The Alocasia California is often called the California Elephant Ears Plant. That’s because of its large and wide leaves.
Although this alocasia is smaller than most of the others. Thus, some people call it the Dwarf Elephant Ear or Dwarf Alocasia.
That said, it still grows up to 3 to 4 feet so don’t let those nicknames mislead you into thinking that it is a small plant. Instead, it is smaller relative to many Alocasia varieties.
The Alocasia California is best known for its large, green heart-shaped leaves with jagged edges. It also can become very bushy which makes it stunning to look at.
The plant is native to the tropical and subtropical forests of Asia and Australia.
How do you care for the Alocasia California? Give the plant medium to bright indirect light indoors. Outdoors partial shade is best.
It enjoys moderate to warm temperature and high humidity.
Allow the soil dry between waterings and use well-draining soil to avoid overwatering or waterlogging.
You can propagate the plant through rhizome division or by using its offsets.
Alocasia California Plant Care
California Elephant Ears Plant Light Requirements
The Alocasia California is best grown in a well-lit location with indirect light. it will do very well in medium or bright light provided that this is indirect, filtered or dappled.
The reason for this is that the plan is native to the tropical forests of Asia.
There it lives under the forest canopy. Therefore, it is covered by the leaves and branches overhead.
So, while I does receive light in this environment, the light is filtered or dappled.
More importantly, it means that the sun’s harshest rays have been blocked out by the trees overhead.
This is why the Alocasia California cannot tolerate direct sunlight. It is not used to this much intensity. Instead, it prefers the gentle light or one that is indirect.
Keeping it in direct sunlight for more than 2 hours or so a day will cause its leaves to turn brown or yellow. In extreme intensity or duration, they will get scorched leaving you with black or brown burn marks on the foliage.
As such, keep the plant away from the sun’s direct rays between 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
This also makes an east facing window the ideal spot for the plant. You can keep facing west or north as well.
But in the west try to avoid the strong rays during the afternoon. In the north, make sure to monitor the plant to see if there’s enough light. Some locations with a northern exposure may have too little light for the plant to grow well.
If you see it get leggy or its growth slow, this is a sign that it needs more light. Similarly, if you notice that it is not producing as many leaves as it used to or the leaves are smaller, it also means the plant wants more light.
California Elephant Ears Plant Temperature
The Alocasia California differs from most alocasia varieties in that it can tolerate slightly lower temperature than most of them.
This makes it more cold hardy.
However, it still has its limitations.
The plant can tolerate temperatures as low of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which allows it to stay in cooler locations compared to its relatives. Most alocasias will struggle once temperature drops under 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Therefore, it is easier to care for the plant indoors.
Outdoors, it is best suited for USDA Hardiness Zones 7b to 11. If you live in any of the regions in these zones, you can grow the plant outdoors without any problems.
But if you live anywhere colder, make sure to take the plant back indoors once the temperature nears 40 degrees Fahrenheit late in the year.
The California Elephant Ears prefers moderate to high humidity that is 60% and higher. Although, it will do well in 50% humidity (or even slightly less) without harm.
That said, once you see the tips and edges of its leaves turn brown or crispy, it means that the plant lacks moisture.
This can happen depending on where you live as some locations have higher humidity that others.
If there you live has dry air, you may need to use a humidifier to keep the plant happy.
Alternatively, you can also increase humidity by misting the plant or placing it in a humidity tray.
How Often to Water Alocasia California
The Alocasia California needs moderate watering. This means that it does not like to get overwatered which will leave it in wet, soggy soil. Nor does it like the soil to go completely dry.
Instead, it prefers slightly moist soil on a consistently basis.
In most cases, this means watering the plant once a week.
In the summer when the weather gets hot, the frequency can go up to 2 or 3 times a week because soil dries faster then. In winter, you may water only once every 2 or 3 weeks due to the cold weather.
What this means is that it is not a good idea to follow a fixed water schedule.
Instead, check and feel the soil to know when to water the plant.
Only water once the top 2 inches of soil feels dry to the touch. Avoid doing so before then.
If you water before this happens, you’ll be adding moisture when the soil is still wet or moist. This will eventually lead to overwatering. And overwatering can cause root rot.
Alternatively, you can use a moisture meter to check the soil as well.
Whichever method you decide to go with, the important thing is to always check the soil before you add any water. If it feels wet or is still moist, wait a few days then test again.
This way, you reduce the risk of overwatering your California Elephant Ears plant.
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Alocasia California Potting Soil
The Alocasia California needs light, loose, well-draining soil. Avoid using heavy soils that will retain moisture.
While those with work for some plants, they are not ideal for the California Elephant Ears plants.
Similarly, avoid dense or compacted soil.
Instead, you’re looking for soil that stays moist, has good drainage and aeriation. This way the roots get the hydration it needs while the soil gets rid of excess moisture quickly to allow them to breathe as well.
Both air and water are important for the plant’s root system to stay healthy.
So you want to get a balance of the two.
Heavy soils or those that retain too much moisture will cause waterlogging which leads to excess liquid and not enough air.
On the other hand, sandy soils or those that drain water too quickly, will cause the plant to dry out fast. This means that while it does get a lot of air, it will lack water.
