How to care for a dragon tree?

How to look after a dragon plant indoors

Dracaena, the dragon plant, sits in the asparagus family, Asparagaceae. The genus comprises around 189 species mainly from tropical and subtropical African regions, with exceptions from Madagascar, Asia, northern Australia and parts of South America. The dragon plant has strappy foliage and, unusually for a strap-leafed plant, elegant, woody stems that vary in size, which makes it particularly suitable for tight spots. If anyone asks me for advice on choosing a houseplant, I tend to point them towards the dragon plant or Dracaena genus, and in particular Dracaena marginata. It is a fantastic beginner plant for several reasons.

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Why dragon plants are easy to maintain


They are very thin

Dragon plants manage to fill a narrower spaces by staying incredibly slim. The stem is slender and graceful as it grows up and is complemented by a canopy of long, thin, deep-green leaves. An evergreen, tropical shrub, the ribbon-like foliage can grow up to 40cm and has a reddish tinge to the margins. It nimbly grows, creating a sense of the outdoors in a restricted indoor space.


They stay green

Many houseplants can be frustratingly fussy and turn chlorotic or drop their leaves when their specific requirements are not met. The leaves of D. marginata don’t budge, with the exception of the odd lower leaf as it grows. At home, I move my Dracaena around frequently. From a south-facing living room to a bathroom with the smallest window and very little light, it is happy in many different locations and varying light sources.


They are slow growers

Dracaena are slow-growing, so if you want to make a statement, it is worth starting with a larger, more established plant. My D. marginata has grown just 30cm in three years.

Dracaena (Dracaena marginata), Asparagaceae. © DeAgostini/Getty Images

The best conditions for a dragon plant


Dracaena benefit from bright, indirect light. If given too much sun, leaves are at risk of scorch. It’s a good idea to grow them in a bathroom or kitchen for humidity.


Dragon plants prefer underwatering to overwatering, so let the top few centimetres of soil dry out – test with your finger – before watering again.


I find multipurpose compost unsuitable for indoor plants. It’s heavy, holds on to moisture and takes some time to dry out. A free-draining potting compost, such as John Innes No.2 with added grit, is better suited to most houseplants, including Dracaena, provided you keep an eye on it and water when dry.


Keep dragon plants at 18-32°C, ensuring the temperature doesn’t drop below 15°C in winter.


Feed your dragon plant fortnightly in the summer using a balanced liquid feed at half strength.



Propagation of Dracaena is straightforward, via tip cuttings. You can propagate tropical flora all year round, but the success rate is higher in spring and summer when there is more light and heat. If your plant has multiple branches, cut any tip of the stem away from the parent plant, roughly 8cm long and above a node. Remove a third of the lower leaves and place in a jar of water on a windowsill. Refresh the water regularly and in a few weeks roots will appear. Pot on into a free-draining soil in a pot that comfortably accommodates the roots. A new shoot will also appear on the parent plant where the cutting has been taken.

Where to buy


Patch (London area only)

Red Margined Dracaena – The Plant As Cool As Its Name

Dracaena plants are incredible. They range from red edged and trendy to your normal looking houseplants. What the quirky ones like me enjoy are dracaena plants with fun names. Since Generation Y looks for unique characteristics in everything, having houseplants like the Red Margined Dracaena around is a great way to help my generation fall in love with houseplants.

Let’s talk about Red Margined Dracaena (Dracaena marginata) alternate names for a moment. Shall we? Think about these when you’re looking for a new decoration for the house.

  • Red striped dracaena (sounds like a fast, sporty race car)
  • Red edged dracaena (why do I want a Red Bull now?)
  • Madagascar Dragon Tree (do I really have to elaborate?)

Red Edged Dracaena Houseplant

Now I grant you that nothing beats “Madagascar Dragon Tree” but give it up to Dracaena marginata for having several awesome names. It’s also one of the most popular dracaena plants for another reason. It bends.

I don’t mean that it bends like rubber. I mean that this tree can be shaped for a more unique appearance. It will grow in different directions or toward the light if handled properly. A plant with it’s own mind undergoing a growth spurt? What person wouldn’t find entertainment in that?

