Alocasia Care Guide
Enter the world of Alocasias, and discover an exciting array of diverse species and cultivars that range from huge statement plants to petite species with intricate leaves and stems. Alocasias allow you to experiment with conditions easily, as their fast-growing leaves mean they can recover from all sorts of issues. They also drop their old or damaged leaves quickly, so you can chop them with abandon!
The ideal location for your alocasia is in the brightest spot possible. A good question to ask to determine if the lighting is suitable is: are you able to be in the room without turning on artificial lighting during the day, and would you be able to read a book in that space?
If your alocasia is not getting enough light you will find out fairly quickly - large yellow/brown spots will start appearing on the leaves. The plant is not dying, it is just stressed and will be fine once it has more light. Alocasias grow and drop leaves very quickly so don’t worry, they will be looking good again shortly. A position with lots of bright indirect light is fine, although if you can get some direct sun for part of the day your plant will grow much faster.
If you have a moderately lit space and no direct sun, Alocasias such as wentii or amazonica have a lower light tolerance due to the purple undersides on their leaves!
If you live in an environment with lower humidity (like Melbourne) then avoid direct afternoon sun during summer heat waves. This intensely hot light can burn your plants, unless you are able to increase your humidity level consistently, as higher humidity allows the plants to tolerate more intense light. Otherwise, afternoon sun is fine for the rest of year and is a great bonus for the plants during Winter. Morning direct sun is always a safe bet all year round.
Watering during the warmer months
In more cool temperate climates such as Melbourne I have found it easiest to allow the soil of my potted Alocasias to dry out slightly before watering again. The amount of dryness you allow for will depend on the amount of light and heat you are working in. Generally I allow the top 3rd to dry out before giving my Alocasias a water. This will vary depending on where you keep your plants and the time of year.
If your plant is still displaying signs of distress after moving it into a brighter spot, it may be that too much water is actually the issue. Many of my plants go 2-4 weeks without water so don’t be afraid to allow for greater dryness in the soil while you figure out what routine works for you.
When watering, try to wash down the entire plant. This will clean the plant and help to manage any potential pests. Alternatively, you can just use a wet cloth to wipe down both sides of the leaves and stems.
This is where people often get tripped up with Alocasias. If these plants were growing naturally in your Melbourne backyard they would go dormant over Winter - all the leaves would die off and you would be left with just a little stump! This is totally normal for the plant, but not quite the aesthetic I go for.
Avoiding dormancy is quite easy - the plant simply requires a little extra warmth, and bright light. To achieve this, just make sure your plant is in the brightest spot you can. If you can get it some direct sun it will be very thankful! This will go a long way in keeping your plant happy.
To help keep your plant warmer, you also need to water much less. Try to keep your Alocasias almost bone dry all winter. Give them little bits of water every 2-3 weeks to maintain them but otherwise dry soil is fine. During winter they aren’t going to be using as much water, and the water will also be evaporating very slowly, so they will be fine in dry soil. Your dry soil is also going to be full of thousands of little air pockets which help to insulate your plant roots and keep it a little bit warmer during Winter.
There are definitely more involved methods you can employ like heat mats and greenhouses, but I’ve found bright light and dry soil to be enough for the Melbourne climate.
Do not be surprised if your Alocasia looks a little unappealing in Winter, and maintains fewer leaves than it did during the warmer months. Rest easy with the knowledge that come Spring, your baby will again flourish!
Did you know that your Alocasia is in the same family (Araceae) as Monstera, Devil’s Ivy, and Philodendrons? This family of plants is notoriously happy to be in very cramped pots. You will rarely need to upgrade the pot size, and should only do so during late Spring and early Summer so that the plant has time to adjust before Winter kicks in.
Most Alocasias will grow huge even in a small pot. I would only re-pot if you feel the plant is becoming too top heavy and it is already nicely root bound. Increase the pot size by one to two inches.
The longer you have your Alocasia the more you will realise that the leaves are far less permanent than on your other plants. The oldest leaves will start to yellow and droop as they naturally die off. This will be the lowest leaf on the plant, and will usually only happen to one leaf at a time. They will fall off on their own but to keep your plant display looking gorgeous you will need to trim the leaf off as close to the base as possible. Don’t worry if you leave a little bit of the petiole still in place (the petiole is the stalk that connects the leaf to the main stem of the plant.) After a while that remaining piece will easily pull away to leave no trace it ever existed!
If a younger leaf gets damaged you can simply cut off the damaged portion of the leaf, or the whole thing depending on your mood. Alternatively, just do nothing! The leaf will be shed naturally anyway, and if part of it is still functioning it will still be helping the plant to produce energy.
Each new leaf gives rise to the next. If you are pruning off the newest leaf on your plant be sure you don’t destroy the leaf that is forming and yet to be released. Just trim off the very top and avoid this area for the time being.
Due to the fast growing nature of Alocasias, it’s best to fertilise them fairly regularly with a liquid fertiliser. You can apply this every time you water during Summer and every second time you water in Autumn/Spring. Don’t fertilise in Winter.
Melbourne’s humidity is generally okay for many common varieties but just be careful if you are running heating or cooling for long periods of time as this will dry out the air. Low humidity will cause brown, dry, crispy leaf tips.
Alocasia 'Polly' (on left)
Alocasia 'Dragon Scale'
Alocasia 'Calidora Dwarf'