Alocasia Black Velvet, or Alocasia reginula, is a truly unique houseplant to add to your living space. It has thick, black, heart-shaped leaves with a velvety texture, giving it an elegant appearance. No wonder so many growers covet these plants!
Unfortunately, your Alocasia may not look as stunning as it should if its leaves start to curl. The most common causes of this undesirable appearance all come down to inappropriate care, including overwatering, incorrect lighting conditions, over-fertilizing, and pest infestations.
As soon as you notice the leaves curling on your Alocasia Black Velvet, the first thing you should do is determine the underlying issue. This is the only way you will be able to implement the right solution to help your plant regain its health.
Why are my Alocasia Black Velvet’s leaves curling?
Inconsistent watering is the most likely reason your Alocasia Black Velvet’s leaves are curling. Tropical plants like Alocasia require damp soil to keep their leaves hydrated and maintain their turgor. If you skip watering your plant for too long, its leaves and stems will turn pale, dry, and curly as they dehydrate, which is not healthy.
2. Root rot
Roots are the lifeline of every plant. Alocasias need healthy roots to absorb water, soil nutrients, and oxygen for their survival. Roots also anchor and support plants so they can remain upright.
One common mistake among novice gardeners is overwatering their Alocasia. While tropical plants love soil with sufficient moisture content, too much water can lead to irreversible damage to the root system. Root rot can weaken the plant and make it vulnerable to diseases; a plant with root rot may also show signs such as stunted growth, lack of vigor, wilting, leaf discolorations, and leaf curling.
Although usually caused by overwatering, root rot might also result from the use of pots with poor drainage, or and soil that is too dense or compact. These factors all contribute to too much water retention in the soil, which cuts the oxygen supply to the roots. Oxygen-starved roots begin to decay and the rot will spread from there to the other, healthier roots. That is why, if you lift the affected plant from its pot, you will see mushy and dark roots that give off a foul odor. Root rot can also be an attractive breeding ground for fungus, which will further exacerbate the problem.
3. Potassium deficiency
Potassium-deficient Alocasia plants can be easily distinguished by the curling of their lower, older leaves. The growth of younger leaves is also somewhat limited, and they usually appear with smaller leaf blades. You will also notice brown scorches and yellow stains between the margins of the leaves, and possibly defoliation. If you notice your Alocasia displaying these symptoms, consider investigating its nutrient uptake. The culprit might be damaged roots, or you are simply not fertilizing your plant enough.
Most newbie growers tend to feed their plants more than they need, in the hope that this will make their Alocasias grow bigger and healthier. However, too much is often a bad idea – and this goes for plants, too.
The advantage of using fertilizer is that you can provide your plants with just the right balance of macro- and micronutrients. Indoor plants like Alocasias are restricted to the soil inside their containers, unlike in their natural habitat where they would receive unlimited organic fertilizer to maintain their vigor. Thus, the addition of fertilizer can definitely help your Alocasia grow to its full potential.
However, these tropical plants are not heavy feeders, and too much fertilizer can accumulate in the soil and burn their roots. When this happens, the roots can no longer do their job of absorbing nutrients and supporting the plant, which results in droopy, curling leaves.
5. Low humidity
Alocasias thrive in areas with high levels of humidity and temperatures between 68 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in an area with cold winters or place your Alocasia in a spot that gets fluctuating temperatures, it will likely struggle with temperature stress. Curling leaves is just one of the common signs that your plant has been exposed to dry air or unfavorable temperature. You might also notice its leaves developing brown tips and becoming droopy.
6. Exposure to direct sunlight
In their natural environment, Alocasias thrive under trees or other taller plants where they get indirect sunlight. Sunlight is extremely important to facilitate photosynthesis and maintain the plants’ vibrant green foliage, and scattered sunlight also ensures that the leaves are not burned by the extreme heat of the sun.
If you do not understand the sunlight requirements of your indoor plants, you may end up exposing them to full sunlight, in the mistaken belief that this will make their leaves greener and healthier. For Alocasias, this is not the case. In reality, the UV rays from the sun can harm the plant, and its leaves will curl as it tries to protect itself from the heat.
Just like underwatering, too much heat can have a drying effect on the plant’s foliage, so you might also notice its leaves looking scorched or developing brown spots due to dehydration.
