Alocasia Black Velvet is a stunning variety of elephant ear with nearly black leaves. Learn about where this plant comes from, where to find it, and all about Alocasia Black Velvet care indoors.
Alocasia Black Velvet & how to care for this stunning nearly black plant
Hi all! Back at it with another Alocasia plant today. I recently wrote about the Alocasia Silver Dragon, an increasingly popular variety of Alocasia. I have always loved elephant ears (a common name for many different types of Alocasia, Colocasia, Caladium, etc. plants), but I have struggled with them indoors.
I’m trying my hand at collecting a few to see if I can keep them happy until the spring, at which point I can take them outside and am sure they will thrive. (Maryland humidity = the best for plants.)
Alocasia Black Velvet is a plant that has always fascinated me. I love dark plants with nearly black foliage and have several. They include the gorgeous and hardy raven ZZ, the rare scindapsus treubii dark form, and the geo plant—a newer addition to the U.S. houseplant market.
Are Alocasia Black Velvet hard to care for?
Alocasia Black Velvet, otherwise known as Alocasia reginula, is about as hard as any other Alocasia variety to care for. They are a bit high maintenance for my liking only because I like plants that can withstand a lot of neglect.
The nice thing about Alocasia Black Velvet is that it is slightly hardier than some other elephant ear varieties. That’s because it’s leaves are slightly thicker, and it can go (and should go) a bit longer between watering sessions.
Where is it from, and how can a plant be black?
The plant hails from the tropical Borneo, an island in Southeast Asia that is divided between Malaysia and Brunei in the north and Indonesia to the south. The leaves of the plant are thick, dark, and velvet-like with white veining.
In researching exactly how a plant can be this dark, I came across this fascinating read from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, which I’ll summarize here:
Many plants are green because the plant does not use the middle portion of the visible light spectrum—green and yellow. In photosynthesis, chlorophyll uses the red and blue parts of the spectrum, casting off the parts of the spectrum it doesn’t need (green and yellow).
Those colors are then reflected back to our eyes, giving the plant a green or yellow appearance. Plants with black-presenting leaves, however, absorb light energy across the entire visible light spectrum. So, all the colors.
And what does that mean? It means that none of them are reflected back to us. Leading to black. But the much lighter veining on the Alocasia Black Velvet’s leaves reflect almost all of the visible colors, which creates the cool contrast.
Why is Alocasia Black Velvet rare?
Why a plant is rare is somewhat of a loaded question. It has to do with supply and demand, and that can ebb and flow with trends—and where you live also has a huge impact on the availability of certain plants.
Alocasia Black Velvet is much less rare than it used to be. I used to see them at local nurseries for A LOT of money. However, now I see them going for really reasonable prices at nurseries and from sellers online.
Growers are increasingly propagating this plant or growing it from tissue cultures. This basically means that they can grow a lot of them at one time. The fact that Alocasia Black Velvet isn’t mass produced to the level of some other popular plants like common pothos varieties keeps the supply numbers down, though.
It means you’re not *super* likely to find it for cheap prices at a big box nursery—but you can get lucky!! As with mid-range-rare plants like these, the best place to find them is for sale on a local Facebook plant group!
How much light does Black Velvet Alocasia need?
Like many plants that come from tropical jungles, Alocasia Black Velvet prefers bright indirect light. Imagine a jungle: There are several layers of foliage that prevent the sun from directly touch many of the plants that grow lower to the ground.
Only dappled direct sunlight can reach the plants, so keep that in mind when deciding where to put your black velvet. I tend to keep all of my plants that light bright indirect light near my sunniest window.
I find that even sitting directly in my sunniest windows is fine for my plants, but keep an eye on yours if you do this. Too much direct light can burn the leaves, which is cosmetic damage you can’t reverse.
If you have the plant outdoors for the summer—which I definitely plan to do!—make sure you keep it under a dense tree, under a covered patio or deck, or under a shade cloth. Some morning sun will likely be OK since it is a bit weaker.
If you notice that the leaves are growing smaller or that the plant isn’t as bushy as it once was, it likely needs a bit more light. Play around with where you keep the plant to see how it does!
What kind of soil do black velvet plants need?
For the Alocasia Black Velvet’s soil, I recommend any well-draining houseplant or indoor plant soil. I generally like to throw in an extra handful of coarse perlite and/or coco coir to help enhance aeration and drainage, too.
Succulent mixes can also work quite well for plants like these, too. That’s because the soil comes premixed with other additions like more perlite and sand. Whatever you choose, just make sure it drains well!
And that’s because this plant is susceptible to root rot and does not like to sit in wet soil. Damp soil after you water the plant is fine—just make sure to water the plant deeply and let all of the excess water flow out of the drainage holes.
I mentioned earlier in the post that these plants can tolerate slightly less water than some other Alocasia plants because of their thick leaves. Keep that in mind when watering, too.
I’d recommend watering the plant once the top several inches of soil dry out. You could probably let the plant go a bit longer, too. But watering frequency depends a lot on the amount of light a plant gets and what kind of soil it’s in.
So a finger test is always best until you get into a routine with your specific plant. Or get a moisture meter…but I always go with the finger!
Should I mist my Alocasia Black Velvet?
Alocasias in general like high humidity, and you can include Alocasia Black Velvet in that generalization. This is one of the reasons I tend to avoid Alocasias in my super dry house—unless I can have them in a climate-controlled glass cabinet or right next to a humidifier.
I tend to see people recommend putting a plant on a pebble tray or grouping it with other plants to help keep ambient humidity levels higher. However, I don’t think that’s enough for Alocasias…at least not in my house!
