The Alocasia Black Velvet (scientific name: Alocasia Reginula) is a low-growing Alocasia, reaching just 20 inches (50cm) tall at maturity. But don’t let its small stature fool you – with dark, mysterious leaves, silvery veins, and a surprising purple underside, this little plant makes a big impression. 🙂
Care-wise, your fussy Alocasia Black Velvet requires a little more attention than most other houseplants.
High humidity (>60%) is important, as are mild indoor temperatures protected from chills and drafts. Protect against hard water, harsh fertilizer salts, and direct light. Like most Alocasias, they need an airy potting soil that is kept slightly moist but not waterlogged. Watch out for spider mites!
Let’s dive into the details!
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Hailing from South East Asian rainforests, the Alocasia Black Velvet grows under a canopy of trees in Boreo (Malaysia), near the forest floor. Its leaves have adapted to low-light conditions by absorbing almost the full spectrum of visible light, which incidentally gives your plant its characteristic dark green color.
Isn’t it amazing how different plants adapt to different growing conditions?
Caring for your Alocasia Black Velvet
While your Alocasia Black Velvet tolerates low light conditions well, it grows best in medium to bright, indirect light. Ideally, place your Alocasia near East or North-facing windows.
You may also notice that your plant’s leaves angle towards the light – this is another way your plant tries to capture as much light as it can! Regularly rotate your plant so that it grows evenly, and maintains that healthy, bushy look. 🙂
Just a word of caution: the Black Velvet doesn’t do well in more than 2-3 hours of harsh direct light (eg, direct afternoon sun). If you only have access to a West or South-facing window, that’s fine, but place your plant 5-8 feet (1.5-2.4 meters) away from the window pane to avoid bleached, sun-scorched leaves.
Alternatively, you can also use a 20-40% shade cloth to reduce the light intensity.
On the other hand, leggy stems usually mean your plant needs a bit more light.
Watering may be the trickiest part of caring for your Alocasia Black Velvet. While your plant enjoys a thorough soak (they live in the rainforest after all!) they want to be able to dry off quickly too. They also have succulent-like leaves, so require less water than most.
Stagnant water pooled at the roots suffocates its fragile root system and invites root rot. This is something you want to avoid at all costs!
Here are our watering tips:
- Water only when the top 2 inches of soil is dry. Use your fingers to check soil moisture regularly, so you notice when the pot is starting to dry out.
- When watering, don’t be afraid to give your plant a thorough soak. Let water saturate the soil, and escape through the drainage holes. Don’t water shallowly.
- Remember to empty the plant’s saucer after watering.
- Using this method, you’ll notice that your plant requires much less water in the winter months – this is normal. Evaporation rates are lower, and your plant is not actively growing, so needs less water!
To avoid a build-up of chlorine and fluoride damaging the roots, water quality is important.
Use purified, room temperature water on your Alocasia Black Velvet. Rainwater or tap water that’s left out overnight are good options too.
Rainforests have extremely high humidity levels, well over 80% year-round. Think about the high rainfall and constant evaporation that increases moisture levels in the air.
For your Alocasia Black Velvet, >60% humidity is ideal. The higher the better!
Since average room humidity (though really dependent on the climate) is around ~30%, you may need to take action to bridge this “humidity gap”. Check out our humidity tips, or invest in a humidifier.
We personally like this brand’s humidifier, which has precise %humidity settings and works splendidly. 🙂
Mild indoor temperatures provide a good growing environment for your Alocasia Black Velvet. Temperatures between 70-85 degrees F (21-29 degrees C) are ideal, though they can tolerate dips to 60 degrees F (16 degrees C).
As usual, keep your Alocasia away from wind or drafts!
While usually grown indoors, you can also plant your Black Velvet outdoors year-round, in USDA Zone 10a and above.
Drops in temperature, alongside low light, will trigger dormancy in your Alocasia Reginula. This just means that your plant will stop growing and drop leaves as it “hibernates” and waits for better growing conditions to come.
Though dropping leaves may appear dramatic, dormancy is a natural process that doesn’t harm your plant. You’d just want to be extra careful that you stop fertilizing completely, and water only when the topsoil is dry (which will be much less frequent), so that your plant can rest.
It’s pretty rare for your Alocasia Black Velvet to bloom indoors. Plus, its inflorescences are not that impressive – a yellow, boat-like spathe protecting a central cream-colored spadix. Technically, flowers are not the inflorescence itself, rather are the reproductive parts that grow along the length of the spadix.
You may choose to cut off the inflorescence if you want your plant to focus its energy on growing those lush, dark leaves.
Your Alocasia Black Velvet is a slow-grower, taking up to 5 years to reach maturity. Even then, it grows only up to 20 inches (50cm) tall when fully developed. New growth emerges from the center of the plant.
The upside to keeping compact plants is that you have an excuse to buy more!
Its succulent-like leaves grow up to 6 inches (15cm) long and 2.5 inches (6cm) wide.
