Alocasia baginda – Dragon Scale & Silver Dragon Care & Culture

In Houseplants & Tropicals
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Alocasia baginda, or more commonly called either Alocasia ‘Dragon Scale’ or Alocasia ‘Silver Dragon’ are variants of a single species of Alocasia native to Eastern Borneo. These plants come from moist, calcium-rich limestone regions and become beautiful specimens that produce an abundance of offsets (corms) once established. There is also an Alocasia ‘Pink Dragon’ which deceivingly may seem like it’s part of the “family of dragons”, but based on leaf shape, color and texture, I doubt this type is actually Alocasia baginda—the trouble is there is limited species information on this group of jewel Alocasias—but if I find out otherwise, I’ll update this post.

I acquired my two plants Sept 10, 2020 (quite recently); so, this care sheet is largely based on research and early observation (not on long-term personal experience). So far my plants are doing well and growing quickly, so I stand behind the information I’m about to cover, but just know I intend on updating this care sheet as my plants age. If you’re a new Aroid grower, you may want to refer to my other post on Aroids Care & Culture – Tips for Growing Indoors; much of the information in this post has been extrapolated from my experience with those plants.

Before we get to care details: I want to give a special thanks to the @northernplantroom; when I first got my two jewel Alocasias, Sowmya gave me some good high-level tips on watering, potting media and care. It helped enforce my research and early success with these plants. I personally feel people like her, good growers who freely share advice and experience, are invaluable to the sustainment of this hobby—it’s how we collectively become better growers. If you’re active on Instagram, give her a few likes and a follow. Her plants are “top-shelf” perfection — a testament to her commitment-to and love of them.

 

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Types of Dragon Alocasias
Sowmya has a YouTube channel too and recently shared this video of her extravagant Alocasia collection, along with some tips on their care.

Alocasia baginda Quick Care Tips:

