Dracaena Marginata, also known as the ‘Dragon Tree’ is one of the most popular type of indoor plants. The slow growing plants are perfect for beginners starting their garden as Dracaena’s are very easy to care for. Its beautiful texture and coloring also make the foliage a great décor for tabletops, desks, and window sills.
Best of all, this plant helps purify the air we breathe. According to a study by NASA, the dragon tree is one of the few indoor plants that has the ability to remove harmful toxins and pollutants from the room. Other air-filtering plants in the list by NASA include the Spider Plant, Bamboo Palm, English Ivy, Peace Lily, and Florists Chrysanthemum.
In this guide, let’s discuss some of the best ways to care for the dracaena.
- 1 About the Dragon Tree
- 2 Dracaena Marginata Varieties
- 3 Dracaena Marginata Care
- 4 Dracaena Marginata Propagation
- 5 Dracaena Marginata Problems
- 6 Is the Plant Poisonous?
- 7 How to Keep the Plant Clean?
- 8 Ready to Grow!
About the Dragon Tree
The marginata, is one of the many plants belonging to the family of ‘Dracaena.’ their origins trace back to the Madagascar and other Indian Ocean islands. Apart from the dracaena marginata, the plant goes by many different names such as the Madagascar Dragon Tree, Red Edged Dracaena, and the Dragon Blood Tree.
The name of the tree is derived from an old legend. In Greek mythology, it is said that a specific variety of dracaena tree grew in the area where blood flowed from a slain hundred-headed dragon.
A few types of the dracaena plant also has a tendency to ooze red-colored resin from the stems when cut or damaged. Historically, the gum-like resin was used for medicines, toothpastes, and dyes. However, don’t go cutting around your plant for the resin – as the beneficial properties of this plant is limited to some varieties only.
Dracaena Marginata Varieties
The original dracaena marginata have narrow leaves, similar to a miniature palm tree. The edges have reddish-purple like branding while the inner part is dark green.
The plants grow vertically and as they say – the sky (or the ceiling) is the limit to their height. At an average you can expect most types of dracaenas to grow between 6ft – 10ft.
The plant has at least three cultivators. Each of them differs in leaf size, color, and the trunk style.
The tricolor dracaena is similar in appearance to the original variety. However, as the name suggests, it has three color stripes of red, green, and ivory-yellow on the leaves.
The conditions for its care and maintenance is also same as the other dracaenas – but it can thrive better if provided with brighter indoor light than other indoor plants.
This cultivator features the same color leaves as the tricolor variety. The only difference is that the red stripes on the edges of the leaves is thicker and bolder on the ‘colorama’ dracaena plant.
It is perhaps one of the slowest growing indoor plant and requires very minimal care. However, don’t keep the plant in shaded areas. Instead, keep the plant where you get the brightest, yet indirect light to keep the colors looking vibrant.
The Tarzan is the latest entrant in the list of dracaena marginata varieties. Discovered by coincidence in 1998 by the Sunshine Tropical Foliage South Florida, the Tarzan stands out amongst others for its sturdy appearance.
The foliage of this plant sticks out in all directions, creating a ball-like shape. Its leaves are long and wide – with green in the center and dark purple edges.
The Tarzan requires similar care as other types of dragon tree, though it is more tolerant to shade than its predecessor. It is also pest-resistant and can thrive in most conditions.
Unfortunately, the Tarzan is more expensive than other cultivators of dracaena and only available at special retailers. But its unique features definitely makes up for the price tag!
Dracaena Marginata Care
Generally, the dracaena plant, with its tropical appearance is rugged and carefree. They are non-fussy and can tolerate some neglect from their owner. But as with any plant, they do maintain their spectacular look when provided with your care, attention, and love.
Preparing for the Dragon Tree
For my collection of dracaenas, I prefer growing them in pots of large size with drainage holes. Soil – I always use an all-purpose potting mix for the dragon tree and it works perfectly fine.
However, make sure to change the pot that the dracaena marginata came with. This is because some varieties are directly imported from Hawaii and may include lava rocks along with the soil. If this is the case, remove from the pot and add your regular potting mix.
Watering the Dragon Plant
Just like other indoor house plants, the dracaena hates soggy soil. So make sure that you don’t overwater the plant and only give light watering when you find the top part of soil completely dry.
The plant can also go for days without water, especially in winters. In fact, you may notice that it does pretty well even with lack of water while you are at vacations, busy with work, or just simply forgetful.
The only thing to make sure is that avoid watering the dracaena with water that has high fluoride or salt content. The plant, although very hardy, is sensitive to both and may show signs of discoloration if exposed.
You can also try using rain water during the monsoon season. Not only is this an eco-friendly way of watering the plant but also a great source of nutrient for them.
Moderate indirect light is best for growing dracaena marginata. But don’t make it too dim as it can stress the plant and lead to slow growth. If the light is not appropriate, the plant will also produce smaller and less vibrant looking leaves.
Alternatively, avoid keeping it in areas that gets direct sunlight. Dracaena is an indoor plant and too much sunrays can burn the leaves.
Temperature for the Plant
The dracaena is very much like me and you – it enjoys comfortable room temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit. in fact, the best place to keep the plant is in the room you spend the most time in. not only will the plant thrive best but also give you cleaner air – thanks to the pollutant fighting power of dragon trees.
Remember, the plant does not like chilly and frosty environment. If it gets too cold, the leaves will start to fall from the plant. Moreover, if you are keeping them outside during the summer months – make sure to bring it back inside at the first sign of frost.
