Alocasia Macrorrhiza Variegata ‘Elephant Ear’ Care (2022)

Beautiful white and green marbled leaf of the variegated Alocasia Macrorrhiza

Variegated Alocasia, commonly known as Elephant Ear, is an absolutely spectacular plant for your indoor garden. 

The massive leaves of Alocasia macrorrhiza Variegata are splashed with shades ranging from dark green to pure white, creating an irresistible focal point wherever it is used.

This huge plant is also low-maintenance as an extra bonus.

Scientific NameAlocasia macrorrhizos ‘Variegata’
Common NameElephant Ear
LightBright, indirect light
WateringWeekly, water if the top half of the soil is dry
Temperature65° to 80°F (18 to 27ºC)
Hardiness Zone10-11
Humidity60-80%
Soil TypeRich, quick-draining, loamy
Soil pH5.6-7 (mildly acidic to neutral)
FertilizingA balanced feed twice a month in spring and summer
RepottingEvery year
PruningRemove dead leaves as they occur
PropagationSeed, offsets, or cuttings
ToxicityToxic to humans and pets
Mature Size12-15 feet as a houseplant
Bloom TimeRarely flowers

What’s Unique About Variegated Alocasia?

Variegated Alocasia plant is native to the tropical rainforests of the South Pacific.

Its massive leaves, variegated in shades of green and white, have led to it being given the common name of Elephant Ear.

It can also grow to a huge size of up to 15 feet tall and 6 feet across, so make sure you’ve got the room for it to spread.

Because these plants are toxic to humans and animals, you should take precautions in households with children and pets.

However, growing Variegated Alocasia will add a tropical air in your home and is worth the extra effort.

Variegated Alocasia Care

Variegated Alocasia plant care involves providing it with growing conditions close to those of the rainforests in which it originates.

For the best Alocasia macrorrhiza Variegata care, grow this giant plant in bright but indirect light with warm temperatures and high humidity. Keep its soil moist but not sopping wet.

Light 

In the tropical rainforests of the South Pacific, Variegated Alocasia plants grow in the shade of trees.

In your home, you can easily meet the Variegated Alocasia light requirements of between 10,000 to 20,000 lux. 

Alocasia macrorrhiza Variegata light needs can be accommodated by placing them near a north or east-facing window with morning sun exposure.

Keep them out of the full sun which comes through south and west-facing windows. The intense afternoon light will burn their leaves and can seriously damage the plant.

If necessary, you can shade your Variegated Alocasia from direct sun with a thin curtain.

Watering 

Variegated Alocasia prefers to be grown in well-draining soil that is consistently moist without being saturated with water. 

Variegated Alocasia watering should be done only when the top inch or so of the soil is dry to the touch. Keeping the soil too wet will encourage pests and diseases.

On the other hand, if the soil is allowed to dry out too much, the magnificent leaves of Variegated Alocasia will droop.

To water Alocasia macrorrhiza Variegata, slowly add water to the pot until the excess drains out the bottom. Do not leave the pot standing in water.

These low-maintenance watering needs are part of the reason that Variegated Alocasia is relatively easy to grow.

Temperature 

Like all tropical plants, Variegated Alocasia grows best in warm temperatures.

The best Variegated Alocasia temperature range is 65° to 80°F (18 to 27ºC).  

Luckily, the lower ranges of the ideal temperature for Alocasia macrorrhiza Variegata is the same as in a normal home.

Just be sure to keep your Variegated Alocasia away from cold blasts from air conditioners or fans, as they have limited temperature tolerance below 50°F (10°C).

You can move your Variegated Alocasia outdoors in the hot summer. However, make sure you move them back indoors well before freezing temperatures, as they have no frost hardiness at all.

Humidity 

Tropical rainforests are a humid environment, so it is no surprise that Variegated Alocasia humidity requirements are on the steamy side.

The ideal humidity for Alocasia macrorrhiza Variegata is 60-80%.

A humidity level that high is not sustainable or desirable in your home. You will need to come up with a way to provide a more humid zone for your Variegated Alocasia.

Group together all your plants that crave high humidity, and invest in a small humidifier that will add moisture to the air in their immediate vicinity. 

You can also place a pebbled tray under your Variegated Alocasia’s pot and keep it filled with water. Just make sure that the pebbles keep the bottom of the pot above the water level.

