Image source: Source: ProFlowers.com
Dracaena is a family of roughly 120 different species of plants. The name Dracaena is derived from the ancient Greek word for female dragon called δράκαινα, drakaina.
Most of the species are native to Africa, but it can also be found in Asia and northern Australia and two species are even found in South America. A closely related genus is Sansevieria.
Other names for the Dracaena plants are Song of India and Pleomele or simply dragon tree. All Dracaena plants grow upright and many cultivars have interesting and colorful foliage.
Dracaenas sometimes resemble palms such as the Dracaena fragrans and are said to purify the air. They are removing harmful gases from the air as a NASA study concludes.
Dracaena is a very popular plant and can be kept both, indoors as well as outdoors depending on the climate. For it to thrive it needs a subtropical climate (US hardiness zone 10 – 12 for outdoor growing).
It is fairly easy to care for and is often used as a houseplant, in offices and public spaces. This blog post will contain all the information you need to know to keep your dragon tree happy and you may even be able to produce or propagate offsprings from it.
The look of a Dracaena Plant
Dracaenas grow tall and have stiff and spiky leaves that come in various lengths, widths, patterns, shapes and colours depending on the species. The leaves are generally shaped sword-like.
The stem of a Dracaena is called a cane. It can be pruned to keep the plants in check so they don’t grow too tall. Once you cut the cane of a Dracaena plant, you can expect to see new leaves sprouting below the cut within 3-4 weeks.
Different Types of Dracaena Plants
Dracaena Fragrans or Dracaena Massangeana
This plant is also called the corn plant or Dracaena Fragrans. It has fragrans in the name because of its scent when blooming. It has been in cultivation in Europe since the 1800s.
They are grown from thick canes with sprouting foliage just below where the canes are cut and look somewhat like palms.
They have long and narrow leaves and are also known as the cornstalk dracaena. It is a rather narrow growing plant and its’ growth can be controlled by cutting back the thick canes. They are considered to be very hardy houseplants.
Dracaena Marginata or dragon tree is a species that grows up to 6 feet tall indoors. It has thin elegant leaves with red edges. Its’ trunks are rather slim. It also has a tricolour cultivar with 3 stripes consisting of cream, yellow and green colour.
It is therefore also referred to as the rainbow plant. They can either be used as a table plant or when larger be kept on the floor and are often sold with multiple thin stalks or canes.
This is the Canary Islands Dragon Tree. It has stiff but flexible leaves and solid trunks. It thrives in a subtropical climate and is native to the Canary Islands. It has a branching growth pattern and is part of the asparagus family as the rest of the Dracaena genus.
The first flower spike can be expected within 10 – 15 years. Once the terminal bud has emerged it starts branching out. It is known for its slow growth as it takes approximately 10 years to reach 4 feet or 1.20m.
As said, there are about 120 different species of trees and shrubs in the Dracaena genus that belong to the Asparagaceae family.
Let us now move over to the Dracaena Care. They are often referred to as easy to care for houseplants but experience tells us that you can kill any houseplant and specifically knowing that you just ended an easy-to-care-for houseplant doesn’t make it any better. So don’t worry, by reading the next section you will know everything you need to know to grow your Dracaena like a pro.
Dracaena Plant Care Sheet
Let’s talk about how to best care for your plant. You will find essential information from what is the b best soil to how to pot up your plant.
Make use of well-draining soil. You can use regular potting soil for your dragon tree. It is important that the soil is rich in organic matter. Make sure that it never becomes soggy and water is running through the soil well.
Medium indirect or filtered light is best, although they might be able to tolerate low light conditions. The Dracaena likes to be in semi-shade. Direct sun can hurt the plants’ leaves and cause burns.
Filtered light can be achieved by a curtain in front of a bright window. Smaller, thinner leaves might indicate that your plant doesn’t receive sufficient light. It will look its’ best in bright indirect light.
The Dracaena plant has low water requirements. It is best to keep the soil moist but never soggy. Water thoroughly once a week until the water runs out of the pot by placing the pot into the sink or bathtub/shower. Some care guides recommend to let the Dracaena dry out between waterings.
We do not recommend it as the dry soil may act as a barrier. This is called the blanket effect and may prevent your plant from being watered sufficiently.
It’s much better to water your plant regularly and keep the soil slightly moist. You can touch the soil with a finger and check. If it is just still slightly humid you may start watering it.
Drooping or yellowing leaves are an indicator that you are either watering too frequently or that your soil is not well-draining. Do not overwater, as these plants are not so forgiving in this regard and you may have to consult our root rot treatment article sooner than later.
Browning leaf tips indicate that you are either underwatering your plant or that your water is too hard and not filtered enough. They are sensitive to excess salts and fluoride. I
f browning leaf tips are not caused by underwatering they are most likely a result of unfiltered water. In that case, use distilled or reverse osmosis water or at least use water that has been standing for several hours.
