At first glance, varieties of philodendron plants might look almost identical to alocasias. These plants are often found in the same setting — indoors.
This makes it even harder to tell them apart. Nevertheless, the plants do have distinguishing features.
Whether you’re deciding on a new houseplant or simply wanting to recognize them better, this guide will surely help you out. Philodendron vs alocasia? We’ll help you spot the difference!
Let’s take a look at both plants’ leaves.
The main differentiating factor between the two is their leaf veins. Philodendron veins tend to blend in.
Meanwhile, alocasia leaf veins offer a striking contrast to the color of the main leaf. Dark alocasia leaves often have light or white veins.
Philodendron leaves are most often green. However, red, purple, and copper variations do exist. Meanwhile, green, silver, purple, and red alocasia leaves are the most common.
Philodendron leaves are usually big and prominent. The leaves can also be described as feather-like in structure.
As to shape, philodendron leaves can come in heart, oval, spearhead, and many other interesting shapes. Adult leaves can look very different when compared to the surrounding young leaves.
Alocasia is fittingly called “elephant’s ear” for its appearance. Its large leaves come in heart, arrowhead, or shield shapes. Other species have elegant leaves that crinkle on the edges.
Philodendrons flower more often when grown outdoors in nature. Shockingly, it takes more than a decade for some philodendron varieties to bloom.
One such variety is the split-leaf philodendron which can take 15–16 years to bloom. Other varieties may bloom earlier.
Philodendron flowers don’t look like typical flowers. They have two parts, namely the spathe and the spadix.
The spathe looks like a hood and is either yellowish or reddish in color. Inside the hood, you’ll find a white spadix that looks like a peeled banana.
Flowers on alocasia plants exist but are rare. A blooming alocasia means you have been able to replicate conditions similar to its natural habitat.
It also has a multicolored spathe and a spadix that’s creamy white in color. Both plants have fragrant flowers.
Philodendron fruits vary in color. The berries that they produce can range from white to orange to yellow in hue.
Most philodendron varieties take a few months to develop their own fruit. Inside the fruits are tiny seeds that give off distinct odors. This odor is responsible for attracting insects, monkeys, bats, and other animals that spread the seeds.
On the other hand, the fruits of alocasia plants are either green, orange, red, or yellow. The smallest of alocasia berries are less than 1 centimeter in width.
They also contain several circular seeds inside.
Philodendrons grow from seeds. They have a typical root system.
Numerous roots extend outward from a major philodendron stem or group of stems. These roots help position the plant as it grows. Philodendrons don’t have corms.
For the alocasia plant, the roots originate from the corms. A corm is a short and swollen plant stem that’s found underground.
Giant leafstalks eventually come out of the corms and give way to large fleshy leaves. An average adult alocasia can have 5–10 corms.
Cataphylls are modified plant leaves whose function is to protect emerging leaves. In most philodendron plants, cataphylls fall off the plant and die after serving their purpose.
In the case of alocasia plants, cataphylls tend to maintain their position at the base of the plant’s stems.
6 – Lighting Conditions
The main reason why philodendrons thrive indoors is their sunlight requirements. This plant is accustomed to the rainforest setting, where plants on the lower levels don’t receive much light.
A philodendron would be the perfect potted plant for your home or office. Philodendrons don’t experience much stress when transferred outdoors.
Alocasia plants are more sensitive. They need to be gradually adjusted to new environments. Just like all houseplants, alocasias can tolerate dim light.
However, this plant struggles under direct sunlight and dry indoor heating. Alocasias thrive in greenhouses where the sunlight is controlled better.
Philodendrons have a wide range of behaviors. Vining philodendrons turn into epiphytes. Epiphytes are aerial plants that grow on another plant or structure for physical support.
They don’t depend on other plants for nutrition, though. The reason behind this behavior is for vining philodendrons to reach higher locations with more access to sunlight.
Philodendrons are quick-growers. They can grow at a rate of 4 inches per week in ideal conditions.
Alocasia plants don’t grow aerially. They grow erect or upright.
Also, alocasias grow the most during the spring and summer seasons. They tend to be dormant when the temperatures start to cool down during winter.
When cared for properly, outdoor alocasias can grow as fast as 3 to 5 feet per year. As for alocasias grown in pots, they can grow at a steady rate of 1 to 2 feet per year.
All in all, there are 450 registered species of philodendron. Lots of them are available for cultivation. A few varieties are listed below:
- Heart-leaf philodendron: the most popular variety
- Velvet-leaf philodendron: known for its tiny velvety leaves that are red at the bottom. This variety comes in a bronze-green color.
- Fiddle-leaf philodendron: also called “horsehead.” This variety has shiny leaves in the shape of a fiddle.
- Spade-leaf philodendron: a large variety with triangular leaves
- Tree philodendron: a tall variety with large leaves that reach 3 feet in length
Meanwhile, alocasia has about 79 accepted species. The following are some of the most common:
- Black Magic alocasia: has very shiny leaves that are dark purple to almost black in color
- Brina alocasia: also called “zebra plant” due to the many spots and stripes on its stem
- Corazon alocasia: is known for its bluish-green leaves shaped like hearts
- Jewel alocasia: the most popular among alocasias, has a silver-green hue.
- Purple umbrella alocasia: has grayish-purple leaves that curve upward. Its oval-shaped leaves look like cups or bowls.
Symptoms include vomiting, drooling, discomfort, and swelling of the mouth area. It does not cause contact dermatitis.
On the other hand, alocasias are far more dangerous. All major parts of this plant are highly toxic and can cause contact dermatitis.
When ingested, this plant can cause severe poisoning. Severe skin irritation and eye injury are also notable symptoms.
Philodendron vs alocasia is a tough match. Being equally gorgeous, it’s hard not to mix up the two.
They both add a tropical touch to any indoor space. In this article, we went over both houseplants’ fascinating qualities.
It turns out that philodendrons and alocasias do have varying physical characteristics. Their flowers and fruits may have similar qualities. However, a look at their leaves and corms can give their identities away.
Understanding their lighting conditions and growth behavior can help you choose the best-suited plant for your home. Familiarizing their common species and toxicity levels can also be useful in one way or another.
As to which plant is better, we’ll leaf the decision to you!
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.