Why has my Alocasia gone dormant?

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The Alocasia is a beautiful species of tropical houseplant that brings a range of colours and textures into your home. It is a favourite of both new and veteran home growers alike because it is easy to look after and hardy. 

However, sometimes you will find that your plant sometimes stops growing and starts to wither away. So, is your Alocasia dead? Not necessarily, instead it is likely that your Alocasia has gone dormant. In this guide we tell you what Alocasia dormancy is, why it’s happening and how to care for your plant when it is in this state. 

What is Alocasia dormancy? 

All plants go through stages of dormancy. It is much like a plant going to sleep or into hibernation. The main difference between an Alocasia and other plant species is that a dormant Alocasia can be a dramatic sight. When dormant, your plant will slow down its metabolism to save energy, this will result in slower or no growth, the discolouration of leaves and sometimes the plant shedding larger leaves. 

Why do Alocasia go dormant? 

Alocassia plants go dormant as a way to survive winter. In these cold months, there is not enough sunlight or heat to support the plant and in many cases the ground is too cold for the roots to draw out nutrients. To protect itself it slows down its metabolism to store energy until the summer. There are several things to watch out for that may suggest your Alocasia is about to go dormant:

  1. Shorter days
  2. Temperatures dropping to below 15°C for a week or more
  3. Less humid air
  4. A drop in soil moisture

Your plant needs most of these changes in order to go dormant, and since many of these factors won’t appear in your home it is likely that your Alocasia will remain evergreen for much of the year. Even in a warm home, the Alocasia will still need periods of dormancy, but these will be less extreme with growth just stopping for a week or two. 

Is my Alocasia dead or dormant? 

The Alocasia has two main states of dormancy: visible and invisible. 

Invisible dormancy is when a houseplant stops growing in response to shorter and colder winter days. The plant is in a controlled environment so it doesn’t need to slow down as much. When this happens growth will stop and the leaves may turn dull and droopy. The Alocasia will usually go dormant in the autumn and reawaken in early to mid spring. 

Visible dormancy is a phase that can worry some houseplant owners as it is a bit more dramatic. This type of dormancy occurs when all the conditions above are met, and can occur in the winter if it is in a draughty or shaded room. In this stage the plant will die back completely, leaving you with an empty container with a tuber in it. 

When an Alocasia has gone visibly dormant it might cause you to panic and think it has completely died. .If you are unsure about the state of your Alocasia, there are two key ways to tell if it is dormant or dead.

Check the roots - Gently lift the bottom of the plant to expose the roots. The roots of a dead Alocasia will either begin to rot or become dessicated. A dormant plant's roots will look completely normal.

Is there a tuber in the pot? - When an Alocasia goes dormant, the stems and leaves will all die back leaving a sweet-smelling tuber in the pot. When an Alocasia dies all of the plant will rot, leaving nothing. 

How To Care For A Dormant Alocasia

Like many pets that hibernate there a few things you can do to to help it through this stage: 

Reduce watering – If your Alocasia has stopped growing, you should cut back on watering. The plant will absorb much less in this period, and if it sits in wet soil too long it may develop root rot or other diseases, 

Reduce light – A dormant plant uses less light, so shelter them from intense sunlight. If the plant still has leaves, cutting back on light can trigger full dormancy so don’t cut out light completely.

Maintain cool conditions – Cool temperatures are normal in dormancy, so it’s best not to subject a dormant plant to unseasonable warmth. 

Bulb care - If your Alocasia has gone visibly dormant, you will only have a bulb to look after. This bulb doesn’t need any sunlight, but it should still be watered. Don’t let the soil dry out completely, but instead water lightly when the top inch of soil has become dry. 

How to look after an Alocasia coming out of dormancy

The plant will end its dormancy when it’s ready for a new cycle and it’s normal growing conditions have returned. Around the start of spring, give the plant a moderate watering and put it in a warm spot with proper lighting. It’s best to increase humidity, too. Use a soil thermometer if you have one to ensure the soil is at least 21ºC. The temperature of the growing medium is more important than the temperature of the surrounding air. As soon as you see the plant stirring with new growth, restart your normal watering pattern. Don’t fertilize until the plant is fully growing again

Can I stop an Alocasia from going dormant? 

You can keep your Alocasia evergreen by maintaining ideal growing conditions. This isn’t too difficult to do indoors and can keep your plant from dying back completely.

  • In winter, natural light from windows is affected by the shorter days.This triggers a slowdown in growth unless you can replace the light. Use a grow light with an inexpensive timer to maintain consistent light exposure. .

  • Keeping your room at round 21ºC should be enough to stop the plant going dormant, and should be enough to keep it growing. 

  • In winter we are more likely to be using central heating to keep our home warm. This will cause the air to be dry, which is a trigger for dormancy. Try to maintain the plant’s humidity levels by misting regularly or keeping it on a humidifier or pebble tray. 

Stopping dormancy is done simply for looks and won't stop your plant going dormant indefinitely.  This is a natural and essential part of the plant's life cycle, but applying to above care will stop it from dying back completely.

Take a look at our full range of Alocasia houseplants

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