7. Pest infestations
All plants are vulnerable to pests. These tiny, sap-sucking creatures can cause irreversible damage to leaves and stems as they take over your beloved plants. A sad-looking Alocasia with curling leaves might be showing early signs of a pest infestation. Without proper intervention, the nuisance could soon cause other visible damages such as holes in the leaves, discolorations, stunted growth, sticky brown spots on the leaves, and defoliation. A severely infested plant will eventually become deprived of nutrients and die.
How to fix and prevent Alocasia leaves from curling
1. Maintain a proper watering schedule
Alocasias are happiest when watered roughly once a week, although you might need to adjust the frequency depending on the season. If it is very hot and the soil dries too quickly, you will have to water your plant more frequently.
The best way to determine your plant’s moisture needs is to use a soil moisture meter like the XLUX. The best thing about this device is that it will take care of all the monitoring for you. If the reading says your soil is too dry, then it is time to give your Alocasia a drink. If the reading displays a wet soil value, you can withhold watering until the soil becomes drier.
You can also use the finger method to know when your plant needs watering, although this manual method is a little less accurate than the moisture meter. Simply insert your finger about two inches deep into the soil to feel if it is wet or dry. Be careful not to go too deep to avoid disturbing the roots.
To prevent standing water collecting around the roots, only use pots with drainage holes and choose an airy soil mix. You can also add pumice or perlite to improve soil aeration and allow more space for the roots to grow.
Lastly, never overwater your plants. Alocasias love moisture, but they will not tolerate waterlogged soil. As soon as you see excess water flowing out from the pot’s drainage holes, it is your cue to stop watering. Also do not forget to empty the saucer after watering your plant.
2. Eradicate any pest infestations
Certain insects are naturally attracted to plants because they live off the nutrients in the plant’s juices, or sap. While they feed on this sap, however, they also compromise the health of your Alocasia. To get rid of the pests and prevent further damage, try these tips:
- Make it a habit to check the undersides of the plant’s leaves for webs. As soon as you spot one, wipe it away with cotton wool soaked in soapy water.
- Pests are attracted to dusty leaves, so make sure to wipe the leaves of your Alocasia from time to time to get rid of dust. Use a damp cloth to clean the leaves. Alternatively, give your plant a good, shower especially during summer, to maintain its shiny, dark-green leaves.
- As soon as you suspect an infestation, it is best to use products to kill the bugs and their eggs immediately. Insecticidal soaps are one of the most effective and cheapest solutions to get rid of almost any kind of plant pests. You can soak the affected leaves in the solution and directly spray any bugs you see crawling on the leaves.
- Another natural pest killer is neem oil. Mix the oil with water and spray it on the leaves and stem of the plant once a week until all the pests are gone.
3. Use fertilizer to fix nutrient deficiencies
There are many types of fertilizer you can purchase to boost your plant’s health. For your Alocasia, it is best to use a water-soluble fertilizer such as potassium sulfate, potassium chloride, potassium nitrate, or monopotassium phosphate.
If you prefer to use organic fertilizers, you can try compost made from banana peels, seaweed, or comfrey liquid. Fertilize your Alocasia once every two weeks for the best results.
However, you should only apply fertilizer during the plant’s growing season. Do not use it during the dormant seasons or you risk harming its roots.
4. Protect your plant from extreme temperatures
As mentioned, Alocasias do better in areas with filtered or scattered sunlight. The right spot is usually near a window that has curtains to diffuse the sunlight.
These are also cold-sensitive plants, so do not leave them exposed to cold drafts, especially during winter. If the air becomes too dry, try to raise the humidity by placing a tray filled with pebbles and water underneath, or nearby, the plant. You can also use a humidifier to maintain the right growing conditions for your plants, no matter what the season.
Wrapping it up
There are many possible reasons for curling leaves on an Alocasia Black Velvet. Thus, before you try to apply any fix, it is important to ensure that you understand the cause. This can vary from watering issues to incorrect use of fertilizer. Once you have identified the exact cause, you should be able to revive your plant by following the tips mentioned in this guide.
Remember to continue giving your plant the appropriate care once it has regained its health. Alocasias require a moderate level of care and are not quite as hardy as some other common houseplants. Provide yours with the right growing conditions and it will reward you with beautiful, healthy foliage you will enjoy for years!
Image: istockphoto.com / Firn