You can also check whether the dracaena plants are ideal for the area you live in by checking the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Ideally, the dracaena dragon plants should be kept in zones that fall between 10 and 11.
Feeding the Dragon Plants
Growing dracaena marginata plants have a very low requirement of fertilizers. Especially plants that are potted in fresh soil will have plenty of nutrients to thrive.
Nevertheless, if you do want to add fertilizers, use a slow-releasing formula. Make sure to dilute it to half of the total strength. Limit the fertilization to twice a year as well – in summer and spring while avoid the process in winter months completely.
Repotting and Pruning Plant
The dragon tree is a slow-growing plant and can do well with limited root space, thus repotting is only required every 2-3 years.
You can also get away by changing the soil of the pot annually to freshen up the space.
Pruning is also not necessary unless the plant gets too tall for your indoor space. When needed, simply cut the main stems as much as you want the height to be.
But remember, two new stems will grow from the same spot, ultimately leading to a fuller plant. You can try the same method if your plant starts looking less leafy. Just use the stem cuttings for propagation and grow your collection of dracaenas. You can also use them to gift loved ones on special occasions or even new homeowners to share your love of gardening.
Dracaena Marginata Propagation
There are several ways to propagate a dragon tree. The methods are fairly easy and takes around three weeks to sprout roots.
Propagation with Stem Cuttings
Propagating via stem cutting is the most popular way to build up your dracaena collection.
Simply cut the crown and a few inches of stem from a mature plant. Replant the same in a small container with fresh soil. You can use a rooting hormone to encourage growth – but it is not necessary.
However, you will have to provide warmth from the bottom to stimulate the roots using artificial sources. I usually propagate my dracaenas during the summer months when it is already warm for new plants.
Water the soil but make sure not to overwater the new roots! Repot your plant to a larger pot once stems start appearing.
Repeating the Dracaena Marginata Propagation
As we mentioned above, two or more stems will continue to grow from the area you cut on the mother plant.
Here, you have two options. Either you can let the primary plant grow fuller or take the newly grown stem and propagate more planters.
Propagating in Water
Many gardeners root the dracaena marginata plants in water. In a way, this method is pretty fascinating as keeping the stem cutting in a clear jar, full of water gives a visual display of the new roots.
Follow the steps below to propagate the plant in water:
- Fill a jar or vase with ¼ water
- Take a large cutting of the stems and place it in water
- Place the container in warm area that gets indirect lightning
- Make sure to change water every 4-5 days
- New roots of dracaena will begin to show in approximately 10 days
- Replant the stem in soil and water as required
Dracaena Marginata Problems
As I said above, the dracaena plants can take a lot of neglect. However, keep an out for some common dracaena marginata problems that can be hazardous to the attractive foliage.
The long leaves are the main attraction of the dragon tree. But if your plant continues to produce small-sized leaves, the problem might be that the room you are using has very less light. Moving the plant to a brighter spot – and away from direct sunlight can solve the issue in a few weeks.
If you notice squishy stems in your plant, there is a possibility that you may be overwatering the marginata. It can also be a sign that the temperature of your home is not ideal for the plants and needs adjustment.
Unfortunately, not much can be done if the roots has been damaged completely. Try cutting the healthy stems and propagating a new plant from its remains.
It is common for plants to drop old leaves as they get old to make room for new ones. But check that these leaves are falling from underneath the crown. And not from all around the tree.
If this is the case, check the stem for firmness. If it feels sturdy, then maybe it is not a reason for concern. On the other hand, a squishy stem needs to be addressed in the best way possible to save the plant.
Leaves that are losing the vibrancy in their coloring can be a result of too much light. Direct sunlight can lead the leaves to discoloration.
Changing their spot, away from a bright spot will help resolve the matter. It is also a good idea to alter their place occasionally.
Brown Tips and Marks
Look at the leaf closely to determine whether the brown marks on the leaves are spots or blotches. A spotted leaf indicates that the plant is dehydrated while blotchy looking brown marks are caused by overwatering.
Modify your watering practice to see if the issue gets better.
Dracaena marginata brown tips are also a common issue in these houseplants. This is usually a result of the plant catching a cold due to droughts.
If this happens, cut off the dracaena marginata brown tips and relocate the plant to a warmer place.
Problems with Pests
Dracaena plants are disease-resistant and suffice well in most conditions. However, they are susceptible to pests such as scales, thrips, and mealy bugs – a common enemy of most indoor plants.
Unfortunately, most of these pests cannot be recognized unit the damage is done. Treat your plant with insecticide periodically and follow the best care practices to keep it healthy.
Is the Plant Poisonous?
One of the biggest concern of keeping a houseplant is its toxicity level. This is especially apparent if you have pets and creating a pet-friendly garden is your priority to avoid any health issues.
The dracaena marginata excretes sap-like substance from its leaves and stems. The sap is unlikely to be fatal but can cause irritation if digested by humans.
It is also extremely toxic for cats and dogs. Specifically cats enjoy the taste of dracaena leaves. However, chewing on the plant leaves can cause severe vomiting and excessive salivation. Veterinary care also becomes essential for dracaena poisoning.
How to Keep the Plant Clean?
Similar to other indoor plants, the tall leaves of the dracaena are also prone to dust. If the leaves start looking dusty, take it outside and gently spray to clean it up. You can also use a damp cloth to wipe the leaves!
Ready to Grow!
I hope this comprehensive dracaena marginata care guide will help you keep your plant in the best shape. Feel free to drop any questions you may have below! Or share your experiences with the dracaena marginata or the dragon tree with us!