Best known as a botanical plant, Alocasia lauterbachiana has become one of the favorites among gardeners for ages. From over 70 varieties within its genus, this plant stands out with its arrow shaped leaves and purple undersides. That’s why people called it Purple Sword. To provide the best treatment for this plant, find many useful information you need here.
Initially, Alocasia lauterbachiana was included under Schizocasia genus by Heinrich Gustav Engler. Then, a hot debate finally ended after an Australian botanist, Alistair Hay classified this plant under Alocasia in 20th century. The name “Lauterbachiana” comes from a German explorer, Carl Adolf Georg Lauterbach.
Fun fact: Lauterbach is a close friend of Engler.
Natural distribution of this plant covers Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, as well as nearby islands of New Britain and New Ireland. Once it reaches the maturity, you can expect more than 1.8 m in height and 0.7m in width. It will take between 6-8 years to see its ultimate form.
How To Distinguish
As there are many varieties of Alocasia, you should learn its features before deciding to plant it.
Without a specific flowering season, the flower can bloom all the year round under a suitable condition. Many could notice it in late spring or early summer. Regretfully, it blooms only for three days.
It is simply a white, green, or purple spathe covering the spadix. Spathe is more like a leaf with spoon-like shell shape. Consequently, people could mistake it easily as a mere leaf. It has a matching appearance with Peace Lily’s flower. The flower might pops out around 30 cm from the soil line. There are times when berries will grow from it, but it is not edible.
In a tropical rainforest, pretty flower is inessential. Therefore, the existence of Purple Sword flower here isn’t’ quite significant. Instead of flower, this plant relies on the nature to attract pollinators. However, the emergence of flower might be a sign that the plant stressed.
Alocasia lauterbachiana has a long narrow shape like sword with wavy edges. It is green on the surface with purple hue covers the bottom part. The undersides part sometimes can be red or brown. The glossy surface reflects a beautiful light, creating magical effect. As a result, people might think that alocasia lauterbachiana is an artificial plant.
An underground corm is where the leaves emerge. Each leaf stays in upstanding position in individual stem. The width of a mature leaf is about 2 inches while the length ranges between 8 to 24 inches.
Careless contact with this plant sap might cause severe allergy to the skin and eyes. When consuming the leaves or any part of the plant, your mouth and throat could suffer from swelling and irritation. Furthermore, calcium oxalate crystals released by the plant could block the respiratory tract, resulting death.
Adult, children, and pets can be the victim of this plant toxicity. Please be aware of this danger by protecting yourself and the ones you love. If any incident occur, contact the paramedic or expert quickly.
Growing & Caring Alocasia Lauterbachiana
Alocasia Lauterbachiana Growth rate
In general, Alocasia genus can grow big in a short time. Under tropical climate in the wild, it can stand high around 4 feet. As an indoor plant, the height gets lower between 1 to 3 feet and width of 3 to 5 feet. Bear in mind that the growing phase include both stalks and leaves. The growth rate might varied depends on the location, temperature, light, humidity, and water.
A well-draining soil mix is the best option for this plant. Large and light particles are the characteristics of this soil mix. Basically, it must be able to retain the water instead of holding it.
A perfect soil mix combination will prevent root and rhizome rot. Many gardeners recommend a well-aerated soil or aroid soil which is able to controls water flow consumption to the root according to its need. You can choose variety from the following composition.
- Organic matter
- Sandy or loamy soil
Confused how to make a balanced soil mix? Calm down, just use a pre-made cactus and succulent potting mix. It is specifically designed for tropical and succulent plants. It contains coarse sand, coconut coir, and other necessary matters good for the plant. The pH level of the soil should range from 5.5 to 6.0 or a little acidic.
Note: Be careful as adding too much peat moss will hinder the moisture needed by the plant.
Alocasia Lauterbachiana Fertilizer Requirement
Best Time: spring and summer
Alocasia lauterbachiana doesn’t need fertilizer during autumn as it enters dormancy period. In spite of that, giving a little fertilizer in this period is still acceptable.
Form: liquid nutrition & urea free
Choose the ‘Houseplant’ labelled fertilizer to promote plant growth. The use of slow-release fertilizer sticks can be an option, but it is harder to control the result. There are cases when it is okay to make the fertilizer weaker by diluting it at half-strength or more. This method is useful to avert fertilize burn or when the minerals have built up excessively.
Amount: a standard low-dose houseplant fertilizer
Although the plant will need more nutrition when it gets larger, feeding it less is better than too much. You can feed it more when the plant is placed outdoor with bright light in a warm climate. Overfeeding have more serious effect than underfeeding.
Frequency: one dose of liquid fertilizer each month.
In colder months reduce the frequency by once every six months.
Even though the thick stems still have more space to store water, giving Alocasia lauterbachiana too much water is an unnecessary attempt. Adequate watering would set the right humidity while keeping the soil moist. Increase watering frequency during active growing season and reduce it in autumn and winter. Moreover, a good potting mix will help the water drains properly.
