How to Care for Stingray Plants

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If plants with unusual, striking foliage appeal to you, a variety of elephant's ear called "Stingray" (Alocasia "Stingray") could be an appropriate choice for your garden or indoor plant collection. Like all plants in this group, it produces large, impressive leaves that resemble elephant ears, but each leaf on this plant ends in a whiptail-like structure that points up and outward, just like the tail on a stingray. It grows year-round in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11 and can also do well as a large indoor plant.

Light and Soil

If you're growing "Stingray" outdoors in a pot, protect it from too much sun (which could scorch its leaves) on hot summer days by moving the container into a partially shaded area, such as under tall trees. Keep an indoor-grown plant in a spot that gets filtered light, such as near a lightly curtained south- or west-facing window. Once or twice during the spring and summer, when the plant's actively growing, boost the soil's fertility by adding some compost, scratching it carefully into the top inch or two of soil without disturbing the plant's roots. After mixing in compost, water the soil well.

Managing Moisture

Like most elephant's ears, "Stingray" prefers regular moisture and high humidity, and can thrive outdoors in a well-drained spot near a pond or stream. During dry spells, give the plant extra water, aiming for at least 1 inch per week, including rain. Add several inches of mulch under the plant's canopy to help conserve soil moisture and keep down weeds, but keep the mulch several inches back from the plant's base to discourage fungal growth. Whether the plant is grown in the ground or as a houseplant, reduce watering during winter to give it a rest. "Stingray" thrives in high humidity, so if you grow it indoors, keep the pot on a pebble-filled tray with water added to just below the tops of the pebbles. Misting the plant every few days also helps keep humidity high.

Fertilizing Tips

Whether grown outdoors or indoors, fertilize the "Stingray" plant regularly during the growing season to keep healthy new leaves coming. Starting in spring, feed the plant every two or three weeks with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 formula, diluted at a rate of 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of water, but check the product label for further directions. You could also use a time-release, granular fertilizer, such as a 14-14-14 formula, mixed into the top inch of soil at a rate of 1/2 pound for every 20 square feet of area; water the fertilizer in well and repeat the feeding every four months. This plant slows its growth during winter, so withhold fertilizer during this time and resume regular feeding in the spring.

Other Care

A "Stingray" plant doesn't need any regular pruning, although you can cut away any damaged or sunburned leaves that detract from the plant's appearance using shears dipped in rubbing alcohol between cuts to prevent spread of plant disease. If you grow the plant outdoors in the ground and winters are cold where you live, cut the plant back to within 4 inches of the ground after the first frost, then dig it up and allow its base to dry for a day of two. Store the plant in peat moss in a cool indoor spot protected from freezing, such as a basement, and re-plant it outdoors in the spring. "Stingray" is usually free of any pest or disease problems, but it might attract spider mites, especially if grown in dry indoor air. If you see weblike coverings on leaves, spray the plant with insecticidal soap, diluted at a rate of 6 tablespoons per gallon of water, and repeat every two weeks as needed.

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