Tony O’Neill, gardener and author of the popular “Composting Masterclass” and “Your First Vegetable Garden,” combines lifelong passion and expert knowledge to simplify the art of gardening. His mission? Helping you cultivate a thriving garden. More on Tony O’Neill
One of the blackest plants I know is an aroid houseplant family called Black Velvet Alocasia (Alocasia reginula). As the name implies, the leaves are like black velvet, accentuated with white veins like a river delta.
Alocasia spp. is a member of the Araceae family (aroids) with Monsteras, Philodendrons, and Anthuriums. The family consists of 104 genera and approximately 3700 species. Alocasia, also known as the giant taro or elephant’s ear, is native to high-rainfall areas of tropical Asia.
The Alocasia Black Velvet needs specific maintenance and care and can occasionally be challenging. The good news is that you will be able to take care of this adorable little plant once you know the key care elements.
Alocasia Black Velvet Care Elements
Your success at growing any plant indoors depends on how we can replicate its natural habitat and manage local risks.
The care elements that need consideration for every indoor plant, including Alocasia Black Velvet care, are:
- Soil characteristics – water management, aeration, consistency, constitution, pH, and nutritional content.
- Water needs – availability, need for dry periods, and quantity.
- Preferred light levels.
- Preferred ambient temperatures.
- Preferred relative humidity.
- Nutritional needs
- Methods of propagation
- Adaptability to being grown in containers
- Potential local risks – diseases and pests
These care elements vary according to the plant species and their evolutionary adaptation to the specific conditions of their natural habitat. While we can acclimatize plants through hardening off, we cannot change their natural requirements.
Alocasia Black Velvet Care Summary
In brief, caring for your Alocasia Black Velvet will require creating the following environment and adopting these strategies:
|Compost, coconut coir, pumice, and expanded shale. See details below.
|If in doubt, don’t water. Overwatering is your highest risk
|Prefers a medium light range for best growth indoors (450-foot candles – 4843 lux)
|Night: 54 to 68⁰ F (12 to 20⁰ C) Day: 68 to 95⁰ F (20 to 35⁰ C)
|Alocasia thrives in high humidity but requires adequate air circulation.
|Propagate by seed at 70 – 75 ⁰F (~21 – 24 ⁰C). March is the best time to start propagating this durable evergreen.
|Requires repotting every 2 years. Best done in spring, summer, or early fall. Remain informed by root density – see the guide below
|Use organic, slow-release fertilizer in spring.
|Required every year. Best done in spring, summer, or early fall.
|Mealybugs, scale, and aphids.
|All parts are poisonous if ingested, and the sap can irritate the skin. To keep your pets or children safe, place the plant on a high shelf out of their reach.
Alocasia Black Velvet Potting Soil
Alocasia Black Velvet needs soil that drains well yet can retain moisture. Our ideal soil will provide our plant with adequate aeration (avoiding anaerobic conditions), maintain the right pH, and ensure the soil has sufficient cation exchange capacity (CEC).
If you’ve had the opportunity to read my Composting Masterclass book, you’d understand why I’m so passionate about using compost, even in potting soil. A good potting mix for your Alocasia Black Velvet should include the following ingredients in the given proportions:
- One part compost (25%)
- Two parts coconut coir (50%)
- Half a part of pumice (or perlite) (12.5%)
- Half a part expanded shale, or LECA (lightweight expanded clay aggregate) (12.5%)
Each of the above serves a specific purpose in emulating the Alocasia natural habitat.
Alocasia Black Velvet Watering Needs
Overwatering is the main reason why potted plants die. When surrounded by water, roots can’t breathe – as important to roots as to humans.
The general rule is to only water when necessary. To decide when to water, one may utilize the following techniques:
Touch-Test: The most accurate test for soil moisture is to feel how dry the potting soil feels. If the mixture is dry at your fingertip after inserting your finger up to the second digit, it needs water.
Tap the Pot: When potting mix in a clay pot starts to dry up, it shrinks away from the pot’s sides. Use a stick or your knuckles to tap the pot’s side. Water is required if the sound is hollow; if the sound is dull, the soil is moist.
Estimate weight: It’s easy to see a weight reduction as potting mixtures dry up.
Deep watering removes accumulated salts and ensures that most of the roots in the bottom two-thirds of the pot get enough water. Empty the tray, and don’t let the pot sit in the accumulated water.
You need to use a pot with plenty of drainage holes on the bottom corners for the best results. The tray often blocks drainage holes only on the bottom – unless you space them off the tray.