Soil 

Variegated Alocasia soil needs to be able to retain moisture while at the same time having good drainage to keep it from staying too wet. This will discourage fungal diseases such as root rot.

The best pH level for Alocasia macrorrhiza Variegata is between 5.6-7, or mildly acidic to neutral.

Create the ideal soil for Alocasia macrorrhiza Variegata by combining equal parts orchard bark, perlite, peat moss, and compost. This soil mix will drain well and provide organic material to help your Variegated Alocasia grow its best.

Coco coir is a good substitute for peat moss that is more environmentally friendly.

Fertilizer 

The massive leaves of Variegated Alocasia will grow their best with regular fertilization.

The best fertilizer ratio is a balanced 10-10-10 or 5-5-5.  

Any liquid indoor plant fertilizer should be diluted to half the recommended strength.

Use this fertilizer for Alocasia macrorrhiza Variegata once every two weeks or so during its spring and summer growing season.

Fertilize after watering the soil thoroughly to ensure even distribution to the roots. If the soil is dry the nutrients will run straight through.

You do not need to use Variegated Alocasia fertilizer in the fall and winter when the plant is in its dormancy.

Potting & Repotting 

Variegated Alocasia repotting should be done every year..

When it’s ready, you will see roots growing out of the drainage holes, or observe that the roots are almost completely filling the soil.

You should not increase the pot size too much when repotting Alocasia macrorrhiza Variegata.  In fact, anything more than a couple of inches bigger in diameter can set the growth of your Variegated Alocasia back.

When repotting your Variegated Alocasia, use fresh potting soil in a container with good drainage holes.

After removing the root ball from its current pot, gently tug off the small new plants that have developed around the edges and pot up separately.

Pruning 

Variegated Alocasia pruning is usually only necessary when leaves are dead or damaged.

While Variegated Alocasia is an evergreen tropical plant, the individual leaves have a limited lifespan of a few months.

As each leaf dies, it is necessary to trim them off to discourage the development of diseases and to keep your Variegated Alocasia looking its best.

When cutting Alocasia macrorrhiza Variegata leaves, use a sharp, sterilized knife or pair of scissors. Cut the leaf stem to within a couple of inches of the soil level.

Do not leave the trimmed plant material on the surface of the soil. 

Propagation 

Variegated Alocasia propagation can be done in a number of different ways.

The easiest way to propagate Alocasia macrorrhiza Variegata is by dividing the plant when repotting. Gently pull off the offsets which will develop around the mother plant, and plant each one in its own pot.

Even if you’re not ready to repot, you can always take stem cuttings and root them in water or soil. Do this during the active growing season of spring and summer for best results.

If you are lucky enough to have your Variegated Alocasia bloom, once the seeds mature you can try planting them. However, germination rates are low and it will take a long time for the plants to grow to an impressive size.

Also, make sure to check out our in-depth Alocasia wentii plant care guide.

Common Problems of Variegated Alocasia

Variegated Alocasia problems are usually a result of not providing it with its necessary growing conditions.

To prevent problems with Alocasia macrorrhiza Variegata, pay close attention to factors such as watering, temperature, and humidity.

It’s best to inspect its leaves every week or so when you water to catch problems early before serious damage results.

Pests 

Variegated Alocasia pests include most insects which commonly attack houseplants.

Spider mites are one of the most likely bugs to find on your Alocasia macrorrhiza Variegata.

Keep an eye out for small white or yellow spots on the leaves. They can be killed with neem oil applied to the leaves.

If you find little fluffs of cotton on the underside of the leaves, you have mealy bugs. Use a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove and kill the bugs and their eggs.

You can stop pest problems before they happen by wiping down the leaves on both sides with neem oil or a soap and water solution. Do this every few weeks to keep bugs at bay.

Diseases 

The best way to prevent Variegated Alocasia diseases from developing is by keeping the soil from being saturated with water.

If leaves and stems start turning yellow and mushy, you probably have a case of root rot. Remove the plant from its pot and cut out all blackened roots, as well as affected foliage. Replant it in fresh potting soil and cut back on watering in future.

If the leaves develop yellow blotches which turn black, your Alocasia macrorrhiza Variegata has Xanthomonas Bacterial Leaf Spot. Cut out all affected leaves and stems and use a bacterial spray to prevent spread.

Growing Problems 

Most Variegated Alocasia growing problems can be resolved by adjusting its environment. If you think you’ve got a sick plant, see what a change of growing conditions can do.

