Not to be dramatic, but the Alocasia Melo (also known as Alocasia Rugosa) is one of the most instantly eye-catching plants we’ve seen! 🙂
A variety of Jewel Alocasias (dwarf Alocasia plants with ornamental leaves), this low-growing plant is a newly-documented species, being formally classified in 1997 in native Borneo.
Its claim to fame is obvious – it’s leaves! Bluish-green leaves are pressed with deep grooves that come together in an intricate, almost mosaic-like pattern. Its resemblance to a cantaloupe melon gives your plant its name.
Care-wise, your tropical Alocasia Melo is well-suited to warm, indoor temperatures, loves high humidity (>70% is ideal) and medium to bright indirect light.
But – and here’s the kicker – they are extremely intolerant to overwatering, so you’ll need to dial in your watering practices, and choose a free-draining potting mix (we like a ratio of ~15% indoor potting soil to ~85% soil amendments like bark or perlite to lighten the mix).
Here’s everything you need to know to help your Alocasia Melo thrive.
Table of Contents
What’s the difference between Alocasia Melo and Alocasia Maharani?
Before we jump into how to care for your Alocasia Melo, we a quick note on the confusion between the Melo and Maharani. While they have similar-looking leaves, the Alocasia Maharani is not the same species as the Alocasia Melo.
Alocasia Maharini is a hybrid between Alocasia Melo and Alocasia Reginula (Black Velvet), so it makes sense that the Maharani resembles its parent plant. They are both low-growing terrestrial plants that reach a similar height (around 15 inches, 35cm) when mature.
However, you can differentiate between the two by comparing the leaf color. The Melo has a deeper green color (though appears bluish-green in some lights), while the Maharani has a more obviously silvery-grey hue.
Caring for your Alocasia Melo
Growing near the rocky floor of lowland rainforests, your Alocasia Melo can tolerate low-light conditions. But for best growth, give it medium to bright but indirect light. An East-facing or North-facing window is ideal.
While up to 2-3 hours of (gentler) morning or evening direct light is okay, avoid direct sunlight in the afternoon, when the sun is at its hottest.
For this reason, if you only have access to a South or West-facing window, place your plant a couple of feet away from the windowpane to reduce light intensity. Alternatively, you can use a shade cloth to dapple direct light.
Pale or discolored leaves are a sign that your Alocasia Melo is getting too much light. Don’t be fooled by its cardboard-thick leaves – they are still very sensitive to intense sunlight!
Alas – watering. Your little Melo kicks up a fuss when waterlogged, even for a few hours. They just cannot handle it.
When watering your Alocasia Melo, consider its succulent-like leaves. This adaptation helps your plant efficiently store water, so they tend to need less water than other houseplants.
Moreover, Alocasias in general are sensitive to “wet feet”, and your Alocasia Melo is no exception. Stagnant pools of water at their sensitive roots spell disaster, as these drown out air particles and quite literally suffocates your plant.
When and How to Water
The most accurate way to determine when your plant needs watering is when the top 2 inches of soil is dry. If the topsoil is still slightly wet, resist the temptation to water.
Regularly check the topsoil with your fingers so that you know when your plant is starting to get thirsty.
When watering, don’t be afraid to soak your plant thoroughly. We know is counterintuitive after all the warning about overwatering, but it is far better to water deeply less often than water shallowly more frequently. So allow water to slowly seep into the soil (we love using this long-spouted watering can) until you notice excess water escaping through the drainage hole from the bottom of the pot.
Then empty the saucer and allow the topsoil to dry completely before watering again.
For best results, use rainwater or distilled room temperature water. Water quality matters as high levels of chlorine and fluoride in tap water can harm your Alocasia.
Alternatively, allow tap water to sit out overnight, allowing time for contained salts to dissipate.
Your Alocasia Melo is native to tropical lowland rainforests, so thrives in high humidity.
For best growth, shoot for >70% humidity. While it still can grow at ~50%, you really want to be above this level to see your plant thrive.
To increase humidity,
- You can group all your tropical houseplants together. All plants, through a natural process called transpiration, release moisture from their leaves, thereby increasing humidity levels around the plant. So grouping plants together helps each plant take advantage of the effect of others’ transpiration.
- A humidifier is the easiest, most convenient and impactful solution if you wish to increase humidity.
- Consider planting your Alocasia Melo in a terranium.
- You can use a pebble tray. Prepare a tray half-filled with water and pebbles, and place this tray under your potted Alocasia Melo. Just make sure that the water level is below the pot, so that your plant doesn’t get wet from the pebble tray. Water evaporating from the surfaces of the pebbles increases humidity levels around your plant.
