The trendy Dracula plant has eye-catching foliage that will spruce up your indoor garden. It’s exotic appearance with dramatic blooms that have caught the attention of most gardeners. They are an inflorescent species, which means that their flowers emerge beneath the plant.
Dracula plants are easy to grow with few care requirements. Keep reading to learn more about the plant.
A Brief Overview of Dracula
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The genus Dracula belongs to the Orchidaceae family, with over 138 species. They are native parts of Peru and South Mexico. Most Dracula species are native to Ecuador and Columbia, where they are accustomed to wet, warmer rainforests at a relatively high elevation.
Some species are considered to be an endangered species because they are confined to a single mountain or valley. Researchers believe that a few species within the Dracula genus have become extinct.
Most gardeners like Dracula because of their unusually shaped flowers and the ease of growing them. It is common for the flowers to reach lengths of 30 cm from tail to tail, making them one of the largest of all orchid flowers.
The most popular genus of the genus includes Dracula simia, Dracula celosia, and Dracula gigas. The gigas and celosia varieties are among the more popular varieties on account of their simian shaped flowers, earning them the nickname “Monkey Face Orchids”. Some species of the Dracula genus have unusual blooms, for example, they may grow cockscombs instead of petals.
The blooms can last for a good 2 to 3 weeks. Dracula plants should be placed outdoors to increase their likelihood of blooming. Bringing them indoors can turn their foliage from red to purple.
The exact care requirements for Dracula plants depend on the genus. Let’s take a look at the Dracula Celosia genus (also known as wool flower).
Caring for Dracula Celosia (Difficulty rating: Easy)
Dracula celosia is an edible plant and belongs to the amaranth family. Although its leaves are edible, the plant is primarily utilized for decorative purposes. It is worth noting that the leaves are only delicious when they are still young. The leaves are rich in various minerals and vitamins, like most leafy greens.
The leaves turn bitter once the plant produces flowers. In other words, you should decide if you want to grow your Dracula celosia as food or as a household plant for its beautiful flowers.
You will find Dracula celosia in most households because it is easy to grow and doesn’t require the grower to be an expert, making it a favorite among houseplant enthusiasts. Try to place the plant under sunny and dry conditions to increase the likelihood of blooming. The celosia genus is highly adaptable and is considered to be drought resistant.
This means that the watering frequency can be low to prevent the plant from wilting, making the Dracula celosia a good choice for a low water garden.
Propagating Dracula Celosia
The Dracula celosia can be propagated using cultivars or with the help of celosia seeds (germination). Let’s start with cultivars.
Using Dragon Celosia Cultivars
You can propagate Dracula Celosia with three cultivars. These are as follows:
i) Plumed Celosia
Plumed cultivars are extremely small and don’t require staking. Some varieties of plumed celosia cultivars can fit in large growing containers. They are known for producing vivid colors in shades of bright yellow, purple, yellow, and red. The best part is that plumed cultivars are more resilient than wheat and cockscomb Celosias.
ii) Cockscomb Celosia
Cockscomb celosia is very popular because of its blooms. They produce some of the biggest flowers with sprawling petals that require staking as support. These plants can reach a length of up to three feet, making them a dramatic addition to any indoor or outdoor garden.
iii) Wheat Celosia
Wheat celosia isn’t as popular as other Dracula celosia cultivars. They are relatively rare, making them an excellent filler plant for anyone looking to populate their garden with stunning flowers.
A major advantage of planting Wheat celosias is that their blooms last for a longer period of time. The flowers continue to grow in the autumn months, when other species have lost their flowers. Besides their long lasting blooms, wheat type celosias can grow up to three feet tall. This makes them an excellent focal point for your outdoor garden.
If you want something less dramatic, consider finding a smaller variety like the Flamingo wheat cultivar.
Caring for the Dracula Simia (Difficulty rating: Hard)
Dracula simia plants thrive in regions that have high elevations. This is why they are commonly found in high mountainous rainforests that have an altitude of about 2000m and higher. In the wild, a Dracula simia plant can reach a height of about 2 feet. Their blooms are much smaller by comparison with a diameter of only 2 inches.
