How to Grow and Care for Alocasia Dragon Scale

An Alocasia dragon scale in a terracotta pot next to an amber glass.

The Spruce / Cori Sears

If you’re ready to take your houseplant game to the next level, look no further than the Alocasia dragon scale (Alocasia baginda ‘Dragon Scale’). This stunning Alocasia is beloved for its unique, highly textured leaves that resemble what many imagine dragon scales might look like. Plus, it is a relatively compact plant which makes it perfect for small spaces. As you can imagine, this Alocasia is a favorite among houseplant lovers and collectors alike which can mean it is often hard to find and can come at a hefty price. 

Native to the rainforests of the island of Borneo, this tropical perennial has some exacting needs when it comes to growing indoors. It is generally not considered a low-maintenance houseplant, so if you have a notoriously brown thumb you may want to try your hand at an easier and less expensive Alocasia like the Amazonica or Polly. If you have pets at home, be aware that the Alocasia dragon scale is considered toxic to both cats and dogs.

Botanical Name  Alocasia baginda 'Dragon Scale' 
Common Name  Alocasia dragon scale 
Family  Araceae 
Plant Type  Perennial, corm 
Mature Size  2-3 ft. tall (indoors), 1-2 ft. wide (indoors) 
Sun Exposure  Partial 
Soil Type  Moist but well-draining 
Soil pH  Neutral, alkaline 
Bloom Time  Spring, summer 
Flower Color  Green, white 
Hardiness Zones  9-11 (USDA) 
Native Area  Asia
Close up of an Alocasia dragon scale leaf in a terracotta pot.

The Spruce / Cori Sears

Close up of an Alocasia dragon scale leaf.

The Spruce / Cori Sears

Alocasia Dragon Scale Care

If you’ve cared for an Alocasia successfully before then you should have no problems with the Alocasia dragon scale. It is considered less finicky than some of its relatives, but can still be picky compared to other houseplants. The most important thing when it comes to growing these tropical plants indoors is providing them with enough light and humidity. Remember they are accustomed to growing in rainforest conditions so try to mimic that environment when growing them indoors.

The Alocasia dragon scale is primarily grown for its stunning foliage but does produce insignificant spathe-like flowers in the spring and summer months. Many growers choose to cut the flowers off in order to redirect the plant’s energy back to the foliage, but this is optional.

Light

Accustomed to the dappled light of the rainforest understory, dragon scale Alocasia does best with bright indirect light. Avoid exposure to direct sunlight as it is susceptible to leaf burn. Ensure that you rotate your plant regularly to keep the growth even on all sides. 

Soil

Dragon scale Alocasias need a chunky, well-draining potting mix. A soilless mixture of equal parts coco coir, perlite, and orchid bark is ideal, but you can also substitute the coco coir for a sandy potting soil. Avoid using straight potting soil as the plant is more likely to suffer from root rot in a dense medium.

Water

Dragon scale Alocasia requires regular watering and soil should not be allowed to dry out. That being said, it is more tolerant of missing the occasional watering than some other varieties of Alocasia. Allow the top 1 to 2 inches of soil to dry out between waterings and then water thoroughly. 

If you are growing your Alocasia dragon scale in a soilless potting mix it is best to water by placing it in a small container or bowl filled with water and leaving it to soak for 10 to 15 minutes. This method allows the organic components in the soilless mix to fully absorb the water. This is sometimes called the “bottom watering” method. Bottom watering only works if your plant is potted in a container with drainage holes at the bottom. Once your plant is finished soaking, allow all of the excess water to drain from the pot before returning it to its original location. 

Temperature and Humidity

Like most Alocasias, dragon scale Alocasia thrives in high humidity - 60% to 80% humidity is ideal. It does well in terrariums or mini-greenhouses, or with a small humidifier placed nearby.

They do well in typical indoor temperatures from 55 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Be aware that consistent exposure to low temperatures may cause the plant to enter dormancy. 

Fertilizer

Alocasias are considered heavy feeders and the dragon scale is no exception. In addition to a potting mix that has plenty of organic materials, the Alocasia dragon scale appreciates regular fertilizing during the spring and summer months. 

These aroids are thought to grow naturally on limestone outcrops in Borneo and grow best in calcium-rich, slightly alkaline conditions. Amending your potting mix with calcium carbonate or another calcium-rich fertilizer like bone meal will provide your dragon scale with the conditions it loves. It is also recommended that you feed your Alocasia dragon scale with a balanced liquid fertilizer once or twice a month during the growing season. 

Propagating Alocasia Dragon Scale

Alocasia dragon scale can be propagated by division and growing corms. Most Alocasias can only be propagated once they are a few years old, so if you have a small plant that is less than one or two years old it is best to wait. Propagating Alocasias is not as simple as some other houseplants such as pothos, but can be done successfully by following a few simple steps. 

