Differentiating between some indoor plant species can be quite confusing because of the similarities they share. To care for your houseplant properly, you must first identify it correctly.
This blog post will help you differentiate between the two most popular houseplants: Elephant Ears and Monstera. Read on to find out the following details about both.
- Origin of Monstera Plants
- Origin of Elephant Ears
- Is Alocasia related to Monstera?
- Key Similarities
- Key Differences
- Frequently Asked Questions
Origin of Monstera Plants
Monstera is a genus of more than 50 flowering plant species that belong to the Arum family, Araceae. Native to tropical forests of Central America, the plants in this genus are loved for their large, heart-shaped leaves covered with unique splits and holes.
The name ‘Monstera’ is a Latin word for monstrous or abnormal that refers to the large leaf size and huge growth of Monstera plants.
Other common names for Monstera are the Swiss cheese plant, the Fruit Salad plant, and Split-Leaf Philodendron. Monstera Deliciosa is one of the most popular indoor plants worldwide.
Origin of Elephant Ears
Elephant Ears look like Monstera but on some serious steroids!
Some genera of plants in the Aracaea family feature leaves of a wonderfully gigantic size that resembles an elephant’s ears – including Alocasia, Xanthosoma, Philodendron, Anthurium, Caladium, Monstera, and Colocasia. These plants are commonly known as Elephant Ear plants.
However, this nickname is mostly used for Alocasia and Colocasia plants. Both types can be either planted in the garden or grown indoors, though Colocasia is more likely to be grown outdoors because of their relatively larger size.
Alocasia plant is a genus of rhizomatous or bulbous perennial plants – native to the tropical regions of Asia and Eastern Australia.
Their large, arrow-shaped leaves can feature various colors and patterns. Some leaves have prominent veins or patterns that resemble scales, while others have a velvety or glossy sheen. Moreover, the leaves can grow several feet long in some species, making Alocasia plants an impressive addition to any collection of houseplants.
Rhizomes is another interesting feature of the Alocasia plant. They are horizontal, underground stems growing along the soil’s surface that can produce new shoots and roots at various points along their length. This is why rhizomes are crucial for propagation.
The genus Colocasia encompasses a variety of plants that go by different names, like taro, black magic, wild taro, black taro, dalo, dasheen, callaloo, eddo, and potato of the tropics.
Colocasia plants are highly sought-after as both ornamental plants and food sources. Most popular plant in this category is Colocasia Esculenta.
Colocasia plants also produce tubers in addition to rhizomes. Tubers are short, thickened stem structures that store nutrients and water for the plant. Edible and rich in starch, these tubers are typically harvested for consumption, but you must cook them properly before eating.
Is Alocasia related to Monstera?
Yes, Alocasia and Monstera are related – they belong to the same family of Araceae plants. It encompasses approximately 140 genera and about 4,075 known plant species, commonly known as aroids.
Other plants in this family include Epipremnum, Philodendron, Aglaonema, Dieffenbachia, Spathiphyllum, and Zantedeschia.
Despite being from the same family, Alocasia and Monstera are two separate genera of plants that differ in their growth habits, care requirements, and appearance.
Like other tropical plants, Elephant ears and Monstera need bright sunlight to grow. However, prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can burn and bleach the leaves. These houseplants fare well in partial shade.
If you keep your plant near a window that receives direct sunlight, add a curtain or move it to a spot where the light doesn’t fall directly on the leaves.
If you live in an area that doesn’t receive a lot of bright, indirect sunlight throughout the day, use grow lights to help your houseplants thrive.
Both Monstera and Elephant Ears are tropical plants that require the soil to stay consistently moist but not too wet.
The frequency of watering both houseplants will depend on several factors, like the plant and pot size, humidity levels, and temperature. Generally, you should water them when the top few inches of soil feel dry to the touch. They require more water in the growing seasons (spring and summer) than in the dormant seasons (fall and winter). Remember not to let the soil dry out completely!
Both types of houseplants prefer well-draining soil that retains moisture but doesn’t become waterlogged. Their roots start to rot if they consistently sit in water for a long time. So, you should use a balanced soil mixture and a large pot with proper drainage holes.
The soil must also be aerated and rich in organic material, like compost and peat moss. The pH levels should be slightly acidic or neutral to ensure all essential nutrients reach the plant.
