Alocasia ‘Dragon Scale’, A. ‘Silver Dragon’, and A. ‘Green Dragon’ are three variants of the same species known as, Alocasia baginda. It’s a terrestrial species native to Eastern Borneo where the conditions are hot, humid and moist. The exact site in Bornero where these plants are found is still unknown; however, based on the general location and preference of related species, it’s believed that A. baginda is adapted to the calcium carbonate rich limestone regions of Borneo. That’s a good clue for hobby growers who want to successfully keep this species, but we’ll get to that down below.
Established plants become beautiful specimens with leaves that can exceed 16″ on petioles that are over 2 feet long. As plants mature they seem to seasonally produce an abundance of offshoots (referred to as Alocasia ‘corms’ or ‘bulbils’) around the end of summer to early fall. There is also an Alocasia ‘Pink Dragon’ which deceivingly may seem like it’s part of the “family of dragons”, but that cultivar of Alocasia is not A. baginda and is a hybrid of other species.
Background: I acquired my two plants on Sept, 2020 and then acquired the third ‘Green Dragon’ form in Aug 2021; so, this care sheet is based on a combination of early research, cross-referenced with my observation of their care over the past year. I find them easy-to-grow and they have grown quickly for me in a short period, so I think you’ll find the below tips helpful. As with all of the content on this site, I update care sheets as my plants age and add new findings over time. If you’re a new Aroid grower, you may want to refer to the other post I’ve written on Aroids Care & Culture – Tips for Growing Indoors; much of the information in this post has been extrapolated from my experience growing those plants.
If I had one essential tip for successful care it would be this: A LOT of people say Alocasias don’t like “wet feet” and that they should dry out between waterings. I think that advice could be very bad advice for this specific species. You’ll want to make sure your potting media is well draining (50% drainage), moisture retentive, and also allows for good airflow within the soil particles but the roots shouldn’t dry out. I don’t EVER let my root-zone go bone dry, but this doesn’t mean soggy/wet is your goal either.
Before & After Photo
My two Alocasia bagindas: Silver Dragon & Dragon Scale which now live in one pot together
Photo: Pair of Alocasia baginda in transparent pot
Before we get to care details: I owe a special thanks to Sowmya (@northernplantroom); when I first got my two jewel Alocasias, she gave me some good high-level tips on the care she offers hers like watering and potting media. It helped enforce my research and early success with these plants. Good growers like her, who freely share advice and experience, are invaluable to the sustainment of this hobby—and it’s how we collectively become better growers and make this hobby more sustainable. Sowmya has some wonderful photos on her channel and also has a YouTube video on jewel alocasia care. If you’re active on Instagram, give her a few likes and a follow. Her plants are “top-shelf” perfection and a testament to her commitment-to and love of them.
Alocasia baginda 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. prevent 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 DIRECT SUN, but is 15% sun, 30% sun, or sometimes even more, and visibly that would appear 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 humans 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 kept in low light generally doesn’t “just die”, it can take months or even years to eventually succumb; for context, watch AsapSCIENCE’s video testing plants in zero light – the results WILL surprise you.
It’s a bit of a mouthful, so the takeaway: Give your plant enough filtered 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 visually 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.
Potting Media & Root Health
Choose a potting media that keeps roots moist, but as with all aroids, ensure it’s well-draining, porous and oxygen-rich potting media. I use 50% peat to 50% large-chunk perlite with a bottom layer of pumice for drainage. Compact soils (like pure peatmoss or pure sphagnum moss) have poor airflow when very wet and water-logged and compact soil can results in anaerobic (no air) conditions at the root zone. This 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.
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 and while I have seen some specimens grown very well in semihydro, I’ve also heard reports of plant crashing where the roots have all rotted off (which could be related to insufficient calcium or anaerobic conditions from stagnant water, or temps that have gone too cool). So, if you opt for semihydro and it kills your plant…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 sometimes means seasonal changes are required to trigger natural queues. Dormancy may just be part of the plant’s natural growth cycle, but that’s an advanced topic and I’m “thinking out loud” not recommending you induce it. Keep your plants moist to avoid dormancy.
