All about Alocasias - 7 things you should know about them
This post is all about Alocasias, one of my all time favourite genera; I own about 10 of them myself. Whilst considered to be easy care plants, they do have a certain penchant for dramatics, which can be hard to read when you're first getting used to them. I've spent more time than I care to count watching these little beauties, and have picked up a few things on my way.
Here's what I've learned about these little legends:
- They are dramatic in the face of stress, but don’t confuse this with a lack of resilience (more on this later). They will commonly drop leaves when you first bring them home, especially if they’ve been mailed (they really don't like cooped up in a dark black box - can you blame them?). This is completely normal, and nothing to be worried about. In fact, it's super common for any plant to shed leaves when it's first acclimating to its new surroundings, as the temperature, humidity and lighting in your home is 100% guaranteed to be different to that of where it was previously living. And as a result, the plant will shed a few of its older leaves and grow new ones that are better adjusted to its new digs. I've spoken to many a new Alocasia owner who has panicked when the plant appears to be throwing a tantrum. But as you would with a petulant toddler, don't take it too seriously. It's just a phase, I assure you.
- Try not to become attached to a particular leaf (following the above point) as they don't tend to last as long as leaves on other tropical plants. Depending on the specific species, I'll get maybe a few months out of my Alocasia leaves. But! They're faster growers, so as quick as they are to drop a leaf, they're as fast to grow new ones, and will reward you with many beautiful leaves during their life. My larger Alocasias grow 1 or 2 leaves on average each month, and my smaller ones less often
- The signs of a dying leaf are as follows - first, the stem softens, which causes the leaf to lean out awkwardly. Secondly, the leaf yellows around the edges, and then in towards the middle. Once a leaf starts yellowing, it will not bounce back. Whether or not to leave it on or chop it off is down to your aesthetic preference - some would argue to leave the leaf on so the plant can take full advantage of the nutrients within it. I don't care to watch the swan song of a dying leaf, so I usually chop it when the leaf starts yellowing, snipping it at the very base of the plant
- The old “leafy up, leafy down” dance is a quirk of these plants, where they’ll go through a period of time simultaneously growing & killing off leaves at the same time - often when stressed. This won't last forever, and with time, you'll notice that your Alocasia will likely start to hold on to more leaves at a time. I will note however, variegated Alocasias (in my experience and those of others) seem to only hold a max of 4 to 5 leaves at any one time. Why? No idea!
- Spider mites love Alocasias something fierce, so it’s super important you isolate & quarantine them when you bring them home. Spider mites will appear as a fine dust like layer on the top of leaves. To treat, shower the BAJESUS out of the leaves to dislodge the buggers, and treat with your pesticide of choice. I use a miticide called Stealth which is expensive but very effective, but other options exist. This is the only method I’m familiar with but Google should offer other solutions so I encourage you research your own methods if you're under attack from these buggers
- These plants lean quite easily, so will benefit from a stake if you prefer the aesthetic of them growing upwards rather than splaying out. Leaning is not always a sign of bad health - make a point to notice how they grow in the wild next time you see one. The vast majority of my Alocasia fam have a stake to help support their upward growth
- These guys are tough cookies, and can bounce back from being reduced to one leaf or even none, so don’t give up on them too fast. I’ve had some return from the brink of almost certain death
General care tips
- Bright/medium indirect light
- Can handle moist soil or drying out between watering
- Water them weekly-ish
- They tend to reach for the sun, so regularly turn them to ensure even growth. A quarter turn once a week should do it
- Propagate from pups or via division
- They are known to go dormant in colder regions during winter, and can lose some if not all of their leaves. However come Spring, they will grow back again