It takes a day or two for the soil to dry and ready before the next watering. The gap between watering lets the water to drain away. Every time the plant forms a new growth, more water help to sustain the growth. Inspect the plant more often at this period. When the top soil (2-3 inches) is dry after you touch it with a finger, you can start watering.
Pour the water slowly, deeply, and closely to the soil line. Don’t pour the water directly from the top of foliage. Wait until any excess water comes out of the drainage holes.
Water preferences are room temperature water, fresh bottled water, or rainwater. Using cold water would shock the root system of Alocasia lauterbachiana. It is okay to use tap water, ONLY after you leave it for a day to rest the chloride and fluoride contained inside. These contents may cause browning leaf.
Overwatering: the leaves closer to the soil line turn yellow.
Underwatering: dry soil, leaves turn grey or yellow, dropping leaves, wilting
You could make an estimation for watering frequency in case you don’t have time to check the soil. Since keeping the moisture level (at least 10% of moisture) is important, please consider the season and size of the plant.
Alocasia Lauterbachiana Humidity Requirement
Moisture percentage in the air should be around 70% to reach the greatest degree of humidity level. Purple Sword prefers high humidity, but it can tolerate low humidity up to 45%. Here are some tips to counteract dry air and to avoid fungal and pest problems.
- Mist the plant occasionally
- Use pebble-filled tray and/or humidifier for indoor setting
- Collect similar type of plants together
Note: Extreme misting may attract fungus as the foliage is wet for a long time.
Pondering over the best position to grow this plant would determine the plant future. It requires some efforts to imitate its original habitat in Southeast Asia. The key is a balance between lighting intensity and stable temperature.
Alocasia Lauterbachiana Light Requirement
Bright indirect light would improve the leaf color and size. In contrast, long exposure to strong light could burns the leaves. Dark environment with less light might fade the plant color, hinder the growth, and lower its health quality.
Window. Alocasia lauterbachiana would thrive over a sunny room with north, east, or west facing window. Place the plant within two meters (closer is fine) from the window. To block a hot direct sunlight, use curtain.
Duration. A maximum of 2-3 hours for strong direct light. Morning or evening sun is better than a midday light.
Light source position. When using artificial light, the position should be overhead, at least 40 cm away from the plant (indoor).
Rotation. Season change affects the plant, so rotate the plant from time to time. Rotation can maintain adequate sunlight received by all parts of the plant and encourage equal growth. During cold weather, a sudden change from outdoor to indoor might shock the plan. On that ground, you need to build the plant tolerance before completely take them inside for a long period.
Sign. A yellow leaf is the sign from the plant asking for more light.
Alocasia Lauterbachiana Temperature Requirement
Due to its nature, Alocasia lauterbachiana is sensitive about temperature specifically to cold. An ideal temperature for growing this plant is 18 to 22 °C. The plant will do a good job in a constant temperature maintained in average indoor temperature.
- Don’t put it near a cold window
- Keep them away from air conditioner and draught
- Don’t leave unheated room where the plant is
Note: the plant might feel stress when the temperature is less than 15 °C.
You can begin propagation once the plant reaches a mature or sufficient size and has sufficient root system. Rhizome splitting or rhizome division is the most convenient way. It brings faster result compare to seed method.
Step by step of rhizome splitting
- Water the plant a day before propagation takes place to handle the impact of transplant shock
- Wear protective gloves and take the plant carefully from the pot
- Remove the soil around it to spot the rhizome more clearly
- Make sure to separate the rhizome and leaves far from the parent plant
- Use a sterile sharp knife to cut 1/3 of the main rhizome. The cut part should have some of the already established roots.
- Prepare a pot containing a fresh houseplant soil and put both the old and new rhizome separately inside.
- Last, watering and fertilizing the plant while placing it in a warm temperature with indirect light.
Natural cycles after propagation
Day 1 to 30
- Action: mild regular watering, keep a humid environment, provide indirect light
Day 30 to 90
- Action: repeat the similar actions above
- Indication: on the first month the root starts to develop, on day 50 you could see small shoots
Day 90 forward
- Action: keep the right instructions for growing and caring the plant, no specific care required
Repotting Alocasia Lauterbachiana
Unlike the leaves and stems, the rhizome of Alocasia lauterbachiana takes time to grow big. Experts say that one, two, or three years after the first planting is the right time for repotting. Young or new plants are prone to get a shock since they are still adapting in a new environment.
In a special case, repotting can start earlier or faster than you think. When the soil get soggy for one or two weeks, you may consider repotting it into smaller pot. The roots here are in a critical condition as the result of high level of water. A pot with holes at the bottom would let the excessive water to drain without holding it back on the root.
In normal repotting, the new container should be 1-1 ½” wider in diameter than the old pot. Purple Sword experiences a good growing phase in spring. For this reason, spring is the best time for repotting. Use well-draining potting mix to keep the growth rate while maintaining the manageable size.
Principally there are two main aims for pruning. First, it stimulates fast growth. Second, it interferes the spread of disease or the fungal infection from attacking your plant. In indoor setting, Alocasia lauterbachiana will rather stays in reasonable size. It means you don’t have to do it more often.
