How to Revive a Dying Alocasia Houseplant


Why is my alocasia dying

Is your favorite alocasia plant dying, and you are puzzled as to why? Do not worry, as I have distilled all my knowledge from my years working in commercial greenhouses (supplier garden centers) caring for houseplants, into this article to tell you how to save your dying plant…

Low humidity is the most common reason for alocasia plants dying. Alocasia is native to humid tropical climates and needs up to 40% humidity, whereas indoors, it can be as low as 10% humidity. The dry air indoors causes the margins of the leaves to turn brown and die back.

However, whilst low humidity is the most common reason why I see people struggle with alocasia plants, here is a table summarizing other causes that I’ve come across:

Symptoms of Dying Alocasia:Reasons for Alocasia Dying:
Alocasia dying in Winter:Alocasia turns dormant and dies back to their corms under the soil if the temperatures are consistently lower than 60°F (16°C).
Alocasia Leaves Turning Yellow (and Brown):Underwatering and overwatering both result in yellowing leaves.
Alocasia Stems and Leaves Drooping:Underwatering, low humidity, and a lack of sunlight.
Alocasia Leaves Turning Brown:Low humidity is by far the biggest cause, with underwatering and too much direct sunlight also being factors.
Alocasia Dying One Leaf at a Time:Usually, a combination of reasons, such as low humidity, low temperature, and not enough sunlight or water. However, it can happen more when the alocasia is growing new leaves, as the plant absorbs nutrients from the dying leaf to support new growth.
Alocasia Dripping Water:A process known as ‘gluttation’ which is as a result of overwatering or boggy soil due to poor drainage.

To revive a dying alocasia, you need to recreate the conditions of its native environment with high humidity, ensure the temperature is above 60°F (16°C) and bright indirect sunlight, and wait until the top inch of the soil feels somewhat dry between bouts of watering.

Keep reading for how to implement the solutions to save your dying alocasia…

Alocasia Dying in Winter Due to Dormancy

  • Symptoms. Alocasia often turn yellow and brown and die back in Winter
  • Causes. Temperatures lower than 60°F (16°C), fewer hours of light.

To fix. our dying plant, I find it helpful that we understand how alocasia grows in their native environment…

Alocasia are native to warm, humid, tropical environments throughout Asia and typically do not experience cold temperatures in their natural habitat.

Therefore, your alocasia is very sensitive to any cold temperatures (more so than most tropical houseplants), which can cause the leaves to droop, turn yellow and brown, and die back to the base.

Cold temperatures combined with fewer hours of light in Winter and lower light intensity trigger a state of dormancy in the plant.

It is at this point most people think their plant has died…

However, whilst the foliage has died back, the plant itself is not dead and can be revived as it stores energy in its corms (which are like bulbs) from which they can start to grow new leaves when the conditions are more favorable…

Revive Your Dying (Dormant) Alocasia After Winter

Once the alocasia leaves have died back for the Winter, the individual leaves, do not recover. However, To save the alocasia, I assure you the key is to maintain a favorable environment, and the corms should produce new leaves in the Spring.

You can also follow these tips to prevent your alocasia from dying back next year…

  • Ideally, keep the temperature above 60°F (16°C). If the temperature is lower than this for several days, it signals to the alocasia that it is too cold to grow, and its leaves die back to preserve energy in the corms. Keep your plants in a nice warm room, but ideally, keep them away from any air currents (forced air), and do not place them directly next to any indoor heating (such as radiators), as this can cause unfavorable temperature fluctuations.
  • Alocasia prefers the humidity to be as high as 40% or more. To increase the humidity to this level, I personally recommend using a plant humidifier as opposed to other means of increasing the humidity (such as spraying the levels or using a saucer of water and pebbles). In my experience, it does not increase the humidity sufficiently. However, I’ve found that If your climate is naturally humid, then placing the alocasia in a bathroom or around other plants (to create a humid micro-climate) can help to some extent.
  • Water the soil occasionally to ensure the corms do not dry out completely. Typically, this means watering the soil once every 2 to 3 weeks, but I would use a moisture meter or feel the weight of the pot periodically after watering to see when it feels lighter (and therefore the soil has dried out) and water accordingly.

By following these steps, I could save my alsocasia, and it emerged from its Winter dormancy in the Spring (I specifically saw new growth in March). It is at this point in the Spring that I used a general houseplant fertilizer (at half strength) to ensure my plant had all the resources it needed to grow the big leaves that I love so much!

