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September 2017: Alocasia Houseplant of the Month

14 August 2017

Alocasia, also known as elephant’s ear, has large, beautifully marked leaves. Despite the fact that it’s a sizeable plant, it still look airy and stylised thanks to the tall, smooth stems that grow out of a corm. Those stems can be plain, but can also have tiger stripes, and the foliage is equally remarkable. There is a species with leaves that resemble African masks, one with crinkled leaf edges, and one that is called the skeleton plant because the leaf veins are so clearly marked. The flowering (in the form of a spike) is not particularly impressive with this houseplant. The decorative value lies particularly in the magnificent foliage. 

Alocasia is a member of the Arum family, and grows in the tropical rainforests of South-East Asia. It is particularly common on Borneo, and can reach a height of four metres. There are 79 known species. The plant has been cultivated around the Equator as a foodstuff for thousands of years. Decorative plants have been bred from the original versions. These aren’t edible, but they are very beautiful. Alocasia conquered living rooms in the 1950s, and has a great vintage vibe. 

What to look for when buying Alocasia 

  • When buying Alocasia, look particularly at the pot size and the diameter and density of the plant. The visible leaves must be sizeable, whilst the leaf and stem markings must be visible. Alocasia can have either a compact or more transparent growth habit.
  • The plant should be free of disease and pests. 
  • Damaged leaves are usually the result of mistakes during shipping or storage. Alocasia is sensitive to cold. The plant develops spots on the leaves at temperatures below 12-15°C. These can also be caused by scorching as a result of too much sun.  It’s important to place a sleeve around the plants in the cold months. 
  • If Alocasia has yellow leaves, it’s been too wet or too dry. Root or stem rot can occur sometimes. Plants must be free of brown spots and brown leaf edges, often caused by insufficient humidity and/or the potting soil being too dry. This can also cause the plant to droop.
  • If the plant has been too dry for a long time, red spider mite can occur, which causes a grey discolouration of the leaves. There are virtually no other pests or diseases present during the sale phase. 

Choice of range 
Alocasia is best known in the form of the skeleton plant with distinctive leaf veins, Alocasia x amazonia. There are a number of cultivars of this species: the compact ‘Polly’ and the smaller ‘Bambino Arrow’. The leaves of these plants resemble an African mask. Large-leaved species are: A. ‘Calidora’ which has a large green shiny leaves with very thick leaf stems. A. ‘Portadora’ has large green shiny leaves and distinctive rusty ‘spots’ on the stems. A. Lauterbachiana has elongated, wavy leaves of which the stems and the underside of the leaf are coloured red. A. Cucullata has arrow-shaped leaves and a compact green shape. A. ‘California’ has very large leaves and can also cope with somewhat lower temperatures, which makes it suitable for use as a conservatory or container plant. Particularly distinctive displays are offered by A. ‘Black Velvet’ (a silvery white vein in almost black leaves which appear slightly velvety) and A. zebrina with arrow-shaped leaves and a distinctive striped stem. 

Care tips for consumers 

  • Wrap carefully for the journey home during the colder months. 
  • Alocasia originates from the tropical rainforest, and the plant likes to have those warm, damp conditions in the home as well. 
  • Light position, but not in full sun in order to prevent leaf scorching. 
  • A room temperature of 18-22 °C is ideal. The plant certainly shouldn’t get too cold.
  • Regularly give water at room temperature, don’t allow the soil to dry out.
  • Alocasia enjoys being misted with a plant sprayer, a session in the shower or standing outside during summer rain. 
  • Give plant food twice a month during the growing season, once a month during the winter rest period. 

Sales and display tips for Alocasia
Alocasia brings a tropical mood to the interior, purifies the air and can be used all year round in the home, office, school or public spaces. The plant is also very suitable for use in hydroculture. The large specimens look best on their own in a spacious setting, whilst the smaller can also be used in groups. A simple container is best in order to optimally show the spectacle of the leaves and stems. 

Images of Alocasia 
You can download and use the images below free of charge crediting Thejoyofplants.co.uk.

Alocasia posters
You can download the posters using the link below.