- How Is Dracaena Propagated: Learn About Propagating Dracaena Plants
- How is Dracaena Propagated?
- How to Propagate a Dracaena
- Common Problems
- Dracaena Marginata (Madagascar Dragon Tree)
- Dragon Plant Care Guide
- How to Care for a Dragon Tree Summary
- Dragon Tree Problems
- Community Comments
- Madagascar Dragon Tree
- Dragon Tree Care Tips
How Is Dracaena Propagated: Learn About Propagating Dracaena Plants
The addition of houseplants is a great way to create green space indoors, as well as brighten and liven interior spaces. One popular option, dracaena plants, are loved for their carefree growth habit and their ability to thrive under the care of even novice gardeners. In addition to being exceptionally easy to maintain, propagating dracaena plants is also quite simple.
How is Dracaena Propagated?
Plant propagation is the process by which gardeners are able to create new plants. While starting new dracaena plants from seed is a possibility, many years are often required to establish seedlings. In some cases, plants grown from seed will not be the same as the parent plant. Luckily, many plants can be propagated another way.
By taking cuttings, or other small pieces of the parent plant, growers are able to root and grow an exact clone of the parent plant. Not only is the process easy, but it is much more efficient and cost effective than purchasing new plants.
How to Propagate a Dracaena
There are two ways by which one may take cuttings of dracaena – from the top and through stem cuttings. Since both methods of growing new dracaena plants will take root quickly, the method of dracaena plant propagation chosen is simply the preference of the grower.
The first option is to take top cuttings, which result from the removal of the top of the plant. While completely removing the top portion of the parent plant may sound alarming, growth should resume quite quickly from growth nodes after cutting.
Make a cut below the leaf line of the plant, making sure to include several nodes of the plant’s stem. Cuttings can be planted in a container with moist soil, or they can be placed in a vase of clean water. Cuttings propagated in water require little time before roots begin to form. Once roots begin to form, pot up the plants in a container.
Stem cuttings are one of the most common means of plant propagation. Growing new dracaena in this manner is perfect for those wishing to produce multiple plant clones at one time. For first time plant propagators, this method may seem drastic, but rest assured that growth will resume as long as at least half the plant stem is left intact.
To take stem cuttings from dracaena, repeat the process of taking top cuttings. However, instead of cutting the stem back past one to two leaf nodes, you will cut a larger portion of the stem. Cut the stem section of the plant into 8-inch (20 cm.) portions, taking special note as to which end is the top and bottom.
Place the cutting segments in soil or in water, as described by the top cutting method. Place the containers in a warm location which receives indirect sunlight. Note: You may add rooting hormone to the cuttings if desired.
Dracaena Marginata Tricolor
Dracaena marginata ‘tricolor’
This cultivar is the same as the original Madagascar Dragon Tree, though with a yellow or white stripe down the center of each green leaf, and the usual red border stripes along the external edges. From a distance, the yellow stripes next to the green give it a golden appearance. Aside from the added yellow stripe, this cultivar is very similar in terms of appearance to the original Dragon Tree. The conditions and care that it requires are also similar, though the plant will need brighter light than the original Dragon Tree.
Dracaena Marginata Colorama
Dracaena marginata ‘Colorama’
This cultivar features the same colors on its leaves as the tricolor, with the difference being that the reddish pink stripe on the edges of the leaves is thicker and more pronounced, giving the plant an overall more pink appearance. It grows almost identically to the original Madagascar Dragon Tree, the only difference being that it grows slightly slower. The high percentage of the leaves that feature color means that the foliage has less chlorophyll than the original Dragon Tree. This results in the plant needing more light to remain healthy and keep its colors looking vibrant. Do not keep this plant in a shaded area as you would an ordinary Dragon Tree; instead, sit it in an area of bright but indirect light.
If the new growth on your Madagascar Dragon Tree comes in the form of small leaves, the problem is almost certainly too little light. Moving the plant to a brighter spot, though still away from direct light, should fix the issue.
