The dragon scale plant looks like something straight out of a fairytale with textured, shimmering foliage that actually looks like it was made out of granite. This pretty plant is a great addition to your houseplants, and even though it has some care demands, it’s easier to grow than many Alocasias.
We want you to keep your plant looking as good as you can, and this in-depth guide is going to cover everything you need to know about the dragon scale plant to keep it thriving in your home.
This tropical plant has a very eye-catching look to it with deep coloring and sharply contrasting veining.
Dragon Scale Plant Overview
The dragon scale plant offers a stunning veined texture that can resemble what you’d think dragon scales would look like. The leaves are also an interesting point on this plant as they’re pliable and tough, and they can have a hardened feel on the topside. This plant is native to Borneo’s tropical forests, and some cultivars are more flashy and rare than others. There are even rainforest cultivars that have much more demanding care routines required to keep them looking nice.
The leaves have a greenish-silver coloring that is darker towards the center of the plant to lend a more luminous tone and a lighter shade. The undersides of the leaves are usually a pale cream color with striking maroon veining. The coloration on any young leaves you spot will become deeper as the plant ages. It’s a great eye-catching specimen to have at any maturity level or size, and it contrasts nicely with other plants. It likes tighter quarters, and it can even work very well in a terrarium.
You can display it by itself or add it to clusters of other plants in your garden. The bathroom and kitchen can be great areas to place the dragon scale plant indoors since they’re humid and warm. They also look fantastic placed on coffee tables as the centerpieces of the room.
It does very well outside in zones 9b to 11 or indoors in the growth zones 4b to 11. Although the dragon scale plant can thrive indoors and out, it will have to come inside before the first frost hits. It likes to be put in slightly smaller containers.
You should note that the dragon scale plant does have a number four toxicity level, and this means that ingesting the plant can lead to ulceration or swelling of the throat. You should keep young kids and pets away from it.
However, with the correct care, the dragon scale plant can easily stay beautiful and green all year-round as long as it lives. They can also survive for decades.
Care Summary for the Dragon Scale Plant
|Diseases and Pests:
|Mealy bugs, scale, aphids, and spider mites are common. Catching an infestation early and treating it is an important aspect to keeping the plant alive. Leaf spot disease is also common, and you should prune any affected foliage right away.
|It has lower fertilizer requirements. You’ll use a balanced fertilizer at half strength every six weeks from spring to early fall to encourage growth.
|The dragon scale plant produces smaller purple flowers that get overshadowed by the foliage. You should prune the blooms to encourage more robust foliage growth.
|Higher humidity is recommended at 60% to 80% at all times.
|Indirect but bright light. Direct light will scorch the foliage.
|The dragon scale plant does well with tuber division for propagation.
|Low pruning needs. You should prune off damaged or dead foliage. Remove dead plant material from the pot to discourage disease or pest spread.
|Avoid repotting at all costs as this plant is very sensitive to disruption.
|Alocasia baginda ‘Dragon Scale’
|A well-draining but chunky potting mix is critical. It should be equal parts orchid mix and perlite or coco coir.
|55°F to 80°F to encourage growth. Any temperatures lower will trigger the plant to go dormant.
|Toxic if ingested, and it can cause dermatitis with contact with the skin.
|Water when the top two or three inches of soil feel dry. Avoid overwatering because this can kill the plant.
In-Depth Dragon Scale Plant Care Guide
Now that we briefly touched on what your dragon scale plant needs to thrive, we’re going to go more in-depth to ensure that you have everything you need to get a full and lush plant that lasts for decades below.
You won’t need to have a huge amount of fertilizer on hand to make your dragon scale plant grow well. Instead, you should plan on giving it a balanced fertilizer once every six weeks starting in the early spring months and going to the fall. You won’t use full strength either, and you’ll dilute it to half of whatever your fertilizer recommends.
Since this plant is a very light feeder, it’s very common for people to over fertilize it rather than under fertilize it. Any unused fertilizer will create a toxic soil, and the damage will appear on the plant in the form of brown leaf edges and tips. However, this is a relatively easy fix.
