Are your alocasia plants spindly or leaning over, as if their stems are about to break?
Often, plants’ stems bend in response to inadequate light, improper watering, or physical damage. And, if the underlying issue is not corrected, the stems could become so weak that they finally break off.
This article will cover some of the most common causes of bending alocasia stems. Hopefully, you can use this information to troubleshoot your plant and return it to its healthiest condition!
Alocasia stem bending – common causes
1. Uneven exposure to light
In their natural habitat, plants grow straight upward because they usually get 360 degrees of sunlight exposure. In contrast, plants that are grown indoors are at risk of not getting even access to light.
For example, alocasia plants that are grown in pots and placed near a window would only receive light from the side facing that window. The uneven light distribution may eventually cause their stems to grow and bend towards the light source, making them appear lopsided. This condition is known as phototropism.
Stem bending can happen to outdoor plants, too. If your alocasia is placed near a wall or a shelf, it will likely lean forward towards the closest light, causing its stems to bend.
If your plant looks a bit sad and lopsided, a simple trick is to rotate it every now and then. Every time you water your alocasia, give it a little quarter-turn to ensure that all sides of the plant are receiving equal amounts of light.
2. Lack of water
Alocasia plants need water to facilitate the transport of essential nutrients through their stems and leaves. Water also helps maintain turgor, or pressure, within the plant tissue, providing your plant structural support to keep it upright.
Hence, if your plants do not receive adequate water, their stems and leaves will lose their turgidity and begin to droop or bend. Water-deprived alocasias will also lose their vigor, making them vulnerable to several plant issues such as stunted growth, leaf drop, and complete collapse of the foliage.
If you think you have neglected your houseplants for too long and the soil looks bone dry, then you might need to give them a really thorough soak. Usually, placing the pot in a sink filled with water will do the trick! Just let your plant sit in the water for about 45 minutes or until the soil is saturated.
Once you are confident that the soil has absorbed enough moisture, take the plant out of the sink and let the excess water drain freely.
From now on, you will need to monitor the plant’s topsoil regularly to ensure that it does not become too dry. In normal weather conditions, it is recommended to water your plants about once a week. During the dry seasons, however, you might need to increase your watering as the elevated temperatures can quickly dry out the soil.
3. Root rot due to overwatering
Root rot is a common plant disease characterized by soft, mushy-looking roots. This condition is usually caused by too much watering and/or poor soil drainage.
When the roots of your plants are exposed to wet soil for too long, it limits their oxygen intake and slowly drowns the plant. Waterlogged soil can also promote the growth of fungi, which can worsen the deterioration of the root system. Eventually, the plant will lose its health and become increasingly vulnerable to fungal infections and pests.
One of the early signs of an overwatered alocasia is drooping and browning leaves, as the plant struggles with water and nutrient absorption. The stems will also start to die back, causing them to appear soft or fragile and bend.
If you have caught the overwatering issue at the earliest stage, chances are you might still be able to rescue your alocasia. Here are the steps to save your drowning plant:
- Stop watering your plant until the soil dries out completely.
- Move your drowned plant to a shady area, away from bright light.
- Tilt the soil gently to create air pockets around the root zone.
- If the soil is overly saturated and compacted, try repotting your plant. Make sure to use well-aerated soil.
- Give your plant about seven to ten days to recover.
Unfortunately, an alocasia with severe root rot might be more challenging to revive. If most of the roots have turned black and mushy, it is best to discard the plant to prevent fungal diseases from spreading to your other, healthy plants.
4. Rootbound issues
For inexperienced growers, identifying a rootbound plant might be challenging since the symptoms are often similar to those of an underwatered plant. If watering is not an issue and your alocasia develops wilted and brown leaves, you might need to think about when last you repotted it.
If a plant becomes rootbound, its soil will be displaced from the pot as the roots grow larger and become compacted. The condition will eventually lead to nutrient uptake issues, weakening your plant and causing it to droop or bend.
To prevent rootbound issues, alocasia plants must be repotted every 18 to 24 months, or when you start seeing roots growing out above the soil’s surface and or through the pot’s drainage holes.
5. Physical damage
Any form of physical damage to your alocasia plant might cause its stems to bend, whether it is caused by curious toddlers or playful pets at home. Even strong winds can cause the stems to bend, sometimes.
Fortunately, there are ways to protect your alocasia from physical damage. For starters, you may want to move your plant to an elevated area to keep it away from children’s reach. You can also use protective coverings or natural deterrents to prevent pets from romping around your garden plants.
If you live in an area with strong winds, you can protect your houseplants by adding sturdy structural support to prevent the stems from bending. You might also need to relocate your alocasia to a safer area on particularly windy days. For outdoor planting, consider reinforcing your greenhouse and trellises to prevent strong winds from knocking your plants over.
Sometimes, alocasia plants might look like they are dying as they enter their dormant state during the late autumn and winter seasons. Now, this might seem a bit frustrating, especially if your plants are intended to uplift the aesthetic of your home! However, this is a natural part of the plant’s growth cycle and the best thing you can do is allow it to take a break. Once the cold season is over, it should perk back up and return to its healthy, bushy state.
How do you keep alocasia upright?
Depending on the issue and how severely bent the stems are, you might still be able to correct the shape of your plants using a few simple fixes.
If the stems are only slightly bending, then using tape to support the plant should provide quick relief. You can use florist tape or plant scotch tape to repair the bent plant stems.
Toothpicks, skewers, or drinking straws might also be used as a splint to straighten the stems and align the damaged parts. Strengthen the bent areas by wrapping one or more splints to your plant with tape or plastic ties.
Once you have everything set up, remember to correct your plant care routine if this is the cause of the bending stems. For example, if the problem is related to watering issues, consider using a soil moisture meter to keep your soil condition in check. The device will provide you with real-time information about whether your alocasias need more hydration or not, thereby reducing the risk of both overwatering and underwatering.
If the issue is caused by uneven light distribution, then simply turning or moving your plant a little bit should help correct its lopsided shape. Make sure that all sides of the alocasia receive equal bright light to prevent bent stems and leggy growth.
Unfortunately, for badly bent plants, it might be difficult to correct their bent stems. The best thing you can do is to clip off the damaged stem and patiently wait for new growth to appear.
Alocasia stems can bend for several possible reasons, although uneven light exposure is the most common culprit. In this case, you can use a sturdy mechanical support to ensure that your plants do not fall over and help keep them straight and uniform. Additionally, make sure to correctly diagnose your plant and fix the issue as soon as possible to prevent the stems from breaking completely!
Image: istockphoto.com / Anggi Dharma Prasetya