It can be quite alarming when your plant starts to lose its leaves, but as long as they are dropping from the underneath over the space of a few weeks, then it isn’t a cause for concern. New leaves grow from the crown at the top of each stem, and older leaves on the underneath fall off to make space for new growth. If your plant is still growing new leaves at the top, then falling leaves at the bottom are a perfectly normal part of the plant’s cycle. They often turn a yellow color before they fall, and again, this is normal, provided it is only happening to the underneath leaves as new growth happens above.
If yellowing leaves are dropping from all over the plant, then this could indicate a problem. Check the stem to see how firm it feels. A healthy plant will have a firm stem, while a squishy stem needs to be addressed
A squishy stem is usually the result of prolonged overwatering, or in some instances can also be caused by very low temperatures. A squishy stem can rarely be saved as the damage inflicted on the plant runs too deep. However, if there are any firm spots on the stem, or if the crown still feels firm, then you can cut these parts and propagate them to grow a new plant from the remains of the old one.
Brown spots on leaves are a symptom of the plant not getting enough water. It’s important to distinguish whether the brown marks are spots or blotches, because blotchy looking brown marks are caused by the opposite problem: overwatering. Identifying your issue and remedying it with either more or less water should resolve the problem.
The tips of the leaves turn brown usually as a result of cold draughts getting to the plant. Another symptom of this can be the edges of the leaves turning yellow and thin. Remove any damaged parts of leaves and relocate the plant to a more appropriate place, away from windows or doors where cold draughts can occur. The plant should recover well when in better conditions.
Pale or bleached leaves are the result of too much light. Direct light will scorch the leaves and lead to discoloration. Keep the plant in a bright spot away from indirect light, or, alternatively, in a spot with some occasional shade.
We hope this growing guide helps you to care for your Madagascar Dragon Tree. If you have any further questions or tips you’d like to share, please leave a comment. And if you know anyone with a Madagascar Dragon Tree, don’t forget to send this article!
Dracaena Marginata (Madagascar Dragon Tree)
Dragon Plant Care Guide
Light shade is best for your Dragon Tree plant. Sitting on a North facing window ledge, close to an East / West facing window or some distance away from a South facing one are all good locations. The leaves will scorch if it’s too bright, and if it’s too dark newer leaves will be small and limp looking.
Try to keep the soil moist (but never soggy or wet). A little dryness at the roots is better than risking overwatering. Make sure you cut back the watering in Winter as this is the prime time for plants to get the dreaded mushy soft stems.
Reasonable humidity is required. Often the humidity in the average home is perfect, but if you can, mist the leaves from time to time especially if the air is quite dry. The misting will also help remove any dust settling on the leaves.
To get new leaves sprouting on a regular basis you’ll need to feed your Dragon Tree
To get new leaves sprouting on a regular basis you’ll need to feed your Dragon Tree. Try and do it monthly in Spring and Summer. Sparsely in Autumn / Fall and none in Winter.
This plant does not like the cold. The room it lives in should never have temperatures lower than 10°C / 50°F. If you’ve put your plant outside for the Summer you must remember to bring it back indoors before any sign of frost. The temperature range for ideal growth is between 16°C – 24°C / 60°F – 75°F.
You only need to repot when the roots are are very congested and the plant is obviously suffering as a consequence. Unfortunately the roots of the Dragon Tree grow exceptionally fast so if you follow this definition exactly, you may end up repotting twice a year! Instead we would advising being a little cruel and only repotting every two years at most.
These plants can do really well with very little root room. Take a look at the first picture in the article and in the gallery where you can see how big the plant is, even though it’s in a small pot.
In our experience Dragon Trees aren’t fussy about the potting mix you choose to grow it in. Just make sure it’s fresh and not too heavy. We wrote an article about different Growing Mediums if you want to learn more about this topic.