If your Variegated Alocasia’s leaves are curling under or have brownish edges, its soil might be too dry or it could be getting too much sun.

When the tips of the leaves turn brown, the humidity isn’t high enough. Increase the humidity levels for your Variegated Alocasia.

Yellowing leaves might also be a sign of using cold water or tap water with fluoride or chlorine to water your Variegated Alocasia. If you can’t use distilled water, let the tap water sit out overnight to come to room temperature and let the chemicals dissipate. 

Toxicity of Variegated Alocasia

Alocasia macrorrhiza Variegata is toxic to humans and animals. All parts of the plant have high enough levels of calcium oxalate to cause serious problems for people and pets.

Interestingly, the toxicity disappears when the plants are cooked. In fact, the roots, called taro, are a commonly eaten food in many parts of the world.

For Humans 

Variegated Alocasia is toxic to humans. 

Children are more likely to ingest some of the foliage, as their curiosity can lead to them trying a nibble.

If they have just eaten a little bit, they probably will not have a severe reaction, but if their mouth or tongue swells up or they have trouble breathing, take them for emergency help at once.

The sap of Variegated Alocasia can cause skin irritation, and if it gets in the eyes it can hurt for hours.

Rinse any exposed skin with soap and water and use a topical cream if a rash develops.

For Pets 

Variegated Alocasia is toxic to pets, and it can be harder to determine how badly they are affected.

If you suspect that your cat or dog has eaten some Variegated Alocasia foliage, watch for vomiting, excessive drooling, or wheezing.

If any of these symptoms develop, take them in for veterinary care immediately. 

If you want to keep both pets and an Elephant Ear plant, it’s best to keep it out of reach of animals. While it’s not suitable for planting in a hanging pot, you may be able to arrange some sort of barrier around the base of the plant to make it inaccessible.

Variegated Alocasia Appearance

The Variegated Alocasia appearance is spectacular in both its size and coloration.

Its huge, variegated leaves and massive height and width will dominate any space in which you place it. Make sure it’s got room to stretch up and out as it slowly grows to its full size over 10 years.

Foliage 

The stunning foliage of Variegated Alocasia is its main attraction.

On a mature plant, each leaf can grow up to 3 feet long. They have an arrow or shield shape, with ruffled edges. New leaves emerge every week or so in its growing season during spring and summer.

The variegated leaves have a random pattern in shades ranging from deep green to white on both sides. Each leaf grows out of a stiff, upright stem, and arches out gracefully.

The thick, leathery leaves have a glossy texture which is best maintained by wiping them regularly to keep dust from accumulating.

Flowering 

Variegated Alocasia flowering can occur when plants have reached their mature size, which will take years. 

You are most likely to see a Alocasia macrorrhiza Variegata flower in late spring or early summer when plants are most active.

Flowers are not particularly attractive, consisting of a white spathe or green spathe wrapped around a creamy white spadix.

Each flower lasts about 5 days . They then develop red fruits and set seeds. The fruits are poisonous.

Some growers remove the flowers before blooming to concentrate the plant’s energies on leaf production. However, they do emit a pleasant fragrance which you may want to enjoy.

Size and Growth 

The size of Variegated Alocasia is one of its most dramatic aspects.

It has a slow growth rate, taking about 10 years to reach its full height of 12-15 feet and width of 4-6 feet.

The stiff stems of Variegated Alocasia do not require staking to maintain its strong vertical growth.

You should take the mature size of Variegated Alocasia into account when deciding to include it in your home.

However, you can always remove offsets from the mother plant and pot them up to replace a  more mature plant. Public establishments with larger spaces,  such as retirement homes or libraries, may be happy to accept the donation of a larger Variegated Alocasia. 

Variegated Alocasia Fragrance

Variegated Alocasia flowers have a pleasant scent, but you must wait for your plant to reach its mature size to appreciate it.

The foliage has no fragrance. This makes it an excellent plant for public settings where fragrances are not permitted, such as retirement homes or other medical facilities.

Consider the Variegated Alocasia fragrance as a bonus if you have the patience and room to let a plant grow to maturity. If you have a sensitivity to the scent, you can eliminate it by cutting out the flowers before they bloom.

Otherwise, enjoy the floral fragrance during the brief flowering period in late spring and early summer.

Suggested Uses for Variegated Alocasia

Wherever you put it, a Variegated Alocasia is going to inevitably be the star of the show, because of its size and the beauty of its variegated leaves. It’s the perfect centerpiece for a tropical garden.

