by an open window, draft, air conditioning or a heater that is on.

Time-lapse of a new leaf on the Alocasia

Humidity

These beautiful plants grow naturally in tropical areas with very high humidity. If you’ve ever been to a tropical rainforest, you may remember that everything is always wet. This is due to the high humidity. An Alocasia therefore likes wet leaves.

You can wet the leaves with a plant sprayer. Set it to mist mode and mist the leaves until they are completely wet. Some varieties really need this to stay beautiful, while some varieties are more tolerant of drier air. In any case, it is good to do this daily. By constantly making the leaves wet, dust is less likely to settle on them and insects do not get a chance to settle. Also include other tropical plants, such as the Philodendron , in the routine during watering.

Due to the high humidity and heat, the bathroom can be a good place for your Alocasia. Make sure that there is sufficient light. Bathrooms sometimes only have a small window, so this space may not be a good choice for this plant.

elephant ear

Nutrition

Some of these species are very large, others small. What the whole plant family has in common: they can grow very quickly. The need for food is therefore great. During the growing season you can add some liquid plant food every week. Pay close attention because plant food is often very concentrated. Read the instructions on the package about dilution. An excess of nutrition in the pot can cause damage to the roots.

So supplement in the growing season, but when is this? That differs a bit per plant. You can see it because the plant is starting to make new leaves again. This usually happens when the days get longer again. In winter you hardly see any growth (sometimes even nothing at all), then you don’t have to feed.

pruning

An Alocasia produces new leaves that are always larger than the previous one. Eventually the plant rejects the older, smaller, leaves. This growth habit causes the plant to “prune” itself. You can, however, help the process. Leaves that are starting to die can be pruned off. This way you don’t have to wait and the energy from the plant can go to the new leaves.

Prune this leaf as close to the base of the plant as possible. Always use sharp and clean scissors. Although the leaf is dying, there may still be sap in it. This juice can irritate the skin. So it is smart to wear gloves.

potting soil

An Alocasia makes no special demands on the type of potting soil. So you can use a normal potting soil for houseplants. It retains quite a bit of moisture and is rich in food.

Pot and repot

An Alocasia should be a little tighter in its pot. You will notice when it is time to repot. For example, you can see the roots growing out of the drainage hole of the pot. Another signal is that the plant is no longer growing during the growing season.

Always choose a pot that is a few centimeters larger than the previous one. So never much wider. There should also always be a hole in the bottom of the pot for drainage. When repotting, first place a layer of hydro granules at the bottom of the pot and use fresh potting soil.

alocasia care

Alocasia species

In the wild, there are dozens of lower cultivars of the Alocasia. A large number of these are available in our garden centers. Unfortunately not all are equally good. For example, many Elephant Ear species are very rare. These are real collector’s items.

Below you will find a summary of the most common types. Some of them are popular, some more unknown. They are all equally unique.

Alocasia Zebrina

Of all the Elephant Ear plants, this is by far the most popular. The Alocasia Zebrina can be seen in many living rooms. It’s a real diva to take care of, but you get a lot in return. The plant owes its nickname to the stems, which are reminiscent of the pattern of a zebra.

Alocasia species of zebrina

Alocasia Black Velvet

This is a dwarf alocasia and usually does not grow higher than 15 centimeters. The color of the leaves varies between dark green and deep black. The leaves have a velvety texture, hence the name. 

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alocasia varieties of black velvet

Alocasia Polly

Officially this is the Alocasia Amazonica, but this variety is best known as Alocasia Polly . Another well-known nickname is Skeleton Plant. This nickname is based on the clearly defined white veins against the dark leaves. These leaves are dark green, but can sometimes be black.

alocasia species polly

Alocasia Frydek

The Alocasia Frydek is a bit of a combination of the aforementioned variants. The leaves are reminiscent of the Polly’s, but without the serrations. The velvety layer is reminiscent of that of the Black Velvet. All this together makes it a unique plant. Because of the shape of the leaf you also understand the nickname Elephant Ear.

