Alocasia Vs. Colocasia – Guide for Houseplants
The charismatic, large leaves of elephant ears are their main point of attraction rather than their flowers. These tropic perennial plants belong to the aroid family known as the Araceae. Members of the Araceae family are popularly cultivated as houseplants.
Several species in the Alocasia, Colocasia, and Xanthosoma spp. plant genera are commonly called taro plants, elephant ears, and coco yam. Elephant ears are prominent in horticulture not just because of their fancy look but also because they are quite easy to look after. After all the hazards of the winter frost have passed, elephant ears are planted in the spring. By this time, the soil temperatures have reached more than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. These species can also be planted during the early summer.
Plant enthusiasts looking to buy a specific elephant ear often get confused between Alocasia and Colocasia due to their almost identical appearances. Both plants have similar colors and leaves, making it difficult for people to distinguish between the two. However, although these plant genera have some similarities, there are plenty of distinct features by which you can separate them. You can find your answers in this Alocasia vs. Colocasia care guide.
A General Outline to the Elephant Ears: Alocasia and Colocasia
Alocasia and Colocasia plants are native to the Pacific Islands, some parts of Australia, New Guinea, Malaysia, Indonesia, and tropical southern Asia. Both plants have several similarities since they are from the same genus. This leads to confusion.
Alocasia and Colocasia are clubbed under the same term, “elephant ear,” a common name for the various plant genera or tropical perennial plants. Gardeners call them “elephant ears” because of their heart-shaped, large leaves, which resemble the ears of elephants. Leaves of varied sizes and color range like black, blue, and green are produced by interbreeding the elephant ear plants. Mostly known for their leaves, the elephant ear plants also blossom with arum-like flowers.
Both Alocasia, as well as Colocasia, can be grown in colder climates where such exponential growth is rare. Prosperous Alocasia growth happens in well-drained soil and in the partial or shaded sun. Warm climates or full sun exposure can be dangerous for this plant. On the contrary, Colocasia shows the best results in lands that have ample water features and in the sunlight.
Classifications of Alocasia and Colocasia
Varieties of Alocasia Plants:
- Alocasia Wentii
- Alocasia Reginula ‘Black Velvet’
- Alocasia Micholitziana ‘Frydek’
- Alocasia cucullata ‘Hooded Dwarf’
- Alocasia Cuprea ‘Red Secret’
- Alocasia Longiloba
- Alocasia Macrorrhiza ‘Stingray’
- Alocasia ‘Dragon Scale’
- Alocasia Zebrina
- Alocasia Baginda ‘Silver Dragon’
- Alocasia Macrorrhizos ‘Giant Taro’
- Alocasia Amazonica ‘polly’
Varieties of Colocasia Plants:
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Burgundy Stem’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Rhubarb’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Pink China’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Pineapple princess’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Mojito’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Maui Magic’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Lime Aide’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Hilo Bay’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Hawaiian Eye’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Elepaio’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Elena’
- Colocasia esculenta ‘Diamond Head’
Alocasia Vs. Colocasia: How to Differentiate
Regardless of the similarities between Alocasia and Colocasia, there are ample noticeable dissimilarities that will help you distinguish between these beautiful plants.
We hardly notice the size and shape of the leaves of a plant when we look at them. Neither do we take notice of the leaf direction. But in the context of Alocasia vs. Colocasia, these factors would help you separate them. The quickest method to identify the plants properly is by checking their leaves – Alocasia leaves are usually smaller than those of Colocasia. So, next time you visit your local plant shop to buy elephant ears for your garden, take a closer look at the leaf size and direction.
The primary factor of variability between Alocasia and Colocasia is their leaves.
- The leaves of Alocasia plants are in the horizontal direction. The petioles, or leaf stems, extend into the leaves. This is why most leaf tips on this plant have a tendency to point upward.
- The shape of Alocasia leaves is sometimes slim and arrowhead and sometimes wide and heart-shaped.
- New leaves can grow twice in size within a week.
- On the underside of Alocasia leaves, you can notice their characteristic veins.
- They have an extended corm and a shiny surface.
- The leaves of Alocasia are slick, waxy, and thick in texture.
- Instead of being attached to the center of the stem, these leaves are attached to its base.
- The foliage of Alocasia is mainly dark green in color. However, you may also find them in black shades with a silvery glimmer.
- Contrarily, the petioles of Colocasia plants elongate into the leaves from the notch in a downward direction. This is why Colocasia leaves droop toward the ground.
- The shape of Colocasia leaves is roughly bowling ball-shaped and rounded.
- These leaves have a matte finish.
- They are attached to the middle of the stem.
- Predominantly, the leaves of Colocasia plants are green in color. However, they are found in ample variations as well. There are matte-leaved, glossy, black-spotted, and black-leaved varieties.
- Elephant Ear Tubers
You can also look at the bulb or tuber of Alocasia and Colocasia plants to differentiate between them. The tubers of Alocasia are plain, long, thin, and smaller, without any prominent eyes or stripes.
On the other hand, Colocasia tubers are swollen, large, and branded. They are also enclosed by striped markings. The bulbs of Colocasia are called “taro”. They are commonly used for Hawaiian food.
Tubers of both of these perennial species grow into new plants. Offsets produced by them are often detached.
- Sowing Elephant Ear Plants
You can use bulbotubers or corms to grow elephant ear plants. The most ideal way to grow these plants is to purchase the corms and plant them in moist soil. On some occasions, they are grown in water gardens. However, this is not suitable for all varieties.
