Types of dracaena plant

Dracaenas- the Dragons and the Corn

Dracaena is a large genus of primarily African monocot plants of which there are well over 100 accepted species, most which will not be covered in this article and are virtually unknown in cultivation. However, some are commonly grown landscape trees in some areas of the world, and others are easily among the most popular of all the house plants. Currently most plant sites list Dracaenas in the family Asparagaceae, along with a lot of other similar plants, such as Cordylines, Beaucarneas and Dasylirions (etc.). But they have been bumped about a bit, from the family Liliaceae and Agavaceae to Ruscaceae (which is where they are in the Davesgarden Plantfiles at the time this article was written, but should probably be moved). It sometimes gets old when your plants are continually being reclassified and lumped in different ways. Still, the plants themselves could not care less. It will be difficult to discuss Dracaenas without also discussing Cordylines, their southern cousins from Australia and nearby exotic places (exotic to me, at least). So I will sort of touch upon them, too, but leave the bulk of Cordyline talk for a subsequent article.

Some generalities about Dracaenas are that they are generally solitary plants with single stems (or trunks, or sometimes called ‘canes’) and are either branched or not- most species seem to branch eventually once they get older, but start out as palm-like plants with a top rosette of leaves and a naked stem. Dracaenas are often mistaken for palms, and are often seen in the plant identification section of Davesgarden with a query as to what species of palm they are. Some are immensely tall and massive, such as the very old Dracaena dracos from the Canary Islands (and commonly grown here in California). And some are pretty tiny such as the ‘Lucky Bamboo’ (actually a Dracaena species) often sold at curiosity shops with their canes braided in various ornamental patterns. Some are very drought tolerant and can survive months without any water, performing quite well as xeric landscape plants. While others are very tropical and can grow with their stems in water all the time (again, the ‘Lucky Bamboo’ tolerate this quite well). Most Dracaenas are listed frequently on toxic plant lists, but none are very toxic. However, unlike their close cousins, the Cordylines, these are not cultivated as a food source.

Dracaena draco in a cactus garden, looking somewhat like a palm (left); Dracaena braunii, aka Lucky Bamboo, sitting in water (right photo cactus_lover)

They grow like a typical monocot (see this article on monocots with leaves erupting from a central meristem and forming a circular rosette of leaves that hang on along the stem until, with age, they slough off. These leaves anchor themselves around the stem, unlike dicot leaves which tend to grow straight out of stems from a single point. This makes their removal or ‘pruning’ quite easy, as one can simply pull the lowest leaf off the stem one at a time by unsheathing it with a downward pull. This is usually preferred in smaller cultivated plants, rather than leaving the dead leaves to fall off constantly, and creates a neat, tidy appearance.

Dracaena draco showing leaves erupting all from same point (meristem) left; right shows leaf bases and scars where leaves have been removed from

One of the common names of the Dracaenas, as a group, is the Dragon Tree. However only a few Dracaenas develop into ‘tree’s- the rest being are smaller, shrubby plants. Though these do not look anything like dragons, at least some of the tree species (Dracaena draco and Dracaena cinnabari) have reddish sap when cut. That red dye has mythological ties to dragon blood, which was shed by Hercules killing a dragon who’s blood then somehow stimulated the subsequent growth of the dragon trees. Dracaena means female dragon in ancient Greek). The problem with the name Dragon Tree is it also applies to a very dissimilar tree called the Paulowania tree (a very fast growing lumber tree from Australia- a true dicot tree). And some Dragon Fruit does not common from the Dragon Tree, but from a cactus.

leaf base off my seedling (left) showing ‘blood’ dye; right are powder and cake dyes collected from Dracaeana cinnabari (photo Wikipedia)

Another common name applied to one of the most common indoor house plants is the Corn Plant, thanks to is vague similarity to a real corn plant (another upright slender monocot). This name specifically refers to Dracaena fragrans, but sometimes is used to describe other species as well.

Dracaena draco- the Dragon Tree: This is a large, very long-lived species from the Canary Islands, some nearby islands and the very western edge of Morocco (African mainland). One of the most massive trees on the planet is an estimated 650 year old Dracaena draco specimen on the Canary Islands. I have seen large, old specimens here in California, but they are dwarfed by this monster (see below). Older specimens have been known and reportedly grow over seventy feet in height.

