Why Your Alocasia Black Velvet Is Dying (And How to Save It)

The Alocasia Reginula, commonly known as the Alocasia’ Black Velvet,’ is a stunning miniature alocasia with striking foliage. Many are attracted to this plant for its contrasting dark green foliage with white veins.

However, in my opinion, the Black Velvet is probably one of the most challenging plants to maintain.

It might be because I’m growing this under Australian climates, and we don’t have high humidities throughout the year. We have dry heat in summer and cold rainy temperatures in winter. 

In this article, I’m going to cover the most common problems associated with the Alocasia Black Velvet:

  • Leaves yellow and browning
  • Leaves curling
  • Brown tips
  • Brown and black spots
  • Losing all of its leaves Leaves

I’ve had the same black Velvet for over a year and have had many problems. I’ve tried placing the plant in various locations around the house and experimented with different watering routines.

In this blog post, I’ll share my journey, experiences, and photos of my Black Velvet. And hopefully, you won’t make the same mistakes as I did.

If I’m able to help you revive your Black Velvet, then I consider that I’ve succeeded in this writing this article.

Black Velvet with Leaves Yellow and Browning

The most common reasons for the Alocasia Black Velvet producing yellow and brown leaves are:

  • Overwatering
  • Underwatering
  • Low temperature and humidity
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Dormancy

Have a read through each of the following culprits and see which one applies to your plant.

1. Overwatering

The most common cause of yellow and browning leaves in the Alocasia Black Velvet is an oversaturation of water in the soil. Poor drainage that leads to anaerobic conditions of the soil causes the Black Velvet to discolor and wither over time.

If you have a moisture meter, stab the tool deep into the soil and read the meter reading. If it reads “wet,” and the last time you watered the plant was a few days ago, you’re likely to have a case of overwater stress.

Overwatering causes Black Velvets to wilt and turn yellow over time. Poor soil drainage also increases the chances of soil waterlogging, which causes fungal disease and the attraction of pests. Black Velvets are very sensitive to excessive water moisture.

Signs of overwater stress include yellow and brown patches, which are fungal growth. They usually start as one small patch and then spread across the remaining leaves.

Depending on how waterlogged the soil is, you may need to repot with new soil so it can settle in drier feet. 

I once tried to cut the affected brown patch, but this did not resolve the problem. The brown patches continued to spread, and this was because the root problem was the soil density.

Trying to cut out the brown patches doesn’t stop the spread. The root problem is waterlogged soil.

2. Underwatering

An Alocasia Black Velvet experiencing underwatering stress can usually be seen through the brown edges of the plant. In addition, the foliage may start to curl as a reaction to dehydration.

Browning leaves from lack of watering do not recover their green color. The best you can do is increase your water frequency, but do this with care, as the Black Velvet is very susceptible to overwatering issues.

3. Low Temperature and Humidity

The Alocasia Black Velvet is very particular with the humidity levels that it grows in. As a tropical plant, it requires sufficient air moisture and heat to thrive.

4. Excessive Sun Exposure

The Alocasia Black Velvet has adapted to dark leaves as it is naturally found in jungles and forests where the sun a limited by overarching trees.

So, when the Black Velvet is mistakenly placed in the sun, it burns quickly, especially during the summer heat. 

One should place the Black Velvet near taller plants to mimic its natural shade environment found in the wild.

Placing the Black Velvet under direct sunlight causes damage quite quickly.

5. Dormancy

A very common behavior of the Alocasia Black Velvet is losing its leaves as it approaches winter.

During this process, the leaves will start to wilt and discolor. This usually occurs for one or two leaves at a time before the remaining leaves lose all of their green foliage, and the stems will break off.

If your Black Velvet loses all its leaves, DO NOT throw it away. It may grow back when conditions are right.

I explain dormancy in Black Velvets in more detail towards the end of this article if you like to learn more.

Black Velvet with Leaves Curling

The Alocasia Black Velvet is most likely to curl when it suffers from dehydration and low humidity.

When there is a lack of water and the air is dry, the Black Velvet will fold its leaves inwards like a spring roll. This plant reaction decreases the leaf surface area to reduce light absorption because it cannot obtain enough water to make plant food (starch).

Low humidity and dry air are other contributors to curling leaves. Again, this relates to the lack of moisture for the plant to process photosynthesis.

To remedy curling leaves, slowly increase your watering routine and carefully observe the reaction on the leaves. If you live in a dry zone, you may want to invest in a humidifier or place the plant in the bathroom, where humidity is higher.

It’s important to slowly and progressively change the watering and humidity environment so you can see how the Black Velvet reacts. 

Black Velvet with Brown Tips

The Alocasia Black Velvet will usually show brown tips resulting from dryness and over-fertilizing, especially if grown in containers.

