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Shipping Elephant Ears – HOW TO: Care for them after delivery.

Buying Alocasia, Colocasia, Xanthosoma and other bulbous Aroids online is both exciting, because you get an often interesting new plant, and a gamble, because you never know what condition it will turn up in.

*for the sake of my typing fingers and my laziness, when I refer to Alocasia in this post, I mean all bulbous Aroids.

Alocasia are not always quite as forgiving of being transported, as other Aroids like Philodendrons and Anthuriums. Even in everyday care, they can easily throw a wobbly because of one skipped watering. It’s why a lot of growers avoid them. But with both shipping and general care, I find them also quite a forgiving plant, as long as you are willing to provide them with a few essentials. In doing that, you can expect them to bounce back from any hardship.

The hardship in question here is shipping Alocasia. The majority of my collection has come from interstate and I have had a variety of outcomes from shipping them. I have come to know what to expect now that I’ve done this a bunch of times. Some have arrived in great condition and some in bad. Either way, I feel like it’s normal now to deal with most of the tantrums these plants throw at me.

So, How do we care for them once they arrive?

So, let’s say it’s Best Case Scenario; They are well packaged and still in their pot. They were packed into a box just before shipping, well secured and protected. Then express shipped in perfect weather and land at your house and unpacked in a day or two. Perfect! In this scenario, if you lost just one leaf, I would expect it would been the worst that could happen.

Now for the Average Situation. Expect some tantrums. Being shipped is not a natural experience for any plant and Alocasia will often experience shock from it. It may spend longer than expected in the dark, it might go through a heatwave or cold conditions. It might be packaged poorly, or in the case of my last plant, have something crush the box. These can all be a factor in how the plant arrives and recovers, but that does not mean you shouldn’t have them sent to you. Just know what to expect and what to do about it.

This is what I have learnt and now do for all of my Alocasia;

Most importantly, focus on getting maximum energy to the parts of the plants that will survive!

  • Your plant may be sent bare rooted and wrapped in either moss or wet paper. This isnt always the case, but often is. They will need re-potting when they arrive and this in itself is a shocking experience for the plant. Make sure you have an aroid specific soil or put equal parts bark or perlite and potting mix, to pot the plant into. A heavy and water retaining soil will just put more pressure on the plant when it does not need it and the plant is likely to deteriorate quickly.
  • Expect to loose some leaves. Ive had plants loose all of their leaves and have come back that same season looking amazing. In general, once a leaf is drooping, then it is already too far gone. My Green Dragon arrived recently with half it’s leaves drooping over. I removed the worst two when potting and the last one a day later. My attitude is that the energy going into pointlessly keeping these leaves alive is a waste. It would be better off going to the healthy leaves that have a future. You sometimes need to be tough. However, if you do cut the last leaf, leave most of the stem and cut below the leaf. The new leaf will come from the stem. No point setting the plant back further than necessary.
  • If there are new leaves opening up or coming on, then they will usually be fine. At worst, if they are damaged, they will keep the plant functioning until the next ones come on. The new leaf can feed the plant until a new one comes and can then be cut. Having new leaves makes it easier to remove non viable leaves. I often leave the best of the bad to help feed a leaf that isnt open yet, but the rest will go for the sake of redirecting energy to a viable source.
  • Sometimes the plant will loose all of its leaves. This is disappointing, but the plant is not dead as long as the bulb is intact. My Alocasia Morocco lost all of its leaves and developed new leaves a month later. These plants also go dormant over winter in cold zones and have to regrow leaves when it warms. If it didn’t grow back, have patience. Once Spring comes, it will re-shoot. For my Morocco, I kept it with my other Alocasia and watered it, as I do the other Alocasia in my collection. It came back in no time.
  • I feed “weakly, weekly” to begin with. In normal conditions, Alocasia are hungry when growing new leaves. In this scenario, we want to encorage new leaves, feed oncomming ones and help the plant get over the shock of transport. So I feed straight away, and then weaker (half) amounts on a weekly basis.
  • Check the plant for pests. Alocasia are prone to pests like Spider Mites and may have unknowingly been sent with your plant. This adds to the stress on your plant and hinders recovery. Check the plant over, especially under the leaves, in any groves and in any unfurled leaves if you can. It can be a good idea to keep the plant away from your other ones until you know for sure.
  • Should the plant rot, check that it hasn’t gone into the bulb. This has ended up happening for the first time (For me) ever, to my xanthosoma Monstruosum in the time it’s taken to write this post. The new leaf I left behind rotted at the base and it went about half a cm into the bulb. It did go through hell getting to me, so…. Most importantly, if this happens, remove the rot. I used a sharp knife, cut where the end of the rot looked to be and then was able to assess how deep it went. You want to leave clean flesh without cutting too much away. As long as there are eyes to create new shoots, it will come back in time. After cutting the rot away, dont re-plant it and bury the top of the bulb. With an open cut, it will just contunue to rot. It needs to dry and callous over. If there are still roots that havent rotten away, you can bury some of the bulb with the roots and leave the cut top uncovered, or you could leave the bulb out for a day or two, let the cut dry and then re-plant it.


  • I guess there always has to be the exception to the rule. Should your plant arrive like my Xanthosoma Violaceum (Below) with the healthy older leaf broken at the stem, or it’s starting to droop and the young one is pretty much wasted, then there is an alternative to cutting all the leaves… For now. You could keep the damaged leaf going, knowing it’s only until a new leaf develops. This goes against what I have said above. However you could use the leaf temporarily to feed the plant and bring in a new leaf. I have done this by propping up the leaf, allowing it to last just that bit longer and absorb energy when nothing else will. In this case, crappy leaves are better than no leaves and prevents going back to just the bulb. If you choose to keep the older leaf and discard the newer one, cut just below the leaf to allow for the new one to come from the stem. I have used a plastic frame and clips that came with a plant. You could use string or a plant tie to hold it to the prop. Once a new leaf starts to unfurl, I will start to remove the damaged leaves.

EDIT: One week after arriving and my Xanthosoma Violaceum is already bouncing back.

Cutting off all the leaves would have cut off the beginning of this new leaf too. So consider the circumstances before making a cut.

As long as you give the plant the condition it needs, then it will be fine. The good thing is that Alocasia and other bulbous Aroids will grow new leaves quickly and be looking amazing. Sadly, we can’t always have this is upon delivery. But that shouldn’t stop us. It should make it all the more sweeter when we achieve that dream plant all by our self. You have to find that silver lining.

Thanks for reading and happy growing. Xx