Alocasia / Colocasia Planting Guide
Elephant Ears, also known as Colocasias and Alocasias, are frequently grown for their bold, arrow-head shaped leaves and towering stems. Flaunting some of the most dramatic foliage seen in houseplants, these big-leaved beauties arrive in various lush tones ranging from burgundy to emerald to black and reach heights of 2' to 15' tall. Alocasias are increasingly popular additions to indoor plant collections, and after you experience the visual excitement and sculptural appeal that stems from their fabulous foliage, you'll quickly understand why! Now, if you're wondering how in the world to plant, grow, and care for your Alocasia plant, we've got you covered with this comprehensive guide!
Full Sun to Partial Shade
N/A; Grown for foliage
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Where to Plant
Due to their natural habitat on forest floors beneath tree canopies, Alocasias require bright and indirect or filtered sunlight. While they are not tolerant of low-light atmospheres, direct sun will cause the leaves to burn, so be sure not to place your Alocasia in a spot where it will receive direct light for an extended period. Consider their mature height and tendency to shade out smaller plants when choosing a location for your Alocasia.
These colossal beauties perform well in outdoor beds, pots, barrels, tubs, urns, and window boxes. Some varieties will even thrive in near-aquatic areas, such as the edges of ponds or in semi-bog settings. As with its native environment, this striking plant grows best in humidity, so when growing indoors, avoid placing next to an A/C or heater.
When to Plant
Alocasia can be planted outdoors any time after the danger of frost has passed from spring to early summer. You can also start them indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the average last frost date for earlier growth. These eye-catching plants thrive in the summertime and can be brought indoors in the winter during their dormant period.
How to Plant
- Select a location where your Alocasia will receive bright and indirect or filtered sunlight. These high-drama plants don’t require the well-drained soil that most plants need and will thrive in moist areas.
- Choose a container, if using, that is at least 18" wide and of equal depth with adequate drainage holes. Fill with good quality, humus-rich soil. Almost any commercially available potting medium will work just fine.
- Plant your Alocasia bulb with the narrow end pointed up and the root zone facing down.
- Bury the bulb 8" deep for the larger varieties and 4–6" deep for the smaller varieties.
- Water thoroughly after planting to settle the soil around the bulb.
How to Grow
- Water regularly to provide consistent moisture during the growing season. While water is key to growing these brilliant beauties, they will not tolerate soggy soil and require less water during the winter months.
- Apply a half-strength 20-20-20 fertilizer every three weeks during their active period to promote the exceptional growth each season that Alocasias are capable of.
- Leave the foliage in place at the end of the season rather than trim it off. The leaves will gather sunlight to create food through photosynthesis, strengthening it for next year's show.
- Remove the foliage when the leaves turn yellow and die back as the plant slips into dormancy. Note that not all Alocasias will go dormant, depending on your location and the variety (some varieties are evergreen).
- Dig up roots and bulbs after the first frost if you are gardening in a region colder than zone 8. Shake off the dirt and allow the bulbs to dry in the shade for a day, then store them in a cool, dry place in barely moist peat moss to replant in the spring.
Alocasia Tips & Tricks
- Expect top growth to emerge in 3 to 8 weeks, depending on the availability of warmth and moisture. These large plants will grow tall throughout the season and often develop side plants from bulb offsets or root runners.
- Add extra weight to the bottom of your containers in the form of stone, gravel, or sand if the location is windy. The large leaves can catch the wind and cause a light pot to tip over.
- Consider the mature height and tendency of these giants to shade out smaller plants when you choose companions.
- Provide your Alocasia a warm, dark, dry spot to rest in dormancy for a few months before beginning the next growing cycle.
- Keep plants mulched to a depth of 2" in beds and 1" in pots.