Alocasia plants, popular during the Victorian times, are enjoying a rebirth in recent times for the craze of exotic plants. They are also known as the Elephant Ear plant, African Mask, or Kris plant, and originated from the Philippines Islands.
The tropical plant is known for its distinctive features; large, arrow-headed shaped leaves with a glossy finish and rippled edges. This can grow up to 6 inches or as long as a tree if planted in the right conditions. However, they are poisonous, so make sure to keep them out of reach of children and pets!
Alocasia has around 79 species grown in tropical and subtropical Asia to Eastern Australia. If you want to plant these at home, the best species are A. Amazonica, A. Polly, A. Zebrina, and the most unusual Stingray Alocasia, which will give stunning leaves in terms of texture, size, color, and shape. The main ingredients that nurture the plant are soil, water, and plant food.
Alocasia plants need an adequate amount of sunlight, but direct sunlight can burn them quickly. Therefore, the best light is indirect sunlight or diffused light (for indoor planting) for 6-8 hours every day. The right balance of the sun will encourage rapid growth and bolder leaves.
This is the most integral ingredient for the plant’s growth. The soil should be rich, moist, and porous. The recommended blend is one-part potting soil and one-part peat; this helps increase the acidity of the soil, helping it hold onto its nutrients. Peat can also be replaced with perlite, which allows the air to circulate the roots. Hence, the perfect blend for planting Alocasia is well-drained and aerated soil.
These plants are heavy feeders; therefore, you need to fertilize them every two weeks from the beginning of the growing season. For leafy green plants, use a balanced all-purpose fertilizer. You should never fertilize in winters since the plant will not be growing and not using the nutrients. Excess fertilizer will accumulate in the soil and eventually burn the leaves.
Alocasia can thrive at a range of temperatures; summers, winters, indoors and outdoors, but they thrive best under humid conditions; the best temperature is between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Below this temperature, the tropical plants start to suffer. If you have planted them outdoors, the easiest way to maintain humidity is to place them on a tray filled with pebbles and add water just below the bottom of the pot.
In an indoor setting, avoid keeping Alocasia too close to an air conditioner. During winters, use a humidifier to maintain the temperature because central heating dries out the house’s air. This exotic plant isn’t one you can forget about even during its dormant period (during late fall and winter).
These plants are water-loving; however, there’s a fine line between keeping the soil moist and not soggy. Overwatering the plant can lead to waterlogged soil and wet leaves resulting in fungal infections.
The trick of watering them during winters is to wait until 2-3 inches of soil dry out and soak them as evenly as possible.
Additional Care Tips
Keep a check for the signs of different diseases common with the plant, such as the crown, root rot, leaf spot, and Xanthomonas. Indications of black/brown spots and a yellowish rim around the spots can be alarming.
In case of such signs, quickly remove the damaged leaves to avoid infecting the whole plant. The key to preventing diseases is to have rich soil, avoid overwatering, good air circulation, and a humid temperature.
Some common pests with Alocasia plants are scale, aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. You might see the bug at times, or it can be a white residue and misshapen leaves. To steer clear of pests, spray the plants with soapy water to keep them dust-free. If the plant is affected, use Neem oil or commercial Fungicide to get rid of pests.
Alocasia plants are the most stunning and recognizable to add to your plant collection, but this plant is difficult to master and requires extra care and attention. However, providing the right amount of nourishment can give you a new leaf every week.