Just to top it all off, Dracaena marginata plant care is simple. I mean that. It’s easier than walking the dog or doing a load of dishes. Caring for your Dracaena marginata almost disqualifies itself as a chore based on the level of “easy” plant care. Basic plant care requirements for Red Edged Dracaena (Dracaena marginata) are thus:

  • Consistent temperature
  • Moderate watering
  • Bright filtered to low light

Basically, houseplant care can’t get much simpler than this. Water it a few times a week. Keep it away from drafts. It even tolerates low light of office buildings well! Really, can there be a better houseplant?

To send a Red Margined Dracaena to a friend or scour one for yourself, use Flower Shop Network to contact your local florist.

How to grow and care for Your Madagascar Dragon Tree

Dracaena marginata is a very durable, easy to care for plant that will slowly grow to a multi stemmed, 10 feet tall shrub.
It has a flexible, snake-like trunk that will eventually branch with age,
or can be forced to branch by cutting the stem tip.
The Madagascar Dragon Tree has narrow, dark green, arching leaves that are edged in deep red.
Many hybrids have been introduced that have other colors of foliage, as well.
In most areas the Dragon Tree is grown as a house plant,
but for those who are lucky enough to grow their gardens in frost free areas of USDA zones 10-12,
Dragon Trees make an excellent, drought resistant, accent plant for growing in partial to light shade.

Growing Dracaena marginata as House Plants

Dragon Trees will adapt to a wide variety of light conditions, but will have the best foliage color when they are grown in bright, indirect light.
Green varieties can survive with considerably less light.
They should be potted in a well draining house plant soil.

Red-Edge Dracaena Plant

The red-edge dracaena (Dracaena marginata) is a tropical evergreen plant that is native to Madagascar.

It is a striking plant that resembles a small palm tree with long textured stems that curve and twist with tufts of long, narrow olive leaves edged in red. It gets it shape by losing the lower leaves, exposing the textured stems.

Air Cleaning Qualities

This red edged dracaena plant is tolerant of most indoor conditions. It is not only dramatic, but it has air cleaning qualities that filter the air of toxins such as formaldehyde, benzene, toluene and xylene. Placing two or three plants in 8-inch or 10-inch pots for every 100 square feet will help clean up the air and add more oxygen in your breathing zone.
It is a popular decorator plant that can add a sculptured look to your interior. This plant can grow up to 8 feet tall as a potted indoor tree, but it is an extremely slow grower. It is wise to buy a full-grown specimen of the ultimate size desired rather than starting with a small one.

How to Care for Red-Edge Dracaena

Light: Bright filtered light indoors. Tolerates low but will not grow.

Humidity: Moderate preferred, Tolerates dry air.
Temperature: 75-85 F (24-29 C) days, 65 F (18 C) nights.

Water: Keep soil evenly moist during the growing season. Water thoroughly, then allow the soil to drain and empty excess water. In winter, plant should not be watered until the top layer of soil is dry. A well-draining potting mixture should be used. This is necessary to prevent root rot which can kill your plant.

Fertilizer: Fertilize monthly during the growing season with a half-strength foliage houseplant fertilizer.

Repotting: Repot the plant in sterilized potting soil when roots show through the drainage holes. Use a slightly larger pot as a too large pot may lead to overwatering and root rot.
Propagation: Propagate by rerooting the crown that’s topped off, stem cuttings, cane cuttings, or air layering.
Pruning: Prune when plant gets too tall for indoor use. Plant will result in new growth and be rejuvenated.
Pests: Check for spider mites and scale on the underside of leaves; if present, spray with appropriate pesticide. You can also wash leaves with a soapy solution to lessen the presence of mites.
The red-edge dracaena plant is also known as the Madagascar dragon tree.