To give the Alocasia California what it needs you can create your own potting mix. All you need are 3 ingredients. Then combine them this way.
- 1 part potting soil
- 1 part perlite
- 1 part peat
This will keep the soil moist while allowing it to quickly drain excess liquid.
California Elephant Ears Plant Fertilizer
The Alocasia California needs fertilizer if you want it to grow optimally. Plant food will give it the nutrients it needs to grow faster and produce more foliage.
It also helps prevent any nutrient deficiencies which can cause yellow leaves.
That said, the important thing about fertilizer is that you don’t overfeed the plant. This will do more harm than good. In fact, you’re better off not feeding the plant than giving it too much fertilizer.
That’s because excess fertilizer can damage the roots.
Commercial products contain salt which is left as a by product in the soil after the plant uses up the nutrients and the sun makes the water evaporate.
When enough salt builds up in soil, it becomes toxic.
In time it will damage the roots and prevent them from efficiently absorbing water and nutrients from the soil no matter how much water or fertilizer you add.
This will cause your plant to deteriorate.
Thus, avoid over fertilizing at all costs.
To feed the Alocasia California, apply a balanced houseplant fertilizer once a month. A 20-20-20 N-P-K ratio works well. You can also use a 15-15-15 product.
Dilute the application each time you use it by 50%. Just add water to dilute.
The California Elephant Ears only needs feeding during spring and summer. Stop feeding by fall. And don’t feed the plant in winter.
Finally, it is good practice to flush the soil using water every few months to get rid of salt and mineral residue left in the soil.
California Elephant Ears Plant Pruning
The Alocasia California will grow to about 3 to 4 feet tall. As such, some people call it the Dwarf Elephant Ear.
While it is not a small plant, it is smaller relative to many other alocasia varieties. As such, the term “dwarf” is used.
The most prominent part of the California Elephant Ears are its large leaves. Thus, the name elephant ears.
And the leaves will extend from the center and grow outwards in a diagonal direction slightly facing up upwards.
Thus, the plant will not only grow to between 3 to 4 feet high, it will also cover some space from side to side as its leaves are large.
Most Alocasia California you see will only have a few leaves. But the plant looks stunning when bushy.
Here, you’ll see leaves all around it pointing out in different directions. The stems will also be hidden because there are so many leaves.
For me, this is when it looks its best.
This means little pruning is needed. You can prune the plant to limit its height or spread if you don’t want it to get too big indoors.
But in general pruning is a low maintenance task. And it is up to you on how much you want to prune it based on the look you’re going for.
How to Propagate Alocasia California
The most effective way to propagate Alocasia California is through division.
The plant develops from rhizomes. So, when you dig up the plant, you’ll see these tuberous roots. It also makes them look different from other plants which have tap roots and fibrous roots.
However, propagation is fairly easy and straightforward.
All you need to do is sperate the rhizomes and plant them in their own containers. Eventually, these will grow into large plants that look like the parent.
Here’s how to propagate the Alocasia California through division.
- Carefully take the plant out of its pot.
- Once out, remove the excess dirt and soil so you can see the roots clearly.
- You can then decide which how to divide the rhizomes. You can split the parent into 2 or more smaller plants. It all depends on you and how big the plant is.
- The rhizomes will have their own roots. So, they will be able to sustain the plant above it even after they’re separated.
- When you’ve made your decision, take a sterile knife and cut the rhizomes to different segments. Each segment will eventually grow into a larger plant.
- Plant each of the divisions in well-draining soil.
How to Repot or Transplant Alocasia California
The Alocasia California does not need regular repotting.
In general it only needs repotting every 18 to 24 months. Also, it does not like being moved. So, try to avoid unnecessary repotting or transplanting.
The only time you need to repot the plant is when it gets root bound. This is a sign that the plant has outgrown its container and needs a larger one.
You’ll know when this happens by looking at the bottom of the pot. If there are roots coming out from the holes at the bottom of the container, it is time to move the plant to a bigger home.
Similarly, if you see roots coming out of the surface of the soil, it wants more room to grow.
Is It Toxic/Poisonous to Humans, Cats & Dogs
Unfortunately, yes. The Alocasia California is toxic to humans, dogs and cats when ingested.
This means it is safe to touch otherwise.
But once you chew or swallow the any part of the plant, it will release the insoluble calcium oxalate crystals which are what makes the plant toxic.
These will cause pain, irritation and swelling starting in the mouth including the lips, tongue and throat. It can also cause other issues like excessive drooling and difficulty breathing.
Alocasia California Problems & Troubleshooting
Pests are uncommon with this plant. But they can happen.
So, you still need to do regular inspections because these bugs can happen any time.
And all it takes is once.
Spider mites and mealy bugs are the most common pests that will feed on the California Elephant Ears plant. And they will grow in population very quickly.
Therefore, catching them early is very important.
Rotting is the most serious problem for the Alocasia California. This includes root rot, crown rot and stem rot.
All of these are caused by excess moisture. So, avoid overwatering the plant.
Overwatering is usually caused by one or more of the following things:
- Watering too much
- Watering too frequently
- Not using well-draining soil (which leads to waterlogged soil)
- Lack of drainage in the pot
By making sure all these aspects are covered, you can avoid rotting.