Alocasia Black Velvet Light Needs
Most aroids need plenty of dappled light, especially for maintaining variegation. Alocasia Black Velvet is a medium-light plant that needs 15 watts of light per square foot.
In the Northern Hemisphere, medium bright light (100 – 500 FC) indoors will be provided by the sun entering an east or west-facing window. The sun entering south-facing or west-facing windows will provide high indoor light (500 – 1000 FC).
Most plants require a period of darkness to develop properly, so illuminate them for no more than 16 hours each day, especially if using artificial light combined with natural light.
Alocasia Black Velvet Ambient Temperature Needs
The Alocasia’ Black Velvet’ loves warmth, especially in the summer, and will thrive in temperatures around 77 ⁰F (25 ⁰C).
Be careful with lower temperatures below 60 ⁰F (~15 ⁰C), as this will trigger plant dormancy, and extremely low temperatures will harm the plant.
Alocasia Black Velvet Humidity
The essential part of managing humidity for your Alocasia Black Velvet is keeping it constant. Fluctuating humidity levels will cause your plant to lose leaves. Aim to maintain a humidity level of above 60%.
An ideal indoor humidity level for humans is between 30% and 50%. A 50% humidity level means that the air holds half the total amount of moisture it can contain.
To achieve a 60% relative humidity (RH) level, you will need to implement one of the following three solutions:
- Cluster plants together so that their combined transpiration boost RH
- Place the pot in a tray of LECA that is kept damp. The evaporation will boost RH
- Acquire a humidifier, opting for one that provides a reasonable cycle between needing a refill.
Winter AC tends to dry the air, so take special precautions during this season. Similarly, higher temperatures can hold more moisture and lower relative humidity.
Alocasia Black Velvet Flowers
The Alocasia Black Velvet does flower occasionally, although indoor plants are not known to flower. The Alocasia Black Velvet will grow outdoors in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 and above, where it may flower, producing a white spathe ( like an Arum lily)
Alocasia Black Velvet Propagation
The division of the underground tuber system is the greatest method of propagating Alocasia Black Velvet. These will extend from the mother plant in the wild to a depth of around 20 centimeters below the surface.
Naturally, the rhizome system of your containerized Black Velvet will probably be smaller, and it is from them that you will need to spread the plant’s seeds.
The Alocasia Black Velvet can also be grown from seeds; however, this is laborious and time-consuming. You’ll get quicker results with the rhizome-splitting technique.
Make sure the time is appropriate for propagation first. It won’t work if you try it when the plant is dormant in the winter. Prepare just once the first indications of spring have shown.
Shake off the excess soil around the roots of your Alocasia ‘Black Velvet’ plant gently after removing it from the pot. At this time, you should take the chance to inspect the mother plant’s root system to make sure it is healthy and free from entanglement or fungal infections.
Examine the tuberous system and find a place to separate what resembles ginger clumps. To remove the tuber, use a clean knife or cutting tool and make sure you’re wearing gloves.
It’s time to plant it after that. You need a potting mixture to provide the ideal environment for the new plant to flourish. A nice choice is to combine coco coir with regular potting soil.
When everything is ready, plant your tubers in the ground and soak and drain the soil. Put your new plant in a location that receives indirect but bright sunlight. Once it is established, follow my guidelines for fertilization below) and general care.
Alocasia Black Velvet Repotting
The Alocasia Black Velvet prefers slightly rootbound conditions, so don’t rush to repot. Repotting should only be done once you notice roots growing out of the pot’s drainage holes or the pot’s water-holding capacity is noticeably limited.
Alocasia Black Velvet is simple to repot, but avoid buying a markedly larger pot than the one the plant is already in. Ideally, the new pot should only be one size larger than the current pot.
Alocasia Black Velvet Growth
In contrast to other Alocasia, Black Velvet develops a branching, rhizomatous stem that can give rise to plants up to 18 inches wide. It typically stands a little higher than a foot.
The heart-shaped, brittle leaves are saucer-sized ovals that are dense but fragile—the veins of platinum color contrast with the leaf blade’s velvety black tint. The leaf’s underside has a purple hue.
Alocasia Black Velvet Fertilizer
A complete fertilizer mix for Alocasia Black Velvet includes nitrogen, phosphate, potash, and magnesium. Repeat a quarter-diluted application every two months for the first year, then gradually increase the amount of fertilizer to half-dilution every four months as the plant grows.
