Alocasia vs Colocasia: A Battle of Two Elephant Ear Plants

Most people know elephant ear plants since they are pretty common across the United States. However, most people don’t know that we use the term ’’elephant ear plants’’ to describe four different types of species. Since the article is titled ‘’Alocasia vs Colocasia,’’ you must have already figured out that we will only discuss two today. 

Why are alocasia and colocasia known as elephant’s ears? It’s because of their large leaves, which are somewhat similar to the ears of an elephant. But there are considerable differences that set apart these two species. If you are undecided about which to grow between alocasia and colocasia, taking your time to read the rest of this post should be a big help.

Alocasia vs Colocasia: Side By Side Comparison

Criteria Alocasia Colocasia
Genus Alocasia Colocasia
Number Of Subspecies 90 (almost) 20 (almost)
Height 3 to 5 feet 2 to 6 feet
Leaf Orientation Points Upward Points Downward
Edibility No Yes
Sunlight Tolerance Low High

Detailed Different Between Alocasia and Colocasia

Alocasia vs Colocasia Differences

Alocasia and Colocasia are both aroids. That means they come from the Araceae family of plants. So, it’s no surprise that they have many things in common. At first glance, it’s not easy to tell them apart. But once you dig deeper, you will realize that the differences between these two species are not as subtle as you originally thought. 

  • Leaves

Alocasia 

The primary distinctive feature between alocasia and colocasia leaves is their orientation. It’s not the most obvious thing to notice. When we look at the leaves of a plant, we check their color and shape. Unless you are a botanist, it would be quite unlikely for you to examine the orientation of leaves. But, in this case, it’s important.

The leaves of the alocasia plant have stiff stems, or twigs, that extend into the leaf interior. The petioles will serve as guides, and the leaves will fall in a straight line below them. Because of this, most alocasia leaves are oriented in an upward position. This is the most apparent identifying mark of alocasia plants. 

Typically, the shape of alocasia leaves resembles arrowheads. But you will also see heart-shaped ones. So, the shape of the leaf is not as effective as a differentiating factor as its orientation. Alocasia leaves have a smooth texture and are usually bright green in color. You can see a network of veins running through the leaf’s underside.

Colocasia 

The leaves of colocasia plants appear to be hanging downward because their petioles reach down from the notch into the leaves. So, if you see an elephant’s ear plant with leaves pointing downward, you can confidently tell it’s a colocasia. If the leaves point toward the opposite direction, it’s an alocasia.

Colocasia leaves have a darker green tone, in contrast to the bright green leaves of alocasia. It has more of a circular shape, but in some cases, the leaves might seem heart-shaped. So, it could be a bit tricky to identify colocasia plants solely based on the shape of their leaves. Unlike alocasia, it has no noticeable veins.

  • Edibility

Alocasia

Unless you are in a Man vs. Wild-type survival situation, we would not recommend eating any parts of alocasia. It’s toxic, and without proper preparation, consuming alocasia will be synonymous with suicide. So, we would urge you again not to add alocasia to your menu. There are some rare alocasia varieties that are edible but don’t eat them unless you know for sure.

Colocasia

Colocasia, on the other hand, has more culinary uses. The tubers of many species of colocasia, commonly referred to as taro, are a popular food source. In Hawaii, where taro (a type of Colocasia) is commonly grown, it serves as a staple cuisine. You will find taro on almost all grocery shelves in Hawaii.

  • Reproduction

Alocasia

Even though they come from the same family of plants, alocasia and colocasia reproduce in different ways. Alocasia can reproduce through tubers and rhizomes. To grow new alocasia plants, you can cut out a tuber from an adult plant and plant it elsewhere. Or, you can take the rhizomes and plant them separately to grow new alocasia. 

Colocasia

Colocasia is strictly one-dimensional when it comes to reproduction. It cannot produce rhizomes, and it only grows tubers. So, you will have to remove the tuber and replant it to cultivate colocasia plants.

  • Growing Conditions

Alocasia 

Alocasia doesn’t deal with moisture well. It would be best not to plant them on moist soil that captures a lot of moisture. Does that mean to water them as often as you would water other plants? Wrong! Since the soil is not soggy, you will have to replenish it by watering it frequently. 

Alocasia plants are not much fond of sunlight either. Therefore, they are perfect as houseplants. Plant them in an area that does not get direct sunlight. But don’t ignore the sun altogether. Like other photosynthesizing plants, it would need the magic of sunlight to some degree to produce food. So, the planted area should get sunlight for a certain period.

Learn More About Alocasia Leaf Problem and Ideal Growing Condition

Colocasia

Colocasia thrives in wet soil. So, plant it in soil with high levels of moisture. You can also grow them in still water if you want. These plants love water! Prolonged exposure to water cause alocasia roots to rot. That’s certainly not the case for colocasia. They are ideal for growing in soggy soil.

What about sunlight? Are they as vulnerable to solar rays as their cousins? Absolutely not! Colocasia plants require plenty of sunlight for proper growth. So, you can grow them outside without a second thought. These plants completely embrace their tropical nature and love basking in the sun.

  • Flower Anatomy

We can find other noteworthy distinctions between alocasia and colocasia when we examine their flowers. The base of the alocasia plant contains the placenta. The ovaries and stem connect along the internal floor of this placenta. 

In contrast, the placenta is visible next to the inner side in colocasia. The stem and ovaries are attached to the placenta through the inner sides of the ovary.

  • Appearance Of The Tuber

The tuber is a common reproductive medium for alocasia and colocasia. However, you can tell the difference when looking at the respective plants’ tubers. Colocasia tubers have a bulky appearance. They have a banded exterior. On the other hand, Alocasia tubers are slimmer and have smooth outer surfaces. They are also longer than colocasia tubers.

Final Words

To summarize our alocasia vs colocasia discussion, we would like to remind you again of the most distinctive feature. Focus on the leaves, and look at whether they are upward-facing or downward-facing. That’s enough to draw the line between these two closely related plants. But that’s far from the only difference.

These plants differ in reproduction, growth conditions, and many other factors. While alocasia is mostly a houseplant, colocasia serves both as an agricultural crop and a decorative plant in our gardens and balconies. Alocasia needs more delicate conditions to survive, while colocasia thrives underneath the open sky. 

We hope reading this article will help you tell apart these plants whenever you see them. Knowing the difference between these two plants is crucial for growing them properly.

Happy Gardening

James Rivenburg
James Rivenburg
James Rivenburg

James Rivenburg is the founder of plantandpest.com, a passionate gardener with valuable experience and knowledge gained through trial and error. The website has a large community of followers who trust his tips and techniques and have succeeded with his advice. He is always Committed to helping others create a beautiful and healthy garden.

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