Looking for a tropical houseplant that'll be a talking point amongst your guests? Look no further than the alocasia silver dragon (Alocasia baginda 'Silver Dragon'). Like many Alocasia species, their stand-out feature is their stunning heart-shaped, thick foliage. The light silver-green shade of the leaves and the highly textured dark green venation set the silver dragon apart. Plus, it's relatively compact, so it's ideal for making a big impact in a small space. They'll be perfectly at home in a bathroom with their love for humidity.
If you're lucky enough to get your hands on one of these rare and exotic-looking babies, be prepared to put the work in. These aren't low-maintenance houseplants, and if you're just starting out with your indoor jungle, you might want to opt for a less pricey, more readily-available variety—it's not uncommon to find the alocasia Polly in IKEA. After spending a pretty penny, you don't want your alocasia silver dragon to whither within a week.
Like other Alocasia, this beauty isn't the best choice if you have curious cats and canines at home. It's toxic to people and pets.
|Common Name||Alocasia silver dragon|
|Botanical Name||Alocasia baginda 'Silver Dragon'|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous, Perennial|
|Mature Size||Up to 3 ft. tall|
|Soil pH||Neutral, Alkaline|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer (very occasional)|
|Hardiness Zones||9-11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Southeast Asia|
|Toxicity||Toxic to people, toxic to pets|
Alocasia Silver Dragon Care
Alocasia aren't always the best beginner houseplants, and the silver dragon is no exception. However, your picky plant can thrive if you can offer them the right light, warmth and humidity levels. The key is mimicking their native tropical rainforest conditions as closely as possible.
In their native rainforests, these plants enjoy dappled light on the jungle floor. In your home, offer your alocasia silver dragon bright, indirect light. Too much exposure to direct sunlight can scorch the leaves, but too much shade results in straggly, leggy growth. Rotating your plant frequently helps to encourage even foliage growth.
A well-draining soilless potting mix instead of straight potting soil is essential to prevent root rot. Using equal parts sustainable coco coir (or sandy potting soil), perlite or pumice, and orchard bark will keep things nice and loose.
LECA (lightweight expanded clay aggregate) is a convenient alternative sustainable, porous, light potting mix that Alocasias do well in.
Ideally, you don't want to let the potting mix around your alocasia silver dragon dry out completely. Letting the top couple of inches of soil dry out before giving your plant a thorough watering is optimal. However, don't panic if you forget occasionally. This variety is more tolerant of dry conditions than some other Alocasia, and you might start noticing the leaves warping slightly rather than dropping.
Try the bottom watering method with your silver dragon if you use a pot with good drainage holes. Place your plant in a small bowl of water and soak it for around 15 minutes. Drain the excess water from the pot and then return it to its favorite spot.
Temperature and Humidity
Don't leave your alocasia silver dragon beside blasting air conditioning or heaters. These plants need high humidity to survive. Anything above 50% should be enough, but they thrive when humidity levels are around 60% to 80%.
Housing these compact plants in large terrariums, using a humidifier, and placing them in the right spot in your house (like a balmy bathroom) all help provide the muggy conditions they love.
As you'd expect from these tropical head-turners, they need consistently warm temperatures too. Prolonged exposure to temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit can send the plant into dormancy.
Alocasia tend to be heavy feeders. Although silver dragons are a more compact variety, they'll still appreciate the application of a balanced liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks during their growing season in the spring and summer. They also appreciate calcium-rich nutrients like additions of bone meal.
The alocasia silver dragon doesn't have any onerous pruning requirements. Trim away any dead or unhealthy-looking leaves. You might also want to cut off any insignificant spathe-like flowers that appear. This allows the energy to be directed back into the more eye-catching foliage.
Propagating Alocasia Silver Dragon
Propagating these plants isn't as simple as taking a stem cutting, but it's still possible through the division of rhizomes or clumps on mature plants that are at least a few years old:
- Wait until your mature and healthy plant has come out of dormancy in spring before attempting propagation.