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Dracaena marginata

  • Position: prefers light shade, but close to a window
  • Soil: good potting compost
  • Rate of growth: average to fast
  • Hardiness: tender (indoors only)
  • Current height: approximately 120cm (including pot)
  • Pot covers: choose a 22cm pot cover to give a good fit over the pot.
    Possibly one of the popular dracaenas, it has slender, predominantly green leaves, many of which have a fine red edge running down their length. These form at the tops of the upright stems, giving the plant an attractive shaggy-headed appearance. Please note that the pot in the photograph is not supplied with the plant (which is sent out in a black plastic pot). They do however make excellent potted plants, and if you wish to pot yours up, we do have a wide range of pots on our website to choose from.
  • Home care: Water well in the growing season, but less so in winter. Misting the leaves with water will help keep the humidity levels high, as well as keeping the leaves dust-free. Repot in spring every couple of years and keep temperatures above 10°C in winter.

The Madagascar Dragon Tree, or Dracaena marginata, is an evergreen tree that is known for having a great deal of character. As its name suggests, this species is native to Madagascar and grows in tropical and subtropical areas.

Madagascar Dragon Tree care is relatively easy, so they are great for beginner gardeners. They make a great addition to homes, offices, hotel lobbies, and many other indoor areas. Other common names for this plant include Red Edge Dracaena, Dragon Blood Tree, Red Margined Dracaena, Ribbon Plant, and Tree Dracaena.

Madagascar Dragon Tree Care Summary

  • Scientific Name: Dracaena marginata
  • Common Name: Madagascar dragon tree
  • Light Requirements: Bright indirect light. Protect from direct hot sunshine.
  • Watering: Regular watering to maintain moist soil. Reduce watering in winter.
  • Soil: Use a well draining potting mix. I use equal parts perlite and potting mix.
  • Temperature: 65-80°F (18-27°C) is best for healthy growth.
  • Fertilizer: Low fertilizer requirements. 2-3 times per year with dilute, balanced fertilizer.
  • Humidity: 40-55% is perfect, but will adapt to almost any humidity level.
  • Pruning: Low pruning requirements. Prune dead foliage as required.
  • Propagation: Stem cuttings are easily propagated in soil.
  • Re-Potting: Prefers being root bound and grows slowly, so only repot once every few years at most.
  • Diseases and Pests: Spider mites, mealybugs and scale can cause issues, but are easily treated.
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to cats and dogs. Non-toxic to humans.

Madagascar Dragon Tree Characteristics And Size

Madagascar Dragon Trees are recognizable by their slender stalks and spiky leaves, which give them a modern, contemporary look. Due to the shape of their leaves and their bare woody stems, some think that these plants resemble palm trees but in reality, they are actually closely related to lilies. In terms of size, these plants grow to be about 6 to 8 feet indoors and approximately 15 to 20 feet outdoors. They are fairly slow growing and can live for many years when cared for correctly.

Light Requirements For Madagascar Dragon Trees

A Madagascar Dragon Tree should not be placed in direct sunlight where it can become very hot, as this will burn its leaves. These plants should also not be placed in a dark corner with no sunlight. They do best with medium to bright light with partial shade, but these plants will survive in low light as well.

Low light, however, will slow down the plant’s growth and result in new leaves that are smaller and thinner than average. Make sure to give your Madagascar Dragon Tree a quarter turn every week or so to expose the different sides of the plant to the different lights in the room.

How To Water A Madagascar Dragon Tree

Since Madagascar Dragon Trees are used to rainfall from their natural tropical environments, the salts and fluorides in our water can lead to brown tips on their leaves. You should therefore ideally water these plants with filtered or non-fluoridated water. Watering should only be done when the soil is dry, to prevent overwatering the plant.

This is typically needed once every two to three weeks in the warmer months of the year. As for the wintertime, reduce watering to once per month or even once every 6 to 8 weeks.

The leaves will provide a good indication of whether or not the plant is receiving too much or too little water. Brown, dry leaf tips are often a sign of underwatering. Soft, brown or yellow leaves, and waterlogged soil indicate overwatering.

What Soil Do Madagascar Dragon Trees Need?

No special soil is required for Madagascar Dragon Trees, but it is important to use a well-draining or fast-draining soil to prevent the roots from rotting. In addition, the pot should have drainage holes or rocks at the bottom so that the water doesn’t pool. Root rot will typically occur as a result of overwatered potting soil or slow-draining soil mix.

During the plant’s growing season, which is from the spring to the summer, keep the soil uniformly moist at all times. The soil should never dry to more than one third of the depth of the pot but should also never be too wet.


