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The Alocasia are well known under the name of elephant ears, a name that well explains their appearance. The leaves of these plants, in fact, have a particular shape and, when a little wind blows, they begin to move and look like the ears of an elephant. The association with the elephant does not give them justice because in fact they are splendid plants, many delicate in appearance, originating in the tropical regions although today we can also find them in other areas where a temperate climate reigns.
This genus belongs to the Araceae family and includes plants native to the tropical areas of Southeast Asia, plants all poisonous in their green parts that contain crystals of calcium oxalate. Before delving into the characteristics of these plants, a curiosity about the name that was born to be in assonance with the term Colocasia, another genus of plants with which it was initially confused.
Let's start with the roots that are underground and there is also an underground stem that functions as a similar reserve organ. The leaves have large dimensions, they can measure up to a meter and a half in length and have the shape of an arrow. They can be more or less narrow but are always supported by big ones and are thick, deep green. In some species of Alocasia we can also find leaves of other colors, purple or bronze color, for example, marked by very evident ribs.
The elephant ears they bloom, albeit hardly. We of these plants usually call the whitish part of the plant a flower which is actually a set of bracts, or special leaves that are used to wrap and protect the real flowers which are simple and banal rods. Each rod, called spadix, has at the top male flowers, with the stamens, and under the female ones with the pistil. Between the two types of flowers, there is a third, that of sterile flowers.
Accustomed to growing in the undergrowth of tropical areas, this plant is quite easy to grow, it is not necessary to be a great expert if you live in an area with a climate that is not too harsh since temperatures must be around 20 ° C and should not never be below 15 ° C.
It is very important that it is in one bright area and that it is not directly hit by the sun's rays. The leaves develop in such a way as to seek a light, so it is better to turn the plant to avoid having it with all the leaves oriented in the same direction, as if attracted by an invisible magnet.
Placed in a well-ventilated position but without strong drafts, the Alocasia grows quiet. Since it has beautiful large leaves, it is a good idea to polish and clean them regularly or by wiping them with a damp cloth, or by washing them in the shower. It is not recommended to use polishing products because they could damage the plant once they penetrate through the pores, preventing breathing.
The period of vegetative restart for this kind of plants it is spring, in this season and in the following one, it is necessary to water it a lot, until the beginning of autumn while in winter it is enough just that the soil is not dry, but otherwise it is not necessary to overdo it because the roots they could rot. In addition to watering, the nebulization on the leaves, since we are dealing with a plant that comes from regions where the climate is quite humid. For the same reason, the use of a saucer full of pebbles and water is recommended, especially in hot weather.
Every two or three years it becomes necessary to change the pot of these plants to make them feel more comfortable. The most suitable time is to passage between February and March, just before vegetative growth begins. You need a soil composed of leaves and peat, with a little sand that makes it draining, to avoid water stagnation.
When we are in full bloom, however, it is time to fertilize the Alocasia with an equally balanced fertilizer in nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) to be diluted in the irrigation water. Even if you follow these directions with the utmost attention, it is always very difficult to make these plants bloom indoors, more likely they will do it outdoors. In any case, they should not be pruned, just remove damaged leaves and branches.
There are about seventy species that belong to this genus of plants, let's see just some of the most significant. There A. Sanderiana, native to the Philippines, it has beautiful large dark green leaves with silver margins, marked by almost metallic veins. Cuprea, native to Malaysia and Borneo, has almost purple leaves and even 70 centimeters long while the A. Macrorrhiza it is a species that can reach up to 5 meters in height with its bright green and oval leaves.
Among the most widespread species is the A. Indicates, with a metallic color, originally from Malaysia, much less known is A. Cucullata, cultivated mainly in intertropical areas.
Among the enemies of these plants, in the front row, is the cochineal, brown or floury, a parasite that causes brown spots to appear in particular on the underside of the leaves, which are small but harmful. To eliminate them, a cotton swab soaked in alcohol may be enough, if the plant is too big, it is better to wash it with water and neutral soap.
Alocasia can also get sick for some our mistakes. For example, if we do not give them enough water, the leaves turn yellow and growth slows down, but if the sun is too direct, the leaves wither and turn brown. Fertilization must also be regular and measured, otherwise you risk making the leaves opaque and with brown margins.
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