Bringing Alocasia odora as a central greenery in our living space is a good choice. More than just adding a tropical vibe, this plant supports other plants you have while acting as a natural air purifier.
Want to find more about them? Read this and follow the simple and useful guidance below.
Closer Look at Alocasia Odora
Alocasia has more than 70 different species. Moreover, more people have been cultivating this plant, thus producing more hybrids with distinct features. However, Alocasia odora is the classic type of Alocasia that you can still be proud of.
Also known as Giant Elephant Ear and Ray, it thrives in humid tropical forest in Asia. The large, green, and leathery leaves attached on the sturdy straight stems. The foliage has an oval heart-shape which points upright instead of spreading widely.
Their rarely sprout flowers appear in the form of spadix, surrounded by a spathe. Since spathe is more like a modified leaf, you might think it is a leaf instead of part of flower. Unlike other flowers of Alocasia varieties, the flowers give off a nice scent that gets clearer at night. Hence, their flowers earn the name of “night scented lily”.
Alocasia Odora vs Colocasia “Taro”
Alocasia odora has smaller size compare to Colocasia and for this reason, some people place odora indoor. The unbelievable big size of Colocasia in general won’t fit into the apartments and small size rooms. As a results, back yard is the common place to grow Taro.
The erect petioles makes the leaves grow upright following the stem. In other hand, the tips of Colocasia leaves point downward because their stems allows the leaf to face that way.
Colocasia grows really well in a wet condition plus full exposure of sunlight. Although Alocasia odora is a native of tropical Asian area, they absolutely cannot stand soggy soil and extreme light exposure. Many think that this is why caring Alocasia is a bit tricky.
Below the ground
Alocasia produces both rhizome and tuber. Since Colocasia only have tubers (commonly called “taro”), you cannot propagate them using rhizome division method.
Taro, the edible tuber of Colocasia has been widely consumed by many. For instance, Hawaiians consider this plant as a food crop. In contrast, Alocasia in general is only edible with a “proper cooking”. People cook the stem in such a way to get rid of the toxic substance inside. Carelessly eating this plant would result in health concerns like swelling, vomiting, and gastrointestinal problems.
In outdoor setting and when this plant grow directly on the ground, the height might reach more than 2 meters and the width is 90 cm. The leaf itself could grow 30 wide and 60 cm long. Of course when you plant it in a pot inside your home, their size would be a bit smaller. This plant might not take many spaces, but if you put other plants near it, make sure to spare some space for its growth.
Alocasia odora grows vigorously in spring and summer. It stops growing or takes it slow in cold season. To get their healthy and beautiful mature version you must know the characteristics of the area where you live first. After that, you can adjust the lighting, temperature, and water intake.
Location where you put the plant will decide the light it gets. Neither inside nor outside, make the best out of the condition where you live.
Impacts of wrong lighting
- Strong light. The bright and direct sunlight will scorch the leaves especially if you leave them for a long time. Later, the hotness of sunlight would also make the soil dry quickly than it used to be. Midday is the most dangerous time in a day because the sun shines really bright and hot.
- Dim light. This plant could survive for a while in a lower lighting condition. Still, the foliage will get paler and has smaller size than usual and then the leaves start to drop.
- Using a shelter. No matter what, natural light is the best for any houseplant. Natural light has a proportional balance between red and blue light. Placing your plant on the patio could provide partial sunlight that Alocasia odora needs.
- Providing natural shade. When you don’t have patio or any built-in shelter on the top, you can easily place your plant under big trees or other greenery with larger size than Alocasia. Aside from providing a light filter, they would protect your plant from strong winds and cold breeze.
- Choosing the window. If you have a north or east facing window, you can try put the plant on the windowsill. On the other hand, the south or west facing window gives stronger sunlight. To tackle this issue you can use sheer curtain or create a reasonable distance between the window and the plant. To obtain the same growth, you must rotate the plant occasionally.
- Using artificial light. To imitate the sunlight inside a house is not easy especially if you consider the specific balance of it. Thus, this is the time for you to use artificial light. This is one of the best solution because many might have room with little or proper light source.
Among many types of indoor light, use fluorescent bulbs since they are more effective in converting the electrical energy to light energy. Then, the plant would use this light energy for growing. Another good thing about these bulbs is they don’t produce much heat. Therefore, you can easily adjust the distance of bulbs easily for your plant. Placing them above the plant is also good to mimic how the sunshine comes through the sky.
Maintaining humidity is important in case of arid condition. Try to keep the daily humidity level 70% as possible. A higher level is fine but not too low because this plant hate drought.
- Misting the plant occasionally. Simply spray the plant to prevent form wilting and dying. Never let the plant wet for a long time because of excessive misting. When it occurs, wipe the plant gently after leaving the plant absorb the water for a while. You don’t want attract pest and fungi on them.
