How to Take Care of an Alocasia Plant (aka African Mask)


Alocasia Plants stand out in any indoor environment. Also known as Elephant Ear or African Mask plant, these elegant and long-leaf houseplants can give life to any living room or office. However, there are certain guidelines you need to follow to keep them stunning. 

To take care of an Alocasia you should keep in mind the following recommendations:

  • They need exposure to indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight as it could burn its leaves.
  • Keep its soil moist by maintaining a regular watering schedule. Make sure that waterlogging is not created.
  • Frequent misting is recommended to keep humidity high and prevent the plant from pests like spider mites.

Did you know that the Alocasia plant will give you signs in case it’s not receiving enough light? Or are you wondering what type of soil you should use to prevent your Alocasia from overwatering? These are only some of the topics we’ve researched and found the answers to in this guide, so be sure to read on.

By the way, we recorded this video with the main guidelines in case you prefer to watch.

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How to Take Care of an Alocasia Plant (aka African Mask)

How to care for Alocasia Plant (aka Elephant Ear Plant or African Mask Plant)

The first thing that caught my attention from this particular plant was the fact that it has three popular names. For simplicity, we will stick to Alocasia in this guide.

Alocasia and its stunning leaves
Alocasia and its stunning leaves

As with many others, basic caring guidelines for Alocasia plants can be grouped in the following categories:

  • Light.
  • Watering.
  • Humidity.
  • Hygiene and disease prevention.

Keep a balance with light

Alocasias will thrive in an environment with bright, indirect light. 

Is alocasia an indoor plant, then?

Yes. Look for a window or a balcony that receives a good amount of light during most of the day. However, be wary of direct sunlight, since it could burn your alocasia’s leaves or generate excessive heat. 

And as with most plants, the flipside is also true. Needless to say, avoid placing your alocasia in a dark room or corner. This will negatively impact their growth and health.

Alocasia with Light
Credits – Photo by Victoria Flip on Unsplash

Therefore, a combination of generous indirect daylight, a bit of direct sunlight and some hours of shade should do the work.

Regarding temperature, alocasias tend to go better with the warmth, this is between 65 and 85 Fahrenheit (18 and 29 Celsius). Avoid placing it near a direct AC’s or a heater’s air flow, as this plant will most likely not enjoy sudden temperature changes.

Light response – how I learned about this phenomenon:

The second thing that caught my attention during the first week after buying an alocasia is how its leaves move towards the light source (in this case a window).

From one day to another, I noticed how the leaves that were closer to the window changed their shape and opened up. Also, the petioles or leaf stalks started extending and getting more reach. So I decided to run an experiment and rotated the pot. Well, as expected, the leaves that looked more dormant, were now expanding and showing more vitality.

This short story is useful because, as you might have guessed, it is important to perform a rotation schedule with your alocasia to ensure all areas of the plant receive proper sunlight. This could be done periodically or every other day. 

alocasia on table

Some plant owners are more strict and rotate the plant pot 90 degrees every time that they water it. The latter approach could be easier to implement as you are stacking 2 caring tasks (as many productivity books will encourage). But I’ll leave it up to what works better for you.

What you’ll get  from having this rotating ritual will be an even growth across all your alocasia and enabling more efficient photosynthesis.

You will be surprised by how quickly the different parts move and adapt to a subtle change in the pot position.

Moisture and Watering

Similar to light exposure, you will need to keep a balance and not overdo the watering process.

Alocasias don’t like too much water as it can cause its roots to rot (the most terrible disease for any plant). However, they don’t like too much dryness either as moisture is key for them to thrive.

The rule of thumb here is:

  • Checking on a daily basis if the soil is moist. If you poke a finger and feel it dry to the touch, then proceed to water around 10 oz of water (1 & ¼ cups) Allow the top layer of the soil to absorb the water before pouring another round. 
  • It is also recommended to mist the leaves every 2 or 3 days, as this will increase the overall humidity around your plant and keep away spider mites.

