Alocasia–commonly called elephant’s ears–is a tender perennial grown for its large, showy, arrowhead-shaped leaves, which have prominent veins that are often marked with bronze, black, or violet-black. The leaves resemble the ears of elephants and grow to 30 inches (76) wide.
Alocasia species usually are grown in tropical climates or as greenhouses plants, but a few selections can be grown in cooler temperature gardens. Alocasia adds a lush, tropical effect to gardens during the warm summer months. Alocasia is also grown as a houseplant.
Alocasia needs a site in partial shade with deep, rich, evenly moist soil that is well-drained. It must be protected from wind or breezes which can damage the leaves.
Alocasia is a genus of about 70 species. Alocasia grows from rhizomes or tuberous roots. Alocasia is native to tropical forests in southern and Southeast Asia.
Get to Know Alocasia
- Plant type: Perennial
- Growing zones and range: Zones 10-14
- Hardiness: Alocasia thrives in heat and humidity and can be grown outdoors year-round in Zones 10 and 11.
- Optimal growing temperature: 70 ° to 75°F (21-24℃)
- Height and width: 5 to 15 feet (1.5-3m) tall and nearly as wide depending on the variety; erect, leafy plant grows from a thick, fleshy underground stem.
- Foliage: Leaves are green with silver, white or brownish black markings. They are shaped like an elephant’s ear and grow to 30 inches (76cm) wide on slender, pencil-shaped stalks.
- Flowers: Flowers like those of calla (Zantedeschia); they consist of an inflorescence made up of many tinny flowers clustered on a central stalk, called a spadix, that is surrounded by a modified leaf, called a spathe.
- Bloom time: Summer
- Uses: Houseplant, tropical garden; shady border in frost-free areas
- Common name: Elephant’s ear
- Botanical name: Alocasia
- Family name: Araceae
- Origin: Tropical Asia
Where to Plant Alocasia
- Sun: Plant Alocasia where it gets filtered sunlight, partial shade.
- Soil: Provide ample organic matter in soil that is well drained.
- Plant Alocasia in wind-protected places or indoors.
When to Plant Alocasia
- Set Alocasia outdoors in tropical and subtropical climates any time of the year.
- In temperate to chilly winter regions, grow Alocasia in pots that can be taken indoors. Move the plants outdoors only after the weather is warm and settled and night temperatures do not dip below 60°F (15.6℃). sink them into soil, still in their pots.
Planting and Spacing Alocasia
- Space 3 to 10 feet (1-3m) apart depending on the variety.
How to Water and Feed Alocasia
- Water: Keep the soil evenly moist during the growing season. To overwinter, bring the pots indoors and keep the plants in a warm (60°F minimum), humid spot. Keep the soil somewhat drier in winter when plants are resting; mist the foliage to maintain high humidity.
- Feeding: Apply a balanced liquied fertilizer every 2 to 3 eeks.
- Repot Alocasia, as necessary, in spring.
- A sheltered spot is best for Alocasia, and protection from hot sun is essential.
- Contact with the sap may cause skin irritation, and all parts of the plant cause stomach upset if eaten.
Growing Alocasia as a Houseplant
- Provide limited light, a warm temperature, and very high humidity.
- Keep the soil moist.
- Apply fertilizer in spring and summer.
Alocasia Pests and Diseases
- Alocasia can be damaged by mealybugs, scale insects, spider mites, and whiteflies.
- Propagate Alocasia by division and pot in an all-purpose soil mix.
- Propagate by dividing the fleshy rhizomes or separating the offsets in spring.
- Start small plants or tubers indoors before the last frost date, and keep in a warm (70° to 75°F) spot.
Alocasia Varieties to Grow
- Alocasia amazonica, African mask. Leathery, deep bronzy green leaves to 16 inches long have wavy edges, heavy white main veins; this species is the one most commonly available as a house plant.
- A. cuprea, giant caladium. Grows to 2 feet tall. Leaves are puckered and metallic green with dark purple undersides. Leaf veins are purplish black.
- A. hybrids. There are many hybrids available; ‘Black Velvet’ has black leaves with silver veins. ‘Hilo Beauty’ bears green leaves mottled with cream (or light green). Zones 10 and 11.
- A. macrorrhiza, giant taro. Tropical species grows to15 feet high and spread to 8 feet or more but is smaller in cool climates; bears glossy, arrow-shaped green leaves with leaf blades that range from 2 to 4 feet long; tiny flowers on spike surrounded by greenish white bract. Flowers followed by reddish fruit, giving spike the look of corn on the cob. . Variegata’ bears leaves blotched with cream, gray-green, and dark green. Plants remain evergreen if temperatures briefly dip to 29°F, and they are killed to the ground but return if exposed to cooler temperatures for a short time.
- A. odora. Similar to A. macrorrizha but not quite as hardy. Flowers are fragrant.
- A. sanderana. Grows to 4 feet tall; metallic black-green leaves 16 inches long and 7 inches wide; leaves are lobed and have silver edges; prominent leaf veins are silver-white; undersides of leaves are purple.