Proven Accents® Spikes (Dracaena indivisa). Photo by: Proven Winners

For beginning gardeners, one of the easiest plants to grow is dracaena. This large group of tropical plants is especially forgiving of low light and other challenging indoor growing conditions, and they can also be grown outdoors (some hardy down to Zone 7). Dracaena grows as a large tree in its native habitat, occurring in shrubby or tree-like forms. The long sword-shaped foliage comes in an array of green, gold, and variegated colors.

Categorization within this genus can be somewhat confusing, with some species overlapping. Dracaena is commonly mistaken for Cordyline, while the popular snake plant Sansevieria was recently reclassified as Dracaena.

On this page: Basics | Growing Tips | Care and Maintenance | Dracaena Pictures | Toubleshooting | Display Ideas

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BASICS

Botanical name:

Dracaena spp.

Common names:

Dragon tree, corn plant, cornstalk plant, false palm, ribbon plant, money tree

Origin:

Native to Africa, southern Asia, northern Australia and South America

Zones:

USDA zones 9-12, with D. indivisa hardy to USDA Zone 7

Care level:

Easy

Light requirements:

Dracaena prefers bright indirect light, but is tolerant of low light conditions.

Growth rate:

Slow

Foliage:

Smooth spear-shaped or grass-like foliage is solid, striped or speckled, in colors of green, chartreuse, white, pink, red, or gold.

Flowers:

Clusters of star-shaped flowers in colors of white, pink or yellow appear on slender stems. Most varieties rarely blooms indoors. Dracaena fragrans, which is the most likely species to bloom indoors, bears scented flowers.

Habit and size:

Bushy shrub or vertical tree-like form, 6 to 50 feet tall and 3 to 25 feet wide

Toxicity:

Dracaena produces saponins, which are toxic to dogs and cats. Dracaena plants are nontoxic to humans.

Dracaena lookalikes:

  • Cordyline: Often mistaken for Dracaena, Cordyline occurs in a wider range of foliage colors including pink, coral, and purple. Cordyline roots are white, while dracaena roots are yellow or orange.
  • Yucca: Yucca is hardier and more often grown outdoors. Dracaena leaves tend to be more rigid and the structure is more tree-like than Yucca.
  • Aspidistra: The foliage of cast iron plant is wider and more paddle-shaped.

DRACAENA GROWING TIPS

'Song of India' (D. reflexa) Photo by: VadimZosimov / Shutterstock

Where to grow:

Indoors, place near a window that receives at least 2 to 4 hours of bright indirect light. Plants can be placed outdoors in summer in a spot that gets bright indirect light, not direct sun or dark shade.

Temperature:

Ideal daytime temperature range is 65-78 degrees F, with nighttime temperatures ten degrees cooler. Keep away from heating vents or cold drafts. Temperatures below 50-55 degrees F may harm plants.

Humidity:

Dracaena prefers average air humidity between 40-50%. In winter when indoor air is dry, mist foliage once or twice a week, or place pots on a shallow saucer filled with pebbles and water.

Soil type:

Use a high quality all-purpose potting soil that is well-draining. Dracaenas prefer a slightly acidic soil pH between 6.0-6.5.

Pot requirements:

Choose a pot that is 1 to 2 inches larger than the root ball. Make sure there are adequate drainage holes.

DRACAENA CARE AND MAINTENANCE

Watering:

Keep soil evenly moist and don’t allow to dry out. Too much water can cause root rot. Dracaenas are sensitive to tap water that contains fluoride. Use distilled or rainwater.

Fertilizing:

Dracaenas can get by with little fertilizing. Use a water soluble fertilizer formulated for houseplants. Apply once a month during spring and summer. Cease fertilizing in fall and winter when plant growth slows down.

Pruning:

Dracaenas respond well to pruning. Do this during active growth in spring and summer. Trim off damaged leaves and weak growth. Cut back plants to desired shape and size.

Repotting:

Replace top 2 to 3 inches of soil with fresh soil every spring to replenish nutrients without disturbing the roots. Repot in spring every 2 to 3 years. Use a container 1 to 2 inches larger than the previous pot. Remove plant from pot, brush out old soil and gently tease out roots. Add fresh soil, placing the top of the root ball at the same level and water thoroughly.

Pests:

Weakened plants may be more susceptible to pests. These can include spider mites, scale, or mealybugs. Wipe off affected leaves with a cloth dipped in 70% rubbing alcohol. Treat with insecticidal soap as needed.

DRACAENA VARIETIES

Swipe to view slides

Photo by: Proven Winners

Cordylena® Ruby, Madagascar Dragon TreeBuy now from Proven Winners
Dracaena marginata

Size: 18 to 48 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide

Deep green leaves with pinstriped ruby-red edges add contrast and drama to outdoor containers or indoor spaces. Combine as an accent in a container with Superbells® Strawberry Punch™ calibrachoa and Goldilocks Creeping Jenny for a “thriller, filler, spiller” effect.