The varieties of Alocasia do not favor wet roots. So, gardeners cannot grow these plants in water. However, you can grow your Colocasia plants by partially submerging them in water. But we still would not recommend it because Colocasia shows the best results when grown in soil.
old leaf vs new leaf— K I R A K O (@gogoxgadgette) August 19, 2020
the old one is a lil banged up from shipping but the green was never this vibrant! also if you own a colocasia/alocasia sometimes the leaf will get stuck trying to unfurl. mine tore as you can see. try and help it! pic.twitter.com/RD7D0YKJZY
- Biotic Differences
In the biology of Alocasia and Colocasia plants, there is another point of difference.
Alocasia plants create both bulbs, or tubers, as well as rhizomes. Rhizomes or tubers can cultivate Alocasia, where a bulb is split off from the main growth and transplanted. Another method to propagate Alocasia is when the rhizomes are separated and planted singly to grow a new plant.
Colocasia plants, on the other hand, give rise to tubers solely. These plants do not create rhizomes. They can be bred by segregating and planting the tubers.
Seldom do we come across an edible houseplant. The majority of houseplants are toxic. So, they should be kept away from pets and kids.
In the case of elephant ear plants, only some parts of the Colocasia plants are edible. For example, commonly known as Taro, Colocasia tubers, can be eaten. It is sold in Hawaii as a food crop. Colocasia plants are widely grown in Hawaii. Their edible roots make popular dishes. If you are ever visiting Hawaii, you will find affordable taro in any grocery store.
When it comes to Alocasia, many kinds of these plants are not edible. In fact, some of these species of plants are extremely poisonous. But some genera have consumable stems. Agricultural issues are the primary reasons to grow edible Alocasia. Most of the nursery Alocasia plants you will see are non-edible species.
- Rate of Growth
The interesting and popular feature of both Alocasia and Colocasia elephant ear plants is their fast-growing nature. They take little time to fill up areas in a flower bed or even wider spaces. Warm climates and humid weather are favorable conditions for the faster growth of these tropical plants.
In the right conditions, you will see the Alocasia plants in your gardens grow very quickly. However, some varieties of Colocasia germinate faster than any other genera of the elephant ear plant. Take, for instance, Colocasia esculenta ‘Ruffles’. These genera grow faster than not only Alocasia plants but any elephant ear plant altogether.
Another noteworthy difference between the two types of elephant ears is their female flowers. The placenta of the Alocasia genus is primary. The ovaries and leaf stems of this plant are connected along the interior base to the placenta. The color of the flowers is light butter yellow.
Alternately, the placenta in the Colocasia genus is observed alongside the inner side. The ovaries and leaf stems of Colocasia plants are attached to the placenta along the interior fringes of the ovary. Flowers of this plant genus remain concealed under their leaf canopy. The female flowers are yellow in color, fragrant, large, and very beautiful.
- Structure and Height
Variations of Colocasia differ in size from eight inches to more than nine feet. Nevertheless, most of their kind is in the range of three to ten feet.
On the other hand, categories of the Alocasia genus are comparably smaller in size than the Colocasia ones. Only occasionally are they seen as smaller, though. The mean height of Alocasia plants is between two feet and six feet.
- Growing Requirements: Alocasia Vs. Colocasia
It is common for members of the same plant family to have similar growing requirements. But you need to care for elephant ear plants in different ways.
- Light: Different varieties of Alocasia require partial shade from full sunlight. The leaves of these Alocasia species tend to color better when grown in more sunlight.
- Watering: When you care for Alocasia plants, you need to water them frequently. You need to keep these plants moist persistently throughout the year. Alocasia plants are water-loving. However, in the winter months, they need less water. You cannot produce these types of elephant ears in standing water.
- Soil: Alocasia plants need crumbly and loamy, or loose and well-drained soil or potting mix. They require soil that does not remain soggy. You may witness root rot in Alocasia plants if you have planted them in highly moist locations.
- Light: Colocasia plant species sprout best in full sun exposure.
- Watering: You need to water your Colocasia plants repeatedly. Aquatic settings with plentiful water and consistent moisture are the most ideal conditions to grow these elephant ear plants. You can germinate them in standing water.
- Soil: Colocasia plants favor soil that is rich in compost. They flourish in moist soil. But they do not prefer staying wet in the winter months. So, make sure that the compost-rich soil you are using to germinate your Colocasia plants does not stay humid during wintertime.
Alocasia Vs. Colocasia: Similarities
Classified under Araceae, the same plant family, Alocasia and Colocasia plants naturally also have similarities. Let us look into some of their shared attributes.
- Common Name
Due to their arrow-shaped and large foliage, both Alocasia, as well as Colocasia, have the same common name – elephant ear.
These two tropical plants can tolerate low levels of light. They like to sprout in moist soil and have full sun exposure.
Both of these types of elephant ear species prefer to remain dry when they are still underdeveloped. A nice soft, and plentiful bed of compost is ideal for growing them.
The flowers of Alocasia and Colocasia look alike. All types of elephant ears are resistant to beasts.
Both of these perennial plants are cultivated from tubers. Rhizomes, produced by Alocasia, are also used in breeding these plants.
Alocasia and Colocasia plants both have some edible parts. These are particularly cultivated in some areas as a variety of popular dishes.
Both of these elephant plants are heavy feeders. Throughout the growing season, they need liquid fertilizers.
Now you can identify the two elephant ears and decide which one you want in your house. You can plant them both indoors and outdoors. But remember to transfer the plants indoors prior to the winter months. That way, your plants will be ready for the following growing season. During the succeeding growing season, use fertilizers to keep your plants free from pests, and they will live healthily for a long time.