Soil or Growing Medium
In terms of potting mix, it’s important to choose a coarse, free-draining soil.
Avoid heavy soils with lots of sphagnum moss and coconut coir – these are too moisture-retentive for your Alocasia Black Velvet, which is sensitive to overwatering.
We like to use a mix of:
That’s right. Not much potting soil at all (~20% of the mix), and much more (80%) chunky amendments to give your plant space to breathe, and for water to drain.
Being a light feeder with fragile roots, the chance of over-fertilizing is higher than under-fertilizing. So go easy on the fertilizer!
We like applying Dyna-gro Grow at half strength, once every 6 weeks, during the spring and summer months only.
Avoid fertilizing in fall and winter. Your plant doesn’t need it.
A light, white crust forming on the soil surface indicates a build-up of fertilizer salts. This means one of two things – you are fertilizing too often, or using a fertilizer that’s just not gentle enough for your plant’s sensitive roots.
For this reason, we avoid cheap, harsh fertilizers – it’s just not worth it!
To remedy this, use room-temperature purified water to flush out excess salts. Allow the water to completely saturate and run for a few minutes. Then, let your plant dry as it recovers.
You may choose to relocate it outdoors while it recovers, as evaporation rates are higher. That is, if you can find a shaded spot, and one protected from winds.
Being a compact plant that is slow-growing, there’s usually no need to repot more than once every 2-3 years. Repotting stresses out your plant, so avoid this unless you see roots peeking out of the drainage hole.
They also prefer to be slightly pot-bound, so can withstand being a little snug in the pot.
- Water your plant 24 hours before repotting.
- Place your Alocasia Black Velvet on its side, and try to wriggle your plant out of the pot. Use your fingers to loosen the soil, and try not to damage the roots.
- Prepare a new pot, about 2 inches (5cm) bigger than the original. Choose a pot with drainage holes and partially fill it with new potting mix, orchird bark, perlite and charcoal (see Soil Section for details).
- Replant your Black Velvet in its new pot, and refrain from watering for a few days as your plant heals and recovers.
Unfortunately, your plant is toxic when ingested by animals and humans.
This is due to the presence of insoluble calcium oxalate crystals in your Alocasia’s stems and leaves. Calcium oxalate causes skin burns and irritation, nausea, and vomiting.
There are two main ways you can propagate your Alocasia Black Velvet.
The first involves cutting off a part of its rhizome that has developed some roots and stems, and allowing this to grow in a separate pot. The second involves separating the mother plant from its offsets. Offsets are small baby plants.
Both require healthy and established plants. If you’re recently bought a plant or relocated it, or it’s still fairly young, don’t propagate it just yet. Let it acclimatize and recover before stressing it out again!
For best results, propagate in the spring and summer months. Warmth, light, and humidity help your plant recover more quickly.
Propagation by Rhizome Division
- The day before propagation, water your plant and sterilize a knife blade with 70% isopropyl solution.
- Place your plant on its side and unpot your Alocasia Black Velvet. Use your fingers to gently tease out the soil to reveal the rhizomes. Try not to damage the roots.
- Using the sterilized blade, cut off a healthy portion of the tuber that has a few stems and some established roots.
- Repot the tuber in an evenly moist potting mix. Choose a pot that is suitable for the size of the tuber and one that has drainage holes.
- Place the mother plant back in its pot.
- Keep both plants in a warm, humid location with plenty of indirect light. If you have a humidifier, place it next to the plants and set it at 80%.
- It will take about 6 weeks for roots to establish in the baby plant, and for your mother plant to recover. Your plants may show signs of stress in the meantime.
- New growth indicates your plants have recovered!
Propagation by Offsets
- Prepare by watering your plant the day before propagation, which reduces the risk of transplant shock.
- Carefully wriggle your plant out of its pot, using your fingers to free compacted soil to dislodge the rootball. Be careful not to damage the roots.
- Examine the roots of the mother plant. You should see some clumps (corms) growing underneath, with their own roots. These clumps are also called offsets.
- Gently untangle the corms from the mother plant. Again, try not to damage the roots!
- Pot the corms into a separate pot with fresh soil. Return the mother plant back to its own pot.
- For the next 6 weeks, ensure your new plant’s soil remains evenly moist but not waterlogged. If you have a humidifier, place it next to the pot and set it at 80%. Ensure your new plant is in a warm location with indirect light.
- Note that the mother plant may show signs of stress (eg, drooping leaves) but this is normal as it recovers.
- After 6 weeks, your new plant should be established in its pot, and your mother plant has fully recovered.
- Treat both plants as you would any other Alocasia Black Velvet.
How about Propagation by seeds?
Seed propagation is not easy and takes a long time. Best to leave this to the professionals!
There’s not much pruning that you need to do for your Alocasia Black Velvet. If you see a damaged leaf, trim it off.
Use sharp shears to reduce trauma, and dip these in 70% isopropyl solution to sterilize.