On occasion you may find the large tap roots start to “coil” around and around the pot causing the root ball to rise up out of the container. If this happens, take the plant out of the pot and cut back some of the large thick tap roots before positioning what’s left back in the pot which should remove the “coil” effect.
There are three main ways to propagate a Dragon Tree and typically you can do all three methods at once to create multiple plants.
Propagation works best on an older plant because in time the canes will become longer or “leggy” as the leaf area shifts higher and higher up the plant. This gives you a lot of propagation material, which means you can:
Simply remove the crown and the top inch of stem and pot it up in potting compost to start a new plant.
Use a rooting hormone and to increase your chances of it working, keep the cutting warm by providing bottom heat.
- Tip – If you can’t provide bottom heat, only attempt this in Summer where it will be easier to keep it warm naturally.
Once the crown has been removed you can cut the remaining cane back to about half the original length (or more or less depending on what you’re trying to achieve visually).
New growths should then form at the cut edge within a couple of months.
You can either leave the new growths on the existing stem as they are, or remove them after they’re big enough and carry out “One” again to create more plants.
- Tip – Because several new growths can form at the cut, you can create a multi caned plant. Look at the bottom three pictures in our photo gallery above to see how this looks in practice.
Assuming you’ve done both things above, you’ll now have a left over piece of stem / cane. This can be cut into bits around 3 inches long and used to create a “Ti Tree”.
To do this, allow the stem / cane to dry for a day before sticking the pieces straight up in potting compost or a small container filled with water.
If planted in soil keep warm and moist. If you’re trying to root in water, when a reasonable number of roots have appeared plant up in potting compost.
- Tip – The pieces of stem / cane need to face “up” in the direction they were growing when part of the parent plant, so you may want to mark the cutting with an arrow before you get started to avoid confusion later.
The final height of your Dragon Tree depends on how tall your ceiling is!
Speed of Growth
Dragon Trees are quite slow growing compared to other houseplants. However in Spring and early Summer they’ll have fast spurts of growth at the crown which you’ll definitely notice as the crown produces several leaves in succession.
Height / Spread
The final height of your plant depends on how tall your ceiling is! To be fair, while natively they can reach 3m / 10ft or more, indoors you will probably run out of large enough pots to allow the plant to reach that size. So expect yours to only reach 2m / 6ft after many (many) years. No wider than 1m / 3ft.
Dragon Tree flowers are very rare and almost never seen on indoor plants. This is a houseplant grown for its foliage and architectural looks only.
Are Dragon Trees Poisonous?
The sap found within the leaves and stems do have small levels of a toxic substance that, while unlikely to be fatal, can cause irritation in people and pets when ingested.
If you’ve followed all the Dragon Tree propagation methods to increase your chances of getting at least one viable new plant, you could get lucky and end up with too many! Rather than throw them away, source a nice pot and give them away to friends and family.
Having the opposite problem and finding it difficult to actually find somewhere selling Dragon Tree’s? You could always try Amazon or have a read of our where to buy houseplants article for more inspiration.
How to Care for a Dragon Tree Summary
Moderate Light Suitable plant for semi bright locations.
Moderate Watering Once or twice a week in Summer and once every three weeks in Winter.
Temperature Average indoor room temperatures.
Feeding Fertilise on a regular basis. None in Winter.
Dragon Tree Problems
New Dragon Tree leaves are very small
Almost certainly too little light. A Dragon Tree won’t give any thanks if you give it low light conditions over a long period of time.
Dragon Tree leaves falling off
If happening slowly over a number of weeks then this isn’t a sign your Dragon Tree is dying, in fact it’s showing you’re treating it well!
All Dracaenas are False Palms with a crown of leaves sitting at the top of their stems, new growth forms at the very tips of these stems, and the older leaves at the bottom of the crown will gradually yellow and fall.
This happens quite often, and can be a bit shocking if it’s the first time your plant has done it. But providing new leaves are forming too it’s perfectly normal.