Photo by: Proven Winners

Proven Accents® SpikesBuy now from Proven Winners
Dracaena indivisa

Size: 24 to 36 inches tall and 15 to 18 inches wide

This favorite is more sun-tolerant and hardier (USDA Zones 7-11) than other Dracaena species. The spiky foliage adds height and structure, and is compatible with many other plants.

Photo by: alenysk / Shutterstock

Snake Plant
Dracaena trifasciata

Size: 6 to 72 inches tall and 3 to 36 inches wide

Recently reclassified from the Sansevieria genus, the quintessential houseplant for beginning gardeners. Especially tolerant of low light, varying humidity, and watering conditions.

Photo by: New Africa / Shutterstock

Lucky Bamboo
Dracaena sanderiana

Size: 1 to 3 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide when grown indoors

A traditional housewarming gift, which is thought to bring good fortune and prosperity. The segmented stalks, which resemble bamboo, are typically twisted and braided together to form simple or elaborate arrangements. Plants can be grown in water or soil.

Photo by: plants_ka / Shutterstock

Corn Plant
Dracaena massangeana, syn. D. fragrans massangeana

Size: 10-15 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide; smaller indoors, to 6 feet tall.

Named for the wide strappy foliage that resembles edible corn plants, young stemless plants eventually develop a central brown trunk with a tree-like appearance.

Photo by: VadimZosimov / Shutterstock

'Song of India'
Dracaena reflexa 'Variegata'

Size: 12 to 18 feet tall and 3 to 8 feet wide; smaller indoors, to 3 feet tall in containers

This variety produces vibrant dark green leaves with wide gold margins. The narrow pointed foliage, which can grow up to 12 inches long, is arranged in a spiral along thick branching stems.

Photo by: Totokzww / Shutterstock

'Janet Craig' Dragon Plant
Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig'

Size: 12 to 15 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide; smaller indoors, to 3 feet tall.

Thick masses of lance-shaped dark green leaves give a full, lush appearance. Young plants are tidy with upright foliage. Mature specimens develop long bamboo-like stems with graceful arching leaves up to 24 inches long.

Photo by: Ostralfororu / Shutterstock

'Lemon Lime' Dragon Plant
Dracaena warneckii syn. D. deremensis warneckii

Size: 5 to 10 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide; stays smaller indoors

Attractive glossy blue-green leaves have wide contrasting chartreuse margins. Young stemless plants eventually develop branching trunks, with arching sword-shaped leaves 12 to 24 inches long. For the most pronounced variegation, keep in brighter indirect light.

Photo by: WindOfHope / Shutterstock

Gold Dust Dracaena
Dracaena surculosa

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide

This unusual variety is characterized by smooth oval green leaves generously speckled with gold that are produced on long, wiry stems. Stays smaller and is slower growing than many other dracaenas.

TROUBLESHOOTING

  • Brown spots or pale, bleached leaves can indicate too much light. Place plants in bright indirect light.
  • Slow growth, small new leaves or faded variegation suggests that plants need more light. Move to a bright indirect light source.
  • Yellow leaves may be a symptom of overwatering. Reduce watering and make sure pots have adequate drainage.
  • Leaves that droop or turn brown on the edges, followed by shriveling, yellowing or browning can be a sign of underwatering. Increase watering and boost air humidity as needed.
  • Brown leaf tips can be a sign of low air moisture. Use a room humidifier, mist plants twice a week or place pot on a saucer filled with water and pebbles. Don’t allow pot bottom to stand in water.
  • Yellowing of leaf tips or margins, or dead, scorched areas can indicate fluoride sensitivity. Flush soil and water only with distilled or rainwater. Avoid using soil amendments such as perlite or superphosphate, which contain fluoride.
  • Browning of leaf tips can indicate overfertilizing. Flush soil and reduce fertilizing.
  • Leaf drop can be a sign of overwatering, poor drainage or root rot. Remove plant from pot and inspect roots for damage. Cut out rotted roots and repot in fresh soil. Make sure pot has adequate drainage holes and don’t allow pot to sit in standing water. Reduce watering.
  • Blackened or soggy stems are a sign of overwatering, root rot or fungal disease. Discard the entire plant.

DISPLAY IDEAS

Proven Accents® Spikes (D. indivisa). Photo by: Proven Winners

  • Using feng shui principles, place lucky bamboo in an east or southeast area of the home to attract positive energy.
  • Group together pots of various sizes, planting them with dracaena and other houseplants with different structure, textures and leaf colors for a contrasting decorative display.
  • Use a larger floor specimen to brighten up a living room corner, office lobby or home entryway.
  • Repurpose an old wooden step ladder, adding shelves to display dracaenas and other houseplants of contrasting sizes, shapes and colors.
  • Place a mountain cabbage tree in a large container outdoors, adding your favorite trailing and filler annuals for a months-long summertime display.
  • Plant a smaller specimen in a cheerful pot and place in a kitchen window or on a desktop to enjoy while working.

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