The Alocasia Purple Sword tropical plant is a rare and colorful addition to any indoor plant collection. But there are problems that can arise when caring for this plant that you might not be aware of.
Luckily, we’ve done our research to bring you all of the insight into water, light, fertilization, and other setups you need to help your Alocasia thrive. Keep reading to find out.
What is An Alocasia Purple Sword?
This plant carries large and long green leaves with purple backs, purple veins, and strong stems. The plant gets its namesake “sword” descriptor from its pointy, sword-shaped leaves. It’s also affectionately called Elephant Ears for the shape the leaves take on as they grow.
They’ve become super common as houseplants and will thrive in the right warm, sunny, and humid conditions.
Origin and Classification
The Alocasia Purple Sword – formerly known as the Alocasia Lauterbachiana – is a New Guinea species (one of almost 100 species) classified under the Alocasia genus in the family Araceae.
It wasn’t classified as such until Australian botanist Alistair Hay did so in the 1990s in Papua New Guinea – a diverse island country in the continent Oceania.
Features of Alocasia Purple Sword
The Alocasia Lauterbachiana plant is a unique species in its family that will grow to take up a large space.
The Purple Sword variety tends to reach up to 3 or 4 feet tall as a houseplant, but if you grow it outdoors, it can get up to 15 feet.
2. Flowers & Leaves
The leaves are the most prominent growth on this plant, each one growing out of the previous one. They tend to sprout a new leaf about once a week. Throughout the year, Purple Swords can produce a purple-colored aroid bloom, though the leaves are what you’ll notice most often.
3. Foliage and Stem
The leaves on this plant can double in size in a short amount of time. They rely heavily on photosynthesis to grow and quickly take over the space where you put this potted plant. The stem is hearty and strong to withstand the weight of the foliage.
It may be surprising to learn that Purple Sword is actually classified as an evergreen plant. Although it doesn’t share the appearance of evergreen pines, for example, it’s a tropical plant that grows year-round and doesn’t have a dormant season. This is, in part, what makes it a great decorative houseplant.
Basic Care Of Alocasia Purple Sword
Alocasia elephant ear plants need the right lighting, temperature, humidity, watering, fertilizer, soil, and pot conditions to remain healthy. The rate of growth also depends on how well you maintain these environmental conditions.
1. Size and Growth
The Purple Sword will grow out more than it will grow up. However, it usually reaches an average indoor height of 3 feet and width of about 4 feet, with leaves reaching up to 24 inches in length. If you want this plant to reach its full size potential, grow it outdoors, where it can reach higher than 14 feet.
One thing you’ll quickly notice is how fast it grows, especially in the naturally warmer/sunnier months of the year. Without proper growing conditions, it will slow down.
2. Light Requirements
This Alocasia plant species is tropical, so it needs lots of bright natural light for photosynthesis. Avoid direct sunlight but emphasize the amount of indirect bright light it gets. West- and east-facing window placement will maximize the light intake and promote several hours of daily, consistent sunlight.
You should also regularly clean/dust the leaves so that they can properly perform photosynthesis.
3. Water Requirements
Alocasia elephant ear should be watered only when the top layer (about a quarter of the soil’s depth) is dried out. At this point, you should water the soil thoroughly, allowing any excess to drain out of the container’s drainage holes.
When you water, make sure to discard excess drainage water. You may also mist the plant’s leaves on a daily basis to increase humidity.
4. Soil Requirements
This plant thrives in slightly acidic soil (around 6.0 pH) that is rich in nutrients and well-draining to avoid root illness.
You should use an all-purpose potting soil but supplement it with cactus soil to encourage drainage. You should also mix in some peat and perlite to the mix to improve nutrient absorption with water.
5. Temperature and Humidity
Due to its tropical nature, the Purple Sword needs a warm, humid environment to survive. Measure your in-home humidity and ensure that it’s around 70% for this plant.
You also don’t want temperatures to drop below about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (65-75 degrees F is ideal), as this is not a frost-hardy plant. In the colder months, be sure to move the plant to the warmest location in the home.
6. Drought and Disease Resistance
Alocasia plants are unfortunately not drought-resistant, which is why artificial indoor heating sometimes damages them. They are, however, prone to bouncing back if you forget to water them on occasion.
Regular leaf pruning with clean, sharp gardening shears can protect this plant from bacterial disease and fungal infections.
As a houseplant, the Purple Sword can be mildly poisonous to dogs, cats, and even children who might accidentally ingest it. According to the Pet Poison Hotline, they contain insoluble oxalate crystals that can penetrate tissue and cause irritation to the GI tract and mouth. Symptoms of toxicity include throat pains, vomiting, drooling, tongue swelling, and respiratory problems.
When fertilizing this plant in colder months, use a slow-release product or only fertilize once per 6-month period. Note that spring and summer will yield the most growth in combination with fertilizer, so you may need to increase fertilization during that period (twice a month).
Liquid, all-purpose indoor plant fertilizers are best, such as Miracle Gro’s Indoor Plant Food.
9. Potting and Repotting
Because this plant grows intensely, you will need to re-pot it over time. After the initial potting, you don’t need to re-pot it until about two years have passed. However, if it grows exponentially in a quicker time period, you may need to re-pot it early so its roots have enough room. Each time you re-pot, you should go up in pot size.
