Alocasias: Dying Or Going Dormant?

by Sarah Gardiner

Sarah is a horticulturist with a passion for edible and cottage gardens. 

So we’ve reached the middle of winter and most of your Alocasia were all looking half decent - until now. Another day, another Alocasia bites the dust. Their leaves are yellowing at a rapid rate which starts off as browning of the edges, particularly after you water them. You’ve given them their usual drink - so you’re sure you haven’t overwatered them. Don’t worry too much, your Alocasias aren’t dying - this is a perfectly natural process known as Alocasia dormancy.

Why do Alocasias go dormant?

When temperatures dip below 18℃ and daylight hours are reduced, Alocasias naturally enter dormancy for a period of time. During this time, plants will stop growing and either stagnate or die back. The reason for this dormant period is that Alocasias are sensitive to the cold and cannot grow actively in these temperatures, forcing them to store their energy for when the warmer weather returns. If your Alocasias are growing outside, it is a good idea to bring them inside before the temperatures dip too low and keep them in a dry spot with good natural light. This will ensure the plants can be ‘overwintered’ and put back outside when the temperatures rise again.

How do I care for my Alocasias while they are dormant?

During dormancy, watering should be reduced to every 2-3 weeks and only water in small amounts, when the soil is completely dry. If plants are overwatered during winter, they are at risk of fungal disease or root rot, which can be determined by a soft or mushy tuber at the soil’s surface. Where space is an issue and you might not have room for dormant plants in your collection, you can try digging up your Alocasia tubers at the beginning of winter to induce this dormant period and store them until conditions are optimum for replanting. To do this, simply cut back the plant to a couple of inches above the soil surface and gently dig the tubers out of the soil, avoiding root damage. Brush any excess soil off the tubers, allow to dry out for a couple of days then store in paper bags, boxes or pots, in a cool, dry place. Don’t forget to label the tubers to keep track of what you’re storing!

When will this dormancy period end?

Once we’re on the other side of winter, something we have to look forward to is our Alocasias coming out of dormancy. This happens naturally, as the days become warmer and longer, Alocasias will begin growing actively again when temperatures are stable and over 18℃. Assuming your Alocasias have survived winter and made it out of this dormant period, give yourself a pat on the back. You can now resume more frequent watering as you start to see new leaves emerging, increase humidity and apply a water-soluble fertiliser on a regular basis again.

Although they might not be the easiest plants to grow over winter, these tropical beauties are well worth it for the show they put on in the warmer months. The older and more mature your plant is - the stronger it will be to deal with this winter dormancy so remember that it does get easier every year.