Common Pests and Diseases
Keep a lookout for spider mites as these pests love your Alocasia Black Velvet’s lush leaves.
Besides spider mites, Black Velvets are also prone to fungal diseases that arise from overwatered plants. These include root rot, botrytis, and leaf-spot.
In both cases, prevention is the best method of control:
- Choose a light and airy potting mix. See Soil section for details.
- Proper watering is key: Water only when the topsoil is dry, but water deeply.
- Use a pot with drainage holes and always empty the saucer.
- Keep your plant healthy. A healthy plant is less attractive to pests.
- Inspect your plants regularly for signs of spider mites (fine webbing on the undersides of leaves). Early detection is important, as spider mites multiply very quickly.
- Using a dilute solution of neem oil monthly as a preventative measure will deter spider mites.
- Keep humidity levels high. This wards away spider mites who prefer dry conditions.
If you already have an ailing plant on your hands,
- Read our guide on saving your overwatered plant.
- Check out the steps to identify and get rid of spider mites.
Overwatering is the most common reason for yellow leaves on your Alocasia Black Velvet, although underwatering can also be the cause. Check the soil moisture to confirm which.
If you’re a beginner, here are some watering tips to ensure you dial in good watering practices. Also, check that the potting mix you’re using has lots (~80%) of chunky amendments to ~20% of potting soil. (See Soil section for our favorite potting mix.)
Brown leaf tips
Underwatering or low humidity can cause browning leaf tips in an Alocasia Black Velvet. Other common reasons include a build-up of fertilizer salts or water salts from hard tap water.
If a build-up of fertilizer salts is the issue, flush your plant with room temperature purified water.
Tan, brown, or black leaf spots
Brown or black leaf spots commonly indicate a leaf spot disease. These are fungal diseases that arise from an overwatered plant.
In the case of a leaf spot,
- First, gather and destroy fallen damaged leaves and dispose of them securely. Growth on affected leaves can re-infect other parts of the plant or new healthy plants it comes into contact with.
- Isolate your plant from other healthy plants to prevent contamination.
- Trim off any damaged leaves, again carefully disposing of them. Make sure to sterilize your garden shears using 70% isopropyl before and after use.
- Apply a fungicide that contains chlorothalonil to contain the spread of the infection. Chlorothalonil is an effective broad-spectrum fungicide.
Curling leaves usually signal your plant is getting too much sunlight, or is underwatered.
Drooping leaves can be a sign of an overwatered plant. (Check soil moisture to confirm!)
However, it can also more generally signal a stressed Alocasia Black Velvet, or one that is going dormant (scroll up on Seasonal Dormancy for more info.). If you’ve recently repotted, propagated, or relocated your plant, this is to be expected.
Cold temperatures can also cause leaf drop.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Alocasia Black Velvet rare?
Being endemic to (meaning, only found in) Borneo, they are not easily found in the wild. This made the Alocasia Black Velvet quite hard to find historically.
However, in the past few years, commercial tissue culture has increased the supply of Alocasia Black Velvets in the market. Now, you can find them online from Etsy.
Alocasia Black Velvet Variegated Version
There are several eye-catching variegated versions of the Alocasia Black Velvet. Patches of light purple or yellow set against dark green leaves make each of these plants truly mesmerizing.
However, expect to pay a premium to get your hands on one! We’ve seen listings that run in the low thousands, but it really depends on the level of variegation and how sought-after that particular variety is.
Other Alocasias we Love
- Alocasia Zebrina
- Alocasia Polly
- Alocasia Silver Dragon
- Alocasia Regal Shield
- Alocasia Stingray
- Alocasia Sarian
- Alocasia Melo
- Alocasia Cuprea, the Mirror Plant, famous for its glossy copper-sheen
- Alocasia Tiny Dancer – winner of “Most Unusual” Aroid at the 2009 International Aroid Society show and sale
- Alocasia Lauterbachiana
- Alocasia Frydek
- Check out our Alocasia #1 Round-Up (w/PHOTOS!)
The Alocasia Black Velvet is a beautiful, compact houseplant with dark leaves and silvery veins. Dark and mysterious, the Black Velvet is both eye-catching and unique. For best growth,
- Provide medium to bright indirect light. East or North-facing windows are ideal.
- Avoid direct light. Rotate regularly for even growth.
- Avoid harsh fertilizers. Use a urea-free, gentle liquid fertilizer once every 6 weeks at half strength, only during the active growing season.
- High humidity (>60%) and warm indoor temperatures away from winds are important.
- Cold weather and low light may trigger seasonal dormancy. Hold off fertilizing and reduce watering.
- Water only when the top 2 inches of soil is dry, and use room temperature, purified water.
- Inspect regularly for signs of spider mites. You can apply dilute neem oil once a month as a preventative measure.
- Choose a free-draining potting mix that is airy and light, approx 20% potting soil to 80% chunky amendments like perlite and orchid bark.
Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.