The Alocasia Cuprea (also known as Mirror Plant) is a well-loved member of the Jewel Alocasias, a group of dwarf Alocasias perfect for small indoor spaces.
The Alocasia Cuprea boasts glossy and stiff oval leaves, with a copper-metallic sheen. And no wonder: Cuprea means “copper” in Latin! When young, leaves emerge purple with dark green veins. Over time, both leaves and veins darken, while retaining an amazing metallic gloss.
Care difficulty for this plant is moderate. It needs well-draining soil, bright, indirect light, and mild indoor temperatures. Give it as much humidity as you can; 80% is ideal.
Wipe down leaves with a damp cloth to prevent dust from building up, and so that your Cuprea keeps its shine. Keep a look out for spider mites.
In this article, we’ll show you how to care for your Alocasia Cuprea. Let’s dive in!
Just a quick note on Origins
The Alocasia Cuprea hails from Borneo but is rare in cultivation. It was brought to Europe in 1855 by British Botanist Thomas Lobb.
But it wasn’t until 1861 that this species was formally documented by Karl Koch.
Caring for your Alocasia Cuprea
Bright, indirect light brings out the best growth in your Alocasia Cuprea. An East-facing windowsill is ideal.
Never let your Alocasia Cuprea stay in direct sunlight for more than 3 hours a day. Doing so will result in pale leaves and, at the extreme, brown sun-scorched patches.
Watering can be a little tricky for Alocasia Cupreas. Their sensitive roots are very intolerant of overwatering. You can be sure that waterlogged roots quickly lead to decay.
At the same time, it is important to water your plant deeply when it is thirsty. Tentative, shallow watering will not work for a Cuprea either.
The best way to water your Alocasia is the ‘soak and dry’ method:
- Regularly use your fingers to check the soil moisture.
- Only water if the top 2 inches of soil is completely dry. Even if the topsoil is slightly moist, hold off watering for a day or two until it’s dry.
- Water your Alocasia Cuprea slowly and deeply, preferably using a long-spouted watering can to prevent wetting the leaves.
- Once water starts running out of the drainage hole, stop watering.
- Empty the saucer.
For Alocasias, it’s important to use purified (distilled) or rainwater. Alternatively, you can use tap water that has been left out overnight, allowing chloride and fluoride salts to dissipate.
Also, check that the water is at room temperature. Cold water tends to weaken delicate roots over time.
Signs of over and under watering
Yellowing and wilting lower leaves typically suggest an overwatered Alocasia Cuprea. Check the soil moisture to confirm.
On the other hand, stunted growth and pale leaves suggest an underwatered Cuprea.
Choice of Container
Part of keeping your plant healthy is choosing the right container! If you inherited a flimsy plastic pot from a nursery, upgrade to a terracotta pot the next time you need to repot.
Don’t repot straight after bringing a new plant home. It has enough stress to deal with acclimatizing to a new environment!
Ideally, choose a pot that is made from terracotta, which sends air to the roots. Whatever the case, always choose a pot with drainage holes.
Your plant is best kept in 60-80% humidity, which the higher end of this range being ideal.
Though some plant care articles suggest misting, we caution against this for the Alocasia Cuprea. Wet foliage creates a petri-dish of fungi to spore, which increases the risk of leaf spot disease… something your plant is already susceptible to!
If you want to increase humidity, check out 4 ways we suggest here.
If you’re intending to grow your plant as a tropical evergreen, keep temperatures minimally at 55 degrees F (13 degrees C). The Alocasia Cuprea is most happy between 65-85 degrees F (18 – 29 degrees F).
Alocasias are known for being sensitive to temperature changes. We’ve had situations where a chilly draft caused ALMOST ALL our Alocasia’s leaves to drop off… though it only lasted for a few hours!
To avoid heartbreak, keep your Alocasia Cuprea in stable temperatures… well away from any vents, winds, or radiators.
Like all Alocasias, the Alocasia Cuprea grows inflorescences. These consist of a central spike, called a spadix, and a boat-like modified leaf called a spathe.
However, when kept indoors, blooming is very rare. Besides, flowers are considered insignificant.
This little plant grows up to 20 inches (50cm) tall and 16 inches (40cm) wide at maturity. But alas, the Mirror Plant is a slow grower.
So slow in fact that it will take up to 8 years for the little plant to reach this height! Expect just 1-3 new leaves to grow every year.
