What Type of Soil is Best for Alocasia Plant?
Good Alocasia plant care starts with good soil. You can’t use any soil to grow these plants. They require soil with specific qualities to sustain their healthy growth and protect against diseases.
Because soil is such an important element in the overall care of an Alocasia plant, I’m going to cover all the properties of the best soil for Alocasia plants.
I’m also discussing the consequences of not using good soil and how to make your own Alocasia potting mix if you don’t want to buy pre-made mixes.
Properties of Good Soil for Alocasia Plant
Native to tropical and subtropical Asia and East Australia, the Alocasia plant enjoys soil that’s well-draining, fertile, and aerated.
Fast drainage and aeration support root health and prevents overwatering related incidents. This is an often-disregarded quality of the soil, which later causes issues in the health of the plant.
If you want the best soil for an Alocasia plant, here are the qualities it must meet:
Alocasias grow best in rich soil, so make sure the soil mix you’re picking contains organic matter in its formulation. If you’re creating your own mix, make sure to add compost.
Compost improves moisture retention without becoming saturated with water and also helps improve the structure of the potting mix.
Because it enriches soil with organic matter, Alocasia will thrive better in potting mixes that have compost added to them.
– Good Drainage
The reason why drainage is so important for Alocasias is because they’re sensitive to overwatering and wet soil.
If the soil in which Alocasias are grown stays wet for extended periods, chemical and microbiological processes can be triggered that will cause rotting at the roots or at the base of the plant.
If the soil drains well, excess water does not stay at the roots and it’s allowed to drain away.
Usually, to improve the drainage of potting soil, I advise adding perlite, peat, coconut coir, or vermiculite as an amendment to the soil.
– Moisture Retention
It can sound like a bit of a paradox to say that the soil needs to offer good drainage but also retain moisture.
But the keyword here is ‘moisture’. If the soil retains a bit of moisture that’s fine with Alocasia plants. What you don’t want is the soil to become saturated with water.
Uniformly moist soil retains just enough humidity in the soil to keep the plant hydrated without causing rotting or fungal overgrowth at the root level.
If you were to use regular potting mix for your Alocasia, you’d notice how the soil gets waterlogged, which can take a long time to dry.
What you want instead is for the potting mix not to become saturated with water. If the mix can hold only a bit of humidity that will work best for Alocasia plants.
– Good Aeration
Another property of good soil for Alocasia is aeration. Aerated soil has a loose structure, preventing it from becoming compacted. Loose soil doesn’t strangle the roots, allowing stronger growth and development.
Aeration also prevents fungal overgrowth and other related problems that can stem from air not moving well enough through the soil structure.
Adding orchid bark, coconut coir, perlite or peat to the potting mix will improve aeration since the combination of these substrates lead to a loose combination that won’t allow compaction.
Therefore, Alocasia plants can benefit greatly from soil that is aerated and loose.
– pH Level
Slightly acidic soil, which is somewhere in the pH range of 5.5- 6.5, works best for Alocasia plants. Pre-made commercial potting mixes already have their pH levels adjusted to the needs of an Alocasia plant.
If you want to monitor the pH level of the soil, you can use a pH meter. This will also come in handy if you’re thinking of creating your own potting mix based on a recipe that I will share further down in this article.
These were the properties of soil suitable for Alocasia plants. If you’re thinking of just potting your Alocasia in regular potting soil, I advise you against it.
Regular potting soil will meet almost none of the requirements I discussed above. Below, I discuss the consequences of not heeding this recommendation.
Consequences of Using the Wrong Soil
The consequences of using the wrong type of soil for your Alocasia plant may not be immediately noticeable. But with time the damage to your Alocasia can become beyond help.
Here’s what you can expect to see if you decide to plant your Alocasia in soil that’s not right for it:
– Slow Growth
The growth of Alocasia plants can become slow and difficult if they’re planted in unsuitable soil. Growth can be affected to the point where the plant will not reach its expected size at maturity.
Typically, Alocasia plants grow 2-6 feet tall. Some varieties like the Alocasia Maharani stay smaller maxing out their height at around one foot. Other varieties like the Alocasia Brisbanensis will grow as tall as 6 feet.
When it comes to the size Alocasia plants reach, a lot can depend on the variety too. But beyond that, the type of soil you choose can help or hinder that growth.
Soil that doesn’t meet the requirements of Alocasia plants will cause stunted growth and other developmental issues such as small leaves.
Soil that doesn’t drain well or that gets compacted will cause issues at the root level, either raising the risk of root rot or strangling the roots of the plant.
Therefore, bad quality soil impacts not only the size the plant is going to reach but also the size of the leaves and the health of the roots.
– Brown Leaves
Changes in leaf color can also signal issues with the soil quality. Brown leaves can signal root rot caused by overwatering or poorly draining soil. Brown leaf margins can signal mineral build-up in the soil.
If the soil doesn’t drain well both waterlogging and mineral build-up can become a problem for your Alocasia.
Couple this with bad watering habits, and it spells trouble for your Alocasia plant.