alocasia species frydek

Alocasia Cucullata

The Alocasia Cucullata is completely fresh green in color and has heart-shaped leaves that end in a narrow point. The leaves are shiny, which gives the plant a luxurious look.

alocasia species cucullata

Alocasia Macrorrhiza

The Alocasia Macrorrhiza is one of the larger Alocasia species. In their natural habitats, these plants reach impressive heights. They can also grow very large as a houseplant in a pot. They are often used in homes or office buildings with a high ceiling.

alocasia species macrorrhiza

Alocasia Silver Dragon

Are you looking for a unique houseplant that stays small? Then the Alocasia Silver Dragon is for you. This dwarf alocasia has beautiful, silver colored leaves. Deep, dark veins run across it. This strain is somewhat reminiscent of the Alocasia Black Velvet.

alocasia species of silver dragon

Alocasia Pink Dragon

After the Silver Dragon we get the Pink Dragon. In this case, the name was not given because of the color of the leaves. The Alocasia Pink Dragon got this name because of the color of the stems. As you can see in the picture below, they are pink in color.

alocasia varieties pink dragon

Alocasia Stingray

Why this Alocasia species is nicknamed the Stingray becomes clear when you know what a stingray is. In Dutch this is called a Stingray. This fish has exactly the same shapes as the leaf of this Alocasia!

alocasia species of stingray

Alocasia Lauterbachiana

Actually, this Elephant Ear is a bit of an exception to the rest. The leaf is elongated and almost completely green. Only the veins are a slightly lighter shade. Read more about the Alocasia Lauterbachiana .

alocasia species lauterbachiana

Alocasia Red Secret

If you are really looking for a special plant, then you are in the right place with this Alocasia Red Secret . The foliage is burgundy red and glows in the light. This species can reach a height of one meter, but usually it does not.

alocasia species red secret

Alocasia Cuprea

This Alocasia also has a unique color. The leaf colors seem to alternate between bronze, pair and yellow. This depends on the age of the blade and the angle of incidence of the light. The deep veins at the same time have a darker color which gives an effect of shadow.

alocasia species cuprea

Alocasia Sanderiana

This Elephant Ear plant looks a bit like the Alocasia Polly. It has the same dark leaves on which the white veins stand out beautifully. The big difference is the edges. These are not serrated here, but straight.

alocasia species sanderiana

Alocasia Azlanii

This Dwarf alocasia is very dark, almost black. Unfortunately, you hardly come across this species in our garden centers. If you come across one, buy it right away because it is rare! Read more about the Alocasia Azlanii .

alocasia species azlanii

Alocasia Variegated

Actually, this is not a specific Alocasia species. It’s about the colors on the sheet. Variegated means varied and is also called “variegated leaf”. Many species can have this. Below you see, for example, the Alocasia Macrorrhizos “Variegated”.

alocasia species variegated

Buy Alocasia?

You’ve decided: you want to buy an Alocasia. But where is the best place to do that? There are many suppliers of these popular houseplants online. We are currently working with the website Bol.com. Other online stores offer their products on this website, including many house plants. This way you don’t have to compare all kinds of websites, but you will find everything in 1 place.

Frequently asked questions and problems

Is Alocasia giftif?

Unfortunately, an Alocasia is poisonous. You may have broken a stem (accidentally or with pruning), and noticed that it has a whitish sap in it. This juice is very irritating to the esophagus when ingested and can also burn on the skin. So it is good not to put these plants down if you have small children, cats or dogs. Even better is to choose a houseplant that is not poisonous. Think of a Pancake Plant or an Elephant’s Foot (Beaucarnea) .

It is therefore a bit strange to mention that stems of these plants are sometimes eaten in parts of Asia. Those who do this prepare these stems in a special way and know what they are doing. Our advice: an Alocasia is purely for decoration!

Can you propagate an Alocasia?

That’s certainly possible. It should be noted that it is not an easy plant to take cuttings. However, with the right approach, it should work. We have a page about it where you can find a step-by-step plan. Read more about Alocasia cuttings .

