Dracaena

OFFICIAL NAME

Dracaena marginata

ALSO KNOWN AS

Dragon Tree, Madagascar Dragon Tree

ORIGINS & CLIMATE

Madagascar | Subtropical

ABOUT THE
PLANT

The spiky grass-like blades that fountain out from the tops of wavy branches on these indoor trees make for an eye-catching houseplant. Sometimes mistaken for a type of palm, these Dracaena are actually related to Snake Plants and Yucca!

HOW MANY GREEN THUMBS?

easy going, bright indirect, drought tolerant, great heights, upright, floor, tree or tree-like, subtropical, ribbon-like, low light tolerant

No items found.

Dracaena

The basics

Water Needs

Water thoroughly when soil is about 50% dry. Avoid overwatering. Watering may be less frequent during winter months or in less light.

Water

Preferred Light

Medium to bright, indirect light is ideal for this Dracaena. However, they can tolerate low light, as well. Just take extra precautions when watering and don't expect the plant to grow very much.

Light

Humidity Needs

While not too bothered about high humidity, your Dracaena will appreciate the occasional misting, which helps remove dust from their leaves and can keep brown edges at bay.

Humidity

Ambient Temperature

Adaptable to average indoor temperatures, but may complain when exposed to cold drafts or dry heat from vents.

Temperature

Toxic or Not?

Toxins in the leaves and can lead to mouth and stomach irritation and possible vomiting in humans and pets if consumed. Particularly harmful to pets that are fond of chewing on the ribbon-like leaves.

Toxicity

Size Potential

Indoors, this plant can grow up to around 6-8 ft tall with a 3 ft spread (when mature and with enough light)!

Size

Overall Look

Generally in an upright tree-like formation of skinny trunks and sets of 3-4 wiggly branches that emerge from those straight trunks (through pruning). The foliage emerges in tufts or bursts from the tops of each branch. Works best on the floor or a plant stand.

Format

Leaf Look

Spiky ribbon-like blades fountain out from the tops of wiggly branches. The leaves are a deep green with a subtle margin of red.

Leaf Shape

Pro Tip

While often touted for their low-light tolerance, if you're looking for significant growth year-over-year, your Dracaena will be much happier in bright, indirect light. On the other hand, if you're satisfied with their size and would like to brighten up a dreary corner of your house—by all means, Dracaena is up for the job (as long as you cut back on watering)!

Pro Tip

Water

|

Allow half of soil to dry out before watering again.

Water Needs

Water thoroughly when soil is about 50% dry. Avoid overwatering. Watering may be less frequent during winter months or in less light.

Light

|

Low light tolerant. Bright, indirect light preferred.

Preferred Light

Medium to bright, indirect light is ideal for this Dracaena. However, they can tolerate low light, as well. Just take extra precautions when watering and don't expect the plant to grow very much.

Humidity

|

Not too concerned by humidity levels.

Humidity Needs

While not too bothered about high humidity, your Dracaena will appreciate the occasional misting, which helps remove dust from their leaves and can keep brown edges at bay.

Temperature

|

Can adapt, but doesn't like sudden change.

Ambient Temperature

Adaptable to average indoor temperatures, but may complain when exposed to cold drafts or dry heat from vents.

Toxicity

|

Mildly toxic to humans and pets if ingested.

Toxic or Not?

Toxins in the leaves and can lead to mouth and stomach irritation and possible vomiting in humans and pets if consumed. Particularly harmful to pets that are fond of chewing on the ribbon-like leaves.

Size

|

A popular plant for those seeking a larger specimen.

Size Potential

Indoors, this plant can grow up to around 6-8 ft tall with a 3 ft spread (when mature and with enough light)!

Format

|

Upright tree-like formation.

Overall Look

Generally in an upright tree-like formation of skinny trunks and sets of 3-4 wiggly branches that emerge from those straight trunks (through pruning). The foliage emerges in tufts or bursts from the tops of each branch. Works best on the floor or a plant stand.

Leaf Shape

|

Long ribbon-like blades in green with a red margin.

Leaf Look

Spiky ribbon-like blades fountain out from the tops of wiggly branches. The leaves are a deep green with a subtle margin of red.

Pro Tip

|

Growth is always tied to light, no matter what.

Pro Tip

While often touted for their low-light tolerance, if you're looking for significant growth year-over-year, your Dracaena will be much happier in bright, indirect light. On the other hand, if you're satisfied with their size and would like to brighten up a dreary corner of your house—by all means, Dracaena is up for the job (as long as you cut back on watering)!

Beyond The Basics

Soil & Potting

Thrives in an airy, light, fast-draining potting mix—you can use a good quality potting mix labeled for succulents/cactus or supplement a standard indoor mix with an equal quantity of pumice or horticultural grit. Ensure the pot has the appropriate drainage and don't forget to pour out any excess water collected in the drainage tray or cachepot.

Repotting

Try to repot every 2-3 years in the spring, especially when tending to a younger plant. Increase the pot size by about 2 inches each time. Once mature and becoming unwieldily to maneuver—you can reduce your repotting frequency and switch to a routine of refreshing just the top few inches of soil. More on repotting here.

Feeding

If you're not already planning to repot, you can fertilize during the spring and summer months. Once to every two months should be plenty. No fertilizer is necessary during the winter when plant growth naturally slows down. You can try a balanced liquid or water-soluble fertilizer—always diluted more than the recommended strength. More on using fertilizer here.

