Alocasia are the darling of the modern houseplant boom (I mean, can you blame us?) but these tropical marvels are usually too big to be enjoyed in a terrarium setup.
Thankfully, nature – along with some strategic culture intervention – has brought us the ideal solution. Enter the jewel alocasias!
A series of compact species that open a world of opportunity for terrarium setups and small containers alike, if you know how to handle them.
Ready to find out? Let’s go treasure hunting.
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What is a Jewel Alocasia?
“Jewel alocasia” is a rather fitting term for an Alocasia species that’s often small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and displays one of many dazzling colours, shapes and textures.
Of course, these plants can be functionally great for terrariums because they’ll actually fit (and they tend to grow remarkably slowly)… but it’s their array of unique appearances that really make them shine.
Sporting a variety of oval, heart and arrow shaped leaves, laden with metallic sheens and waxy glosses, in vibrant colours ranging from deep emerald and silvery blue, right up to jet black and purple
Jewel alocasia are a real treasure trove of diversity! – See the range on Etsy!
Thankfully, as tropical plants they mostly enjoy the typical conditions of a tropical plant. So, they’ll work well as houseplants and they’ll enjoy the conditions inside a closed terrarium – with one important caveat explained in the care section below.
Jewel Alocasia Varieties
#1 Alocasia melo (Alocasia rugosa)
Perhaps having the thickest and most heavily textured leaves of all the jewel alocasia, Alocasia melo is one tough cookie.
With highly ornate ridges on very broad leaves, it’s an absolute stunner.
I’m not sure if Alocasia rugosa is a former name or just a synonym, but they seem to be sold interchangeably under those names.
Alocasia melo is typically just a single colour, ranging from a deep green to an almost dark blue or grey hue.
#2 Alocasia cuprea ‘Red Secret’
If these species were truly jewels, Alocasia cuprea would certainly be the ruby.
With a gorgeous metallic red sheen and a mysterious name like “Red Secret” – this one really fits the bill of royalty.
Truly, a fantastic choice for a showstopping foliage plant in your next terrarium!
#3 Alocasia infernalis ‘Black Magic’
This jet black gem of an Alocasia really hits some gothic undertones.
It can often have a purple hue in its juvenile form, but it’ll deepen as it grows to really live up to the “Black Magic” name.
It’s also more suited to a more damp environment than others on this list, making it a good terrarium option and an easier plant to grow all round.
#4 Alocasia baginda ‘Dragon Scale’
Here we have the emerald of the set.
With broad, heavily contrasted leaves full of deep greens and dark venation, it really does resemble a living dragon scale.
If green isn’t your colour, you can find a variety of Alocasia baginda cultivars and hybrids, most notably the ‘Silver Dragon’ and ‘Pink Dragon’.
#5 Alocasia amazonica ‘Bambino’
A dwarf variety of the popular Alocasia amazonica, ‘Bambino’ stands out from the rest of this list with it’s long arrow-shaped leaves.
Displaying dark green foliage and pronounced silver venation, it’s a striking plant that’s going to add some real contrast in colour and shape.
Unlike it’s larger cousins, this plant shouldn’t grow much larger than 15 inches or so, making it ‘Bambino’ a good choice for taller terrariums.
#6 Alocasia reginula ‘Black Velvet’ (Black Velvet Alocasia)
The aptly named “Little Queen” slides into this list in all her regal majesty.
With dark, velvety leaves gilded with silvery veins, Alocasia reginula ‘Black Velvet’ is a gorgeous little plant.
In fact, it’s probably the smallest of all the jewel alocasias, making it a great fit for terrariums of all sizes.
#7 Alocasia reversa
Now, we come to the sapphire of the collection.
With a silvery blue(ish) leaf colouration and dark venation, it’s named for being the reverse of the other jewel orchids like Alocasia reginula.
I mean, they’re technically different plants so it’s not really fair to name it as some kind of reverse doppelganger… but they did.
Whatever the name, it’s a beautifully unique plant and it’s deserving of its place here.
#8 Alocasia maharani (Grey Dragon Alocasia)
A hybrid of A. melo and A. reginula, Alocasia maharani carries on the lineage of thick leaves and bold ornamental ridges from its parents.
It arguably looks more like the ‘Melo’ with its dark grey hue and deep ridging, but it’s distinguished from the ‘Melo’ thanks to some light venation inherited from the ‘Black Velvet’.
A gorgeous plant with lots of contrast and character.
#9 Alocasia nebula ‘Imperialis’
Last but by no means least, is perhaps the rarest and most sought after jewel of them all.
The heart shaped leaves of Alocasia nebula are unique amongst the jewel alocasia, but they display a variety of similar characteristics from their cousins.
- Dark foliage with a velvety red underside like Alocasia infernalis ‘Black Magic’.
- Thick, waxy leaves with very pronounced ridges like Alocasia baginda.
- Sometimes a blue-ish tone like Alocasia reversa.
Perhaps it’s a wonderful natural hybrid, nobody knows. Either way, I love it.
Jewel Alocasia Care
By far the most important thing for jewel alocasia health is a well draining substrate.
Despite being mostly tropical species, Jewel alocasia species all share a mutual dislike of sitting in a soggy environment (don’t we all?) so opting for a mix with lots of fiber and aeration is a must.
The species with thick, waxy succulent-like leaves (i.e. most of them) are particularly susceptible to rotting if overwatered, so you’re probably going to need to adjust your typical tropical mix.
A more granular variation on an ABG mix is a good choice; something with lots of orchid bark, perlite, vermiculite or tree fern fiber.
With many jewel alocasia originating from the jungles of South East Asia, you can expect them to thrive in the higher warmth and humidity of a closed tropical terrarium.
They also tend to prefer the dappled light of the rainforest floor. So – just like most other terrarium species – they’ll do well in bright indirect light. In fact, if my Alocasia ‘Black Velvet’ will be the first plant on the counter to curl its leaves in response to an extra sunny morning.
Over to You
What your favourite jewel alocasia from the list?
Have you ever grown one of these in a terrarium?
Let us know in the comments!