If you’re seeing signs of brown tips of leaves, you should cut back on your fertilizing feed and routine.

If you’ve recently provided a bit too much fertilizer, it’s suggested that you wash out the excessive salts by top watering (avoiding the leaves) until it drains out from the drainage hole. This assumes you have good soil drainage and won’t suffer from water logging.

I like to think about it this way:

The Black Velvet is natural to the tropical climates of Asia and is used to natural rainfall. The rainfall trickles through the canopies of tall trees and into the underlying Black Velvets.

The soil moisture from the rainfall is naturally dispersed throughout the ground. This means that waterlogging is a rare occurrence for Black Velvets in their natural habitat.

To avoid brown tips on your Black Velvet, you need to mimic their natural environment by watering in small quantities and only when the top inch of the soil is dry. Use liquid fertilizer in small quantities and no more than the amount recommended on the bottle.

I once came across a Facebook group recommendation to use worm castings. So, I used this “Pure Worm Castings” from Vera Soil by mixing the top inch layer with some worm castings and my Black Velvet sprouted new leaves.

Black Velvet with Brown and Black Spots

The most likely cause of brown and black spots in the Alocasia Black Velvet is fungal growth caused by excessive watering and waterlogged soils. The secondary causes of these spots are fungus gnats that breed on this wet soil.

The Black Velvet particularly dislikes keeping its roots in constant moisture resulting from poor soil drainage.

This problem is further exacerbated in plastic pots because, unlike clay containers, plastic is non-porous, which means that soil will retain its moisture for much longer. Using a self-watering pot for the Black Velvet is a big no-no.

Symptoms of an overwatered Alocasia Black Velvet are the wilting and rotation of its leaves.

Random spots of the leaf will begin to yellow and then turn into a rusty brown color. This discoloration and fungal growth process will continue to spread until the entire leaf is affected. Eventually, the stem will weaken and break off.

I first discovered that my Black Velvet suffered from fungal growth when my dad watered it with a gardening hose twice a week. He was (and still is) oblivious to the overwatering issues that the Black Velvet brings.

To make matters worse, I was using dense soil and not well draining. There was little aeration and the soil had a tough time drying out, especially in the plastic container.

And this was the outcome as of 30th of January 2023:

I tried to place the Black Velvet under a full day’s sun to let the soil dry out. Unfortunately, the dark leaves don’t respond well to the sun, as it causes them to die out even faster.

The lesson learned here is to get a soil mix formulated for indoor plants. If making your own, ensure that you add drainage material such as perlite.

Black Velvet Has Lost All of Its Leaves

If the Alocasia Black Velvet has been given the right soil mixture and watering needs and is still losing its leaves, the plant is likely to be entering into a dormancy phase.

The Black Velvet, like all Alocasia plants, will stop growing or die back in response to cooling weather conditions. In winter, the daylight hours become shorter and light intensity reduces.

Black Velvets are able to conserve and store food in their corms. These look like small bulbs and are the body of the plant – they grow stems when the conditions are right.

If your Black Velvet has lost all of its leaves and you’re in the winter season, DO NOT throw it away. There’s a good chance that your plant is not actually dead, but is in its dormancy phase. You should cut back on the watering and bring the plant indoors.

I’ve seen some people try to keep their Black Velvets alive throughout the wintertime by placing them under grow lights and next to a humidifier. Quite frankly, this involves a lot of effort, investment and monitoring.

Another reason the Black Velvet loses all leaves is soiling up too high above the rhizome and the corms.

The rhizome is the tubular structure from which the main stems grow; attached are little corms that look like bulbs. These corms grow daughter plants and stem new growth.

The mistake I was making was adding soil too high into the pot. As a result, the stems could not push themselves past the soil and into the surface.

Once I reduced about an inch layer of soil uncovering the corm, it grew two new leaves!

Here’s an update a few months later on 14th of May 2023:

To Summarise…

If you do not live in a tropical country or region where humidity levels are high throughout the year, the Alocasia Black Velvet can be challenging to grow.

To increase your chances of maintaining a healthy Black Velvet, ensure that you:

  • Have well-draining soil
  • Use a terra-cotta pot
  • Soil just above the rhizome
  • Place the plant under the shade with bright indirect light
  • Use a humidifier (if possible)
  • Water moderately

Remember that it’s normal behavior for the Black Velvet to lose all of its leaves during the cold season. Don’t throw the plant away. It will regrow when conditions are right.

Hope you found this article helpful!

Plantician Guy (Mike)

Hi I'm Mike, a self-proclaimed plantician (an invented profession to describe a plant enthusiast). Based in Sydney Australia, I enjoy the great outdoors and the greenery things around the garden, in particular, indoor climbing plants.

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