It’s also important to mention that you can choose a “little-but-frequent” approach and water your alocasia every day but in a small quantity (about 2 oz). This will keep the soil moist and should not cause waterlogging.

Alocasia Leaf

If by any means you notice some signs that the plant was overwatered, allow some minutes to pass so that soil can start draining the excess. As we will explain in the section below, having a pot with properly functioning drainage holes and using a proper soil mix, are the two best allies you can have to minimize the risk of root rotting.

Alocasias thrive in high humidity

I used to think that a dry environment benefited alocasias’ leaves, but, boy was I wrong. In fact, here is where that precious “balance” we have been talking, stops working a bit. 

Well, alocasias show a strong preference for very humid surroundings. Besides the frequent misting recommended in the past section, other options you might want to try is to place a pebble tray nearby or include some perlite on the soil top layer (more info on how to get the right soil mix below).

Keep your alocasia leaves clean (or else Spider Mites could ruin the party)

Spider mites are one of the worst enemies your alocasia can have. These guys will find in your plant’s leaves the ideal place to make their cobwebs and reproduce. 

To avoid this, you should implement a leaf and stalk cleaning routine. We recommend you to dust the leaves regularly when you rotate your alocasia and wipe down any cobweb you spot.

If you want to bulletproof your alocasia and maximize pest prevention, you can mix some water with mild soap in a spray bottle and mist the plant leaves and stalks once per month.

Even though it sounds extreme, this is one of the solutions if the worst scenario happens and your alocasia is infested by spider mites. On top of that, if the invasion has already taken place, remember to isolate your alocasia from other plants and try to increase its humidity by misting it several times per day. 

To sum up, dusty and dry conditions are the perfect mix for spider mites to come. You counteract this with occasional, soapy water clean ups and humidity.  

Advanced Care Guidelines

If you want to go the extra mile in terms of caregiving, these are the other aspects you should consider:

  • Soil and Potting
  • Fertilizing

Well-drained soil is essential to care for your alocasia.

As explained before, you might want to avoid water from getting clogged, as it can put the whole root system at risk. If you are buying your alocasia, make sure you double-check that it already comes with a proper soil mixture. The same applies if you are potting it from scratch. 

Therefore, the golden soil mix to remember consists of African violet blend and perlite in a proportion of 2 to 1. Alternatively, you can use a mix of potting soil, coarse, and sand in equal parts (or ⅓ each). Some seasoned alocasia owners suggest that a few pieces of charcoal at the bottom of the pot, can be a seasoned trick to boost the drainage properties of the soil mix.

How often do I need to repot my alocasia?

Since alocasia’s roots do not expand a whole lot, repotting may not be strictly necessary. However, you can perform this task every 12 to 18 months with the goal of providing it with new soil filled with plenty of nutrients.

In terms of pot size and dimensions, a good starting point is a cubed-shaped pot with  18 inches (45 centimeters) on every side. Be very careful if you decide to repot it to a larger pot since an abrupt change in the container dimensions can negatively impact the roots and even drown them out too   

How often should I fertilize my alocasia?

Experts agree it’s best to fertilize your alocasia once per month in the months from spring to fall. During winter you can pretty much skip this caring task as the plant growth naturally decreases. 

Using an organic plant fertilizer that is rich in iron should do the work, however, keep in mind that you should apply it when the soil is damp. There is a high risk of burning the roots if you apply the fertilizer directly on dry soil. 

How to Propagate an Alocasia Plant

One of my favorite topics about alocasias is their propagation, as this is one of its overall strengths. Most experts agree that the recommended way in which you can propagate your plant is by rhizome or clump division.

Wait! Can’t you propagate an alocasia from a leaf?

No. Let’s start by clarifying what you should NOT do when thinking about propagating your alocasia. Since it is a tuberous plant, this means that all of its parts sprout or grow from a central rhizome, meaning that you should not try to propagate it by taking leaf cuttings.

That being said, it is important to mention that you will need to look for its underground rhizomes. You can dig around it with a shovel, aiming for 12 inches in depth to prevent any root or rhizome damaging in the process. 