If you flush the pot with water, it’ll get rid of the residual fertilizer salts and any other toxins sitting in the soil. You just have to run enough water through the soil and allow it to drain. Repeat this process one or two more times. You should do this every few months to ensure your fertilizer doesn’t build up in the soil.
You don’t want to overload this plant with fertilizer as it’s very sensitive to it and it’s a very light feeder.
Most dragon scale plants still seem to think that they’re in the rainforest, so it makes sense that they crave higher levels of humidity around 80% and up. The question many people have is how well will it adapt to lower humidity levels. This can vary, and some growers have been successful with humidity levels around 40%, but these same growers typically have perfected the light or watering program to make the plant more resilient. Humidity levels around 60% are where the plant starts to be comfortable.
If you only have average humidity, you can place water-filled trays right near your plant and group it with other tropical plants to increase the relative humidity levels. To reach the perfect humidity levels, you’ll need a greenhouse or a humidifier.
You can run the humidifier during the winter to help counter the drying effect that your heating system has and bump the humidity levels up over 60%. It’s also possible to monitor your humidity levels using a digital humidity meter, or you can move the plant to the bathroom or kitchen as long as it has adequate lighting. This will expose your plant to routine steamy humid sessions every day or every other day.
The best lighting conditions for the dragon scale plant are indirect but bright. Direct sunlight exposure can easily scorch the foliage and cause damage. They are best placed by a sunny window but out of the direct light. You can also put up a sheer curtain to help filter the light. You can put it roughly two feet from a northeast facing window and move it closer as the winter temperatures set in to maximize the light.
- Artificial lighting will work for the dragon scale plants, as will grow lights
- Outside, your plant requires a shaded spot that gets protected during the hottest part of the day
- Rotate the plant to keep it balanced. You can turn it clockwise 90° each time you water it to keep it from leaning.
Now and then, a dying leaf is normal, especially when a new leaf is growing or if the plant is about to go dormant. To prune, all you have to do is gently remove the dead leaves while holding onto the main stalk in your other hand so you don’t jolt your dragon scale plant too hard. If the foliage is dying due to disease, you should remove them to stop it from spreading. Use a sharp, clean pair of scissors and make sure you sterilize them when you finish. Wipe them with rubbing alcohol, cut the affected stem by the base, and wipe them again.
Pruning this plant is something you’ll do if you see dead or dying foliage, but you won’t have to do it much with a healthy plant.
Being able to water your dragon scale plant starts with the soil. The mix has to be chunky enough to drain quickly to allow the plant’s oxygen-loving roots to breathe. Your soil mix should be an equal combination of orchid mix, perlite, and chopped coco coir. You can also add in compost, peat, or quality potting soil to help regulate the water-holding capacity and make it more fertile.
The best temperature range for your dragon scale plant is between 55°F and 80°F (13°C and 27°C). Bring your plants inside well before the first frost of the season hits. Cooler weather can also trigger the plant to go dormant. When this happens, the plant stops growing and can look ragged. When you see this happen, leave it be with minimal water until it comes out of the dormancy period. When you see new growth, resume your normal care. Keep the plant away from cold or hot drafts as this will stress the plant out, and the leaves will turn yellow with brown tips.
The dragon scale plant is more fussy when it comes to the water requirements. It needs frequent watering sessions, but under or over-watering is a huge problem. During the summer, try to water it two or three times a week. In the winter, you can cut back to once a week. You also want to make sure the two two or three inches of soil is dry before you water it again. If not, the soil will be soggy, and this can cause a huge range of problems for your plant.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you don’t water enough, the plant will get very droopy and dry. If the air is too dry around the plant, you can get a humidifier. You can also put a tray with pebbles under the plant and pour enough water on it to be just below the pebble line. The water will evaporate and make the air more humid. Don’t block the drainage holes, and make sure that the plant isn’t sitting directly in the water.
Dormancy Period Care
The dormant stage is an important aspect of caring for the dragon scale plant, and many people don’t know what it is. The dormant period usually happens when there is lower temperatures or light, and it’s very common for it to happen during the winter months. However, your plant can go dormant at any point during the year. The plant will usually stop growing and some of the foliage may die or deteriorate. Allow the soil to full dry between watering sessions and ensure that the plant has moderate temperature and light levels.