Everyone says Alocasias need high humidity. It’s actually the reason I bought these two…to see if that is actually true, because my humidity is terrible; in my room where this plant lives, most days the humidity ranges from 25-50%. I also blast 2 fans all summer because we don’t have air conditioning. Needless to say, both of the baginda plants I have are fine with the low humidity, and as long as you follow strict watering habits and avoid extreme drying of the soil, you should be fine with room humidity.
Alocasias & 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 as I mentioned, mine is terrible and my alocasias are fine and haven’t had any spider mite issues after nearly a full year. Thrips do like them though and if you see track-marks on the leaves, look for thrips.
Pest Treatment: If your plant gets spider mites or thrips, 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 mites and thrips, but you need to make sure you also kill subsequent generations (thrips lay eggs in the plant tissue and the nymphs live in the soil), or you’ll just 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, and Feeding Alocasia baginda
This is probably one of the most important notes about care for this specific species… these plants are believed to come from limestone outcrops and calcium-rich substrates in Borneo. Limestone is calcium carbonate and it reacts with rain water (which has carbonic acid) to increase the pH, release calcium, and change the micro environment for plants in that soil. 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, low-mineral, or soft (acidic) water. If your tap water is slightly alkaline, you should not need to supplement calcium or use oystershell. 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.
Flowering Alocasia Dragon Scale & Silver Dragon
When happy, these plants will flower. This typically requires a good balance of light, nutrients and generally good husbandry. If you manage to get your plant to flower, good job! I have found that they bloom seasonally in late winter through early summer; this could mean their flowering cycle is triggered by a shift in temperature or more likely a change in daylight hours as the days start getting longer.
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Cutting or removing flowers: The flowers are not overly pretty and a lot of people feel flowering robs the plant of nutrients. I have personal opinions about this—and generally just let my plants grow and flower as they’d like. Yes, sometimes it can shift the growth cycle, but…that doesn’t bother me. I also come from the world of orchids where flowers are considered an achievement, so I personally like them, even if they’re kind of bland. If you want to cut yours off—go for it.
Pollinating Alocasia flowers: I tried cross-pollinating my Dragon Scale on to my Silver Dragon but this resulted in no fruit or seed. There are a few challenges that exist with these plants though…the female part of the flower is only receptive for about 24h (possibly even shorter), and it could be that my male flower (the Dragon Scale) was too old (as its flowers had dried), and therefore the pollen may not have been viable. It’s also possible these two plants are just incompatible if they happen to have chromosome anomalies like being triploid or anuploid (which isn’t a fact, just a guess at other possible reasons). I had also read an article on pollinating Dieffenbachia that mentioned the need for nearly 100% humidity in order for pollination to take—perhaps Alocasia baginda are similar.
“Following pollination, Dieffenbachia flowers require 100% relative humidity for pollen to germinate (Henny 1980). This can be done by wrapping the entire spadix with moistened paper toweling and enclosing it in a plastic bag. The wrap is removed the next day so that it does not interfere with pollen production. Pollen germination in Aglaonema is greater when provided high humidity (Henny 1985) but is not as sensitive as Dieffenbachia.” [source – Chen et al., 2005, The Foliage Plant Industry]
I will try again next spring to cross the two plants.
Additional Information About This Species
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. [source]
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
August 3, 2021 – Big Dragons 🙂
Jan 19, 2021 – The plants have sized up considerably. Silver dragon is making corms & new growths, and the roots of both plants are starting to get pot-bound.
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’
- Alocasia baginda – Kew, Plants of the World Database
Launched in March 2017 by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Plants of the World Online (POWO) is the first online database providing authoritative information of the world’s flora gathered from 250 years of botanical knowledge.
- Alocasia baginda, a New Species from Eastern Kalimantan, Indonesian
- Related – Invitro propagation of Alocasias