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Alocasia: Ornamental Plant With A Distinctive Appearance

Alocasia plants are prized for their distinctive appearance and are widely cultivated as ornamental plants for their foliage. They are commonly grown as outdoor or indoor plants and prefer moist, well-drained soil and bright, indirect light.

alocasia elephant ear indoor plant

Other names for this plant...

Elephant ears African mask plant (or Kris plant) Taro or giant taro plant Aroid palm Jewel Alocasia Alocasia Amazonica Alocasia Polly Black Velvet

About Alocasia

Alocasia plants are commonly known as elephant ears due to their large, heart-shaped leaves. They are grown as ornamental plants by commercial growers and hobbyists for their foliage, and some species are grown for their edible tubers or rhizomes.

Some species in this genus are known for their arrowhead-shaped leaves, which can add a unique, striking appearance to gardens and indoor spaces.

Alocasia species are herbaceous perennials, meaning they have soft, non-woody stems that die back to the ground each year but reemerge from underground structures in the spring.

Botanical Name

Alocasia is a genus of flowering plants in the arum family (Araceae), commonly known as elephant ear plants. The genus contains over 79 evergreen perennials native to tropical regions of Southeast Asia and the western Pacific (Oceania), including Northeast Australia.

Plant Type

Rhizomes (or tubers) are plant stems that grow underground and serve as a means of vegetative reproduction and food storage. Their main characteristics are:

  • Horizontal growth: Unlike stems that grow vertically, rhizomes grow horizontally just below or at the soil surface.

  • Vegetative reproduction: Rhizomes can produce new shoots and roots, allowing the plant to spread and form new clumps.

  • Food storage: Rhizomes can store food in starches, which the plant can use as energy when new growth is needed.

  • Connection to roots: Rhizomes are connected to roots and are responsible for the plant’s stability and anchorage in the soil.

  • Modification: Some plants have modified rhizomes that serve different functions, such as aerial or floating rhizomes that are exposed above the soil surface.

  • Diverse structures: Rhizomes can vary in shape, size, and appearance depending on the plant.


Alocasia is native to tropical regions of Asia and the western Pacific, including:

  • Indonesia

  • Philippines

  • New Guinea

  • Malaysia

  • North-Eastern Australia

  • Southern China

Alocasia plants typically grow in moist, shady habitats in these regions, such as along river banks, in rainforests, and swampy areas. They are well-suited to these warm, humid conditions and thrive in rich, organic soils.


Alocasia plants are known for their large, lush foliage and exotic-looking leaves. The appearance of Alocasia can vary depending on the species, but the following are some common features:

  • Large, heart-shaped leaves in various sizes, shapes, and colors. Some species have green leaves, while others have mottled, striped, or variegated leaves with white, yellow, or other colors.

  • Thin, upright stems hidden by the large leaves.

  • Small, inconspicuous flowers arranged in spikes or clusters. These flowers are not as showy as the leaves and are not commonly seen in cultivated plants.

  • Fleshy, underground rhizomes or tubers that store food and help the plant to spread.

Most Alocasia varieties have large, heart-shaped leaves and a tropical appearance.

Types Of Alocasia

There are many cultivars of Alocasia. Some of the most common species include:

  • Alocasia amazonica or “Amazonian Elephant’s Ear”

  • Alocasia macrorrhiza or "Giant Taro"

  • Alocasia reginula or “Dwarf Elephant’s Ear”

  • Alocasia sanderiana or “African Mask Plant” (also known as “Arrowhead”)

  • Alocasia zebrina or "Zebra Plant"

Alocasia Styling

There are several ways to style Alocasia plants in your home or garden:

  • Placed in a prominent location where their large, dramatic leaves can create a bold focal point in a room.

  • Planted in groups or massed together. This creates a lush, tropical look that can transform any space.

  • Grown in containers that complement the size and shape of your plant.

  • Paired with other exotic or tropical plants, such as bromeliads, calatheas, or orchids. This creates a harmonious and visually appealing display.

Remember to provide adequate light and water for your Alocasia plant to keep it healthy and vibrant.

Style Alocasia with other tropical plants.


Alocasia plants need bright indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight, which can scorch the leaves.


Correctly watering Alocasia plants is vital to their health and well-being. Here are some guidelines for watering Alocasia:

  • Keep soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Water the plant when the top inch of the soil feels dry.

  • Water the soil directly to avoid getting water on the leaves. Water droplets on the leaves can lead to fungal growth and plant diseases.

  • Mist leaves between watering to provide the humidity that Alocasia plants native to tropical regions prefer.

  • Use a pot with a drainage hole to prevent water from sitting in the bottom of the pot, which can lead to root rot.

Adjust your watering schedule depending on your plant’s specific needs and indoor factors such as humidity, temperature, and light levels. Over-watering or under-watering can stress the plant and affect its overall health.


Alocasia plants prefer warm, tropical temperatures and do best in consistent temperatures between 60 and 85°F (15 to 30°C). They do not tolerate cold temperatures and should be brought inside during winter.


Alocasia plants prefer high humidity levels. Place a tray of water by the plant or use a humidifier to increase the humidity in its environment.


Alocasia plants prefer a well-draining, moist potting soil that provides adequate nutrients for growth. Follow these steps when choosing soil for your Alocasia plant:

  • Choose a soil mix that allows for proper drainage, such as a mix of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite.