- Always use gloves when handling the plants as Alocasias contain calcium oxalate crystals that are skin irritants.
- Carefully remove the plant from the pot and expose the rhizomes by shaking the soil gently off the roots.
- Use a sharp, sterile knife to cut off healthy rhizomes from the plant's central stem.
- Pot the rhizome cuttings near the surface of a moist (not saturated), well-drained potting mix.
- Keep the cuttings in a warm, humid spot.
- If successful, new growth should appear a few weeks after the roots take hold.
Propagating alocasia using the corms is growing in popularity, but don't be tempted to just stick them in potting soil—they won't get the humidity levels they need. Instead, try the following:
- Carefully loosen your plant from its pot and look for the corms. These are short, swollen underground plant stems resembling bulbs that grow around the plant's roots.
- Try not to break any roots when you remove the corms from the soil.
- Gently peel off the brown outer layer of the corm.
- Use sphagnum moss (not normal potting soil) to generate the right moisture levels.
- Make sure you don't cover the top of the corm with moss.
- Cover the container with a plastic bag or humidity dome to retain moisture.
- Place in a warm location with bright, indirect light.
- Open the bag for ten minutes or so once a week to prevent stale air from forming and keep the moss consistently moist.
- Once roots are well established on the corm, transfer it to an evenly moist, well-drained potting mix. This can take from one to four months.
- Keep the plastic bag cover for the first couple of weeks to minimize the chance of transplant shock.
Alternatively, you can follow the steps above but place the corm in shallow, filtered water with a dome over the top to retain the moisture.
Potting and Repotting Alocasia Silver Dragon
These plants can handle being slightly rootbound, so won't need potting too often. Look out for the roots starting to grow out the bottom of the pot drainage holes—this is a good indicator repotting is required. Repotting outwith the dormancy phase once every two to three years is usually more than enough.
Select a pot that's around 1 or 2 inches larger in diameter than the original pot—going too big can contribute to root rot as the soil holds on to too much moisture. Water thoroughly after repotting.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
Although they aren't prone to many diseases, humidity-loving pests can be the bane of the Alocasia lover's life. Spider mite infestations aren't uncommon. Regular inspections allow you to take early action with insecticide application before a major problem occurs.
Common Problems With Alocasia Silver Dragon
Watch out for the following problems with these picky plants. They're usually a sign you need to adjust the conditions you're offering your silver dragon.
Underwatering and not enough humidity are the most common culprits for curling leaves. Don't let your potting mix dry out completely, and consider water-filled pebble trays, a steamy bathroom position, or even a humidifier to up the moisture levels.
Getting the balance right with moisture levels can be tricky with these plants. If you're dousing them with too much water or haven't got the drainage levels right with the potting mix, your plant could suffer from root rot. An early sign of this is yellowing leaves.
Don't panic if a few mature leaves drop during the fall and winter when your plant is dormant. However, if you're not creating that tropical jungle environment for your plant, it will inevitably start to drop some of those gorgeous, healthy-looking leaves during the growing season. Don't forget they need dappled light, even moisture and plenty of humidity.
Is alocasia silver dragon rare?
Despite its growing popularity, the alocasia silver dragon is one of the harder-to-come-by varieties. Some specialist nurseries or online suppliers sell the plant, but there can be waiting lists, and, because of their rarity and the increasing demand, they come with a hefty price tag.
What is the difference between alocasia silver dragon and alocasia dragon scale?
Understandably, alocasia silver dragon is often confused with alocasia dragon scale. They are both cultivars of Alocasia baginda and have similar care requirements. However, silver dragon has light green foliage with a distinct silvery hue and dragon scale foliage is much darker green.
Why is alocasia silver dragon referred to as a jewel alocasia?
With its compact form, striking markings, and exotic appearance, it's no wonder this rare plant is classed as a "jewel alocasia". Typically these diminutive varieties don't grow to be too big, and their unusual patternation makes them much sought after, even if they aren't widely available commercially.