Dracaena: expert tips & profile on the houseplant

Lukas
Lukas
Lukas
Lukas

I studied agricultural sciences with full conviction - an obvious choice for me, as I grew up on my parents’ farm and learned early on to find joy in taking care of plants and animals.

Favourite fruit: grapes, mangos and bananas.
Favourite vegetables: brussels sprouts, spinach and potatoes

Dracaena is widely used as an indoor plant. We have summarised all the important facts about the dragon tree for you.

Houseplant dracaena in a copper pot
The dragon tree is one of the most popular houseplants [Photo: GoodMood Photo/ Shutterstock.com]

Dracaena: characteristics and origin

Dracaena (also known as dragon trees) are widely popular houseplants. Like the yucca plant, they belong to the asparagus family (Asparagales), although this may seem a little confusing at first glance. The origin of the name is in Greek and means something like “female dragon”. There are several theories behind the name. On the one hand, Dracaena often forms more than one new shoot where an old one was removed – like a mythical dragon that grows back two heads when you cut one off. On the other hand, the name could come from the fact that escaping resin in injured areas turns reddish when it hardens and is traditionally called dragon’s blood. Wherever the name comes from, the dragon tree is an easy-care eye-catcher for any living room that can get by with very little attention. Flowering occurs only in the fewest cases because for this purpose the conditions in our living rooms are not ideal. However, depending on the species, the variegated foliage forms green, red or white leaf edges that make these indoor palms, which grow up to two metres high, very decorative. We tell you how to successfully grow the popular houseplant yourself.

Dracaena species: the most popular and beautiful species

The genus of dragon trees is one of the smallest in number. Currently, more than 50 Dracaena species are known. We give you an overview of the most popular species with a list of special features.

Dracaena fragrans

  • A popular species
  • Strongly fragrant flower (with proper care)
  • Glossy green variegated leaves
Dracaena fragrans outside
The leaves of the Dracaena fragrans are variegated in green and white [Photo: iPIXEL PLUS/ Shutterstock.com]

Dracaena deremensis

  • Mostly white leaf margins, matt green leaves
  • Relatively short, but very wide leaves
  • Special appeal due to wide leaves
Dracaena deremensis leaves
The leaves of the dracaena deremensis are a bit wider [Photo: jaimie tuchman/ Shutterstock.com]

Dracaena reflexa

  • Previously known as Dracaena marginata
  • Grows up to 2 m high
  • Dark green leaves
  • Very robust; low maintenance requirements
  • Mostly reddish variegated leaf edges
  • Tolerant to variations in light and temperature
Dracaena marginata in a pot
The dracaena marginata has reddish leaves [Photo: loflo69/ Shutterstock.com]

Dracaena draco

  • Also known as Canary Islands dragon tree
  • Elongated, sword-shaped leaves
  • Reaches up to 1.60 m in height
Drago Milenario (dracaena draco) tenerife
This dragon tree, located in tenerife, is 1000 years old [Photo: Tony Baggett/ Shutterstock.com]

Dracaena surculosa

  • Resembles bamboo
  • Origin: Tropical Africa
  • Requires high temperatures (constant >15 °C)
  • Relatively wide leaves with blotchy patterns
  • Can be propagated by division
Variegated leaves of dracaena surculosa
The dracaena surculosa with its variegated leaves [Photo: pisitpong2017/ Shutterstock.com]

More information about Dracaena species and varieties can be found here.

The perfect location

The perfect location for Dracaena depends entirely on the variety. It can be roughly said that the less green the leaves of the plants, the more light they need. While it is possible to slowly acclimatise dragon trees with increased green foliage to increased light, it is safer to place your green dragon tree in a partial shade location. Colourful species, on the other hand, can be safely exposed to a higher amount of sunlight.

Tip: Rotate your dragon tree regularly to prevent it from developing lopsidedly and thus avoid unsightly crooked growth.

How to propagate Dracaena

Dracaena propagation is easily done by cuttings. We give you step-by-step instructions so that nothing can go wrong.

  1. If possible, cut off the dragon tree 10 cm below the shoot tip.
  2. Seal the cut surface (usually with wax)
  3. Using sharp scissors, trim the leaves down to 1 cm to focus the nutrient supply on the roots and minimise transpiration through the leaves
  4. Place cutting in container with water or put in airy substrate for propagation of cuttings
  5. Within the next two to three weeks roots should form at the end of the stem
  6. Dracaena tree is ready for planting in pot
Dracaena marginata seedling in a pot
You can easily propagate dragon trees via cuttings [Photo: ads861/ Shutterstock.com]

Dracaena care

As mentioned at the beginning, the dragon tree requires only a small part of your attention. Even with little effort, you can achieve great results that will make the heart of any Dracaena owner beat faster. We tell you all you need to know.

Watering dragon trees

The dragon tree likes to be watered regularly so that the soil remains moist throughout. However, you must make sure that there is no waterlogging in the saucer or planter to avoid mould and rot. In the darker winter months, evaporation is reduced, so you should slightly adjust the amount of water in this case.