Madagascar Dragon Trees are slow-growing plants and do not need or want much fertilizer. If you do choose to fertilize, be sure to use liquid or water soluble fertilizer and only do it a few times per year during the growing season, which is the spring and the summer. Do not fertilize these plants in the fall or the winter and always use a weak fertilizer, one that is no more than 50 percent strength.


Basic household humidity is fine for this plant, but it won’t hurt to give your Madagascar Dragon Tree a regular misting to add a bit of extra humidity.

Optimal conditions are between 40 and 55 percent humidity, but these plants are relatively adaptable to all different levels of humidity.

If you live in a climate with harsh winters, the leaves may begin to brown at their tips due to low humidity and if this happens, a humidifier may be necessary.


Madagascar Dragon Trees can tolerate a wide range of indoor temperatures but cannot tolerate freezing. Ideal temperatures fall between 65 and 80 °F.

These plants are sensitive to temperature changes, especially cool drafts, so they should never be placed on chilly windowsills or close to cold glass. If grown in low temperatures for extended periods of time, white or yellow spots may form on the plants.


In the springtime, tiny white flowers may bloom and in the summertime, yellow-orange berries may follow. The white flowers supply a nice fragrance and the berries add a beautiful touch of color.

Flowering, however, is not a main feature of this plant and is uncommon, especially for indoor plants. Should your Madagascar Dragon Tree flower, take it as a nice surprise.

How To Prune A Madagascar Dragon Tree

The Madagascar Dragon Tree doesn’t need a whole lot of pruning. If there are large brown tips or any yellow leaves, you can trim these tips or simply pull off the leaves. If the heads get droopy, which usually occurs due to lack of light or inconsistent watering, you can cut the heads off and new ones will sprout out. This is a neat feature of the Madagascar Dragon Tree because it allows you to play around with the plant’s appearance and control how it grows.

With pruning, you can twist the stalks together to create a braided form, or you can even train these plants to grow in spirals and various other formations. By pruning the side shoots, you can manage the vertical growth and encourage the plant to branch out horizontally.


Madagascar Dragon Trees can be propagated from stem cuttings and it is fairly easy to do so. To propagate this plant, cut off a portion of the stem from a mature plant and after allowing the cuttings to dry, plant them in wet soil.

The cut portions should be about 4 to 6 inches in length. In about 1 to 3 weeks, the cuttings will begin rooting and soon enough, you will have a family of Madagascar Dragon Trees. Rooting hormone is not necessary.

Tips for Planting Madagascar Dragon Trees

Compared to many other houseplants, Madagascar Dragon Trees are relatively easy to care for. That said, there are some tips and tricks that will keep your plant happy and healthy to ensure the best results.

For one, since this species is used to the tropical climate in Madagascar, mimic these conditions by placing your pot on a bed of wet pebbles to increase humidity.

Another tip is to spray your plant or wipe the leaves every so often to get dust off the plant if it has been kept indoors for a long period of time.


While Madagascar Dragon Trees can be re-potted, you should not be in a rush to do so because this plant thrives when it is root-bound in smaller pots.

Should you decide to transplant this species, the best time to do it is in the early spring, just before the growing season. To aid the plant in this transition, be sure to mist both the leaves and the trunk thoroughly after re-potting.

The benefits of re-potting include making more room for future root growth and replenishing the soil with a fresh potting soil mix.

Varieties Of Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata)

Some varieties of the Dracaena marginata include the Dracaena marginata Tricolor, the Dracaena marginata Colorama, the Dracaena marginata Tarzan, and the Dracaena marginata Magenta. As the name Dracaena marginata Tricolor suggests, this variety has three colors on its leaves instead of two – red, green, and yellow – and includes a yellow band in between the standard red edge and green leaf.

The Dracaena marginata Colorama is unique in that it features colors that are much more vibrant than the other varieties and it also grows at a slower rate. The Dracaena marginata Tarzan has wider, longer, and spikier leaves than the standard kind and boasts dark purple margins. Lastly, the Dracaena marginata Magenta is named after its magenta or burgundy foliage and has a slightly softer look to it compared to other types.