In a few months, your dragon scale plant will wake up and start growing again. It grows from thicker, water and nutrient-containing tubers below the soil. So, even if the leaves die all of the way back to the soil level, don’t get rid of the plant. Instead, give it moderate conditions and be patient until you see new foliage sprouting in a few months.
This is one of the houseplant species that can bloom without you actually noticing them because it produces tiny purple flowers that can get lost underneath the foliage. A lot of people choose to snip the flowers to help conserve the plant’s energy levels so it focuses on foliage growth. You can snip the flowers at any time without harming the plants.
This is a rare plant where the foliage takes center stage and many people snip off the flowers to get more lush foliage.
When To Repot the Dragon Scale Plant
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the dragon scale plant really doesn’t like to be repotted. Repotting can be considered a groundbreaking event in your plant’s life, and it’s common for it to go dormant and lose the leaves after you repot it. You should avoid doing this unless you have no choice. If you have to repot, spring is the best time. If the plant outgrew the old container, replant it in a pot that is a single size larger. It should only be an inch or two wider in diameter. If you put it in a pot that is too large, this can lead to overwatering.
Propagation Using Corms
A mature dragon scale plant will have several corms. These corms function to store water and nutrients, and they’re very similar to bulb flowers in that respect. To propagate the plant using the corms, you’ll:
- Carefully remove the plant from the pot and look for the brown, little chunks. These are your corms.
- Get a pair of sharp, clean scissors or a knife and remove the corm from the parent plant. You want to snip close to the corm while keeping most of the root attached to the main plant.
You don’t want to remove every corm from the parent plant. They store nutrients and water, and this is how your plant comes back after it goes dormant, especially if it dies back to the soil level.
- Try to gently peel away the outermost layer of the corm. This layer is darker brown with a lighter shade on the inside. This encourages faster rooting. If you can’t get it, you can leave it on.
- Place your corms into a small bowl with water. You may even need a smaller container like a shot glass with a few drops of water added. The corm should sit in the water but not be submerged.
- Keep the corms in a spot that gets indirect but bright sunlight.
- The humidity levels should be higher. You can use a humidifier or put a clear plastic bag over the container.
- In a week or two, you should start to see tiny roots start to grow. A new stem will eventually emerge from the top. Once you see it, plant it in a potting mix, water it, and treat it like you would an adult dragon scale plant.
Propagation Using Division
You can’t propagate the dragon scale plant using stem or leaf cuttings, but they do form offsets and clumps that you can divide and grow as individual plants. The best time to take on this project is when you repot it, and you should:
- Gently remove the plant from the pot. If you want to divide it, carefully shake away excess soil from the roots to expose the root structure.
- Find the tuberous clumps and offsets on the root system. Untangle and detach the parts that you want to reproduce, making sure that each section has roots. Use sterile tools to cut any tangled roots apart.
- Put each new plant in a potting mix that is very similar to the parent plant’s mix. Give it moderate light.
- Consider covering the new plants with a clear plastic to increase the humidity levels and keep the soil hydrated.
- Water the plants carefully and keep an eye out for signs of rot. Get rid of any failing specimens before the infection takes hold and spreads.
- Increase the light exposure when you see new leaves forming and start treating them like adult dragon scale plants.
Dragon Scale Plant Common Problems
The dragon scale plant is prone to having issues with a few key problems. Remember, when it’s dormant, it won’t look nearly as full or bright.
So, if the plant looks sad but it’s in the late fall or early winter months, it could be going dormant instead of developing a problem that could harm it.
- Droopy Stems – Your dragon scale plant could be too dry. They tend to store water in their stems, and they’ll perk back up after you water them.
- In some instances, mushy stems can cause droop due to root rut. This is why you should always feel the potting gmix before you add more water.
- Leaf-Spot Disease – It can be a challenge to save a plant once this disease takes hold unless you catch it very early. You want to quarantine it right away and remove the infected leaves using sterile tools. Make sure you sterilize your tools when you finish too.
- Having excessively wet conditions like the leaves or soil can cause this disease. This is why you should avoid misting the plants.
