What could possibly be more intriguing than a dragon? A dragon from an exotic locale that also happens to be a cute little tree and not an actual dragon (which would be fun to ride, but would also probably burn down your house). We are here to explore the wonderful world of Dracaena marginata, commonly referred to as the "Madagascar Dragon Tree".
If you want the low-down on how to grow a healthy, happy Dracaena marginata, you've come to the right place! Turn on some Enya or something, light a candle, and let's get to know this majestic little beauty (:
Quick Look at the Madagascar Dragon Tree
Dracaena marginata, commonly called Song of India, Madagascar Dragon Tree, or simply Office Dracaena is a popular ornamental house plant. This plant is from the genus Dracaena which means it's a tough little cookie and an awesome choice for beginners.
Sometimes people call dracaena the dragon tree genus and many refer to Dracaena marginata as the Madagascar dragon tree. Some even confuse this plant with Dracaena fragrans but growers can quickly tell the difference.
Though this plant is a member of the Asparagaceae family, and related to Asparagus, we definitely wouldn't recommend eating it. Dracaena marginata may sometimes be labeled Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia. This name should be considered a synonym and both names represent the same plant.
Dracaena marginata hails from Madagascar where it grows on tropical grassy hills and forms large shrubs that can grow over fifteen feet tall. Dracaena marginata is well adapted to grow in indoor conditions and grows happily in a wide variety of lighting and humidity conditions.
The vast majority of these plant babies are grown indoors, as they are not frost tolerant and commercial cultivars have been bred with indoor growing in mind. Meeting the basic needs to grow Dracaena marginata is very easy and this guide should detail everything you need to know to keep this baby nice and happy.
If you’re looking for super in-depth guides to plant care, we’re more than happy to help. Check out our Plant Care Guides for everything you need to know about everything.
Your Basic Indoor Plant Guide
Dracaena marginata is very easy to grow indoors, here are the basic care requirements to get you to understand the needs of the plant. This foundation will help you grow a perfect looking Dracaena marginata from the start.
Light for Dracaena Marginata Plants
Choose a location with bright direct light to medium indirect light. Dracaena plants prefer bright direct light but can tolerate lower light conditions such as indirect sunlight or partial shade.
The growth habit of your plant may vary depending on the brightness of the light, with bright light conditions producing longer deep green leaves with bright sipes of color. Low light conditions might not yield the same results. Expect your plant to have a less vibrant coloration and shorter leaves in lower light conditions.
Because of the tall growth habit of Dracaena marginata, it's a good idea to choose a position that's on the floor that has plenty of room for the plant to grow upwards.
A location that receives ample amounts of sunlight near a tall window is ideal. Dracaena marginata can grow well directly next to a window and will grow well next to windows with lots of direct sunlight exposure where many other houseplants will be burnt by the sun.
Choosing a pot
Dracaena marginata will grow vertically, mostly getting taller over time without getting wider. This vertical growth will be accompanied with a large root system.
When choosing a pot, choose one with ample space for an expanding root system, as it can be easy to choose a small pot to suit the width of the plant without considering how big it will be after it sprouts. Of course, it's much easier to just get all your new plants at plantquility.
An 18-24 inch wide pot is ideal as it will allow for plenty of long term growth for the root system. Choosing a pot with drainage holes at the bottom is definitely the way to go. This will allow greater airflow and allow any excess water to escape through the bottom of the pot.
It's always best to use distilled water, but purified water will suffice. A 1-2 inch layer of gravel can be put at the bottom of the pot below the soil to allow some space for water sit where it won't water-log the roots and always water sparingly to prevent water from accumulating at the bottom of the pot.
Pro Soil Tips
A loose well draining potting soil is ideal for Dracaena. General potting soils that retain moderate amounts of moisture also work well. If choosing a moisture retaining soil water sparingly to keep the soil from remaining too wet to compensate.
Most indoor potting mixes made of peat and perlite will work fine, and Dracaena are very versatile with almost any soil being fine as long as they are watered correctly.
Repotting Your Plant Baby
If you buy your Dracaena marginata as a small plant you can choose to start it in a small pot and repot it into larger pots as it grows larger. This plant is a powerful air purifying indoor plant and the bigger it gets, the better your air! Repotting is a simple and straightforward process.
After choosing the new pot and soil, simply pull your Dracaena marginata out of its pot by firmly pulling at the base of the stem.
The plant and much of the soil should come out as one clump, often with the roots forming the shape of the previous pot. Lightly break up the root ball and observe the root health to make sure there are no issues with the roots. Healthy roots should look white to pale brown and be firm.
Remove most of the old soil from the root ball and allow the roots to move freely. At this point, you can give the roots a rub down with rooting hormone if you want your plant baby to be particularly jacked.
Next, place an inch or two of potting soil into the new pot and then place the root ball on top of it spreading the roots out evenly. Center your plant so it is facing upwards and gently pack fresh soil around the roots and fill the pot with soil up to about a half inch from the rim.
Once the plant is secure, lightly water it and allow the water to soak into the soil. The soil level should compact down to about an inch from the rim of the pot after watering. If the soil compacts further you can simply add more soil to correct the overall height.
All houseplants need to be repotted from time to time to refresh the soil. Dracaena marginata will tolerate poor soil fairly well and it can be difficult to tell if the soil needs replacing. The most common signs are white salt buildup on the sides or base of the pot, soil levels lowering over time, and stagnated growth.