Mild indoor temperatures are ideal for your Alocasia Melo. Anything between 60 – 85 degrees F (16 – 29 degrees C) is perfect. They are also able to grow outdoors year-round in USAD hardiness zones 10 and 11.
Leaf drop may result from cold chills and temperature fluctuations, (eg, a drafty door). So protect your Alocasia Melo from unnecessary shedding by providing warm, stable temperatures.
Alocasias may go dormant during the winter. Triggered by a combination of low light and cold temperatures, your plant naturally senses that conditions are not ideal for growth. It then automatically de-prioritizes new growth and “hibernates” while waiting for warmer weather and sunlight to return.
During dormancy its common to observe dropping leaves – this is nothing to be worried about. Even though your plant may look bare, it has rhizomes (a modified stem, like a ginger) under the soil that store energy and have the ability to produce new stems and leaves when growing conditions are better!
In the meanwhile, hold off on fertilizing, and continue to abide by the golden rule: only water when the topsoil is dry! During dormancy, the soil will get dry a lot less frequently than in the spring and summer, given little to no growth.
Can you prevent dormancy?
Yes. You can prevent your Alocasia from going dormant by providing warm temperatures and sufficient sunlight so that growing conditions remain optimal year-round.
Of course, whether this is possible or not depends on your climate and ability to control those variables!
While the Melo’s intricate leaves are definitely this little plant’s main appeal, it may very occasionally flower. Be warned that its flowers are not showy or significant… BUT they are a sure sign that your plant is THRIVING in your care. 🙂
Its inflorescences consist of an ivory-white spathe which may be green at the bottom, while the spadix (basically a long spike) is uniformly white.
Growing low and dense in a shrub-like habit, your Alocasia Melo usually grows in groups of 3-4 leaves with an overlapping base. They reach just 10-14 inches (25-35 cm) tall when grown indoors. Cardboard-thick, rubbery leaves are almost circular in shape and held atop lime green petioles.
Leaves are quite large for its small stature, spanning around 10 inches (25cm) long and 6 inches (15cm) wide when mature.
In general, they are a slow-grower.
Soil or Growing Medium
Other than having the right watering practices, the second part of making sure your plant doesn’t fall prey to root rot is choosing the right potting mix. You want to look for a potting mix that is light, coarse, and free-draining.
This is so that your Alocasia Melo dries off quickly after watering, ensuring its roots can breathe easy! 🙂 By quickly we mean – the water should sink into the potting mix within 1-2 seconds.
Ideally, you also want a growing medium that is slightly acidic, between pH 5.5 – 6.5. (You can use a soil kit to test the pH if you wish.)
Our favorite Melo potting mix that ticks all these boxes is:
- 1 part indoor potting mix (already pre-blended)
- 2 part perlite
- 1 part orchid bark
- 1 part horticultural charcoal
- 1 part pumice
If you don’t have all those elements, it’s okay.
As a general rule, combine ~15% of potting mix with ~85% of chunky amendments to improve drainge. You can swap out the chunky amendments for pine bark, vermiculite or silica depending on what you have on hand.
You can also use peat in place of potting mix, but in that case, keep peat to a minimum – just 10% of the total mix.
Fertilizers provide added nutrients for your plants. While they manufacture food through photosynthesis, you can think of fertilizers as vitamin supplements that ensure your plants get all the elements it needs.
When choosing a fertilizer for your Alocasia Melo, choose a gentle, urea-free one that is nutritionally complete and has a high proportion of nitrogen. Nitrogen encourages lush foliage growth, and a gentle formula is important for Alocasias who have fragile roots.
We like using Dyna-Gro Grow for most of our houseplants. Fertilize monthly at half-strength only during the active growing season (spring and summer). Hold off fertilizing in fall and winter.
There are several reasons why your Alocasia Melo shouldn’t need frequent repotting.
- Your slow-growing Alocasia Melo takes longer to establish in a pot.
- It is a compact plant with a relatively small root system.
- It likes to be slightly snug in the pot.
- Anything that disturbs their root system is stressful for Alocasias, so avoid repotting unless you see roots peeking out of the drainage hole.
In most cases, repotting once every 3-4 years is sufficient.
When repotting, choose a pot that is 2-inches larger than the original, and be sure to refresh the soil (use fresh mix!) as nutrients deplete over time.
Unfortunately, your Alocasia Melo is toxic when ingested by animals and humans.
This is due to the presence of insoluble calcium oxalate crystals in your plant’s stems and leaves. Calcium oxalate causes skin burns and irritation, nausea, and vomiting.
Propagation can be done through rhizome division or through offsets. But before you consider propagating your plant, be sure to wait until you have a healthy and established Alocasia Melo.