The plants tend to bloom throughout the year if you provide them with the ideal growth conditions. The flowers are known for their intoxicating scent, that is very similar to ripe oranges.
Dracula simias are fast growers with their foliage emerging just 8 weeks after planting. Blooms will require a lot more patience because you’ll have to wait about three years to see the flowers. It is not uncommon for Dracula simias to not bloom even after they’ve reached their eighth year of propagation.
But once the plant starts to bloom, it will continue to produce flowers until it dies. It has a lifespan of about 20 years, giving you beautiful blooms.
Propagating Dracula Simia
There are two ways of propagating Dracula simia: germination and vegetative propagation.
Vegetative propagation is the easiest way to propagate Dracula simia. The process involves the separation of the roots from the rhizome, and then transplanting them into a new growing pot. The plant should produce new foliage in about two months.
Make sure to carefully inspect the rhizomes for signs of pests and diseases. Discard infected rhizomes to grow healthy Monkey Face orchids. Always use a pair of sterilized scissors or shears to prevent the spread of diseases and pests.
Germination is a more traditional method that requires more experience and tools. It requires you to plant seeds under a layer of dirt. The process is difficult because Monkey Face orchids have extremely small seeds that one can mistake for dust. For this reason, try vegetative propagation instead of germination.
The seeds must be nurtured carefully with the use of appropriate fertilizers for them to grow successfully. They don’t come with nutrients to support growth and sprouting. If you must go down the germination route, be careful who you buy your orchid seeds from. Only buy the seeds from a trustworthy seller, especially if you’re new to germination.
If you have made up your mind about propagation through germination, then start sterilizing the seeds. The easiest way to sterilize the seeds is by soaking them in a bleach solution for a few minutes, followed by bathing them in clean water. Sterilize them with isopropyl alcohol.
The next step is to mimic the plant’s native habitat to stimulate growth. It is recommended to use mycorrhizal fungi to help the seeds grow. The fungi do this by penetrating the roots and providing the seeds with their daily dose of nutrients.
An alternative is to use flasking, also known as asymbiotic germination. This method involves the use of a bacterial culture medium (such as Agar) as a substitute for the soil. It has been proven to provide the plant with the necessary growth hormones and nutrients.
Care Requirements for Dracula Plants
Most Dracula plant species prefer a warm and humid environment that can be replicated in most households. The following section will discuss these requirements.
It is important to use soil that is designed specifically for orchids. Dracula plants will grow happily in peat moss, dried fern roots, perlite, stones, coconut fiber, and sphagnum moss. For best results, you should replicate the orchid’s native habitat in rainforests. It is recommended to provide more organic matter to Dracula plants if grown indoors.
We recommend buying an orchid-specific soil from a store near you. If you can’t find one, you can make a potting mix yourself using some sphagnum moss, charcoal, and fir bark.
Make sure that the container has stones at the base to facilitate drainage so that the excess water can flow out.
The pot must be large enough to allow the roots to grow without getting entangled. It should have plenty of drainage holes to prevent waterlogged conditions that could lead to root rot.
Dracula plants are extremely resilient when it comes to the watering frequency. But just to be on the safe side, you should water your plants once a week to create a moist environment for them.
The best way to determine when it’s time to water Dracula plants is to do the finger test. Simply insert your finger into the first two inches of the soil and feel its moisture levels. If the soil feels dry, your plants need water. If the soil feels wet, don’t water the plants.
You can also observe the color of the leaves. Green leaves don’t need water. But if they turn a shade of white, it’s time to water them.
Reduce the watering frequency if you see signs of root rot and fungal infections.
Humidity Requirements for Dracula Plants
Dracula plants prefer humid conditions. Try to provide them with at least 70% humidity. You can do this by misting your Dracula plants or placing them near a humidifier.
Although buying a new humidifier may be more expensive, it will help you regulate the humidity levels automatically. At 70% humidity, the leaves of Dracula plants can absorb moisture from the air. This helps them produce dramatic foliage with eye-catching foliage.
However, when the humidity level is extremely low, it could lead to your Dracula plants wilting. If you don’t provide them with appropriate humidity levels, the plants may even die.
Pro tip: Use a hygrometer to measure the moisture levels of the surrounding area.