Dracaena draco growing in the Canary Islands (left)- HUGE! (photo Wikipedia); middle are some of the largest in California’s Lotusland; right is a closer shot of large California plant

This species of Dracaena has very thick, leathery, rough-surfaced and somewhat fleshy, succulent leaves unlike most of the other commonly grown Dracaenas in cultivation. The tips of the leaves are blunted. Removing a living leaf from the trunk will result in a minor ‘bleed’ as some of the red dye this tree is named for will show up as a moist red ring at the leaf scar. This dye is used in cultivation as source of lacquer color (supposedly Stradivarius violins were dyed with this substance). As the leaves age, they dry up and fall from the trunk, leaving a ringed but very smooth, almost shiny trunk that is very ornamental in younger plants. The fresh leaf scars leave an almost woven-like pattern that unfortunately fades with age. This pattern, from a distance, gives the trunks a basket-weave appearance. Older trunks become more woody and ordinary in appearance. At the point of branching, each new stem has a narrow base giving the overall plant a somewhat cartoon appearance as though it had muscular arms relatively to their skinnier joints. The overall effect is unique and ornamental.

Older population of Dracaena dracos in Lotusland, Santa Barbara, California

younger population in the Los Angeles arboretum, Arcadia, California

Underside of larger tree showing variations in the branch widths (left); right shows a trunk’s leaf scars and the ornamental pattern they make

Dragon trees are commonly grown xeriscape plants in Mediterranean and desert climates as they are extremely drought, heat and wind tolerant. Though starting out as branchless, palm-like plants, they eventually start to branch at their flowering points, and then branch again, and again at each point the tree makes a flower. Eventually massive heads of thick green agave-like leaves topping smooth, succulent stems cover a wide area and threaten to come crashing down, even bringing down the entire plant if too top heavy. Many older, top-heavy specimens in botanical gardens can be seen held up with supporting poles.

Even these plants can fall over in heavy winds as they are so top heavy. This tree has some root rot from being planted in very clayey soil (left); right shows a yound plant flowering- likely it will branch at that point now.

These trees are very slow growing and it can take several lifetimes to get these to a tree-like landscaping size. But if given plenty of water in the summers and grown in well draining soils, their growth rates can be maximized. Plants grown from seed can reach several feet in under 10 years if grown well.

Some similar species to Dracaena draco include Dracaena cinnabari, a native to Socotra where it dominates much of the landscape (a landscape known for its striking and bizarre flora). This species differs primarily in having many more leaves per crown and the leaves are longer, stiffer and end in a definite point. If anything, these magnificent trees are even more spectacular than Dracaena dracos, forming nearly perfect symmetrical umbrella-like crowns on thick stalks. Photos of this plant are often stunning and ornamental (). It is a threatened species collected locally for its red dye.

Dracaena cinnabari in habitat (photo Wikipedia)

Dracaena cinnabari young in Hawaii (left photo Wikipedia); right shows a younger plant in Santa Barbara, California

Dracaena serrulata is another similar species even rarer in cultivation. This species is native to Oman and Yemen. Though not quite as ornamental as it cousins, it still is an impressive tree-like plant growing up over thirty feet. Leaves a more scimitar-like, stiff and blue-grey. For more on this species,

Dracaena serrulata in Huntington (both left and middle plant same, but middle is look after being moved to another area); right is younger plant in Santa Barbara, California

A few more tree Dracaeanas in cultivation:

Dracaena concinna (photo Timrann) left; right and middle are two examples of Dracaena arborea in California

The remainder of the Dracaenas commonly encountered in cultivation are shrubby plants who’s stems are referred to as canes rather than trunks. Some of these (notably Dracaena fragrans, marginata and reflexa) are very popular and relatively easy house plants. They are not only popular for their ornamental appeal, but they reported are natural low level air filters and have been known to reduce formaldehyde levels in room air (is formaldehyde a common problem in room air?).

Dracaena fragrans, aka the Cornstalk Dracaena, is probably the best known of all the Dracaena species. Numerous cultivar variations of this plant can be found in virtually all malls throughout the US and show up in many nurseries for sale as common house plants. This plant is native to much of tropical Africa where it can grow up over forty feet in height, though looking more like a clump of skinny palm trees rather than an impressive tree with a single large trunk. Most Dracaeana fragrans have thin, arching, sometimes undulating and usually glossy lancelote leaves that radiate out from the central canes in rosettes typical of the monocotyledonous plan. There is some variation in leaf thickness, length and waviness. But the primary variations in cultivation are the color and striping patterns which there seem to be a nearly endless variety. Though most Dracaena fragrans have narrow canes or stems from one half to one inch in diameter, at least one variety (Dracanea fragrans ‘Massageana’), the corn plant, has a trunk-like stem up to four inches in diameter. Flowers are quite showy and exceptionally sweet smelling (hence the name fragrans). Indoor plants may even flower now and then filling the entire home with their scent.

Dracaena fragrans in mall and in a nursery- not sure if these have a cultivar name, but they are probably close to the ‘type’ species ; plant on left was called Dracaeana fragrans ‘Lisa’

Dracaena fragrans in native Africa left (photo Wikipedia); another possible ‘type’ species in mall in Southern California (center); flower of Dracaena fragrans right (photo Kniphofia)

shots of Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’ aka the Corn Plant, a very commonly grown plant indoors throughout the world

For more on the above cultivar care, .