  • Light should be moderate. I say “moderate” and not “low” (like every other care sheet out there) because we humans are really bad at correlating our “idea of light” to what our plants actually need—and this is an especially important topic for select plants which thrive in more-wet conditions and need sufficient light to keep healthy and resistant to pathogens (ie. root rot). People tend to think “low light” means low…like…in your house away from the windows in a bathroom (where there isn’t enough light) or near a North-facing window which is essentially 100% shade. In nature, in the understory of a jungle, plants grow in “low light” but 70% of their photosythetic energy comes from “sun flecks”—short periods throughout the day where light penetrates through the canopy and dapples the leaves of plants deeper below—brief moments where the light intensity isn’t UNFILTERED DIRECT SUN, but is 10% sun, 30% sun, or sometimes even more, and that’s still quite bright. So, I encourage you to change how you think about light for plants—think in terms of “filtered direct sun”, not “low” vs “high” because our eyes are built differently then how plants photosynthesize and in a home away from the windows, there is no “filtered” sun. Plus, we can see well in like 10 footcandles of light—it doesn’t mean a plant can produce enough energy to live in that “low light” area. Unfortunately, a plant in low light generally doesn’t “just die”, it can take them months or even years to eventually succumb (or they can JUST DIE off quickly because they’re stressed and get rot).
    It’s a bit of a mouthful, so the takeaway: Give your plant enough light so it can not just grow but also thrive. If you want to know more about light for plants, check out this article.
    How much is “moderate light” exactly?
    To me, “moderate light” is 5–25% filtered direct sun—it’s actually not a lot, but if you look at a grow area that has 15% filtered sun equivalence, it looks really bright. A good option for most indoor growers is directly in front of a window that has a sheer curtain to block 75% of the sun creating “dappled light” on your plant—a sheer curtain will also disperse light into your home and increase the brightness around the windows. Alternatively, LED grow lights are a great option because they can be customized to the exact amount of light you want and if it’s ~5% filtered sun, it’s a consistent output…all day long for 12 hours…you can’t even get that consistency at a window and plants respond well to it.
    If we’re talking about specific light numbers: You first need to know that direct full sun maxes out around midday at 10,000 footcandles (or 128,000 lux or 2,200 PAR). If our goal is 5-25% filtered sun, then you’ll want to target 500–2,500 footcandles, OR  5,000–26,000 lux OR 100–500 PAR. You need something to help you test this though, right? Quantum light meters that measure PAR cost hundreds (or thousands) of dollars. Instead, you can download the plant light meter app and take readings around your grow area—take them mid day (11am–2pm) on a clear day to know what the upper limit of your light will be. I want to warn you though, light meter apps are rarely 100% accurate…but it’ll be good enough to give you context and insight about where your home light generally falls at different times of day.
  • Keep roots moist—but as with all aroids, use a well-draining, porous and oxygen-rich potting media. Compact soils (like pure peatmoss) have poor airflow when very wet and water-logged soil can results in anaerobic (no air) conditions at the root zone (which is a great way to cause root rot)! If your plant arrived potted in pure peatmoss (or a very heavy/dense potting media), consider repotting into a mix that’s amended with at least 50% large-chuck perlite, or pumice, or other structure/drainage-providing materials. My two plants are potted in 50% peat to 50% large-chunk perlite with a bottom layer of pumice for drainage.
  • Wetness: These plants seem to respond well to semihydro, which should give you a good indication of it’s need-for and adaptation to thrive in wetter conditions with lots of airflow. It is one of the few aroids I might suggest growing in LECA…but I haven’t personally grown them this way, so if you kill your plant in semihydro…don’t holler at me.
  • If kept too dry, they can initiate a dormancy – leaves will drop in preparation for a dry season which isn’t ideal in many indoor-growing cases. However, this type of response by a plant generally means seasonal changes are required to trigger natural queues. I suspect some form of dormancy may be required to induced flowering, but that’s an advanced topic and I’m “thinking out loud” not a recommending it. Keep your plants moist to avoid dormancy.
  • Pests: Alocasia are reportedly prone to spider mites—a problem often exacerbated by low humidity. To prevent spider mites, you’ll ideally want to keep your humidity above 70%…but mine is rarely above 40% and my alocasias are fine (at least for now).
    Mite Treatment: If your plant gets spider mites, apply a mineral oil & water mixture once a week for three weeks, for a total of three treatments. Liberally apply the oil-water solution to all leaf surfaces, including the petioles and stem, using a fine-mist water bottle. The oil smothers the mites, but you need to make sure you get them all or you’ll have an ongoing infestation. Mites and pests travel across plants, so if your plant is in a cluster of other plants with leaves that touch, you may need to treat all plants in the vicinity.
  • Fertilizer & Calcium: This is probably one of the most important notes about care for this specific species… these plants come from limestone outcrops and substrates in Borneo. Limestone is calcium carbonate and it reacts with rain water (carbonic acid) to increase the pH, release calcium and change the micro environment for plants in those areas. Plants adapted to alkaline conditions like this may seem easier to kill…IF you don’t give them the calcium they are adapted to rely on. Calcium is important for cell growth and pathogen resistance. Consider using a mineral-rich and premium organic fertilizer in combination with rock dust—you can get oyster shells (calcium carbonate) in the bird section of your pet store…add 1/4 tsp of this to the lower layer of your substrate specifically if you’re using distilled or soft (acidic) water. Symptoms of calcium deficiency are not obvious but can present as fungal and bacterial rot. If you’re doing everything else right and your plant keeps getting root rot…add the oyster shells. Many grower feed with CalMag instead of adding calcium carbonate to their potting mix. If you want to know more about water, pH and calcium carbonate, read this.

Alocasia baginda Distribution / Habitat / Endemic to…

Eastern Kalimantan (Borneo, Indonesian). No exact locality specified. No specific elevation. [source]

Species Related to Alocasia baginda

Alocasia baginda most closely resembles A. melo and A. reginula, two species which are obligately associated with limestone. It is expected that A. baginda will reveal similar geological preference and what can be inferred from this is how the geology of the environment will affect available minerals and root conditions.

Related Species Elevation

Alocasia reginula – low to mid-elevation (up to. 850 m a.s.l.)
Alocasia melo – mid-to-high elevation (1066m to 1371m a.s.l.)

Photos of my Alocasia bagindas

Oct 26, 2020 – Alocasia Dragon Scale made a new leaf too

Oct 15, 2020 – Alocasia Silver Dragon made a big leaf

 

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Oct 8, 2020 – About a month after I got my plants

Each plant has produced a new leaf and is working on a second leaf, and new roots are starting to reach the edge of the pot.

September 12, 2020 – Repotted Dragon Alocasias
Alocasia ‘Dragon Scale’

Alocasia ‘Silver Dragon’

Sept 10, 2020 – Newly arrived plants, ready to be repotted

More Information on Alocasia baginda ‘Dragon Scale’, ‘Silver Dragon’ & ‘Pink Dragon’