However, it is possible to prevent the alocasia from dying back (going dormant) in Winter…

  • Use a grow light in Winter if your rooms are not sufficiently bright during Winter. Alocasia needs bright, indirect light to thrive. They inevitably die back into dormancy in shadier rooms with less natural light. Either move the alocasia to a brighter south-facing room or use a grow light to supplement the light for the alocasia. I used a grow light the following year for my alocasia (available at some garden centers or online) for a few extra hours a day, which helped me recreate the brighter conditions of the alocasia’s native environment and prevent dying leaves. My alocasia stayed green all Winter, and I was thrilled!
  • Keep the humidity and temperature relatively high. Temperature and humidity are the 2 other important factors after daylight, so keep temperatures consistently above 60°F (16°F) and keep the humidity high, ideally with a humidifier.

If you successfully replicate some of the conditions of the alocasia’s natural habitat with warm temperatures, more light, and high humidity, then alocasia should stay healthy throughout Winter as mine did.

Alocasia does not typically go dormant in Winter in their natural environment (where it is consistently warm and humid; dormancy is just an adaptation to our homes), so by mimicking the conditions, the leaves should stay green.

Why are My Leaves Turning Yellow and Brown? (Overwatering and Underwatering)

  • Symptoms. Leaves turn yellow or somewhat brown with drooping stems.
  • Causes. Overwatering or poor drainage. Not watering often enough or watering too lightly.

In my personal experience in caring for Alocasia, they always prefer the top inch of the soil to dry slightly between each bout of watering and they prefer a somewhat grittier potting mix that achieves the balance of consistently moist soil around the roots whilst still being well-draining enough to prevent the effects associated with overwatering such as yellowing leaves and root rot.

The potting soil may be too damp due to:

  1. Overwatering.
  2. Slow-draining soils.
  3. The saucers, trays, or decorative outer pots underneath the alocasia’s pot cause excess water to pool around the base after watering.

In addition to this, it should be noted that alocasia typically grows better in smaller pots. If the pot is too large, then it can contain too much soil, which retains too much moisture and dries out more slowly, which promotes the conditions for root rot.

Plastic and ceramic pots are also impermeable and can, therefore, retain too much moisture. Therefore my favorite pots for growing alocasia are terracotta, and unglazed clay pots are porous, which allows the soil to dry more evenly to help prevent yellow leaves due to root rot.

Clay pots are porous which helps to prevent root rot in alocasia houseplants.
Clay pots are porous which helps to prevent root rot in alocasia houseplants.

Underwatering

However, I have observed that underwatering can also be responsible for leaves turning yellow and brown. Alocasia should be watered with a generous soak so that excess water trickles from the drainage holes in the base.

If the pot is watered too lightly, then the water does not reach the roots where it is required, causing the alocasia to droop and turn yellow, often with a brown tip.

It should be noted that the alocasia’s demand for water can increase significantly during active growth, when you see any new leaves forming in the Spring the soil can dry out much quicker.

Therefore, frequent checks of the soil’s moisture are necessary when growing alocasia due to its fluctuating demand for water in different seasons.

If the cause of the yellowing is underwatering, then drooping is usually the first symptom, and I find low humidity is often a compounding factor.

Revive an Alocasia With Yellow Leaves

To revive your alocasia, it is essential to find the optimal balance of watering to meet the watering requirements without risking root rot.

To do this, allow the top inch of the soil to dry between each bout of watering. The easiest way to check the moisture levels is with your finger each day after watering to establish then the top inch is starting to feel dry, at which point you can give it a good soak.

A moisture meter is another reliable way of detecting when the soil is drying out and when to water your alocasia, which I recommend as the alocasia’s demand for water fluctuates throughout the year. I also pick my alocasia pot up frequently to assess the weight, so I know when to water.

If your soil feels dry and underwatering is the cause of the yellow leaves, then:

  • I Placed my alocasia in a basin of lukewarm water for 10 minutes or so, ensuring the root ball was submerged. This allows the water to infiltrate the soil so that it is evenly moist.
  • Always water the alocasia to the extent that excess water trickles from the base of the pot to ensure the water has infiltrated properly.
  • Increase the humidity, ideally, with a humidifier. With some tropical plants, misting the leaves is often enough; however, I find alocasia needs particularly high humidity. With higher humidity, the alocasia leaves do not lose as much moisture, which prevents them from drooping and turning yellow.