Misting is another way of increasing the moisture around your plant…BUT! It is only a super temporary solution. I find that misting does less to improve humidity and more to keep problematic pests like spider mites at bay.
That’s because spider mites thrive in warm, dry conditions…aka your house indoors in the winter when you’ve got your heat running! Every single elephant ear plant I’ve had indoors has gotten spider mites.
The longest lasting one was a plant that I consistently misted with cold water daily. My reasoning was that if spider mites like warm, dry conditions, they must not like cold, wet conditions. As soon as I started slacking off with my misting, the mites moved in.
Luckily it was JUST about to spring where I live, so I sprayed the plant down with insecticide and moved it outdoors during the day for about 2 weeks. Once 2 weeks had passed, it was finally staying in the low 50s at night. So I moved the plant outdoors, and that nixed the mites.
Speaking of, this plant likes warm environments. It is not cold or frost hardy, so it isn’t able to live outdoors year round if you live somewhere with all four seasons. Indoors, it’s best to keep it away from heat/AC vents.
Alocasia Black Velvet issues
Now that we’ve touched on some issues this plant might encounter, let’s cover a few more. There aren’t a ton, but arming yourself with knowledge will help you troubleshoot your plant’s issue if you do have one!
1. Spider mites
As I mentioned above, spider mites can be problematic. Alocasia plants in general are incredibly vulnerable to spider mites, and the black velvet is not immune from this. (Read more about spider mites and how to get rid of them.)
Spider mites are not really spiders, and don’t worry—they won’t hurt you. They are teeny tiny little mites that move into your plant and suck the life out of its leaves. If you notice fine webbing on your plants, it’s likely you have a spider mite infestation.
And once you notice webbing…act fast! Because that means they’ve been feeding on your plant for a while. You might have even started to notice yellowing leaves or random bad spots on the leaves.
Trim these leaves off, wash the foliage down with cold water, and spray the entire plant down with an over-the-counter insecticide spray designed for houseplants. You can also use a solution of diluted rubbing alcohol that you spray on the plant.
2. Dying or yellowing leaves
Alocasias in general tend to kill off their older leaves as the plant grows. If it’s only the occasional dying leaf and if it’s the older leaves, it’s nothing to be concerned with. Let it die off and then cut it off. Circle of life!
If the leaves are yellowing, however, and it’s not just the occasional older leaf that is dying, you may be overwatering your plant. Check that the soil is well-draining, and make sure you are letting the top several inches dry out completely before watering again.
Yellowing leaves could also be a sign of underwatering. If the soil is totally dry and shrinking away from the sides of the pot, underwatering is something to investigate.
3. Curled or browning leaves
Alocasia Black Velvet leaves tend to have a “cup-like” appearance when they are healthy. But if you notice that they are curling inward more than seems normal, it’s possible you are giving the plant too much light.
This is especially the case if you notice signs of scorching or burning on the leaves—remember, this plant cannot handle too much direct sunlight. Only weak direct sunlight (like very early morning) or dappled.
Leaf curling can also be a sign of underwatering. If this is the case, the curling will also likely be accompanied by browning, crispy leaf tips. (Add low humidity to the list of possible causes for crispy tips, too!)
When should I repot Alocasia Black Velvet?
Alocasia Black Velvet, much like the Alocasia Silver Dragon, stays relatively small. This makes it great for small enclosures and terrariums. While the plant generally stays about 12 inches tall or shorter, it can get up to about a foot and a half wide.
It’s a slow grower, though. So you don’t need to repot too often. If you’re able to pick the plant up and the entire root ball comes out of the pot (meaning there are more roots than soil), it’s time! It’s also time to repot if the roots are growing out of the drainage holes.
Depending on the plant’s growing conditions and how happy it is, this could mean repotting the plant once every 1–3 years. Use a new pot that is only about an inch larger, and make sure to use fresh, well-draining soil.
While this plant is slow growing, it will benefit from some basic houseplant fertilizer. I have used worm castings in the past for all of my plants, but I’m trying out Liqui-Dirt concentrated fertilizer this year to see how things go!
Can you propagate Alocasia Black Velvet?
Alocasia plants must be propagated by division (or by tissue culture, which I touched on earlier in the post—but that’s much more advanced). Your Alocasia Black Velvet will sprout babies as it matures, and you can easily break these babies off of the mother plant to pot up separately.
You can also take your existing plant out of the soil and expose the root area to see what you’ve got going on. If you see additional growth coming off of the main rhizome (as in with snake plant propagation), you can cut that off and repot it.
Alocasia Black Velvet vs. Alocasia Ninja
When I originally decided I wanted to add an Alocasia Black Velvet to my collection, I sent my husband out to grab one for me. He is NOT a plant person, so I sent him armed with named written down and told him to ask the nursery associates.
He called me confused, saying that they had something that “looked a lot like a black velvet…or something that would be called a black velvet, but it was labeled a ninja.” I said I didn’t want it because I wasn’t sure if it was the same thing…so off to research I went!
Turns out that the Alocasia Ninja does look A LOT like the Alocasia Black Velvet. In fact, to someone who isn’t a plant person, and even to me—a plant person—I’d say they look super similar. Apparently the Ninja has larger, rounder, and thicker leaves.
So essentially it gets a bit larger than the Alocasia Black Velvet. It also is apparently a bit darker than the black velvet. But the black velvet is pretty dark! Have a look yourself—here’s the Alocasia Ninja he found! Gorgeous, isn’t it?