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Colocasia Vs Alocasia – What’s The Difference?

When it comes to spectacular foliage, hardly any home or garden plant can compare to Colocasia and Alocasia.

These massive plants feature gigantic elephant ear-shaped leaves and are certain to dominate any environment you put them in, adding a bit of extravagance to your living space.

Thanks to their commanding stature and the fact that they are, despite their size, fairly easy to grow, both plants are highly popular among homeowners and gardeners.

However, a lot of people, when looking to add this type of plant to their home or office environment, get confused and have trouble telling the difference between Colocasia and Alocasia.

The two plants are indeed strikingly similar and are even both colloquially known as elephant ear plants.

Still, knowing how to tell one plant from another is important, and, to help out, I’ll compare Colocasia vs Alocasia and explain the main distinctions between the two.

Colocasia Description

Colocasia esculenta

Colocasia plant can be successfully grown anywhere in the world, but its origins are in Southeastern Asia and India.

It’s a tropical perennial plant with roughly 20 different species.

Colocasia can grow to be rather big and, depending on the variety, can reach 3-8 feet in height and from 3 to 7 feet in width.

The main feature of Colocasia is its large, beautiful leaves, which can reach the size of 4-5 feet, with some of the giant varieties.

The leaves commonly grow in the shape of a heart or elephant ear, although this can vary depending on the particular species.

The color of leaves is usually plain green, with prominent veins that stretch across the length of the leaf.

Colocasia is mostly grown for ornamental purposes, to bring a specific jungle feel to homes and gardens.

Plus, most varieties have edible roots, so they’re also grown for culinary purposes.

Alocasia Description

Lily Cunjevoi Alocasia Brisbanensis

Originating in Asia and Eastern Australia, Alocasia is also a huge plant, although somewhat smaller than Colocasia.

The Alocasia genus includes around 90 different species, with sizes varying from 2 to 10 feet in height and 3 to 5 feet in width, depending on how large the leaves are.

The leaves can also have different sizes, depending on the variety, and can grow to be anywhere from 5 to 30 inches long.

As Alocasia grows from tubers rather than seeds, the leaves come back every year.

Alocasia leaves are shaped like a heart or an arrowhead and can feature green, black, red, white, red, and striped color combinations, commonly with glossy surfaces. In most cases,

Alocasia is grown as a decorative plant, providing a fantastic centerpiece for any space, mainly thanks to its luxurious foliage.

Most varieties are toxic to humans and animals, so it’s not used for culinary purposes.

Colocasia Vs Alocasia – What’s The Difference?

Even though they may look almost the same to the untrained eye, share plenty of common features, and come from the same family, Colocasia and Alocasia still have some significant distinctions.

The differences when comparing Colocasia vs Alocasia are often subtle but are nonetheless very important as they have some different growing requirements.

Therefore, treating these two plants the same can have adverse effects on their growth and health. Furthermore,

Colocasia and Alocasia have different levels of toxicity, so confusing them can endanger the health of your family and pets.

For all these reasons, it’s essential that you learn what separates these two plant species before deciding to add one of them to your home environment.

Below, I’ll provide a brief overview of the major differences between Colocasia and Alocasia and share a few tips on how to spot those differences.

Colocasia Esculenta leafAlocasia leaf
by Cleombrotus (CC BY-SA 4.0)by Ricaforte Silverio (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Leaves Direction

The surest way to tell Colocasia and Alocasia one from another is to examine their leaves.

However, as they have leaves of similar shapes and sizes, this can be a bit tricky, so you’ll have to examine them more closely.

The main thing that differentiates the leaves of Colocasia and Alocasia is not their shape or color, but the direction in which they grow.

The leaves on Colocasia plants extend down from the notch in the leaf. Because of this, they tend to point downward at an angle and appear to be drooping.

On the other hand, when you look at the Alocasia, you’ll notice that its petioles (stiff leaf stems) extend to the plant’s leaves, forming the line which the leaf follows.