Once you find it, you can then gently lift the plant from its base out of the soil. You will be able to spot long tuber like the ones shown below:  

Alocasia Rhizomes
Credits – dengarden.com

Next, you’ll want to clear the soil from the tubers or clumps. Then you can proceed to divide them with your hand or you cut them carefully using a sharp knife if needed. After that, you should repot them in a separate container and follow the suggestions described in the potting and soil section above. To sum up, if you’ve followed the previous steps properly, these repotted tubers will now have the ability to grow into a brand new alocasia plant.

Keep in mind that propagation should be done during the spring and summer months, which is the time when any alocasia has its maximum growth spurt. 

Propagating your alocasia in a glass of water

There is a variation to the propagation process if you want to get fancy. Simply put, you can plant the clumps you have cut from the mother alocasia in water after you’re done. Just make sure to place them in a glass vase filled with tap water during the first 24 hours after performing the propagation. Then, you can leave it with water covering the roots. 

You might be wondering if your new alocasia needs to be repotted to a container with soil at some point in time. Well, the magic about this plant is that it can actually adapt and thrive inside the vase for a while. 

If you decide to keep it there in the long term, just make sure to place the glass container where it can get indirect bright light. Also, you will notice that water at the lower part will start evaporating as days go by, so once this happens, simply top it up whenever it is needed.  

Some users report changing the water every 4 to 6 weeks and mixing it with liquid fertilizer to make sure the plant’s healthy growth.

Alocasia Plant Varieties and Considerations

According to Wikipedia, there are more than 80 varieties of Alocasia. As we want to keep it short, we will only focus on the top varieties that you should know.

Enter the BigBoyPlants Team Top 4 Alocasia subtypes:

Alocasia Polly (or Amazonica)

This sub-type has very pronounced arrow-shaped dark leaves with light-green veins. 

Alocasia Polly

Alocasia Lutea Golden

The lutea has wider light-green leaves with yellowish veins pointing up

Lutea Golden

Alocasia Pink Dragon

You can distinguish them very easily by their pink-colored petioles. 

Alocasia Pink Dragon

Alocasia Purple Sword

It has thinner leaves pointing up with a mixed color between green and purple.

Alocasia Purple Sword

Credits – Pinterest

Related Questions

What is the difference between Alocasia and Colocasia

The main differences between these Araceae siblings are the following:

  • Leaves: the most obvious differences are these. Most alocasias’ leaves point up and tend to follow the same line from the petioles, resulting in an arrow-shaped foliage. Meanwhile, the colocasia’s leaves point down as they tend to hang at a downward angle.
  • Sunlight exposure: as you could see from the light section above, alocasia thrives under partial sunlight exposure, and they prefer indirect light. In contrast, colocasias can thrive fully under full-time sunlight exposure. 
  • Watering needs: an alocasia must be kept under moist but well-drained soil to prevent it from waterlogging or root rot. On the other hand, the colocasia has a higher tolerance for ultra wet soil and can thrive even if you overwater it.

Why are my alocasia’s leaves drooping?

This could be caused by several factors like pests, watering (over or under), not enough light, or lack of nutrients in the soil. You will need to review the caring rituals that you are performing in order to determine the cause of the leaves drooping. We suggest creating a checklist based on this guide and make sure your alocasia is getting the proper care.

My alocasia has black spots on its leaves, is there something wrong?

Black spotting might be caused by alocasia’s sensitivity to chlorine, salts or excessive nutrients found in tap water. It is suggested that before watering your plant, you let the water sit for up to 24 hours. This will cause unwanted elements to evaporate. 

What are the best companion plants for an Alocasia?

The best companion plants for an Alocasia include the Fatsia Japonica, Dieffenbachia and a Schefflera. The most beautiful and well-known of these is the Ficus Lyrata that provides color with its green leaves year-round.

Martin Duran

Hey y'all! My name is Martin Duran and I am from Cali, Colombia. Since 2018 I have been learning about plants and how to take care of them. Here's is my journey... “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ― John Muir

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