Propagating is stressful – and especially so for Alocasias. Spring is the best time to propagate!
Propagation by Rhizome Division
Propagation through rhizome division follows generally the same steps for most Alocasias.
- 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 Melo. Once dislodged, use your fingers to gently tease out the soil to reveal the rhizomes. Rhizomes look like ginger.
- Using the sterilized blade, cut off a healthy portion of the rhizome that has a few stems and some established roots.
- Repot the separated rhizome in an evenly moist potting mix. Choose a pot that is suitable for its size.
- 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 (“bulbs” but technically corms)
A healthy and established Alocasia Melo spontaneously grows corms (sometimes called clumps or offsets), which are baby plants, under its soil. They are sometimes called bulbs, though technically they are corms.
- 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 corms growing near the roots.
- Gently untangle the corms from the mother plant.
- Make sure the corm is still hard by pressing gently against it. (hard corms = still viable.)
- Pot the corms into a separate pot with fresh soil, with the roots facing downwards. 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. Never let it dry out completely. 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 PLENTY of 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 Melo. 🙂
A compact terrestial plant that is also quite slow growing, there’s really not much pruning to be done on your Alocasia Melo.
If you see any dead, wilted or damaged leaves, snip this off with sterilized garden shears.
Common Pests and Diseases
Your plant isn’t particularly pest-prone, but if a pest were to infest it, spider mites would be the key suspect. At the same time, Alocasia Melos are susceptible to overwatering. Overwatering can lead to a number of fungal problems.
- Overwatering, leading to root rot or fungal infections. Always make sure the topsoil is dry before watering, and choose a free-draining potting mix. If you’re dealing with a chronically overwatered plant, then follow our guide on how to save it.
- Infestations from spider mites, mealybugs or scale. As these pests reproduce rapidly, it’s important to regularly inspect your plants to catch these bugs early on. We always keep a bottle of Bonide Insecticidal Soap Spray handy to deal with these common pests; luckily, this insecticidal soap is pretty effective.
Check out our guide for more information on identifying and killing spider mites.
Dropping leaves is most often due to overwatering. Less often the cause may be underwatering. Check the soil moisture to confirm which of these is the problem.
Dropping leaves can signal a few different things: an overwatered plant, one that is too cold or in the way or a vent or draft.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I buy an Alocasia Melo?
Alocasia Melos are rare, so may take a bit of work to find one available. We like using Etsy for our exotic plant purchases.
Is the Alocasia Melo rare?
Yes, the Alocasia Melo is rare. They are endemic to rocky lowland rainforest terrains of Borneo, and don’t grow in the wild anywhere else. On flip side, the demand for the unique Melo is remains high (who can resist those leaves?!), so demand outstrips supply.
Should you mist your Alocasias Melo?
We don’t like misting our Alocasia Melo as this runs the risk of developing leaf spots as a result. Wet foliage breeds bacteria and pathogens, so we prefer using a humidifier.
Similar Plants and Varieties
Alocasia Melo vs. Alocasia Black Velvet (Alocasia Reginula)
The Alocasia Melo’s close cousin is the Alocasia Black Velvet. The Black Velvet sports dark, velvety leaves with striking silvery-veins. The pale veins against dark foliage is characteristic of the Black Velvet, easily distinguishable from the all-green Alocasia Melo!
Alocasia Melo vs. Alocasia Silver Dragon
The Alocasia Silver Dragon (Alocasia Baginda) has foliage that resembles (you guessed it!) dragon scales. They have a silvery-green color, so it’s hard to mistake the Silver Dragon for the deep forest-green leaves of an Alocasia Melo.
Other Alocasias we Love
- Alocasia Black Velvet (Alocasia Reginula)
- Alocasia Silver Dragon
- Alocasia Regal Shield
- Alocasia Yucatan Princess – stunning, large-leafed easygoing Alocasia with light pink stems.
- Alocasia Tiny Dancer – winner of “Most Unusual” Aroid at the 2009 International Aroid Society show and sale
- Alocasia Frydek
- Check out our Alocasia #1 Round-Up (w/PHOTOS!)
The Alocasia Melo is a unique, compact houseplant with breathtaking foliage. For this beauty to thrive:
- Above all else remember to provide it an extremely free-draining potting mix, and water only when the topsoil is completely dry.
- Avoid damaging its sensitive roots by using a gentle fertilizer once a monthly at half strength, only during the growing months.
- When watering, use purified, room-temperature water.
- Aim for humidity >70%.
- Keep in mild indoor temperatures, away from vents and drafts.
- Refrain from misting.
- Propagate and repot infrequently – this stresses your plant out.
Love the Alocasia Melo? Check out the Alocasia Frydek next!
Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.