Always use clean sharp tools to cut the dying leaves or unhealthy stem. Make a clean cut on the stem and leaves for faster recovery. You can remove a few healthy leaves on the lower position when the plant growth gets slower. Take a good look to find the right leaves to remove aside from the dead ones.
Read also : Alocasia Azlanii (Red Mambo): Grow and Care Tips
Many newbies in gardening are worried if the leaves suddenly fall and stop growing. In botanical world, Alocasian may enters a period called “dormancy” or “sleeping”. This phase usually occurs in winter (below 7-8 °C). Besides cold weather, some periods of droughts could force the plant into dormant state.
To find out whether your plant is truly dormant or not, feel the underground corm using your finger. A firm corm is a good sign while a rotten or squishy ones is a warning. Fortunately, setting up the plant in a warmer place would prevent dormancy to happen.
Simple ways to avoid dormancy
- Take the plant out from the pot and put in inside a sealed plastic bag.
- Choose any warm place (above 15°C) in your house to put the bag, for example on top of a radiator.
- Keep the soil slightly moist specifically around the corm.
- Remember to air out the bag occasionally to remove condensation and prevent rot.
- Wait for around two weeks later.
- When a new leaf bud pops out from the corm, the time to move back your plant to its original position has come.
Common pests that attack Alocasia lauterbachiana are spider mites, thrips, scale, aphid, mealybugs, and whitefly. They usually stay on the undersides of leaf and cubbyholes. Spray insecticides or pesticide is the common solution. Another solution is using alcohol, neem oil, or soap solution made from castile soap
Recognizing some pests
- Mealybug. It is a silver colored insect that eat almost all parts of plant. It weaves a cotton-like cocoon to lay the eggs. First, remove all possible traces of it manually by hand. Next, to get rid of the remaining traces, spray the water on the plant. In addition, replace the top two inches of soil with a new ones.
- Spider mite. It is a red tiny insect that resides on the undersides of leaves. They like to leave their eggs on the dry soil. Persistent watering will do good job to counterattack this pest.
- Aphid. It is a light green insect with pear shaped body. Some appear in white, black, and pink color. In order to get the plant sap, it rips the plant tissue using a sharp mouthpart. It likes to gather on the growth ends. Use the same method above to kill this pest.
Note: If severe infestation occurs, any form of insecticide is the most effective way to eliminate both the insects and their eggs. Thoroughly examine the plant because the pest are in a tiny size.
Cause: overwatering, underwatering, bad water quality, exposure to strong direct light, aging, extreme temperature, nutrient or pH issue
Solution: provide bright indirect light, control watering amount and frequency, and throw away the yellowing leaves for a better look and to hinder the spread pests or decay pathogens
Note: This problem is common and mostly it only shows an ordinary life cycle of a plant.
Cause: sudden change of environment such as the temperature, lighting, wind, and humidity
Solution: leave the plant alone while still following a good maintenance, grooming, and pruning
Note: when the old leaves drop or turn yellow and new leaf grows coincidentally; there is nothing to worry about it.
Cause: over-fertilizing, pest infestation, lack of light and humidity, overwatering, underwatering
Solution: put the plant in an ideal position to obtain indirect light, control humidity, provide adequate fertilizer and watering
Cause: sunburn, fungal disease, pest infestation, cold temperature, insufficient humidity
Solution: clean the plant regularly, keep it away from direct sunlight, provide warm temperature, and control the perfect humidity
Indication: unpleasant odor emits from the plant
Cause: overwatering. Soil is wet for a long time –> root is unable to breath well –> root becomes black and mushy–> black spot with yellow ring appears on the leaf surface.
Solution: rinse the root using water, change the soggy soil with fresh new soil, reduce watering to promote better air circulation, cut the ill root using clean shears, use root supplement and fungicide solution.
Other issues of Alocasia lauterbachiana include stunted growth, basal collapse, and plant lethargy.
Reminder: cut clean the affected part of plant and put the plant away from others for better recovery.
Alocasia lauterbachiana is considered as one of the rare kind from its genus. The need of green space has increased the popularity of this plant. Thus, there is a chance that the plant is not available at the local gardening center. Find more information online can be a solution.
This plant has diverse form and degree of variegation. Essentially, leaf of the variegated version possess yellow, light green, or cream patches on it. A more complex variegation would be harder to encounter.
Footnote to care for Alocasia lauterbachiana
- Alocasia lauterbachiana is sensitive to unstable temperature.
- Alocasia lauterbachiana loves humid area and prefer moist soil (not too soggy and too dry).
- Either overwatering or underwatering leads to different kinds of issue that affect the health and appearance of Alocasia lauterbachiana.
- Alocasia lauterbachiana gets stornger when it reaches maturity. Younger plant tends to lose its leaves because it is still weak and the stalk is expanding.
- Keep away Alocasia lauterbachiana from children and pets.
- Every month clean and dust Alocasia lauterbachiana to enhance the light-capturing efficiency as well as photosynthesis.