The plant doesn’t do well in full sun light. Like most orchids, they can grow extremely well in the dark. Exposure to full sunlight may impede their growth. You should provide shade to your Dracula plants – just make sure they aren’t deprived of light.
Although it prefers less light, exposure to high intensity light will make its bloom more colorful with darker foliage. In any case, direct sunlight is harmful to Dracula plants and may scorch their leaves.
Acidity Levels of the Soil
Dracula plants prefer a slightly acidic soil in the range of 5.5 to 7.0. Never allow the soil pH to plummet because it will prevent the plant from absorbing nutrients and minerals. The pH value plays a pivotal role in nutrient absorption.
Many beginners confuse the symptoms of a pH imbalance with nutrition deficiency because of overlapping symptoms. As a result, they may add fertilizer to the plant. However, the fertilizer would do little to improve the pH value and won’t help the plant absorb nutrients.
In fact, you could be wasting nutrients because the Dracula plant won’t be able to use them. So before adding more fertilizer, make sure that you have ruled out a pH imbalance.
Use a pH meter to accurately check the pH value. Insert the pH meter into the soil. You should be able to see the pH value right away. A cheaper alternative is to use a pH test kit at home. Remove a small section of the soil to test it with the kit. Observe the color changes to find out more about the pH value.
A major disadvantage of using this method is that it can give you a wide range of pH values, making it difficult to restore the ideal pH value.
Pro tip: Reduce soil acidity (increase pH value) by using sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Increase soil acidity (lower pH value) by adding some sphagnum moss or ammonium sulfate.
Dracula plants prefer a temperature range of 45 F to 70 F. Like most orchids, these plants do not thrive well in extreme temperature fluctuations. This means you should isolate the plant from draft windows and doors to protect them from frost.
Exposure to temperatures under 40 F will stunt the plant’s growth and may even cause it to die. Frost, in particular, is deadly to the plants because it can lead to cellular damage. Most cases of cold damage are irreversible.
Fertilizer for Dracula Plants
Use a fertilizer that has an equal ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You may also use organic fertilizers, as long as the nitrogen composition isn’t over 20%. Adding too much nitrogen may lead to vegetative growth and interfere with blooming.
Experts recommend applying the fertilizer once every month. You may apply the fertilizer once every week if you dilute them. Avoid fertilizing the plant if you have determined that it is sick or has a pest infestation.
It is recommended to repot Dracula plants to the spread of diseases and prevent root entanglement. As a rule, you should repot the plants once every two years for optimal health. Always use sterilized tools before repotting the plants.
Instead of sticking to a schedule, you can use a visual test to find out if your Dracula plants need repotting. So if you see the plant’s roots sticking out of drainage holes, it’s time to repot them. Make sure to only go up one pot size to help the plant acclimate to its new surroundings.
As always, the pot should have plenty of drainage holes to prevent oversaturation and overwatering.
Pests and Diseases
The most prominent problem with Dracula celosia plants is the risk of pest attacks and root rot. Scales, snails, and mealybugs are attracted to orchid flowerbeds. You should check your plants regularly for signs of pest infestation, especially under the leaves.
If you notice mold, eggs, or other infestations, treat the plant with some essential oil. For less serious cases of pest infestations, use neem oil. But if the pest infestation has entered an advanced stage, you might have to use an insecticidal soap.
Root Rot in Dracula Plants
Dracula plants are at a high risk of root rot. The most common sign of root rot is yellow leaves which may wilt if you don’t intervene soon enough.
To prevent root rot, you’ll need to inspect the plant for the disease. Prune the affected roots and repot the plants. As always, prevention is better than cure. Try not to overwater your Dracula plants and create plenty of drainage holes in the pot.
Dracula plants are known for their stunning foliage and dramatic blooms. Some cultivars are easier to grow than others. If you’re new to gardening, consider starting with Dracula celosia instead of Dracula simia.
Dracula celosia plants don’t have stringent care requirements – as long as you keep the soil humidity, temperature, and pH value at the recommended conditions, the plant will reward you with beautiful blooms.
If you’ve ever grown Dracula plants, share your experiences and challenges with us!