Grooming

While no specific pruning is required for this plant, it's always good practice to regularly remove yellowed or dying leaves and any fallen plant debris. You can simply pluck these leaves from the base, but if you choose to use snips or pruners, ensure they are sanitized to avoid spreading disease or pests. If you're dealing with browning leaf tips and have resolved the underlying issue (usually humidity or water type), you can carefully trim these tips back if the look bothers you.

Propagation

For a Dracaena, you can propagate through a stem or stub cutting. If you pruned a leggy plant, you can try both methods by first cutting off a few small 2-4 inch sections off the bottom of the bare stem, making sure to leave a decent section on the top (or apex) with the tuft of leaves. With the top piece, remove the lower leaves to ensure a clear stem before rooting in water or another medium. With the small chunks of stem, you can simply lay them horizontally in potting mix, only pushing them into the soil about halfway. Soon these stub cuttings will take root and leaves will sprout! With either method, once the roots are a few inches long you can pot up your new Dracaena. More on propagation techniques here.

Variants

Plants in the Dracaena genus can vary wildly in appearance. Snake Plants, formerly known as Sansevieria, are in fact Dracaena! Other, more easily identifiable Dracaena include the fragrans species (often called the Corn Plant) with cultivars such as 'Rikki', 'Lisa', and 'Lemon Lime'. Another common Dracaena variety is reflexa, commonly known as Song of India.

TrOUBlESHOOTING

Why are the leaves on my Dracaena wilting and yellowing?

Symptom

Multiple leaves are wilting and turning yellow—particularly the older, lower leaves. You may also notice stunted growth and mushy stems.

Cause

The most likely culprit is overwatering and initial signs of root rot. When a plant's roots sit in waterlogged soil for too long, a fungal infection can quickly take over, causing the roots to rot (turning brown and mushy).

Solution

First, ensure that your plant has appropriate drainage (both in terms of well-draining soil and plenty of drainage holes in the plant's container).

If you think you've caught the overwatering early on, you can simply let the plant dry out more than you have been. Around 50% of the soil should be dry before watering again. Continue monitoring and only water when needed. You may also try using chopsticks (or something similar) to poke holes in the soil to help the roots get more oxygen. And finally, you can try to "wick" the excess moisture out of the soil by placing the whole pot (with drainage holes) in a tray or container with dry soil. This new layer of dry soil should soak up some of the excess moisture from the waterlogged areas around your plant's roots.

However, if you suspect a serious case of root rot, you'll definitely need to take a peak at the roots by removing the plant entirely from their container. If there are any black and mushy roots, trim them back completely before repotting with fresh soil in a new or sterilized container.

More on leaf changes here.
1/2

Why are the leaf tips on my Dracaena browning

Symptom

Leaves turning brown just on the edges or tips. These edges may gradually change from yellow to brown, crispy, and possibly a bit curled.

Cause

Browning just on the edges of tips is usually a reaction to low humidity. Since many of our houseplants have tropical origins, they also thrive in humid conditions. Our average indoor humidity is usually adequate, but some plants are simply more sensitive to changes in humidity than others. You may notice this more acutely when conditions are particularly dry—like when you turn on the heater in winter.

Solution

Try to accommodate your plant's needs by locating them in more naturally humid places, like the bathroom or kitchen, or grouping a bunch of humidity-loving plants together. But the only way to truly guarantee increased humidity is to get a humidifier!

Once you've addressed the problem: If the brown tips bother you, you can trim them back. Do your best to follow the shape of the leaf to help them look natural. Also, try to cut just short of the discolored edge so it doesn’t expand.

More on leaf changes here.
1/2

Why does my Dracaena have dark brown spots or patches?

Symptom

Dark brown spots, or areas, that may be in the middle of a leaf or on the edges. These spots tend to be larger areas with an irregular edge, not a nice neat circular shape. They may also look “wet” or saturated in the middle.

Cause

These spots are usually the sign of a fungal leaf spot disease. These kinds of diseases often go hand-in-hand with overwatering or an overly damp environment, which weakens your plants and makes them more susceptible to disease.

Solution

The first step is to isolate the plant to avoid spread to your other plants. Then, prune or pinch off the affected leaves. Make sure to be diligent in your removal of any fallen plant debris from the soil. Most diseases thrive off humid environments, so it's best to stop misting or providing additional humidity for your plant (for now). You may even try switching to bottom watering to ensure you don't get any moisture on the leaves. Finally, a regimen of neem oil could be in order, focusing on a soil soak rather than spraying the leaves (at least in the initial treatment phase).

Once you've removed the infected leaves, the disease should drastically slow its spread. Make sure that you keep the leaves dry and check them regularly. If you see any symptoms return, remove those leaves as well and continue your treatments.

More on diseases here.
1/2

Why does my Dracaena have a soft, discolored stem?

Symptom

One or multiple stalks feel a bit soft and may be starting to yellow or brown.

Cause

This is a sure sign of persistent overwatering. The root rot has spread and led to stem rot as well.

Solution

You will have to cut back any stems with signs of rot. To avoid further spread, you should also take a peak at the roots by removing the plant entirely from their container. If there are any black and mushy roots, trim them back completely before repotting with fresh soil in a new or sterilized container.

You may be able to propagate some of the cut stems if the rot has not yet spread to the top of the plant.

1/2

Why isn't my Dracaena growing?

Symptom

Slow or no new growth.

Cause

This is most likely due to insufficient light. While Dracaena are quite tolerant of low light conditions, they will not grow very much.

Solution

Improve the lighting conditions for your Dracaena to thrive. These plants prefer medium to bright, indirect light. Make sure to adjust your watering to accommodate the increased light.

More on lighting here.
1/2