Watering a dragon tree with a watering can
Dragon trees should be watered regularily [Photo: Olga_Anourina/ Shutterstock.com]

Fertilising

The dragon tree is a very vigorous plant. That is why it is important to fertilise your prized specimen regularly. Natural fertilisers are especially suitable for long-term healthy fertilisation. These improve the structural condition of the planting substrate, promote soil life, and also replenish nutrients over a longer period of time. A liquid fertiliser, such as our Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food, is easy to use as it is simply administered through the irrigation water.

Liquid Houseplant Food, 800ml
Liquid Houseplant Food, 800ml
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(5/5)
  • Perfect for a wide variety of houseplants & foliage plants
  • Liquid fertiliser for robust plants & healthy growth
  • Quick & easy application - child & pet friendly
£10.99

Dracaena in winter

Treatment of Dracaenas in the winter is not very different in the summer because as a houseplant, it is not subject to great fluctuations. During the shorter days of winter, your tree’s growth also shuts down, so you should refrain from giving it fertiliser. Irrigation must also be adapted to the reduced evaporation.

If you want more detailed information on the correct care of your dragon tree, we have put together everything important in a little more detail here.

Repotting dragon trees

Most dragon tree varieties are relatively vigorous. That is why it is important to always keep in mind the size of the planter.

Why repot Dracaena plants?

Your tree needs enough space to spread its root system, so it makes sense to provide it with a larger environment on a regular basis. The diameter of the new vessel must be only three to five centimetres larger than the old one. If the root ball does not bind the planting substrate too much, feel free to shake off some of the old soil. Filling with new substrate loosens the soil and improves permeability.

Dragon tree surrounded by pots
The dragon tree should be repotted regularily after the first couple of years [Photo: GoodMood Photo/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: Repotting your Dracaena will be much easier if the soil is not completely saturated with water. So do not water your prized specimen for two days before repotting. It can certainly cope with that without permanent damage.

When should you repot?

Experience shows that one repotting is sufficient in the first two to three years. In subsequent years, you will need to adjust the size of the pot more frequently to match the growth height of your dragon tree – possibly even once a year. Basically, the tree needs to be repotted when the root system has rooted through the entire planter.

What substrate is suitable for repotting Dracaena plants?

The dragon tree prefers slightly acidic soil, so you can already prepare a good environment for it with standard potting soil. The pH of the substrate should be just above 6. You can either read on the packaging of the planting substrate, or check yourself with a pH test strip, in which pH range the planting soil is.

Tip: Should the selected substrate not quite meet the requirements, you can do something about it yourself by simply mixing in some peat or coffee grounds.

Pruning Dracaena

Unfavourable circumstances (especially poor light conditions) can cause Dracaena to develop a rather unattractive leaf growth, or simply grow too few leaves. You can counteract this by shortening the tree. We will explain how it works.

Dragon tree: when to prune?

It is difficult to determine a perfect time for pruning your Dracaena, as the timing always depends on the reason for pruning. If you prune your tree for the purpose of propagation, it should preferably be done in the spring, so that the cutting can grow well during the long summer days. However, if you are pruning your dragon tree to maintain a beautiful shape, then the timing is relatively unimportant. Pruning should be adjusted as needed, for example, when leaf growth declines. If you plan to carry out radical pruning, we recommend doing it in the winter months, so that the loss of substance can be compensated in the spring and summer.

How to prune Dracaenas

  1. Cut the tree a few inches below the leaf base of the main shoot. This promotes branching or the formation of new side shoots.
  2. Seal the cut surface (for example, with candle wax).
  3. After a few weeks, new shoots (usually two) will form below the cut.
  4. After a few more days, the first leaf buds will appear.
Dragon tree from close up
Seal the cut surface with wax [Photo: TippyTortue/ Shutterstock.ocm]

Dragon tree: yellow and brown leaves

The colouration of the leaves of the dragon tree can have many causes. If you experience such problems, just go through our checklist to get to the bottom of it:

  • Direct sunlight:The variegated, usually bicoloured leaves may lose stability and turn slightly yellowish if exposed to too much sunlight. The rule is: the greener the leaf, the less sun your tree can tolerate. A simple change of location can fix the problem.
  • Deficiency symptoms: Dracaena are very vigorous, so they want to be supplied with sufficient water and nutrients. If they lack either, they may drop their leaves. You can counteract this with regular watering and fertilising.
  • Waterlogging: Unlike deficiency symptoms, excessive care can also harm your tree. If the water in the planter is too high, root respiration can be restricted or even interrupted, which likewise leads to yellow leaves.
  • Fungal disease and rot bacteria: Dragon trees are susceptible to fungal and bacterial attack. Both are caused by low temperatures and excessive and permanent moisture in the planting substrate, which is why this infestation often occurs during overwintering. Infestation by fungi or bacteria is usually manifested by softening of the stem and later by discolouration of the leaves. The best way to cope with fungal and bacterial infestation is to take preventive measures. Make sure temperatures are appropriate and avoid waterlogging in any case.
A withered dragon tree
Even the robust dracaena cannot tolerate drought for forever [Photo: ANASTASIIAKU/ Shutterstock.com]

Besides the dragon tree, there are numerous other plants that could enrich your interiors. We have compiled for you a list of the best indoor plants.

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