To propagate by division you will need a mature plant that has developed new smaller plants or pups.

  1. Prepare a few small potting containers with a well-draining potting mixture and set them aside.
  2. Remove your Alocasia and the pups from its pot and lay it on its side on the ground.
  3. Using your hands, gently loosen the soil around the base of the pups to expose the roots, being careful not to break any.
  4. Remove the pups and their root systems from the mother plant and pot them in the prepared containers, patting the soil down firmly around the new plants.
  5. Water the newly separated plants thoroughly, allowing excess water to drain from the pot, and return the mother plant to its original pot, adding soil as needed.
  6. Place the new plants in a location that receives bright but indirect light. Keep the soil evenly moist.

To propagate the Alocasia dragon scale by growing corms, follow these steps.

  1. Gently unpot your Alocasia dragon scale from its container and lay it on its side on the ground. 
  2. Using your hands, begin carefully digging around in the soil near the plant’s roots until you uncover small corms in the soil. Be cautious not to break any roots if possible. The corms should be firm, and may or may not have their own root systems.
  3. Remove the corms from the soil of the mother plant and peel off the brown outer layer of the corm.
  4. Place the corm in a container with moist sphagnum moss, ensuring that the top of the corm is not covered by moss. Then, place a plastic bag around the container and seal the top to create a greenhouse environment. 
  5. Place the pots and bags in a warm location that receives bright, indirect light, and open the bags once a week for 10 to 15 minutes to allow some airflow. After a few weeks, you should begin seeing signs of growth — either in the roots or from the top of the corm. Keep the sphagnum moss consistently moist. 
  6. Once the corm has established roots it can be moved to a pot with a well-draining potting mix. Keep the bag covering the plant for a few weeks after moving it to the soil so that you don’t shock the plant, and then remove it. Keep the soil evenly moist.

Potting and Repotting Alocasia Dragon Scale

Alocasia dragon scale doesn’t mind being slightly root bound and should be repotted once every 2 to 3 years or once roots begin growing out the bottom of the pot. It is best to repot these plants during mid spring to early summer when they are out of their dormant period and actively growing. Choose a pot that is 1 to 2 inches larger than the previous pot, and refresh as much of the potting medium as possible without damaging the plant’s roots. After your dragon scale has been repotted, water it thoroughly to help it settle into its new pot.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Common houseplant pests like fungus gnats, scale, spider mites, and thrips can all be an issue for an Alocasia dragon scale. Regularly inspect your plant for signs of pests and apply an insecticide at the first signs of an infestation. It is also susceptible to root rot, which is usually the result of improper watering and/or drainage.

An Alocasia dragon scale in a clear plastic pot with a yellow leaf being held by a hand.

AnSyvanych / Getty Images

Common Problems With Alocasia Dragon Scale

Under the right conditions these gorgeous plants can thrive indoors, but if their needs are not met you may experience some of the following common problems.

Dropping Leaves

If your Alocasia dragon scale is dropping its leaves it is most likely not receiving enough light, water, or humidity. Examine your plant’s growing conditions to determine what may be lacking.

It is normal for Alocasias to enter a period of dormancy during the fall and winter months where they drop all of their leaves. This doesn’t always happen indoors, but it is possible. If your plant enters dormancy, don’t panic! Just cut back on watering and wait it out. In the early spring, you should begin to see signs of new growth.

Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves on an Alocasia dragon scale often mean that your plant is being overwatered. Occasionally, it’s an indication of root rot. Cut back on watering to prevent additional leaves from yellowing, and consider checking the roots of your plant to catch any potential signs of root rot early.

Curling Leaves

If your Alocasia dragon scale has curling leaves, it’s usually a sign of a lack of moisture and humidity. Ensure that you are not underwatering your plant, and increase the humidity around your Alocasia if possible.

FAQ
  • Are Alocasia dragon scale rare?

    Alocasia dragon scale can be difficult to find and are generally considered rare. They are occasionally sold by some nurseries and garden centers, but can also be purchased online or from plant collectors.

  • Is Alocasia silver dragon the same as Alocasia dragon scale?

    Commonly confused with one another, the Alocasia silver dragon and Alocasia dragon scale are two different cultivars of Alocasia baginda. They can be distinguished from one another mainly by their coloring — the silver dragon has lighter foliage that has a silvery sheen to it, while the dragon scale has much darker leaves.

  • Does Alocasia dragon scale like misting?

    While Alocasia dragon scale prefers moist, humid conditions, misting is not the best way to increase humidity around a plant and should generally be avoided. To provide your dragon scale with enough moisture, consider placing a humidifier nearby or moving the plant into a naturally humid room in your home like a bathroom or kitchen.

Article Sources
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  1. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “Alocasia.” Aspca.org. N.p., n.d. Web.

  2. Here but not. “Alocasia baginda - Dragon Scale and Silver Dragon.” Oct. 8, 2020. N.p. Web.