Alocasia Elephant Ear hangs limp

If Elephant Ear has drooping leaves, it means the plant is thirsty. Check this one more time before you water. Stick your finger in the ground. Doesn’t soil stick to it? Then the earth is dry and you have to water. Water small amounts every hour until you see that the leaves are upright again.

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Can an Alocasia bloom?

Yes, if you are really lucky you will see your Alocasia bloom. However, this happens very rarely because the conditions in our country are not as perfect as the natural growing environment. You can also see from the flowers that the Alocasia falls within the Arum family. The flowers are the same in structure. Below in the photo you can see such a flower.

alocasia in bloei
Flower of the Alocasia

The leaf turns yellow

Yellow leaves don’t necessarily have to be a cause for alarm. It is normal for the old leaf to be shed at some point. Because the new leaves are larger, and the older leaves fall away, the plant eventually becomes larger. These older leaves often first turn yellow and fall off.

However, if many leaves turn yellow at the same time, it is a problem. The cause of this is usually in too swampy soil. Soggy soil occurs because too much water is given and this surplus of water cannot get out of the pot. Carefully remove the plant from the pot and check that the soil is indeed soggy. If it’s really bad, you’ll have to replace the entire soil. Then provide a drainage hole in the pot to prevent this problem in the future.

The Alocasia leaks water / drops to the leaf

If you’ve never seen drops on the leaves of a plant, it can look a bit weird. Fortunately, we can state that this is not a problem at all. These drops are the result of a process called “ Guttation ”. A number of tropical plants, including the Alocasia, but also the banana plant and the Homalomena , do this.

The normal process of plants is to absorb water through the roots and evaporate through the leaves. At night moisture cannot be evaporated through the leaves, so some plants have come up with a different solution. The water comes out through the leaves through a kind of pore.

Some would describe this process as a “weeping Alocasia”, but it is not harmful and the drops are not toxic either.

alocasia

Is this an air purifying plant?

Ultimately, all plants provide healthier air in your home. The Alocasia also does this, but there are plants that do this better/more. If you are really looking for an air-purifying plant, you can consider the Grass Lily or the Calathea , for example .

The Elephant Ear plant has brown spots

With brown spots on the leaves there can be two things going on:

  1. The brown spots are a reaction to too bright direct sunlight. This can happen if your plant is behind glass and sees a lot of the hot afternoon sun. Then move the plant water further away from the window.
  2. If it is more the edges of the leaf that turn brown, the humidity is too low. This dry air causes the damage. Mist the leaves daily with a plant sprayer. This should prevent the problem in the future.

Can this plant be grown in the garden?

Not really. These plants naturally grow in very warm areas. You often see that in our living rooms they don’t get nearly as big as they could be. If you really want to, you could look at the Alocasia Macrorrhizos. This species is very strong and can be left outside in the summer. It is important that you overwinter it indoors, because it is absolutely not resistant to frost.

There are flies in the earth

These are mourning flies. These like to sit in moist potting soil. They can be irritating, but fortunately manageable. 

The Elephant Ear loses leaf

It is normal for the plant to lose a leaf every now and then. These are normally the lower leaves. These lower leaves are the oldest on the plant and are shed once there are enough new leaves in the center. However, if you see a lot of leaf loss, it is important to take a good look at what is going wrong. This can be due to a too low temperature, draft or a shortage of food and water. Read on this page the right approach to care and see if you need to improve something.

The leaf curls

If the leaves curl, this is a signal that the air is too dry. Dry air is something that this family of plants does not tolerate well. You can do something about this in several ways. You need to take care of wet leaves. The easiest way to spray the leaves with a plant sprayer. Another solution is to use a humidifier. This is something that many other houseplants, such as Strelitzia , can benefit from.

Summary

Botanical nameAlocasia
Also known asElephant ear
light requirementNeed a lot of light
Water requirementKeep the soil slightly moist
OriginTropical Asian areas
Poisonous?The juice is poisonous
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Amazing & Bizarre

Amazing & Bizarre is a gardening blog dedicated to curious gardeners and lovers of rare plants. Find all our natural gardening advice, our culture sheets, our original cooking recipes, our DIY tips and our creative ideas!

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