Leaves going yellow and falling off very quickly
As with the problem above, yellowing and falling leaves aren’t usually an issue. However if you’re very concerned, have a feel of the stems. If they’re firm then it’s very likely you’ve nothing to worry about. If the stems are very soft or squishy then read on to the next problem.
Soggy Soft Cane / Stem
This has been caused either by giving far too much water over a prolonged period, or from being exposed to very cold temperatures. If this happens then your Dragon Tree is probably already dead and can’t be saved in its present form. If any parts of the stem feel firm, or the leaf crown is intact you could try and propagate a replacement plant.
Leaves with brown spots
Usually a sign of underwatering. Try to keep the soil moist much of the time. If you would call the the marks more like “blotches” than spots, it’s caused by overwatering.
Leaves have brown tips and yellow edges
Often this is a symptom of dry air or cold draughts blowing near your plant.
Bleached dry leaves
Scorched leaves caused by too much light.
Mealybugs / Red Spider Mite
Mealybugs need to be treated with something like a cotton wool bud soaked in methylated spirit. Gently rub over the insects with the soaked cotton wool bud to remove them.
Red Spider Mite can be treated with an insecticide or if you’d prefer not to use chemicals, you can consider increasing the humidity for a few weeks or so, i.e. by daily misting.
About the Author
Over the last 20 years Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the Ourhouseplants Team.
Also on Ourhouseplants.com
Credit for Dracaena marginata ‘Colorama’ – Article – Sunshine Tropical
Credit for Dracaena Marginata flower – Gallery – Forest & Kim Starr
Credit for compact Madagascar Dragon Tree – Gallery – BotBin
Credit for compact Madagascar Dragon Tree Tarzan – Gallery – Piotrus
comments powered by Disqus
Madagascar Dragon Tree
Botanical Name: Dracaena marginata
Madagascar dragon tree is a bold accent if you have the space. Its daring, upright form punctuates the decor like an exclamation point, adding excitement to any room.
This beautiful tree starts out as a thick tuft of spiky leaves. As it grows, the lower leaves naturally fall, leaving a cluster of dramatic, spear-shaped leaves above a bare woody stem. Its narrow, red-edged leaves can grow about 12-16 in (30-40 cm) long.
Clean it up. Those tall, upright leaves tend to be dust-catchers. If possible, take the plant outdoors when the weather permits and gently spray the leaves with tepid water. Or wipe them off with a damp cloth.
Keep it short. Slow-growing, this exotic house plant will eventually reach 6 ft (1.8 m) tall indoors. You can control its height by simply cutting off the top.
Take a stand. Give a young plant a boost by placing it on an indoor plant stand. The tall, spiky leaves of the dragon tree looks spectacular by itself on a pedestal stand. Or combine it with shrubby and trailing plants for contrast. Take a look at these new ways to display your indoor plants.
Pruning tip: Prune it back in spring or early summer to control its growth. You can cut off the cane at any height. Within weeks, it will sprout a new cluster of leaves from where it was cut.
Dracaena care is easy. Dragon tree thrives in average room conditions, tolerating dry indoor air and low light levels that are deadly to most plants. This dynamic house plant also handles changing temperatures and humidity levels. Just don’t overwater. It will not tolerate soggy soil, which can cause root rot.
Repot in spring when roots become coiled in the container or grow out of the drainage holes. Always use fresh potting mix when you repot a plant. Use a pot with drainage holes.
It even shrugs off pests, although dry air may attract spider mites to its leaves. Faded, yellowing leaves and webbing between leaves indicate an infestation. Regular misting with water will do double-duty, raising the humidity and keeping those pests away.
This popular Dracaena house plant is easy to find. A few varieties are available.
The cultivar ‘Tricolor’ has green-and-cream stripes on its leaves with red margins and also goes by the name Rainbow Plant. ‘Colorama’ has similar coloring as ‘Tricolor’ with prominent red margins.
Dragon Tree Care Tips
Height: To 6 ft (1.8 m)
Light: Bright light. Avoid direct sunlight in summer, which may cause dry, brown patches on leaves. Give your Dragon Tree a quarter turn every week to expose all sides to light.
