A Rough Character

The idea of "Jewels" encompasses delicate, exquisite beauty and great value. Paradoxically, this particular Jewel looks and feels as though it is ready for harsh, rather than royal, treatment. This plant is available commercially under the name Alocasia rugosa, but the accurate scientific name is almost certainly A. melo. This "Rugose Jewel" is endemic to Sabah, Borneo, and was first described as A. melo in 1997. Specimens grown for the horticultural market are produced from tissue culture plantlets or more rarely, from offsets or corms, not seedlings.

Alocasia rugosa leaf and bloomThese plants are amazingly intolerant of too much moisture. My first specimen, for which I paid dearly, become submerged briefly after a big storm. Even after being rescued and dried, the plant promptly succumbed to total rot. Nothing I could do would reverse the extreme shock the plant went into. The lesson is that you should never allow your Rugose Jewel to become waterlogged, even for just a few hours. This means, of course, that you have to keep your plant out of the rain and under cover. By the way, this is a good rule of thumb to use when growing any of the Jewel Alocasias.

Where can I get one?

These plants can sometimes be found at specialty nurseries or garden centers in the Spring, especially if the store specializes in exotic tropicals. I know of one wholesale grower who produces a lot of these plants and ships them all around the country to nurseries and garden centers. The Garden WatchDog shows one nursery, Green Sunshine, that lists this plant as available. Rugose Jewels do not grow very large and can be maintained in a 6" pot for several years. After that time, you should have several plants in the pot. If you are quite confident about your Jewel growing ability, you can try separating them and growing on the little corms you find when you unpot your plant. These Jewels are interesting to own, fun to touch, and easy to keep if you remember to keep the soil on the dry side most of the time.

Photo credit: LariAnn Garner, Aroidia Research