However, young Alocasia Cuprea leaves are worth the wait. The purple gloss is best seen when young.
Soil or Growing Medium
As with many Alocasias, a well-draining potting mix is important. There’s nothing too unusual we use for the Alocasia Cuprea:
This makes an airy and porous mix that allows your plant to dry off quickly after watering.
Fertilizing is an important component of plant care for the Alocasia Cuprea.
Now, Alocasias are generally heavy-feeders, but at the same time have sensitive roots. So you need to choose a high-quality fertilizer and dilute it.
Cheap fertilizers tend to contain harsh chemicals that can burn the roots. Check that whatever you’re buying is urea-free.
Personally, we love Dyna-Gro Grow. We use it for most of our houseplants.
Apply it once every 3 weeks, at 1/2 strength during the growing season. Mix in the fertilizer when watering your plant. Hold off fertilizing in fall and winter.
Your Alocasia Cuprea likes being a little bit snug in its pot. So until you see little roots poking out of the drainage hole, there’s no need to repot your plant.
Repotting is also a stressful event for Alocasias. So don’t be in a rush to do it!
- Don’t “overpot”. Choose a pot just 2 inches (5cm) larger than the previous. Overpotting leads to overwatering.
- Water your plant 24 hours prior to repotting. This helps your plant wriggle free from its pot more easily, and reduces transplant shock.
Unfortunately, according to the ASPCA, Alocasias are highly toxic to animals and humans when ingested. This is due to insoluble calcium oxalate crystals, which are sharp needle-like crystals that pierce skin tissues.
When ingested, symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal pains. The sap of your plant may also cause skin irritation on contact. Use gardening gloves when pruning and propagating.
As leaves grow very slowly from individual petioles, there’s really not much pruning to be done for an Alocasia Cuprea. But if you see dead or wilted leaves, snip them off with sterilized shears.
This helps your plant refocus its energy on healthy (and new!) growth.
We like using 70% isopropyl solution to sterilize. This prevents cross-contamination of microscopic bacteria, fungi, and pests.
There are 2 main ways to propagate your Alocasia Cuprea. Both methods require a healthy and established plant. You shouldn’t be trying to propagate a newly-acquired starter plant!
Alocasias have a clumping growth habit. Baby plants, called offsets, spontaneously grow in the same pot as the mother. These can be cut off from the mother at the rhizome (method 1), and potted up as a separate plant.
Method 2, bulbs harvesting is the method that takes the longest to grow a new plant. Bulbs or corms are underground stems that store food and have the ability to grow new plants. We like digging through the soil to look for bulbs when repotting.
Propagating via Root Division (Clumps)
- Prepare your plant by watering it 24 hours prior to propagation. This helps reduce the risk of transplant shock, as the rootball can more easily dislodge from the pot.
- Sterilize a blade or knife, using 70% isopropyl solution.
- Unpot your plant and inspect its roots. Using the blade, cut off a part of the tuber that has its own established roots and at least 1 leaf.
- Plant the baby in evenly moist potting mix, in a separate pot.
- Place your mother plant back in its pot.
- Place both plants in a spot with bright indirect light, and high humidity.
- Both plants may take a few weeks to recover.
- New growth signals your plants have recovered!
Propagating through Bulb Harvesting (or Corms Harvesting)
- When repotting your plant, opportunistically look for any bulbs hidden in the soil. They may be tangled in the roots.
- Select bulbs that are hard and round, and that are easily picked off. These characteristics signal that your bulb is ready to grow.
- Place the bulbs in a separate pot. Keep the soil evenly moist.
- In a month or so expect to see new growth!
Common Pests and Diseases
Unfortunately, your Alocasia Cuprea is susceptible to houseplant pests. Pay special attention to spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids.
Diseases resulting from an overwatered plant may also present issues if you don’t water your plant properly.
Spider mites, Mealybugs, and Aphids
Spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids are other common houseplant pests that may occasionally infest your plant. Of the 3, spider mites are the most common for Alocasias.
Leaf Spot Disease
Leaf spot diseases weaken plants by interrupting photosynthesis. Spots appear irregular and may be black, brown, tan, or yellow. Thankfully, the disease initially only affects a portion of the leaves, giving you time to stop its spread!
- First, gather and destroy fallen damaged leaves and dispose of them securely. Growth on affected leaves can re-infect other parts of the plant or new healthy plants it comes into contact with.