Water: Keep soil lightly moist spring through fall, slightly drier in winter. Do not let soil get waterlogged, which can cause root rot. Yellow leaves are a sign of root rot.
Humidity: Average room (around 40% relative humidity). Will tolerate dry air.
Temperature: Normal room temperatures (65-75°F/18-24°C). This tropical native doesn’t like cold air, which can cause its leaves to fall off.
Soil: Good-quality, all-purpose potting mix.
Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks in spring and summer with a 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer diluted by half.
Propagation: Cut sections of the cane into 4-6-inch (10-15 cm) pieces and root them like stem cuttings.
- Houseplants A-Z
Dracaena is a lush, tall, leafy plant that creates a tropical look indoors, on a balcony or in the garden. There are many species and cultivars that give a range of leaf colours and patterns. Some also have fragrant flowers.
The most impressive dracaena variety is the dragon tree (Dracaena draco) (pictured above). This large, spreading, multi-branched tree resembles a gnarled palm with tufts of grey leaves. It grows slowly up to 9m high, spreads more than 3.5m wide and forms a stout, grey trunk. It is used as a feature tree in gardens, but can also be grown in large containers outdoors. Its common name is derived from its red sap, which resembles blood.
More commonly seen is the happy plant (D. fragrans), which has broad, strappy, glossy green leaves and is often grown as a handsome indoor plant. Happy plants grow to around 2-3m high and around 2m wide. Mature plants may produce fragrant yellow flowers.
There are many varieties of happy plant. ‘Massangeana’ has a white to light green stripe down the leaf centre and is often referred to as corn plant. Varieties in the Deremensis Group (often known as D. deremensis) have variegated leaves and may have red flowers. One of the most popular happy plants is ‘Janet Craig’, which is a vigorous plant with handsome green leaves. As it is vigorous even indoors it needs regular repotting. Prune to maintain its size and shape. For a contrast, grow it with ‘Lemon Lime’, a form of happy plant with lime and green striped leaves.
Also seen indoors or featuring in modern landscapes are forms of D. marginata including ‘Colorama’, which has strappy pink and green variegated leaves in a tuft from a single stem, and ‘Black Knight’, which has dark burgundy red-edged leaves. Plants branch with age and can be shaped with pruning. ‘Tricolor’ has striped cream, pink and green leaves.
Dracaena Marginata ‘Colorama’, ‘Black Knight’ and ‘Tricolor’
Caring for dracaenas
Dracaenas originate in tropical and subtropical climates including Mauritius, West Africa and Madagascar. They need a warm, frost-free climate year-round to be grown successfully outdoors. Position most types of dracaena in a shaded or dappled light position (dragon tree tolerates full sun). Outdoors, dracaenas are often grown beside pools or in courtyards. Where winters are cold and frosty, grow them in containers, which can be moved to a frost-free winter position.
If growing indoors, select a warm, brightly-lit spot away from air-conditioners or heaters. In very dry indoor locations, mist foliage from time to time to increase humidity.
These plants often grow tall and lanky, but can be readily pruned by cutting back the top growth to encourage side branches. Prunings can be used as cuttings to grow new plants.
Water when dry, and fertilise garden plants at least once annually with a slow-release fertiliser. Plants that are indoors or in containers but are actively growing can be liquid fed occasionally.
Dracaena pests and problems
Common issues encountered on dracaenas grown indoors include scale and yellowing leaves. Pests and yellowing leaves indicate that the plant is stressed in its growing situation. Scale can be treated with horticultural spray oil but the plant should also be moved to a position with more light or warmth.
Yellowing leaves should be removed. Check watering as over or under watering can cause leaves to yellow as can a dry or draughty location indoors. Don’t allow plants to sit in saucers of water as the potting mix may become waterlogged, but potted plants can be placed on a bed of stones in water to increase humidity around the foliage.