Humidity & Temperature
Since Monstera, Alocasia, and Colocasia are tropical plants, they love hot and humid climates. Temperatures ranging from 65-80°F (18-27°C) are ideal for them. You must take appropriate measures to protect them in cooler climates.
Low humidity levels can cause their leaves to dry and become crispy and brown at the edges. To maintain high humidity around them, you can keep them on a pebble tray or mist them regularly.
Monstera, Alocasia, and Colocasia plants benefit from regular fertilizing during the growing season.
You can fertilize them every two weeks during summer and spring with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer and stop fertilizing in fall and winter when these plants are dormant. Remember that over-fertilizing can lead to problems like root rot and leaf burn.
Toxicity and Common Pests
Monstera and Elephant ear plants are toxic and should be kept away from pets and children. They contain calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause severe irritation and swelling in the mouth and throat if ingested. Additionally, the sap from the leaves and stems can cause skin irritation and dermatitis in some people.
However, Colocasia tubers can be consumed after cooking because cooking breaks down the toxic crystals, rendering them useful. It is a staple diet across many countries in Asia.
As indoor plants, Elephant Ear and Monstera are both prone to attack by common pests like mealybugs and spider mites. Regular inspection of pests is important to maintain their health.
An Elephant Ear plant generally has very large leaves that can grow up to 2-3 feet long and 1-2 feet wide, while Monstera leaves are typically much smaller, usually ranging from 6-12 inches in length and 4-8 inches in width.
Leaf Shape and Structure
The large bright green leaves of Alocasia and Colocasia plants are typically arrow or heart-shaped with a tapering tip. In contrast, Monstera leaves are typically more elliptical or oval-shaped, with a unique pattern of perforations and cutouts that give them a distinctive appearance.
Moreover, the leaves of Alocasia and Colocasia are thinner and more delicate than Monstera leaves, with a prominent central vein and secondary veins that radiate outward from the center. Monstera leaves are typically thicker and more rigid, with a network of smaller veins forming lattice-like patterns.
Alocasia and Colocasia grow from underground corms and typically have an upright growth habit, while Monstera is a vining plant that climbs or trails along a support structure.
An Elephant ear plant has long and pointed petioles connecting the leaf blade to the stem, which gives it a unique and intriguing appearance. These petioles may also have distinctive patterns and colors, adding to its ornamental value.
In contrast, Monstera plants have short petioles with broad and flat edges that create a different texture on the leaves.
Flowers and Fruits
Monstera flowers are arranged on a large, spiky structure called a spadix – covered by a large, leaf-like structure called a spathe.
The spathe can be quite showy and colorful, ranging from white to green to pink or red. It often has a unique pattern of perforations or cutouts. The spadix is covered in tiny flowers that release pollen to fertilize the ovules, eventually developing into the Monstera’s distinctive pineapple-like fruit.
In contrast, Alocasia and Colocasia plants produce smaller, inconspicuous white or yellow flowers arranged on a spadix, not as showy as Monstera. Their fruits typically take the form of small berries or clusters of berries.
Monstera plants have thick, sturdy stems that can grow quite tall, with aerial roots that help anchor the plant and absorb moisture and nutrients from the air.
The stems of Monstera plants are often brown or green, and they have a slightly rough texture due to the presence of small bumps or nodules.
In contrast, Alocasia and Colocasia have much larger, more pronounced stems that are quite distinctive in shape. These stems are typically green in color and have a smooth, shiny texture, with visible veins running down the length of the stem.
They also have underground corms or bulbs that help store energy and nutrients, producing new shoots and leaves over time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Elephant Ears Make Good Houseplants?
Yes! Elephant Ears make good indoor plants because of their large, striking foliage and unique appearance. They can add a bold, tropical feel to any indoor space and purify the indoor air to maintain a fresh environment.
However, Elephant Ear plants may not be the best choice for small or cramped spaces as they can grow quite large.
Are Elephant Ears Toxic To Touch?
Yes, Elephant Ear plants, particularly those in the genus Colocasia, contain calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause skin irritation.
When Do I Fertilize Elephant Ears?
Elephant Ears are heavy feeders. They benefit from regular fertilization during their growing season, which typically runs from spring to fall. You can apply the fertilizer every 2-4 weeks, depending on your specific product and your plant’s needs.
My name is Daniel Elrod, and I have been houseplant love ever since I was 17. I love how much joy they bring to any room in the home. I’ve always been amazed at how a few pots of flowing leaves can turn a drab and sterile office into an inviting place where people love to work at.