A general rule of thumb is to replace the soil on houseplants once every two years or so, sooner for plants that like wet conditions and less often for plants that have inorganic stoney soils.
For Dracaena, replacing the soil every two years will keep the plant healthy and prevent the soil from becoming compacted, which can increase the risk of root rot.
This of course is not necessary but beneficial to your plants health, and it is only necessary to change out the soil if your plant is languishing and has poor growth brown spots, pale leaves or red edges.
It is common to see an improvement in leaf coloration and growth of your Dracaena marginata after changing out its soil and it can be an easy way to liven up a dull looking plant.
Madagascar Dragon Tree Water Care
Dracaena marginata is a drought tolerant plant and prefers intermediate drying of its soil between waterings (tough little cookie). During the growing season water once every week to every other week allowing the soil to dry out in between. Water sparingly in the winter, allowing the soil to fully dry out between waterings.
When not receiving enough water a Dracaena marginata will have droopy leaves and burnt leaf tips, and the growth point may look dry and deformed. Dracaena marginata seldom show these signs and more commonly show signs of overwatering which looks very similar with floppy yellow leaves that are especially yellowing at the growth point.
If you are unsure if the right conditions are being met you can stick your finger an inch under the soil level and feel if the soil is moist or not.
Almost all indoor humidity levels will be fine for Dracaena marginata, which is one of the many reasons it makes an ideal house plant. Only during the winter when indoor humidity levels are exceptionally low will a Dracaena show some drying out of its leaf tips.
D. marginata is also tolerant of higher humidity settings, this is a beneficial trait if you plan on growing it next to other house plants that have higher humidity needs, as it will not be bothered by frequent mistings and high relative humidity.
Plant Food Time
Fertilizing a Dracaena marginata is not necessary but can be beneficial if you want to boost the brightness of the coloration on the leaves, increase the leaf length, and promote more rigorous growth.
You can fertilize your Dracaena marginata every other watering with a mild indoor plant fertilizer, ideally mixing it at half the recommended strength to prevent any fertilizer buildup in the soil.
Dracaena marginata also benefit from slow release fertilizer pellets which can be placed on the soil surface and allowed to lightly fertilize the plant every time it is watered. That being said, this plant is tough as nails and fertilizing is not an absolute necessity.
Pruning and Trimming
Pruning a Dracaena is generally unnecessary as most species drop old leaves onto the ground. Dracaena marginata is luckily one of the species that readily drops its old leaves when they begin to dry out, and pruning is as simple as picking up spent leaves off of the ground.
Trimming a D. marginata is only ever necessary when the plant has grown too tall for a grow area, it has developed brown tips or the bottom leaves simply aren't getting enough sun.
Stem cuttings are also fine if you're interested in trying your hand at propagation. Trimming D. marginata is generally not advised as it can ruin the aesthetics of the plant and result in unusual and irregular looking growth and seriously bum you out.
The tall symmetrical stems need to be cut and new stems will emerge from the sides of existing stems resulting in the plant potentially looking unbalanced.
If you want to five those stems a wee trim, a sharp blade or pruning shears can be used to cut the stem at the desired point. New growth points will emerge about an inch below where the stem is cut and continue upwards growth. Often when the stem is cut more then one new growth will occur.
Keeping the Leaves Squeaky Clean
It is common for dust to collect on the leaves of indoor houseplants. With Dracaena marginata removing this dust is as simple as wiping down the leaves with a damp cloth. The leaves of Dracaena marginata have sturdy leathery leaves which are difficult to damage.
Gently wiping down the leaves with a damp cloth will not harm the plant or damage its leaves. Dracaena marginata make a good houseplant for the use of improving indoor air quality and keeping the leaves clean and free of dust is essential to keep them actively able to purify the air.
Dracaena marginata is not prone to many pests and is resistant to most fungal infections. This is especially great if you The most common pest is mealy bugs which are small white powdery insects that cling to the base of the leaves near the stem.
In mild cases, they can simply be wiped off with a damp cloth and in more severe cases neem oil can be applied to the leaves to kill them.
No part of Dracaena marginata is considered safe to eat. The leaves and stems of Dracaena contain small irritating crystals called raphides.
Raphides are needle shaped crystals of calcium oxalate that plants grow as a way of defending against predators. If any part of Dracaena marginata is eaten then irritation can occur in the mouth and throat along with mild swelling.
This is generally mild and will recede after a short amount of time, but in severe cases can require medical intervention. It is not advised to keep Dracaena marginata around children and pets who are prone to eat houseplants.
If the leaves of your Dracaena marginata are turning yellow, especially near the growth point this is a sign that the plant is receiving too much water.
If the leaves have burnt edges this is a sign of two main issues– the plant is receiving too little water, or the plant is in very low humidity, which can sometimes be seen in very cold climates during winter.
These can be remedied by checking the soil moisture and misting the plant during the winter months.
If your soil has an unpleasant smell, often sulfurous like eggs, this is a sign that there is stagnant water in the soil. This is a common problem in pots without holes at the bottom. The solution is to water less, replace the pot, or add gravel at the bottom.
This comprehensive guide should offer you all the basic information you need to grow Dracaena marginata. This is a wonderful and rewarding houseplant that can be grown successfully in a wide variety of conditions and is remarkable in its versatility and ease of care.
If you’re on the hunt for an exotic beauty that’s easy to care for, Dracaena Marginata is an excellent choice.
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