Updated: Oct 7
The Alocasia genus encompasses some of the most spectacular and rare foliage within the Aroid family. Its mesmerizing corrugated leaves and mostly dark foliage with deep veneition are sculptural works of art. Some of our shop rare staples are the Alocasia cuprea, Alocasia 'Dragon Scale', Alocasia 'Black Velvet,' and Alocasia 'Dragon's Breath.'
Our shop favorites are the variegated varieties! The intricate variegation patterns on Alocasia leaves, a remarkable manifestation of epigenetic control and cellular differentiation, not only serve adaptive purposes but also present themselves as living works of art, akin to a painter's palette that captivates both biologists and aesthetes alike.
From a scientific standpoint, variegation in plants such as Alocasias can be explained through a variety of factors. Some types of variegation are a result of cell mutations or epigenetic control, where DNA methylation or histone modification leads to the selective expression or suppression of genes that control pigment production in specific cell populations.
Their captivating patterns can be seen as nature's own compositions, akin to abstract paintings that hold their viewer's attention. For some, the experience of observing such naturally occurring designs may even evoke a sense of awe or wonder, much like one might experience in an art gallery.
Thus, the aesthetics of variegated Alocasias offer a harmonious blend of science and art, inviting us to appreciate the complexities of biology through a lens of aesthetic admiration. which you can shop for our Alocasias here.
However, Alocasia doesn't come without drama! So what's the drama? Alocasia can be prone to foliage discoloration, droopy foliage, and sometimes pest pressures. They can also go dormant in the winter, prompting people to throw them out thinking they are dead. This sounds overwhelming, but it's not if you follow my tips and tricks. I've learned over the last decade from killing plenty of Alocasias in my home and commercially, how to get them to thrive. If properly cared for, Alocasias can be very rewarding!
Where do Alocasias originate from?
Alocasias are known to grow covered under tree canopies where they aren't exposed to direct sunlight. They are endemic to tropical rainforests in Southeast Asia.
There are over 100 known species. Some species are compact and enjoyed today as indoor plants, while others are large, regal, and widely used in landscapes across Florida and warmer regions.
Where should I keep my Alocasia and how much light does it need?
Alocasias should be placed in a medium to bright location but out of direct sun. Darker Alocasias like Alocasia cuprea need more shade since the leaves can burn or discolor if placed in direct sunlight.
Make sure to keep them away from drafts and do not place them in front of an AC/heater vent.
I keep my Alocasia 'Dragon's Breath' on our kitchen counter and my Alocasia cuprea in the bathroom where I have windows, and it gets lots of humidity.
Some people put them in domes, cloches, terrariums, near a humidifier, or place them on humidity trays (pebbles submerged in a few inches of water). This isn't necessary but can help your Alocasia thrive if it's drying out too much.
How often should I water?
Alocasias shouldn't be watered based on a schedule but their environment. An alocasia kept near a bright window in a hot room, or a lanai will need to be watered more often than one in a colder room. Water your Alocasia when the top layer of the potting medium has dried. Unlike other Aroids, they prefer to be a kept moist (she's a thirsty one!) However, do not overwater, as they can be prone to root rot. Alternatively, do not let it dry out completely, or it can stress the plant, which could lead to pest pressures and droopy leaves.
Make sure to clean the leaves when you water; the front and back of the leaves!
Yes, they are high-maintenance drama queens! If all of this stresses you out, try a self-watering pot and moisture meter for precision.
Humidity is crucial for Alocasias. They need above average humidity (60%+). Alocasia leaves can wrinkle or dry, and they can be prone to spider mites if the air is too dry.
Should I fertilize?
Yes, Alocasias benefit from fertilization. You can fertilize throughout spring and summer and cut back in the fall as the days get shorter (unless you have greenhouse conditions.)
I recommend new plant parents start with a slow-release fertilizer, and experienced enthusiasts can use a slow-release and houseplant fertilizer. Remember to follow the manufacturer's instructions and less is more!
Do I need to repot?
Most plants can go months or a year without repotting. However, many Alocasias are grown in a heavier mix and can be repotted after being acclimated at home. Many will come with a nursery mesh plug that can be removed during repotting. Make sure to loosen the soil and use an airy potting medium that allows the water to drain correctly. We have an excellent "soilless potting medium," or you can make your own using Coco Coir, Perlite, Orchid Bark, Horticultural Charcoal, and add Rice Hulls if you have them.
Why are my Alocasia leaves droopy and damaged?
Some Alocasia varieties ship better than others. Alocasia Dragon Scale ships well, for example. Alocasia Silver Dragon can suffer some shipping stress, resulting in droopy leaves upon delivery.
Check the potting medium; if it's very dry, give it a deep soak in its nursery pot. Water all around the pot, not just in one area, and make sure to let all of the water drain out completely—place in a bright spot where it's not exposed to direct sun.
If your plant's leaves begin to droop after being in your care for some time, move it closer to a light source and make sure that water is reaching the roots. Sometimes if the soil becomes too compact, it's not allowing the roots to receive water. You can use a chopstick to aerate the soil or repot.
Make sure to check for pests, specifically spider mites. You can use your phone's magnifier because sometimes they can be invisible to the naked eye. Webbing around the plant's sinus is also a sign of mites. If you have spider mites, you will most likely have further leaf damage, not just droopy leaves.
Why are my Alocasia leaves yellow?
There are many reasons why your leaves are yellowing. One of the most common reasons is watering. It could be too little water, but chances are you are overwatering.
Alocasia leaves also turn yellow if they're rootbound and possibly growing too big for their pot.
Yellowing leaves in ring form could signal bigger issues like a fungal infection that can be treated with a fungicide.
My Alocasia has dropped all of its leaves; is it dead?
No, your Alocasia is not dead unless you have major root damage. Alocasias drop their leaves when stressed or not receiving optimal care.
In the winter, your Alocasia may also drop all of its leaves, even indoors
Both smaller plants shown lost all of their leaves and grew back two new baby leaves a few weeks ago as the days got warmer. New leaf growth will usually come from the stem of another leaf.
Your Alocasia will grow back when exposed to light and warmth. If you are willing to have pots laying around with no leaves and just roots, you will be pleasantly surprised one day when a new baby leaf pops right out!
Not all alocasias go dormant, if you're providing your plant enough light, humidity, and warmth it will continue to grow even if it's artificial (grow lights, humidifier, etc.)
Check out the quick care guide below for more tips.
Alocasia Quick Guide:
Easy-Care Index: Moderate to difficult
Plant Parent Index: Experienced enthusiasts, collectors
Humidity Index: High; 60%+ (average 70%)
Water: Water when the potting medium has dried. Do not keep wet, but do not let dry out completely
Potting Medium: Airy soilless potting medium; coconut coir, bark, perlite
Fertilize: Spring through summer. Slow-release and/or houseplant fertilizer per manufacturer's instructions
Care Hack/Tools: Moisture meter, self-watering pot, humidifier