- Placing pebble tray under. Tips for using pebble tray are, first choose waterproof tray with similar width of the pot base. Second, fill it with water, but don’t let the pebble completely submerged. After put it in the right position, remember to refill the water once it has evaporated.
- Turning on the humidifier. The simplest method ever is to keep your plant in a humid environment. It is easy to adjust according to your needs. The only thing you might be worry about is the electricity bill.
- Utilizing other plants. Just put your Alocasia odora among other plant or gather other greeneries around it. They will naturally produce humidity which benefits each other. The more the merrier.
As a tropical plant, it is not surprising that Alocasia loves warm temperature. The word “warm” has clearly suggests that hot and cold temperature are not the right domain for this plant. The range of temperature they like is 15°-30°C.
A common indoor temperature mostly has provide the moderate temperature. However, there are other aspects you need to know.
- Beware of extreme temperature change. Inside the house, the threat comes from AC, heating vents, and other appliances that produce heat or cold. If you happen to use AC a lot, make sure the cold air doesn’t channel through the plant direction. Or you just move your plant that free from such risk. From the outside, cold draft may enter if you leave the door or window open, especially when they are near the plant.
- Maximize the location. If the condition doesn’t allow you to grow Alocasia outside, the advice is to bring it outside in summer. When the autumn starts, it is better to bring it inside before the temperature drops too low. You might also need to adjust the temperature during the day and night.
- Add mulch on the lower level of plant or its leaves. Mulch would be able to provide warm condition start from the bottom.
Nowadays, there are stores and garden centers which sell a ready-made potting soil for houseplant. Even though they could be a good start for your Alocasia, it is not a bad idea to create your own mixture.
- A basic combination is potting soil, perlite, and peat most or compost in the same ratio. Others mix 30% perlite/pumice with mulch. These organic matters provide the nutrients for the plant. Moreover, they help creating a loose and well-draining texture as well as improve air circulation.
- A compact or clayey soil would retain too much water resulting soggy soil. It would lead to root soil as the plant stays in water for extended period. In reverse, using sand-type soil is bad too because it drains the water too fast before the plant could absorb it.
- If you plant it straight on the ground on your garden, it usually has enough organic matter. Still, you can give a bonus by adding other useful matters above. Additionally, you must keep the soil pH from 5.5-6.5 whether you grow it inside or outside. The right pH will ensure that the nutrients in the soil still available and beneficial for the plant.
- BEFORE. You must ensure the top soil is dry. The first method you can do is by poking your finger into the soil. If it is still wet, do the watering another time.
Another method is by lifting the pot. A lighter pot is a good sign that the plant needs water. Nonetheless, when it grows bigger this method can be insufficient.
Last, check the moisture level with the same mindset, low means watering, high means no watering.
- DURING. Use warm temperature water with no chemical inside. Bad water quality would cause stunted growth, leaf discoloration, and root damage.
Pouring the water starting from the bottom part of plant near the soil, above the soil line. Don’t throw the water directly from above as it could shock the plant and the wet foliage could cause fungal issue.
Continue watering uniformly so that other parts will get the same amount of water. This is important because if the water gather too much on one part like the root for example, it will lead to root rot.
- AFTER. Stop watering when you see the water flows outside through the drainage holes. Wait until the excess water stop flowing.
Amount and frequency
- More water in summer. If you grow or place your Alocasia odora outside, there is not much thing to do. In the summer, the rainwater will take care of watering in your place. However, if your area has a low rainfall rate, you should water the plant 4-5 times a week in the hottest days. If you keep you plant inside in this period, it will be okay not to water it too often since the indoor temperature let the water to dry slower.
- Less water in winter. Naturally, cold temperature, slow evaporation, and less intense light would hold back the plant from growing vigorously. Even so, you should not leave the soil to dry completely. The stalks could hold some water, but they won’t last long. To prevent dehydration during cold months, give a bit of water to make sure the soil is moist and the water storage of plant is not empty.
The principle you must follow is water the plant when it is necessary. It means checking the soil moisture frequently. Additionally, each Alocasia is different, so you should adjust their water intake carefully rather than solely relying on the fixed schedule.
Porous soil and quality pot with drainage holes would make a huge difference on watering. There is no use to follow the proper watering guide if the soil is too loose or too compact and there is no drainage hole on the container.
Fertilization aims to provide additional nutrient for the plant. In case of Alocasia odora, there are times when you don’t have to feed them. First, during dormancy or cold months. Second, after repotting, propagation, or any occasion when you need to change/replace/renew the soil.
- Liquid fertilizer. Many experts, gardeners, and plant lovers often recommend this fertilizer. This is good both for indoor and outdoor plant. Moreover, you can easily control hoe much fertilizer to feed on the plant. Liquid fertilizer might have powder version, so you must dilute it with water first.