- Pests – Scale, mealybugs, and spider mites all pose potential problems for the dragon scale plant.
- You can use Bonide Systemic Houseplant Insect Control on any new plants when you bring them indoors, or make an insecticidal soap to treat any active pest problems.
- Root Rot – Root rot happens when you consistently over-water your plant for several weeks at a time.
- If you catch root rot in the early development stages, you may be able to save the plant. If it progresses, the plant will die.
- Yellow Leaves – The most common reason the leaves on your dragon scale plant turn yellow is overwatering. This is tricky because this plant likes to stay moist and it’s hard to tell exactly how much water you should give it.
- If the leaves are yellow due to too much water, this usually isn’t the end of your plant. Decrease the amount of water the plant gets and check the potting mix to ensure it’s dry before you water again.
Alocasias That Are Similar to the Dragon Scale
If you’re someone who loves the dragon scale plant, there are a few Alocasias that look very similar that can be easier to find. They include:
- Alocasia Cuprea ‘Red Secret’ – This plant has a very similar shape, but it has a gorgeous metallic, bright pink coloring.
- Alocasia Reginula Black Velvet – You’ll get dark green leaves that are so dark they look black at first glance, and they have contrasting white veins. The shape is very similar to the traditional dragon scale plant.
- Alocasia Silver Dragon – It looks close to the traditional plant, but it has a lighter, more silvery coloring. It looks like it was outside and has a layer of frost on it.
- Alocasia Sinuata ‘Quilted Dreams’ – Finally, this plant offers a bright emerald coloring than the dragon scale plant, and you get a more wrinkled texture.
Dragon Scale Plant – Frequently Asked Questions
This is a gorgeous tropical-looking plant, and it’s very common for people to have questions about it since it looks like it would be a lot of work to keep healthy. We’ve picked out a few questions and answered them for you below.
1. Why is your dragon scale plant dropping leaves?
Trying to acclimate to a new location is one huge reason why these plants drop leaves right after you buy it and bring it home. This includes coming from a nursery or moving rooms in the house. The general rule of thumb is not to fertilize or disturb the plant until you see new growth starting. Stress from moving the plant can cause leaf loss and discoloration, but it should stabilize relatively quickly.
2. Should you mist this plant?
While it may be true that the dragon scale plant likes to be in a humid spot, you don’t want to mist it. Keeping the foliage constantly wet can easily lead to disease, and it’s not very effective. Instead, you can simply use a humidifier. It’s a low-maintenance and easy way to cover several plants at once.
3. Why is your dragon scale plant dying after you repot it?
The dragon scale plant is extremely sensitive to any change in the growing environment or conditions, so it’s very common for it to deteriorate a little or stop growing once you repot it. You don’t want to repot it in a huge container because this increases the risk of overwatering. Excess soil will hold water and take longer to dry out, so this can lead to plant diseases or root rot.
4. Are dragon scale plants toxic?
Yes, this is a toxic houseplant. You want to keep it well away from areas where your kids or pets can get to it.
5. Why are the leaves on your dragon scale plant turning yellow?
Yellow leaves are one of the biggest issues you’ll have with this plant, and it usually means that you’re overwatering it. The top few inches of soil should dry out before you water it again. The soil should also be very well-draining and loose, and the pot should be the correct size. It can also get yellow leaves if it has too much exposure to direct sunlight as this can cause scorch marks on the leaves. If you don’t move them, the entire leaf will turn yellow or brown and die.
Make a point to check the plant for any signs of pest infestations. Mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites will all feed on the leaves of your plant, and they can eventually cause yellowing that spreads all over the foliage.
6. Why does the foliage have brown tips?
The most common reason why your dragon scale plant has brown leaf tips is due to humidity that is too low. You want to make a point to monitor the humidity levels in your home and keep it at or above 60% at a minimum. Drafts, acclimation, overwatering with root rot, and high temperatures can also cause brown leaf tips.
You should now have a very good idea on how to care for the dragon scale plant and keep it looking lush, healthy, and eye-catching year in and year out. It’s a nice beginner-friendly plant that looks complicated, but getting the right routine in place can help you avoid issues and ensure your plant is healthy.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.