With 2 or 3 watering cycles, your alocasia should perk up in appearance.

If the cause of the yellowing leaves is overwatering, then:

  • Reducing the frequency of watering so that the top inch of soil dries before each watering can sometimes be enough to help revive the plant if it has only been slightly overwatered.
  • If the potting soil retains too much moisture, then it may be necessary to repot the alocasia into a more well-draining potting mix. Alocasia responds well to a potting mix of around 2/3 potting soil and 1/3 perlite. From experience, this potting soil achieves the optimal balance of moisture yet allows the potting soil to drain efficiently around the roots to prevent root rot.
  • Always ensure that the pot has a drainage hole in the base, and empty any saucers and trays regularly to prevent excess water from pooling around the base of the pot.

I must emphasize that alocasia can deal better with underwatering than overwatering. If the alocasia continues to decline in conditions, then you may have to take drastic action and inspect the roots.

Take the alocasia out of the pot and rinse away any soil from the roots so you can assess their conditions. The roots should be firm and light colored, whereas diseased roots are dark brown, soft, and have a foul smell.

Cut away any diseased mushy roots back to healthy growth with a sharp pair of pruners. Wipe the blades of the pruners with a cloth soaked in disinfectant between each snip to sterilize the blades and prevent passing fungal disease pathogens from rotting root to the healthy part of the plant.

Re-pot the alocasia in new soil with 2/3 potting soil and 1/3 perlite, and Wash the alocasia’s pot before repotting. I urge you to wash it with hot soapy water to kill any fungal pathogens.

The shock and trauma of this type of surgery are likely to cause the enter plant to die back, but the corms can be replanted and regrow new foliage if the conditions are favorable.

Watch this helpful YouTube video for a visual guide to treating plants with root rot:

Should I Cut Off a Dying Alocasia Leaf

If the alocasia leaf is turning yellow it does not turn green again, wait until the leaf has died back completely as alocasia is capable of reabsorbing the nutrients in the dying leaf for the plant to recycle. Once the leaf has died back completely I cut mine back with a sharp pair of pruners.

Why are My Alocasia Stems Drooping?

  • Symptoms. Drooping stems and leaves.
  • Causes. Underwatering, lack of light, and low humidity.
Alocasia need high humidity to prevent drooping.
Alocasia needs high humidity to prevent drooping.

Drooping stems are most often the first symptom of underwatering and are often compounded by low humidity.

The alocasia is losing too much moisture from the large leaves and cannot draw up enough moisture at the roots, which causes the stems to droop.

Whilst the alocasia needs the top inch of soil to dry between each bout of watering (to prevent root rot), this should allow for some moisture around the deeper roots of the alocasia.

However, drooping stems can also be caused by not enough bright light or because the alocasia is leaning towards the strongest source of light.

Revive Drooping Alocasia Leaves…

If the soil feels dry, then you need to give the soil a good soak. Ideally, place the alocasia in a basin of lukewarm water for 10 minutes or so, with the root ball submerged to allow the soil to properly absorb the moisture.

As I previously stated, my preferred means of increasing the humidity is a humidifier.

This should restore the moisture balance around the plant, and with 2 or 3 cycles of watering, the alocasia should perk up. Also, ensure the temperature is above 60°F (16°C) to prevent any additional temperature stress.

Always locate your alocasia in a bright room (but protect the leaves from direct sunlight) to ensure your plant has enough energy for growth, and prevent the structure of the stems from drooping.

Top Tip: Rotate your plant by 90° each time you water to ensure that each side of the plant receives equal exposure to light to prevent the plant from drooping toward the strongest source of light.

Why are My Alocasia Leaves Turning Brown?

  • Symptoms. Leaves turning brown and crispy in patches or leaves turning brown at the margins and tips.
  • Causes. Too much direct sunlight, low humidity, and underwatering.

From my experience, one of the most common causes of alocasia leaves is too much direct sunlight. Whilst different alocasia cultivars can tolerate varying amounts of light, almost all do well with bright, indirect light. Often, alocasia grow under a canopy in their native environment, which shields them from harsh light.

Remember what I said about alocasia naturally growing under a forest canopy? Direct sunlight scorches the leaves brown and crispy.

If the humidity is especially low, the alocasia typically droops and develops brown margins at the edges of the leaves. (This happened to my plant when I lived in New York as the indoor heating tapped moisture in the Winter, and the air con dried out the air in the Summer!