Note. Granular fertilizer and slow-release fertilizer are more suitable for outdoor setting since it releases the nutrient slowly after you water the plant. The downside of them is the difficulty to determine how much nutrients released in the soil after you watering them or after a long rain period.
- Organic fertilizer. This type of fertilizer is for people who don’t like using commercial fertilizer. Of course, what makes this popular is the ‘organic’ characteristics. You may try making compost tea, using leftover water from aquarium, or preparing fish emulsion.
Note. If you are confuse, you can go with all-purpose houseplant fertilizer.
- Water the plant to ease the fertilizer absorption in the soil.
- Apply the fertilizer carefully on the soil. Remember to follow the instruction whatever fertilizer you use.
- Do this in spring till early fall and stop feeding in winter.
- The best way to check your feeding method is by looking at the plant reaction. If you don’t find any brown edge or tips on the leaves, or any abnormality, well, it is good sign.
Wrong fertilization: cause and effect
- Under feeding. After several times of watering, the soil will lost its important nutrients overtime. Without additional nutrient supply from fertilizer you will witness: pale, small, and droopy, leaves, weak stem and root, as well as leggy growth.
- Over feeding. It could happens because of 2 reasons. First, you add fertilizer to the new potting soil. Second, you use granular or slow-release fertilizer and don’t check the plant condition after that. The effects of overfeeding are stunted growth, brown tips, edges, and spot on the leaves, yellow and wilting leaves, and powdery white things on soil.
How to fix over feeding
- After stop feeding them, clean the soil from the built up salt on the surface (usually has white color).
- Then, flush the soil the remove the remaining excess fertilizer inside.
- Prune the affected part of plant.
- Replant the plant in fresh potting mix.
- DON’T feed until the plant healed.
Even with its big size, the pruning is actually very simple. You must be glad that Alocasia odora doesn’t like vine plant and the like. Remove the damaged, dead, dying, and discolored using sterile shears or knife. Make a clean cut to reduce plant shock and to prevent fungal and bacterial infection.
Division: rhizome and tuber
- Prepare the fresh soil, good pot, and disinfected tools in summer or spring.
- Lift the mother plant carefully by digging the soil around the pot or ground.
- Put the mother plant in a clean and flat area and start to inspect the plant.
- In root division, you take the root from the mother plant. Meanwhile, in tuber division you divide the root and replant it.
- Make sure the root/tuber stay vertically on the soil and then water it thoroughly.
Potting and repotting are quite similar to propagation in terms of time, soil quality, and caution. Repotting the plant in growing season would provide some times for the plant recover from transplant shock. The plant will need repotting when the roots have outgrown passing the pot boundary. This is also the right time to give new fresh organic rich, well-draining soil. Take this chance to inspect the plant health too, e.g. sick root, weak stem, yellow leaves, etc.
Ideal pot features
A lot beginner in gardening could make the fatal mistake in choosing the right pot for Alocasia. Read the information below so that you don’t make unnecessary mistake.
In terms of repotting, you will need a slightly larger pot for Alocasia. The rule is it SHOULD NOT be larger than 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) than the old pot. A giant pot would increase the risk of overwatering. Furthermore, the plant will force itself to expand the root growth which in the end ignoring the growth of the leaves and other plant parts.
On the contrary, a tiny pot won’t provide enough space for root growth. Consequently, the plant will need frequent repotting. This pot has a tendency to hinder the airflow to the root. When the roots are sick, your plant is going to say goodbye quickly.
A tapered bottom pot has become the favorite among many plant owners. It will let the excess water flows easily compare to the oval, rectangle, or square bottom pot. Nevertheless, as long as the size and material is right and there are enough drainage holes, any shape will work.
The pot material you can choose are: ceramic, fiberglass, metal, plastic, terracotta, and wood. You need to consider the price, durability, and porousness. Never let yourself to focus much on how pretty the plant in a certain type of pot material. You are going to care of an organism NOT a stone.
Pests could attack your plant due to various reason. For example, spider mites love to stay in dry plant and other insects just happens to visit your plant when Alocasia comes back from outside.
Fungal and bacterial disease
Overwatering and other improper care and maintenance could make the plant more vulnerable to fungal and bacterial disease. The worst from all is root rot. If you find that all roots are mushy and dark, the only thing you can do is to let go your Alocasia.
- Isolate the plant from others in case of pest/disease spreading.
- Trim the affected parts (brown edge leaves, dark stem, mushy root, etc.). Regarding pest attack, make sure you have eliminated them completely along with the eggs. Try to use organic and free chemical ingredient to clean the plant and kill the pests.
- As a prevention, please care the plant constantly and moderately by balancing all the things Alocasia needs. Frequent check could decrease the damage risk on the plant health. The faster you spot the problem, the higher the chance to save and protect your plant.