Diseases and Pests

While diseases are fortunately rare for this plant, pests are a bigger problem and must be treated immediately. The two main diseases to look out for are foliage fungal disease and root rot, both of which are often a result of the plant being kept too wet. Root rot typically occurs in the winter, so it is important to take extra caution when watering during the colder months of the year.

As for pests, Madagascar Dragon Trees are especially susceptible to spider mites, as well as mealybugs and scales. There are a number of ways to control these, such as a homemade spray or simply picking the insects off.

A soapy spray is good for spider mites while an alcohol spray is good for mealy bugs. Alternatively, a horticultural oil spray will do the job. Scales usually result in brown spots on the plant which can be picked off if not too extensive.

You can also take the plant to the sink or the shower, or even outside in the rain, and give it a good spray or wash. If you do so, be sure to get the underside of the leaves because that is where the critters live and breed.


While the Madagascar Dragon Tree is not poisonous to humans, it is toxic to dogs and cats and should therefore not be introduced to a household with pets. Should your pet be exposed to or ingest any species of the Dracaena genus, common symptoms include vomiting, lack of appetite, excessive production of saliva, and dilated pupils. Other possible things to look out for are drooling, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weakness, and poor coordination.

Why Is My Madagascar Dragon Tree Losing Its Leaves?

A sudden loss of leaves is typically not a good sign and it is very important that you identify the cause quickly in order to save your plant. A Madagascar Dragon Tree may lose its leaves for a number of reasons including temperature changes, cool drafts, inconsistent watering, improper drainage, and pests.

Once you identify the cause, be sure to make the appropriate changes immediately to give your plant the greatest chance of survival. If your Madagascar Dragon Tree is only losing its lower leaves, this is actually quite common and is not a cause for concern since these plants tend to shed their lower leaves as they age.

What Should I Do If The Leaves Of My Madagascar Dragon Tree Are Brown Or Yellow?

Browning or yellowing of the leaves is almost always a sign that your Madagascar Dragon Tree is receiving too much or too little water, respectively. First, check to see if the soil is wet or dry and act accordingly. Yellow leaves can also indicate root rot.

If you believe that the soil is perfectly fine, check for pests – the most common are spider mites, mealybugs, and scales. If you brought your plant home relatively recently or moved it from one location in your home to another, discolored leaves may be a result of the change in environment. Wait to see if your plant bounces back, it could be in a bit of shock due to the new location and may just need some time to adjust.

I hope you enjoyed this article about Madagascar Dragon Tree Care. It really is a fantastic choice of houseplant, that will be a great addition to any home. Feel free to check out my other houseplant articles here.

Dragon Tree Plant Care – Tips On Growing A Dracaena Dragon Tree

The Madagascar dragon tree is a fantastic container plant that has earned a rightful place in many temperate climate homes and tropical gardens. Keep reading to learn more about dragon tree plant care and how to grow a red-edged dracaena plant.

Dracaena Marginata Info

Dracaena is a genus of about 120 different species that come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. One of the most popular species is the Dracaena marginata, also frequently called dragon tree, Madagascar dragon tree, and red-edged dracaena. This last name is the most evident in its appearance, as it produces very long, variegated leaves that are green in the center and red on both sides.

Dragon trees are hardy in USDA zones 10b and above, which means that most gardeners have to keep them in pots that come inside during the winter. This is no problem, however, as the trees are extremely well suited to container life and indoor climates. In fact, they are some of the most popular houseplants out there.

Dragon Tree Plant Care

In nature, a dragon tree will grow to about 15 feet (4.5 m.). It’s unlikely to reach that kind of height in a container, but that’s just as well, since the whole point of keeping it potted is to be able to bring it indoors!

A Madagascar dragon tree is remarkably tough, with a strong root system, which means it can handle being potted and repotted. They require little feeding and will thrive with just a regular slow release fertilizer once in the spring and once again in the summer.

They do best when temperatures are between 65 and 80 F. (18-27 C.) This is ideal, as it is the temperature most homes are kept. They will survive lower temperatures, but their growth will slow down severely.

The best light is bright and indirect, and watering should be frequent. Fluoride can cause leaf discoloration, so it’s best to use non-fluoridated water.

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