When the roots of your Alocasia plant are rotting, nutrient delivery throughout the plant is decreased, which causes tissue death.
Brown leaves can be a symptom of other problems too such as pest problems or thermal shock. In the absence of these, brown leaves and leaf margins are usually a symptom of bad soil quality.
– Yellow Leaves
Keeping with the theme of the previous point, yellowing leaves can be another symptom of poor quality soil.
When leaves become discolored or change their color, there’s usually either a lighting issue involved or a fertilizer problem.
But poor soil can also cause leaf discoloration. And often it’s coupled with an overwatering issue.
Check if your Alocasia receives too little or too much light when noticing leaf discoloration, but keep in mind that both poorly draining soil and over fertilizing can also cause yellowing leaves in Alocasia plants.
– Wilting Leaves
When noticing wilting leaves on your Alocasia, the first thing you may think of is that your plant needs water. And that may very well be the case. But not always.
In fact, Alocasia plants most often suffer from overwatering rather than under-watering. And one of the reasons – apart from a hectic watering schedule – is poor quality soil.
If you’ve chosen to plant an Alocasia in regular potting soil and you’ve been watering your plant without waiting for the top layer to dry, you’ve inadvertently created a hospitable environment for root rot issues to develop.
Root rot can cause wilting leaves, which may make you think your Alocasia is not getting enough water, when in fact it’s getting too much of it.
The best way to manage this issue is to replace the soil of your Alocasia with a potting mix formulated for aroid plants. And then make sure to water your Alocasia only when it needs watering.
Monitor the dryness level of the potting mix by sticking your index finger into the soil. If the soil feels dry, water your Alocasia. If it still feels moist or wet, check back in a couple of days.
– Root Rotting
Root rot is one of the major causes of Alocasia plant death. It stems from an inadequate knowledge of watering technique but also from using soil that’s not meant for Alocasia plants.
To the untrained eye it can be difficult to notice the symptoms of root rot. Yet noticing them early and making necessary adjustments can save the plant from early death.
Some of the symptoms of root rot I have already discussed – droopy, wilting, yellowing, browning leaves.
But there are other symptoms too:
- Fungal growth at the base of the plant or on top of the soil
- Mushy stems and leaves
- Blackening of base and stems of the plant
- Foul-smelling soil
Therefore, if these symptoms are coupled with the previous symptoms I mentioned, then there is a high certainty that you’re dealing with root rot issues.
Depending on how serious the problem is, there are a few solutions. If the root rot is in its early stages, simply allowing the potting soil to dry and then putting the plant on a normal watering regimen can help save the plant.
When the rotting is more advanced, you will need to repot your Alocasia plant, replace the potting mix, and even sanitize the pot. You should also inspect the roots and cut away any rotten or damaged parts.
When to Repot Alocasia Plant?
There are a couple of reasons why you may want to repot your Alocasia. Here are the most common reasons:
- When your Alocasia outgrows its current pot
- If 2-3 years have passed since the last repotting and your Alocasia has not outgrown its pot, it can still benefit from having its potting mix refreshed
- When you suspect your Alocasia is suffering from root rot
These are all valid situations when you can transfer your Alocasia to a different pot or replace its potting mix.
Generally, the best time to repot an Alocasia plant is in spring or in summer, when the plant’s metabolism is at its best. Transplanting an Alocasia at any other time can come with the risk of transplant shock.
What Type of Pot to Use for Alocasia Plant?
When you’re repotting an Alocasia that has outgrown its pot, you can use a plastic pot or an unglazed terracotta pot.
While plastic is cheaper, terracotta is better in absorbing excess moisture. If your reason for repotting your Alocasia is root rot caused by overwatering, I strongly encourage you to choose a terracotta pot instead.
Of course, just because you’ve planted your Alocasia in a terracotta pot doesn’t mean you should not make any changes in your watering routine.
Terracotta can absorb moisture and help the potting mix dry faster, but it does not replace a good watering routine.
Making Your Own Potting Mix for Alocasia Plant
Other than buying a ready-made potting for your Alocasia, you can also create your own mix, especially if you have different types of substrates that you haven’t used for your other aroid plants.
One recipe that has worked for me is the one part coarse sand, one part perlite and one part peat moss.
But your Alocasia will grow in other tropical plant mixes too such as those containing orchid bark, coconut coir, or vermiculite.
You can also add a bit of compost to the mix for added organic matter and better moisture retention.
Alocasia plants need soil that drains well, it’s loose around the roots, and doesn’t get saturated quickly with water.
Heavy soils that are prone to waterlogging and compaction should not be used for this plant. The risk of plant death because of root rot is high, especially in advanced stages of rotting.
Besides soil, a good watering routine coupled with adequate light exposure are also essential. When the plant doesn’t receive enough light, evaporation decreases, and the potting mix can take longer to dry. Lack of light can also favor fungal issues.
With this information in mind, you can now go ahead and choose the best potting mix for your Alocasia, or easily make your own mix.