10. Pruning Requirements
Any leaves that you notice are discolored, spotted, or dead should be pruned away. This allows the nutrients and water to channel to the rest of the plant so it can continue growing.
Pruning diseased leaves also helps to slow the spread of illness. But in order to successfully do so, you need to sterilize your pruning tools beforehand.
How to Propagate Alocasia Purple Sword
Alocasia propagation works best in spring and summer months with a mature and healthy plant. We recommend the basal offset division method.
1. Select a Plant
Wait until you have a mature Alocasia plant (about 1-2 years old) before you begin to propagate it. Loosen its soil with your hands (gloves on) or a small spade.
2. Un-Pot the Plant
To get a better view of the root system, remove the plant carefully from its pot and shake out the looser extra soil. Now, the roots will be exposed so that you can determine how much and where to break them apart.
3. Cut and Extract
Unlike propagating other plants by cutting the stems, you need a significant portion of your parent plant’s roots for Alocasia. Cut up to a third of the plant from the root system. Make sure to be gentle so that you don’t ruin the root system and use sterilized tools so that you don’t risk spreading disease or fungi.
4. Separate Into New Plants
Now, you can break this chunk of the plant up into smaller parts for new plant propagations. Make sure that the new plants have a decent amount of roots at their base so that they can take hold in their new pots.
5. Pot the Babies
Now, you can gather pots – one for each new plant – and fill with well-draining soil and substrate. For smaller offshoots, you can use a 3×4” pot, but for larger ones, you may want a container up to 4×6”. Add the new plants into their respective pots and tamp the soil so that they’re secure. Then, fertilize, water, and place them in a sunny, warm location.
6. Re-Pot the Parent
Finally, you can re-pot the parent plant, being careful not to disrupt its root system any more. You may need to add more soil at this point and fertilize it with water as well. At this point, continue caring for the parent plant, as well as the new plants, within the typical Purple Sword care guidelines.
Common Problems In Caring For Alocasia Purple Sword
Without proper tropical environmental conditions, Alocasia may fall susceptible to illness, lose its leaves, change color, or stop growing as fast as it should.
1. Root Rot
Root rot is one of the biggest problems this plant is susceptible to. It usually is a result of overwatering and signs include soft brown roots instead of firm whitish ones.
It’s a fungus that can kill Alocasia plants if left untreated. Root rot may also occur if your plant isn’t getting enough air circulation.
2. Burnt Leaves
Because this plant prefers indirect yet bright sunlight to full-on direct sunlight, its leaves have a tendency to burn. To avoid this phenomenon, avoid direct sunlight with the exception of just a couple of hours per day. Otherwise, the plant should thrive in a well-lit area of your home – near a window but not directly in it.
3. Stressed Leaves
If you notice yellowish brown spots on the Alocasia’s leaves, they’re under too much stress. This is usually caused by too little sunlight, whether that’s not enough hours in the sun or indirect light that isn’t very bright.
Stress also occurs from too-cold temperatures (anything below 60 degrees F) which may even cause the leaves to drop or stunt the plant’s growth rate.
4. Fungi Susceptibility
Another Alocasia issue to watch for is fungal development on the leaves. Although this plant enjoys high humidity and benefits from leaf misting, if the leaves remain wet for too long, conditions can fuel the spore germination of existing fungi that you might not yet be aware of.
Bug infestations are common in the soil of indoor plants and can quickly affect the health of the Purple Sword. Watch out for spider mites and aphids in the soil as well as the undersides of leaves.
You can fix the problem by pruning off affected leaves and cleaning the remaining foliage with cold water or a dish soap solution.
Learn more from a similar post: Philodendron Chinchamayense
Caring for Alocasia Purple Sword houseplants requires a warm, indirectly lit yet bright environment with plenty of humidity. Along with proper watering, fertilization, drainage, pruning, and other factors, you can care for this tropical plant if you watch out for pests, disease, and other threats.
The Alocasia Purple Sword plant can be purchased online at Amazon ($13.99 for the live plant) and Etsy ($15.00 and free shipping).
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Alocasia purple sword rare?
Yes, Alocasia purple sword is a rare species of the Alocasia family, holding many long and pointy, slender leaves of green and purple color.
How do you take care of Alocasia purple sword?
Taking care of Alocasia purple sword requires having well-draining soil, regular fertilization, and watering only when the top layer of dirt is dry.
The plant needs consistent bright yet indirect sunlight, proper air circulation, warm temperatures (about 70 degrees F), clean leaves, regular leaf pruning, and re-potting as the plant grows. Avoid overwatering, which can lead to root rot, as well as direct sunlight, which can lead to leaf burning.
Why is my Alocasia purple sword drooping?
Although it’s common for Alocasia purple sword plants to start drooping, it’s not a sign of good health. It commonly occurs when you’ve given the plant too much light, too much water, too little water, not enough warmth, or not enough humidity.
Hey, I’m Lisa and I’ve been an avid gardener for over 30 years. I love writing, talking and living in the garden! Feel free to connect with me on my socials below