As a result, tips of the most of Alocasia’s leaves point upwards. Occasionally, Alocasia leaves may also extend horizontally.

Leaves Appearance

The leaves of Alocasia and Colocasia also have slightly different appearances.

Alocasia leaves feature a shinier and thicker surface, with a waxy, almost glossy finish. In most cases, they will be dark green, but some leaves may feature black, red, white, or striped coloration.

The leaves of Colocasia have a slightly rougher texture, with a sort of matte finish. They’re mostly green, but there are some black, grey, or purple variations.

You can notice one more difference if you inspect the underside of the Colocasia and Alocasia leaves.

The latter feature waxy glands where the primary lateral veins separate themselves from the main veins extending along the length of the leaf.

These glands are absent in Colocasia leaves.

Tubers

One of the major differences between Colocasia and Alocasia is not immediately visible simply because it’s hidden below the ground.

These two plants, unlike most of the others, don’t grow from seeds, instead, they develop from small tubers or bulbs.

Alocasia’s tubers are long and thin. Besides tubers, Alocasia also develops rhizomes.

When growing this plant, you can separate the tuber from the primary growth and replant it, or, alternatively, divide the rhizomes and plant them separately to grow a new plant.

Colocasia features only tubers, with no rhizomes.

As this is the case, propagation is only possible by separating and replanting the tubers.

Colocasia’s tubers are larger than the ones found in Alocasia, swollen, and encircled by the striped bands.

Growth Conditions

Different growing requirements are why it’s so important to be able to tell Alocasia and Colocasia apart.

While they belong to the same family, they need different conditions to thrive, so mistaking one for another can result in improper care for the plant and stunted growth.

Both plants are tropical, meaning they’ll enjoy hot and humid weather, but there are certain nuances in growing requirements you should pay attention to.

In the right conditions, both plants will grow rather quickly.

Alocasia will grow at the rate of 3 to 5 feet annually, while Colocasia will develop even faster, with a growth rate of 4 to 8 feet per year.

Water Requirements

Alocasia plants need frequent but moderate watering, so the soil doesn’t become soggy and stays moist for too long.

So make sure to provide proper drainage to avoid root rot, which is something Alocasia is rather susceptible to.

On the other hand, Colocasia loves wet and soggy soil. It can even successfully grow in standing water.

However, be aware that, in winter, this changes and the plant will enjoy a drier environment during the cold months of the year.

Light Requirements

The needs of these two plants also differ when it comes to lighting.

Alocasia plants prefer to grow in slightly shaded areas, although some varieties will enjoy more sunlight.

Colocasia requires more light and will benefit from higher sun exposure.

Edibility

While house plants are rarely edible, these two are the rare exceptions, especially in the case of Colocasia.

A lot of Colocasia varieties feature edible tubers, better known as taros.

They’re especially popular and extensively cultivated in Hawaii where certain Colocasia varieties are one of the major food crops.

Things stand a bit differently with Alocasia. While certain varieties have edible stems, most of them are not only non-edible, but also highly toxic.

Using Alocasia plants for food can, in some cases, be fatal. Even the varieties with edible stems require a special type of preparation.

Therefore they should not be used for culinary purposes and kept away from kids and pets.

Sometimes, just touching the Alocasia leaves can cause skin irritation, due to the calcium oxalate crystals in the edges of the leaves.

For this reason, the role of Alocasia in the household is almost always purely ornamental.

Conclusion

Both Alocasia and Colocasia can be a great addition to your living environment and a centerpiece of your room decor and you can hardly go wrong with either of them.

Their majestic presence and lavish foliage are certain to liven up any space and add some of the tropical feel to your household.

Still, slight differences between the two make each of them more suitable for certain kinds of homeowners.

So, it’s important to learn how to spot this distinction and identify the plant so you can provide them with the proper care and avoid unnecessary issues later on.

While the strong similarity can be confusing to some, if you pay a bit of attention, you should be able to easily distinguish these two plants and choose the one better suited for your home and lifestyle.

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