Though these plants are from tropical Africa and they look like palms, one should not treat them like palms when growing them indoors. They are extremely hardy, tolerant of low light and humidity, but do not tolerate being constantly wet. Rotting of the root ball is probably the most common cultivational problem of these indoor plants. Most recommendations on caring for these as indoor plants suggest letting the soil dry out before watering again. On the other hand, letting this plant dry out too long will result in brown tipping and death of the lower leaves prematurely. Reportedly many of the indoor Dracaena species are sensitive to fluoride in tap water. For treating plants that seem to brown tipping too much, one might try treated (reverse osmosis) water or rain water. A good soaking of the soil every now and then (yearly for example) to flush out accumulated salts that collect on the root hairs is a good idea. Fertilization should be kept to a minimum as well (but that pretty much goes for most indoor plants).

One of the most popular cultivars is Dracaena fragrans ‘Lemon Lime’ here at a nusery (left) and at malls (center and right)

Shots of another very popular form of Dracaena fragrans ‘Janet Craig Compacta’ aka Dracaena ‘Compacta’

One of the best things about these plants is they can be pruned easily and will often result in two plants instead of just a shorter one. These are very easy to reroot and propagate in such a fashion. If one happens to rot their plant by overwatering, all one usually needs to do is remove all the rotted tissue (with some margin for safety) and reroot the entire plant. And if they grow too tall or leggy, again, chop the tops off and re-root them. The original plant will usually regrow from the cut area, often branching into multiple canes as well.

a few other cultivars of Dracaena fragrans: ‘Carmen’ left, ‘Lemon Surprise’ center; ‘Limelight’ right center photo by melody

These need plenty of light indoors and though they do tolerate very low light situations, they will not stay healthy that way long, and their colors will be abnormal. Direct sun, however, is not recommended for indoor plants. Outdoors, most of these tolerate some direct sun except in very hot, arid climates.

Dracaena fragrans ‘Gold Star’ left ; Dracaena fragrans ‘Jade Jewel’ center (photo DaylilySLP); Dracaena fragrans ‘Hawaiian Sunshine’ right

Note that this species has many synonyms. Dracaena massangeana and Dracaena compacta are two common ones, but also Dracaena deremensis and Dracaena warneckii are two more

Dracaena fragrans ‘Warneckii’ left; Dracaena frargrans (aka Dracaena warneckii) ‘White Stripe’ center; Dracaena fragrans (aka Dracaena deremensis) ‘Dorado’ right

Dracaena marginata, also referred to as the Dragon Tree (though apparently less accurately as these do not bleed red) or Red Margined Dracaena, is nearly equally popular as a house plant though far less varieties are available in cultivation. This Madagascan native has even thinner stems and far thinner leaves than do Dracaena fragrans. The multicolor or rainbow variety is the most popular by far, but all green or maroon- leaf varieties are still very commonly encountered in cultivation. Dracaena marginata flowers are fairly small and do not that great an odor.

Dracaena marginatas ‘type’ species in mall left; Dracaena marginata growing outdoors in Hawaii showing it can become a relatively large tree in the right situatiion (never gets this large indoors) center; right shows close up of leaves on plant in my yard

Dracaena marginatas with stems tied in knots as curiosity items in a nusery

shots of Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor’

Some sources have Dracaena marginata as a supspecies of Dracaena reflexa, but somehow both names are accepted in the World Check List of Plants, so I unclear which is the correct scientific name for this species (or subspecies). Either way, Draceana reflexa is a very similar species and some forms are so similar I cannot tell them apart. Additionally, some forms are very similar to some of the Dracaena fragrans varieties in terms of variegation and leaf size/shape. In general, Dracaena reflexa leaves seem to be shorter and the canes tend to snake about more not always growing upright. Some of the common names for Dracaena reflexa include ‘Song of India’, ‘Song of Jamaica’, ‘Song of Java’ etc (depending on the cultivar leaf color). Dracaena reflexa are native to several islands of the Indian Ocean (and Madagascar, if one includes Dracaena marginata into Dracaena reflexa).

Dracaena reflexa tree in Hawaii (left); close up of leaves (center); nursery plant (right)

Dracaena reflexa ‘Song of India’ tree in Hawaii (left and center); right shows close up of leaves in nursery

More Dracaena reflexa ‘Song of India’ shots- left at a nursery; right showing flowers on plant in Hawaii. These flowers are not nearly as nice smelling as those of Dracaena fragrans and are typical of this species as well as Dracaena marginata.