Finding a space for it indoors can be challenging because of its large size at maturity. However, if you’ve got a cathedral ceiling at least 12 feet high, you should have no trouble with it.

Smaller spaces like a city apartment could quickly be overwhelmed by a Variegated Alocasia after a few years of growth, but it’s always possible to pot up offsets and keep up a cycle of juvenile plants.

FAQ

What is Variegated Alocasia? 

Variegated Alocasia is a tropical plant native to South Pacific rainforests. It is commonly grown as a houseplant in temperate zones or outdoors in zones 10 and above.

How to identify Variegated Alocasia? 

Variegated Alocasia has large, arrow-shaped leaves with variegation ranging from dark green to white, growing on stiffly erect stems. On a mature plant leaves can be as long as 3 feet. 

How to care for Variegated Alocasia? 

Variegated Alocasia should be grown in bright, indirect light in warm temperatures with high humidity. Keep the soil moist at all times and fertilize regularly in its growing season.

How to grow Variegated Alocasia indoors? 

Variegated Alocasia can be grown indoors in temperate climates. Place it out of the full sun and water regularly. Provide supplemental humidity to keep the foliage healthy.

How to grow Variegated Alocasia outdoors? 

Variegated Alocasia can be grown outdoors year-round in zones 10 or 11. In temperate zones plants can be moved out to a shaded patio in the hot summer.

How fast does Variegated Alocasia grow? 

Variegated Alocasia grows slowly to its mature size. It can take up to 10 years before it reaches full size, at which point it may bloom. 

How tall does Variegated Alocasia grow? 

Indoors, Variegated Alocasia can grow as tall as 12-15 feet high and 4-6 feet wide. If you do not have room for a mature plant you can replace it with juvenile plants. 

How to make Variegated Alocasia grow faster? 

Variegated Alocasia will grow its fastest when it is provided with its ideal growing conditions of bright, indirect light, warm temperatures, high humidity, and regular fertilizing. 

How to stake Variegated Alocasia? 

Variegated Alocasia does not usually require staking to grow upright. You may use a bamboo pole to encourage vertical growth if the plant starts to lean.

How to pot Variegated Alocasia? 

Variegated Alocasia should be potted in a non-porous container with adequate drainage holes. Use a rich, porous soil mix to allow excess water to drain easily.

How to revive Variegated Alocasia? 

If it is too dry, make sure that all the soil gets moistened. Water it slowly several times to let the soil absorb the water without it running straight through. 

Why is my Variegated Alocasia dying? 

Your Variegated Alocasia may have root rot or a fungal disease affecting the leaves. Diagnose the cause and remove all affected parts before repotting in fresh soil.

Why is my Variegated Alocasia drooping? 

Your Variegated Alocasia’s soil may be too dry or too wet. Either water it thoroughly, or take it out of the waterlogged soil and replant in fresh, porous soil mix.

How cold can Variegated Alocasia tolerate? 

Variegated Alocasia will grow poorly below 50°F (10°C), and temperatures of 32°F (0°C) will kill it. It should be kept between 65° to 80°F (18 to 27ºC).

How to get rid of pests on Variegated Alocasia? 

Variegated Alocasia is susceptible to common pests such as spider mite and mealybugs. Regular cleaning of the leaves with a soap and water solution should prevent infestations.

Is Variegated Alocasia toxic to cats? 

Yes, Variegated Alocasia is toxic to cats. If your cat starts vomiting, drooling, or wheezing, take them in for veterinary care immediately. Keep your plant out of reach to prevent this from occurring.

Is Variegated Alocasia toxic to dogs? 

Yes, Variegated Alocasia is toxic to dogs. If your dog is vomiting or wheezing and you think he has eaten some of the foliage, take him to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Is Variegated Alocasia toxic to children? 

Yes, Variegated Alocasia is toxic to children. If your child has a swollen mouth or tongue and has difficulty breathing, take them directly to the emergency room.

Is Variegated Alocasia toxic to humans? 

Yes, Variegated Alocasia is toxic to humans. The sap can be painful if it gets in your eyes or can cause skin irritation. In case of exposure, flush the affected area with cool water.

Does Variegated Alocasia have a scent? 

Variegated Alocasia flowers have a pleasant fragrance, but only appear on mature plants in late spring and early summer. The leaves of Variegated Alocasia have no fragrance.

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