Once the plant is established, fertilize in early spring and again in October. Don’t fertilize during the winter when the plant is not actively growing and needs to hibernate.
Alocasia Black Velvet Toxicity
Every component is lethal and contains calcium oxalate crystals. This poisonous material causes the mouth, tongue, and throat to feel like tiny needles piercing them – similar to eating fiberglass.
After chewing, the lips, mouth, tongue, and throat may become painfully irritated. Other symptoms include trouble speaking, nausea and diarrhea, vomiting, delirium, and death. Be especially careful if you have a history of rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones, or hyperacidity.
Common Alocasia Black Velvet Challenges
Alocasia generally has few pest problems but is occasionally affected by insects or diseases. Root rots, with brown or nonexistent roots symptoms, are commonly caused by overwatering.
Blackening of the leaf margins or tips can be caused by overwatering, inadequate watering, or excess fertilizer (because of the buildup of salts in the soil). The discoloration of the soil is often accompanied by leaf chlorosis.
Mealybugs appear as white, cottony masses, frequently in the leaf axils, on the lower surfaces of leaves, and even on the roots. Check my article that will help you manage mealybugs better.
Scales look like bark-colored bumps on the stems and leaves and are sometimes difficult to distinguish from the plant material on which they feed. These pests may produce copious amounts of honeydew (many, but not all, do), so the leaves and nearby surfaces may be sticky and sooty mold may develop.
Infested plants become stunted, and with severe infestations, plant parts begin to die. Pesticides may be used to control these insects, but often it is better to discard the plant and start over with clean plants or cuttings.
Alocasia Black Velvet Root Rot and Overwatering
Check for root rot if your plant is withering, appears unsteady in its container, or is squishy around the base. This issue, which affects many plants, is brought on by the soil’s excessive water content.
The roots become saturated, and the air pockets are sealed, preventing them from absorbing water. The moist atmosphere encourages the growth of fungal infections, which, if adequately handled, will probably cause the plant to die.
Don’t let the plant sit in a water plate; ensure the soil is moist but not saturated. Also, make sure there is no water accumulating in the soil.
Alocasia Black Velvet Crisping Leaves
Underwatering or low humidity can cause leaves to be crisp or curl. First, make sure that the soil is still somewhat damp. If not, you need to water more frequently. Check the humidity levels in your home to see if the soil is truly sufficiently moist.
A less than 60% RH level would be unacceptably low and could indicate that the plant cannot replenish the moisture lost through the leaves. Try spraying the plant’s leaves daily or relocate them to a room with more humidity, like a bathroom.
Alocasia Black Velvet Low light levels
Like other Alocasia varieties, the Alocasia “Black Velvet” will “seek for light.” It will begin to droop down at the stem to find it if it is not receiving appropriate levels. Your plant may appear sad and deformed as a result. Alocasia ‘Black Velvet’ should be placed as near as possible to a window without being in direct sunlight.
Frequently Asked Questions About Alocasia Black Velvet
What are these dark spots on my Alocasia Black Velvet leaves?
Misting the leaves can allow the fungus to infect your plant. Desist from spraying your leaves and invest in a humidifier instead. Also, ensure there is better air movement around the plants. Remove all the fungus-infected leaves and dispose of them.
Why does my Alocasia’ Black Velvet’ not flower?
Similar to other aroid plants, indoor Alocasia plants do not generally flower.
Why are my Alocasia Black Velvet leaves yellow?
Yellow leaves are generally an indication that your Alocasia is drowning. Check your plant’s roots for rot, a sign of anaerobic conditions. Rince roots and repot and reduce watering.
Why are the leaves on my Alocasia Black Velvet crispy?
This is usually related to the humidity levels in the home. Because the leaves are dark, they lose moisture faster than other plants, though the room’s relative humidity influences this. Keeping the RH above 60% will alleviate this problem.
Why are my Alocasia Black Velvet leaves wilting?
Wilting is an indicator of water problems – too much or too little. Check the soil and respond appropriately. Remember that the soil on top can be dry while the roots are drowning, so check the soil to a reasonable depth.
The Alocasia Black Velvet is a true gem in any houseplant collection, with its beautiful dark leaves a purple reverse making it stand out. You’re in for a treat if you follow the Alocasia Black Velvet care guidelines above.
If you look after your Alocasia Black Velvet, it will continue to produce beautiful leaves for many years. You may also be interested in my other articles on indoor plants: 25 Types Of Philodendrons The Ultimate Houseplants List.