  • Alocasia plants prefer fertile soil that provides the nutrients they need to grow and thrive. Consider adding compost or organic matter to your soil mix to improve fertility.

  • They prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5.

  • Alocasias prefer consistently moist soil that is not waterlogged. Choose a soil mix that retains moisture but drains well to prevent root rot.

A quality potting mix for houseplants will work well for Alocasia. You can also add extra perlite to improve drainage if necessary. It’s important to re-pot your Alocasia plant every 2 to 3 years, using fresh soil to provide the best growing conditions.


Pruning Alocasia plants is essential to maintain their health and shape and to encourage new growth. Here are some tips for pruning your Alocasia plant:

  • Prune your Alocasia plant during the growing season, in spring or summer. Pruning during dormancy can weaken the plant and delay new growth.

  • Remove any yellow, brown, damaged, or diseased leaves.

  • If the stems of your Alocasia plant are getting too long and leggy, cut them back to encourage bushier growth.

  • Avoid over-pruning your Alocasia plant, as this can stress the plant and delay new growth. Only prune as needed to maintain the shape and health of the plant.

Always use clean, sharp pruning tools to avoid damaging the plant and to make clean cuts. After pruning, water the plant well to help it recover and promote new growth.


Alocasia plants benefit from regular fertilization to promote healthy growth and provide the nutrients they need to thrive. Here’s what to look for when choosing a fertilizer for your Alocasia plant:

  • A balanced, water-soluble liquid fertilizer formulated for houseplants is a good choice for Alocasia. Look for a fertilizer with a balanced N-P-K (nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium) ratio, such as 20-20-20.

  • Fertilize your plant every 4 to 6 weeks during the growing season (spring and summer). This can be lengthened to every 8 to 12 weeks during the rest of the year.

  • Always follow the instructions on the fertilizer package and dilute the fertilizer to the recommended strength. Over-fertilizing can damage or kill your Alocasia plant.

  • Water your Alocasia plant before fertilizing to avoid fertilizer burn.

Height & Growth

The size of Alocasia plants varies depending on the species and cultivar.

Some species can grow several feet tall, while others are compact with 8-inch-long leaves.


Alocasia plants are toxic to both humans and pets.

They contain calcium oxalate crystals which can cause irritation, burning, and swelling of the mouth, lips, and tongue, as well as difficulty swallowing and vomiting if ingested. Skin irritation and itching may also occur if the plant is handled.

It’s important to keep Alocasia plants out of reach of children and pets and to wash your hands thoroughly after handling the plant.


Alocasia is not pet-friendly.

Common Problems

  • Yellow leaves can indicate overwatering, underwatering, or a lack of nutrients. Make sure you are watering the plant correctly and fertilizing regularly.

  • Brown leaf tips can result from dry air, over-fertilizing, or a lack of humidity. Increase humidity around the plant, reduce fertilizer and ensure the plant is not near a heat source.

  • Stunted growth can be caused by too little light, over-fertilizing, or a lack of nutrients. Ensure the plant gets enough light, and adjust your fertilization schedule as needed.

  • Root rot can occur if the plant is overwatered or the soil does not drain well. Make sure you use a well-draining soil mix and adjust your watering schedule.

  • Pests like spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects are common to alocasia plants. Regularly inspect the plant for pests and treat it with an appropriate pesticide.

  • Leaf droop can be caused by stress, a change in the environment, or a lack of moisture. Ensure the plant is in the right environment and not too dry.

How To Propagate Alocasia

Alocasia plants can be propagated through division or by rooting offsets. Here’s how to propagate Alocasia:

Propagation through division - Division splits an established plant’s root system into smaller plants. Spring or summer is the best time to do this, as it is when the plant is actively growing.

To divide an Alocasia plant, gently remove it from its pot, and separate the root ball into smaller sections. Ensure each one has a healthy root system and some leaves, and plant each section in its own pot with fresh soil.

Propagation through offsets - Rhizomes produce offsets that grow under the soil in small clumps. If an offset already has established roots, it can be planted directly in a new pot. For offsets with weak roots, you can root them in water before planting.

Propagation through corms - When splitting or replanting your Alocasia plant, you may find tiny bulbs in the soil called corms. It’s difficult and time-consuming to get corms to grow directly in soil, but they can be rooted in water first and then planted.

Propagating Alocasia plants can be a fun and rewarding experience, and it’s a great way to increase your collection or share it with friends and family.

Propagate Alocasia through offsets, division, or by replanting the corms.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Alocasia good for indoors?

Yes, Alocasia plants are well suited for indoor environments. They are prized for their attractive foliage and are often used as decorative plants in homes, offices, and commercial spaces.

Is Alocasia a poisonous plant?

Yes, Alocasia plants are poisonous to humans and pets on ingestion. In extreme cases, Alocasia toxicity can be fatal.

If you suspect your pet has ingested any part of an Alocasia plant, it’s essential to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

Keep Alocasia plants out of reach of children and pets.

How often should Alocasia be watered?

Alocasia plants should generally be watered once a week or when the top inch of the soil has dried out.

How often you water your Alocasia plant will depend on various factors. These factors include the plant size, the room temperature and humidity, the pot size, and the type of soil used.

How can I tell if my Alocasia is not thriving?

If your Alocasia plant is not producing new leaves, it may be a sign of poor care or a pest or disease problem.

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