- Isolate your plant from other plants to prevent contamination.
- Trim off any damaged leaves, again carefully disposing of them. Make sure to sterilize your gardens shears using 70% isopropyl.
- Apply a fungicide that contains chlorothalonil to contain the spread of the infection. Chlorothalonil is an effective broad-spectrum pesticide.
Root rot is due to overwatering, or a soil mix that holds too much water. In both cases, roots cannot breathe, as air molecules in the soil are crowded out by water. All the effort to find a chunky mix is undone by overwatering.
Roots suffocate and eventually decay, turning brown or black and mushy. They may also smell bad.
To prevent this:
- Make sure you have a porous potting mix. Amendments like orchid bark, perlite, and charcoal increase the air in the soil.
- Water only when the topsoil is dry.
- Water in the mornings. This reduces the risk that the water stays stagnant in the pot, as evaporation occurs throughout the day.
- Consider the light level. Low-light means low evaporation. Your plant loves bright, indirect light, and evaporation rates are better (higher) for it!
- Drooping leaves. Leaves dramatically facing down is a sign of either too much light, or too much water.
- Yellowing leaves. Typically signal an overwatered Alocasia Cuprea. Check the soil moisture to confirm.
- Loss of lower leaves and wilting. Again, typically means overwatering.
- Mold developing on the soil’s surface. Yikes – this means you have overwatered the plant, or it is receiving too little light. Or both!
- Crispy and brown leaves. Signals too low humidity or underwatering.
- Browning tips with yellow halos. Typically due to too low humidity.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does an Alocasia Cuprea typically cost?
A survey of 5 sellers averaged a price of US$47 for a starter Alocasia Cuprea potted plant with 1-3 leaves. Etsy is a good place to find reputable sellers.
Can you grow Alocasia Cuprea from seeds?
Well, yes but it’s a long and complicated process. It’s much easier to propagate Cupreas from root division or offset division.
Similar Plants and Varieties
Alocasia Cuprea ‘Red Secret’
A cultivar of the Alocasia Cuprea, the Red Secret has a reddish tint to the leaves instead of the darker, coppery hue of the “original” Cuprea. Other than this difference, the leaves look similar, and require the same care. 🙂
Alocasia Green Shield
Alocasia Green Shield is a common nickname for the Alocasia Clypeolata. Though they are not the same species as the Alocasia Cuprea, they share the same genus and family.
Alocasia Cuprea vs Alocasia Azlanii
The Alocasia Azlanii is not a cultivar of the Alocasia Cuprea, but they share the same genus. So you can think of them as close cousins 🙂
They share similar leaf sizes and shapes. But if you look closely, the Azlanii has less symmetrical veins compared to the Cuprea.
Color-wise, the Azlanii has more of a pinkish undertone that’s hard to capture on camera. On the other hand, the Cuprea has a coppered color shine.
The Alocasia Azlanii is rarer than the Cuprea, and usually costs ~US$100 or more for a starter plant. A survey of 5 sellers averaged a price of US$107 for a starter Alocasia Azlanii potted plant with 1-3 leaves. In comparison, the Cuprea averaged US$47, less than half the price!
Alocasia Dragon Scale
A cultivar of the Alocasia Baginda, the Alocasia Dragon Scale is a relatively new species from Borneo.
We love how this plant has a 3D look, thanks to the darker green shading near the veins, set against deep grooves.
It looks like, well, dragon scales! Or what one would imagine dragon scales to look like 😛
Alocasia Cuprea Variegata
So, this one is a bit of a mystery. We have seen a few variegated Alocasia Cuprea online, but not much is known about them. They seem to be unstable variegation to the best of our knowledge.
Other Alocasia Varieties
- Alocasia Black Velvet (Alocasia Reginula)
- Alocasia Jacklyn
- Alocasia Silver Dragon
- Alocasia Regal Shield
- Alocasia Tiny Dancer – winner of “Most Unusual” Aroid at the 2009 International Aroid Society show and sale
- Alocasia Lauterbachiana
- Alocasia Frydek
- Check out our Alocasia #1 Round-Up (w/PHOTOS!)
The Alocasia Cuprea is a beautiful variety of Jewel Alocasias. It may require a little special attention and care, but rewards you with striking copper leaves.
If you love the Cuprea, another dwarf cultivar to check out is the Alocasia Melo!
Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.