Keep it at room temperature between 60-70 °F or 15-21 °C. There are also some drought-tolerant varieties that can be kept in hardiness zones up to 12 and is best kept between US Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 10 – 12. This means it is best kept indoors in most hardiness zones.
Pleomele love humidity. You can achieve a humid environment by spraying the foliage of your Dracaena daily or at least from time to time. An alternative would be a tray below the pot filled with clay balls where you place water that evaporates. This will increase the humidity for your plant friend.
Proper fertilization is necessary to keep your plant baby happy. Fertilize about every two weeks and reduce fertilizing in autumn, where you fertilizing once a month is sufficient.
It is best to not fertilize in winter as these plants love a good dormancy period to return even stronger in spring. You can make use of regular houseplant fertilizer.
Propagation is achieved by chopping the cane – this is the stem of the Dracaena – plant shorter. For propagation purposes, the canes itself can be planted into or above slightly humid soil and within a couple of weeks, you will see roots as well as foliage growing from the cane.
Some prefer to keep the cane in water first for several weeks to months until roots emerge and place the cane into the soil once the roots are at least several inches long. Once that is the case you are sorted. Congratulations, you just propagated your Dracaena!
The Song of India also know as Dracaena can grow 2 to 10 feet tall indoors! If you like your plant to remain bushy or not reaching the ceiling of our apartment, you can simply trim and cut it back.
This way it will remain bushy. In nature, some species such as the Dracaena fragrans can grow up to 50 feet tall. How is that for a tree?
Use a pot with draining holes to prevent root rot. They grow well in clay pots that allow the plant to dry out somewhat between waterings but do not let the plant dry out completely.
One way to kill the Dracaena is to use a combination of bad potting soil with a pot that has no draining holes. Sudden death!
What’s still holding you back from taking care of one or many Dracaena plants? Very easy to care for, tall-growing and easy to propagate whilst taking little space.
We consider it the ideal houseplant for many apartments and office spaces. We wish you a lot of success in keeping your female dragon aka as the Dracaena plant happy and thriving.
Most commonly asked questions related to the Dracaena Plant
Is the Dracaena toxic?
Yes, it is. It is not an animal-friendly plant and is best kept away from cats and dogs as well as other critters.
Is the Dracaena considered a good houseplant?
Absolutely. Easy to care for, hard to kill, little watering needed, great foliage. What more could you be asking for?
Can you grow it outdoors?
Most Dracaena species can be grown in subtropical climate within the US hardiness zones 10-12. This, however, means that the dragon tree is best grown indoors for most of us.
Why are the leaves on my Dracaena turning brown?
First and foremost it could be due to underwatering. A different reason could be irregular waterings. If this does not apply your water might be too hard (consisting too many salts and fluoride).
Does the Dracaena need light to grow?
Every plant needs some kind of light source to grow to be it sunlight or artificial in order to conduct photosynthesis. Depending on the Dracaena species the needs range from low to medium light. However, most dragon trees grow best in medium to bright indirect light.
How do I know if my Dracaena is happy?
You can tell from the leaves. Dark green, healthy leaves mean that you most likely have a healthy plant. Thin light green to yellowish leaves indicates that something is wrong. Most likely you are not providing sufficient light for your plant. Browning leaves indicate underwatering or irregular watering. Yellow leaves are often an indication of overwatering.
Do Dracaena Plants purify the air?
They are said to purify the air and remove toxins from the air. The NASA Clean Air Study concluded that they are air purifiers. One of the best species is Dracaena reflexa as they are said to be very efficient in removing formaldehyde from the air as well as other Volatile Organic Compounds.
How often do I need to water my Dracaena?
We recommend to water it once a week depending on the season of the year. Generally cut back on watering in winter and water more in summer when it is warmer and the plant receives more sunlight. Never let your dracaena plant fully dry out and never leave it in soggy soil.
How can I propagate a Dracaena?
Cut off the stem of your Dracaena and either put it in water, on slightly most soil or directly into the soil. Within 3-4 weeks roots will emerge. And if everything goes well you will have a new plant within a couple of months sporting new foliage.
Is the Dracaena plant easy to care for?
It is considered an easy to care for houseplants. One of the easiest houseplants in terms of care from our point of view as long as you are not overwatering it. But this is the case for any plant in a pot. Once the roots are rotting, the downward spiral has started and everything goes downhill quite quickly.
Where can I buy a Dracaena plant?
This plant is sold almost everywhere. Garden Centers have it, it is often sold in supermarkets, you can find it in plant stores online and offline and also IKEA stocks it quite regularly.
Taking care of houseplants and gardening are my greatest passions. I am transforming my apartment into an urban jungle and am growing veggies in my indoor and outdoor garden year-round.