A Beginner's Guide to Elephant Ear Plant Care
Common Name: African Mask, Elephant Ears
Botanical Name: Alocasia macrorrhizos
Alocasia houseplants are known for their distinctive and stunning foliage. Broad heart- or arrowhead-shaped, textured leaves can feature flat or wavy edges and boast distinctive veining that is often creamed colored and provides stark contrast from the deep green of the leaf. Alocasia have a very commanding presence. This is a plant that pulls you in with its striking looks and undeniable charm and adds effortless style to any end table or bookcase.
Like all indoor plants, it is easier to care for the Alocasia when you understand more about its origin. These are subtropical plants that hail from Asia and Eastern Australia. In nature, these plants grow underneath a tree canopy, so the Alocasia naturally develops large leaves to help give it an edge over other plants when it comes to soaking up sunlight.
Some varieties of Alocasia will grow into massive plants with exceptionally large leaves. There are smaller varieties available that are more manageable and will not take over your home if space is a concern. Expect your Alocasia to grow very quickly during the warmer months. These fast-growing houseplants can push out new leaves almost weekly when they are actively growing. When the weather turns cold, Alocasia will hold steady until the next growing season.
Under the right conditions, your Alocasia will bloom. The flowers feature a spathe and spadix, but typically end up concealed by the leaves. The foliage of Alocasia is the real showstopper.
Important! Alocasia macrorrhizos is poisonous if ingested, so be very careful if you have pets and/or small children.
Alocasia are adaptable and can handle a range of light from low to bright indirect. The amount of light the plant receives will dictate how quickly it grows. If you want your plant to actively push out new leaves and grow the large leaves it is known for, then make sure the Alocasia is in a spot where it can receive plenty of bright indirect light. The plant will survive, but not grow as quickly when placed in an area with lower light levels.
If you bring your Alocasia outdoors in the warmer months, make sure to place it in a spot that receives partial shade. Direct sunlight will burn the leaves.
Water Alocasia plants when the top couple of inches of the soil are dry. Alocasia have medium water requirements. Even and consistent moisture is ideal. Alocasia like to partially dry out between waterings, but they definitely do not like to be soggy. Cut back on watering during the colder months if the plant is not actively growing.
As a subtropical plant, Alocasia prefer warmer temperatures more in line with their native environment. Average room temperatures above 60-degrees is fine. If you place your Alocasia on a patio or outdoor area during the warmer months then make sure to bring it back inside well before the temperatures begin to drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Avoid placing the plant near an exterior door, drafty window, or in front of an air conditioning or heating vent, as these temperature fluctuations can inhibit growth and potentially damage the leaves.
Alocasia houseplants thrive when they receive lots of humidity which makes sense given their subtropical origins. Placing the houseplant in an area with high humidity is ideal. If you live in a drier climate or just don't have an area with enough humidity, then consider using a humidifier or a pebble tray with water. Both of these options can help give these plants the extra boost of dampness they crave.
Routine fertilizing, especially when the houseplant is actively growing can help these plants push out new growth. Varieties known for exceptionally large leaves can really benefit from feedings. A diluted complete liquid fertilizer, a fish/seaweed emulsion, or a slow-release fertilizer are all great choices for Alocasia. It is not necessary to feed an Alocasia if the plant is dormant.
- Rotate the pot a quarter turn every time you water your Alocasia. This will ensure the plant receives even sunlight and will prevent it from growing towards the light and becoming top-heavy. This is a helpful tip for all houseplants, but since Alocasia can grow rather quickly it is particularly helpful for this plant.
- Alocasia like to be a bit root bound so there is seldom an urgent need to repot. However, these indoor plants have a tendency to outgrow their pots since they can be fast growers. When it's time to repot your Alocasia, select a pot 1-2" larger than the current pot or carefully separate the roots to divide the plant and repot into multiple containers. Routinely dividing the plant can help keep it at a more manageable size if space is limited.
- Alocasia have a rhizome root system. These thick roots will store extra water for the plant. The nodes are located on the roots, so to propagate an Alocasia, remove a section of the root and plant it in soil. Given enough time and the right conditions, a new plant will sprout from the rhizome.