The alocasia plant is also known as elephant ear, taro, and African mask. Ironically, the alocasia did not originate in Africa. The plant is native to Asia and is found naturally in Sri Lanka, India, and Malaysia. Although it is usually grown directly in the ground, alocasia also grows as a houseplant if specific care is given.
Alocasia plants' dark green leaves have wavy edges. The tops of the leaves have striking white stripes along the vein lines. The plant gets its nicknames---elephant ears and African mask---from its elongated, notched shape, which resembles the ears of an elephant or a long tribal mask. Each stem of the plant produces a single leaf. The stems are thick and retain water.
When alocasia is grown in pots indoors, the stems and leaves are considerably smaller than those grown directly in the ground. The size of the container dictates what size the plant will be. Once the plant becomes root-bound, its growth is stunted.
The alocasia plant prefers sandy loam to clay loam soil that drains quickly. Regular potting soil retains too much water for alocasia. Potting soil is amended for alocasia by mixing gardening sand or peat into the potting soil at a ratio of 1:1.
Evenly moist soil at all times is ideal for alocasia, so a quick-draining soil is essential. Over-watering alocasia or allowing it to sit in wet, soggy soil for extended periods of time leaves the plant vulnerable to root rot. If the soil dries out completely, alocasia wilts.
Alocasia prefers filtered light (such as through a sheer curtain over a window with intense sun exposure) or bright indirect light (placed approximately 5 feet away from a brightly lit window). If the plant gets too much sunlight, the leaves become sunburned. There is no "cure" for sunburned leaves, and the damaged leaves must be removed.
Keep pets and children away from alocasia. The plant produces a sap that causes skin irritation on contact. If the leaves are bitten, or if the sap or leaves are ingested, it causes serious stomach upset. If there are pets or small children in the house, alocasia is best kept well out of reach or outdoors.