Dry soil around the roots is also a contributing factor to the leaves drooping and turning brown.

How to Revive it…

To revive an alocasia plant with brown leaves, again, is a case of recreating some of the conditions of the plant’s native environment.

Increase the humidity ideally with a humidifier so that the humidity is around 40% or more. This is difficult to achieve without a humidifier in dry climates. Also, consider sources of air currents from draughts, air conditioning, or forced air, which can all sap moisture from the leaves and cause them to turn brown.

Always water the alocasia with a generous soak to ensure that there is enough moisture around the roots. I sometimes water mine in the basin, and post leaves the potting soil under the facet for a few minutes.

Locate your alocasia in a room with bright light, but avoid any direct sunlight. My personal alocasia is located in a room with a south-facing window, but the plant is behind a sheer curtain, which I find does a great job in diffusing the light to protect the leaves.

Once you have corrected the environmental conditions that caused the alocasia to turn brown, then the alocasia can start to recover.

However, I must warn you the parts of the leaves that have turned brown are likely to stay brown, however, I would wait until you see new growth before snipping off any brown leaves.

Despite the fact that part of the leaves is brown, any remaining green can actually photosynthesize and contribute energy to the plant. If you cut the leaves back too early, then the plant may not have enough leaves to sustain it, which can cause it to die back.

My Alocasia is Dying One Leaf at a Time…

If the alocasia is dying one leaf at a time, then this can be due to all the usual reasons for an alocasia dying, such as low light, overwatering, underwatering, low humidity, and cold temperatures.

However, I have seen this happen personally on some alocasia plants during the growing season. It typically happens when a new leaf is growing. Often the lower leaves die one at a time so that the alocasia can reabsorb some of the nutrients from the leaf to provide energy for a new leaf.

In this case, I have added some general all-purpose fertilizer once a month at half strength during the Spring and Summer, increased the humidity, and moved the alocasia to an area of brighter light to try and ensure that the plant has all the resources it needs to grow its leaves.

Eventually, after doing this, the leaves stopped dying, and the plant appeared to recover.

Why is My Alocasia Dripping Water?

Is your plant crying? Alocasia plants often appear to drip water from their leaves if the potting soil is too damp. Alocasia prefers the top inch of the soil to dry out between each bout of watering. If the leaves are dripping water, then you should scale back the watering immediately.

The dropping water is a process known as ‘gluttation‘ and can usually be resolved if you let the potting soil dry slightly.

Typically this means allowing the top inch of the soil to dry slightly between each bout for watering. You can judge how damp the soil is by lifting the pot occasionally to assess the weight, or you can buy a moisture meter to help establish whether the soil is too damp or too dry.

Ensure that the potting soil is not too damp due to poor drainage or saucers and trays underneath the pot retaining water, and the plant should recover.

My alocasia drips water from time to time, but it has not been a problem for me, and my plant is very healthy.

Key Takeaways:

  • A dying alocasia usually occurs because of low humidity and cold temperatures. Alocasia are native to warm, humid tropical climates. The air indoors is usually too dry for the alocasia to tolerate, causing the leaves to turn brown and die back.
  • Alocasia turns dormant and dies back in Winter if the temperature is below 60°F (16°C). Alocasia is native to warm climates, and if the temperature is consistently cooler than 60°F (16°C), the leaves die back completely, yet the corms underneath the soil are still alive and can regrow in the Spring.
  • Alocasia leaves turn yellow due to both overwatering and underwatering. Alocasia needs the top inch of the soil to dry slightly between each bout of watering. The leaves turn yellow and brown if the soil is too damp or dry.
  • A drooping alocasia is usually a result of a combination of low humidity, underwatering, and a lack of bright light. Alocasia needs bright indirect light and droop in the shade. If the soil is too dry and the humidity is under 40%, then the leaves have too much moisture, causing them to droop.
  • Alocasia leaves can die one at a time during the growing season when new leaves are also emerging. The lower alocasia leaves often die back, and the plant reabsorbs the energy before growing new leaves.
  • Alocasia leaves drop water as a reaction to overly damp soil from overwatering and poor drainage. The process is known as ‘gluttation’, which is a signal to reduce how often you water your alocasia. Too much moisture around the roots causes the alocasia to die of root rot.
  • To revive a dying alocasia, recreate the conditions of its natural habitat by increasing the level of humidity, locating the plant in bright indirect light, and maintaining high temperatures of more than 60°F (16°C).

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