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Picky Plants #1 - Alocasias (Elephant ear plants)

Alocasias are stunning plants, native to east Asia. There are a plethora of varieties and a chock load of hybrids in-between, all with varying quirks and characteristics in their size and colour palettes. A common shared trait of the seventy odd different varieties, is that their leaves look a bit like an elephants ear.


Pic from u/astraelly on

The unusual and distinctive charm of these plants, is owed to the subtly unique environments they naturally inhabit. Alocasias are picky. They like things to be just right, and can be fairly demanding when it comes to houseplant care. Too much water, will lead to a quick demise and not enough will make the delicate stems too frail to support their already stout leaves.

Hard tap water is something alocasias will hate. First of all, chlorine is added into our tap water as an anti bacterial. Some plants have a tolerance to the minimal chlorine found in our water but alocasias are not one of these specimens. Added fluoride and other minerals will lead to the tips of the leaves 'burning' this is when they crisp up.

Rain water is always a great way around this predicament but another solution is to simply leave a bowl of tap water out for twenty-four hours allowing excess minerals to dissipate. Water frequency is really important with alocasias. They like consistent moisture however, they are prone to root if the compost is too soggy, but they hate to dry out completely. Little and often is the best approach with alocasias, and you should be able to tell when they need a water by the moisture of the top layer of soil begins to feel almost dry. There isn't a specific frequency for how often you should water them, as specific environmental factors will dictate it's necessities.

Alocasias will enjoy temperatures around 16 – 24 degrees celcius. If the temperature drops below, the compost will remain soggy and lead to rot fairly quickly. They also enjoy humidity in the air, but don't worry, if you don't leave your shower on 24/7 you can always put hydroleca (clay pebbles) on the top level of soil and this will increase humidity within the plant. In the spring and summer they will like a consistent but minimal feed with every other water. Feeding pellets are a great solution for plants with complicated routines like this. You can put a feeding pellet in the soil at the start of spring and the plant will extract the nutrients gradually, at it's own natural rate over the growing season.

Light plays an important role in a happy alocasia too. They will burn up in direct sun so keep them away from the window. Bright but indirect sun-light is the best solution to keep these plants happy. We hope this guide helps you become an alocasia master. Keep an eye out for more information and guides on tricky but gorgeous houseplants.

Some recommended varieties include: 'Zebrina' with ready made zebra print stems. The surreal 'Poly', and the massive 'Robusta' which will grow out of your house, and possibly down your street if you read our comprehensive guide on repotting.

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