Dracaena marginata and Dracaena reflexa are treated pretty much the same in cultivation as Dracaena fragrans. However, in my experience, Dracaena reflexa is more cold sensitive and one rarely sees these grown as outdoor plants in southern California, while Dracaena marginatas are commonly encountered

Other species of Dracaena one may come across in cultivation include some of these plants below.

Dracaena braunii (aka Dracaena sanderiana) aka Lucky Bamboo: this is a very common plant in cultivation and amazing, intricate weavings of its canes are often seen in shops around the world. This is a very tropical species from Africa and parts of Asia where it grows in the dense undergrowth, rarely seeing full sun. Unlike some of the above species, this is a small caned plant that grows very well if its roots are kept in just an inch or two of water. It will grow very slowly in this manner, with regular changes of water (weekly), and occasional fertiliization (very dilute liquid fertilizer). The better the water quality, the better the plant will look (water high in salts and flouride will be hard on this plant, as it is on most plants). Dracaena braunii can also be grown in soil, but there one should let the top of the soil dry out a little between waterings or even this species can rot. For more on care: http://houseplants.about.com/od/typesofhouseplants/a/LuckyBamboo.htm

Dracaena braunii shots- growing in water left (photo SandPiper); right growing in soil in pot indoors (photo Missie)

More Dracaena plants below. Note that some of these species are much more highly branched and look a lot less typical of the monocot rosette-on-a-pole growth plan.

Dracaena cantleyi is a rare plant in cultivation, but my palm growing friend has it in his backyard and it is doing quite well here in California. This is the more typical monocot style.

Dracaena ‘Juanita’ at a nursery (left); Dracaena goldiana (right) at same nursery. These two Dracaenas do not show the typical monocot shape or growth pattern and I am unsure how they fit into the genus in terms of relationship.

The Genus Cordyline, as mentioned above, is a very closely related genus in the family Asparagaceae but a different subfamily (Lomandroidea instead of Nolinoideae). Both Dracaenas and Cordylines look very much like their Yucca cousins. Some sources lump the two genera together. Cordylines are primarily used in as outdoor plants in cultivation with the exception of the most popular species, Cordyline fruiticosa (the Ti Plants). Below are a few photos of Cordylines, but more about these plants will be discussed in a future article.

Cordyline austalis is a very ‘Dracaena-like’ species: left Cordyline australis ‘Albertii’; Cordyline australis ‘purpurea’ center (a very common plant in cultivation); right is a nice shot of Cordyline australis ‘Southern Splendor’ (photo by Kell)

Cordyline banksii ‘Electric Pink’ is a plant that resembles a Phormium species (New Zealand Flax) left; right is a popular cultivar of Cordyline fruticosa known as ‘Chocolate Queen’

three cultivars of Cordyline fruticosa (there are many more than this) either seen at a mall (left) or in southern California gardens

Types Of Dracaena: Learn About Different Dracaena Plants

Dracaena is a popular houseplant for many reasons, not least of which is the spectacular foliage that comes in a number of shapes, colors, sizes, and even patterns, like stripes. There are many different dracaena plant varieties, so check them all out before you choose your next houseplant or two.

About Dracaena Plant Varieties

There are many kinds of dracaenas that are commonly used as houseplants. One reason that they are so popular indoors is that they are easy to grow and maintain. They accept low and indirect light and only need to be watered about once a week. A little fertilizer once or twice a year is all these plants need, and pruning isn’t necessary very often either.

These plants also became famous when a NASA study found that they can cleanse indoor air of toxins. There are many different dracaena plants to try, and by choosing a few for your home, you can get a great range of stunning foliage as well as cleaner, healthier air.

Popular Varieties of Dracaena

The number of dracaena plants available makes this a diverse and large group, distinguished from each other by the range of spectacular foliage features. Here are some of the more popular types of dracaena to choose from:

Corn Plant. This dracaena is often just called corn plant and is the type that was used in the NASA studies. There are several cultivars in this group. The name comes from the leaves that resemble those of corn – long, arching, and sometimes with a yellow stripe.

Lucky Bamboo. Most people are unaware that lucky bamboo, which isn’t a bamboo plant at all, is actually a type of dracaena. It is often grown in water or soil environments and considered an important Feng Shui plant.

Gold Dust. For a shorter, shrubbier dracaena, try Gold Dust. The leaves are green with yellow speckles that eventually turn white.

Madagascar Dragon Tree. This stunner is also called red-margined dracaena and has narrow leaves with reddish purple margins. Some cultivars, like ‘Tricolor,’ have red and cream stripes.

Ribbon Plant. The ribbon plant is a small dracaena, four to five inches (10 to 13 cm.) tall. The leaves are lance shaped and have white margins.

Deremensis. There are a few cultivars of this species of dracaena. ‘Janet Craig’ is common and has shiny, dark green leaves. ‘Lemon Lime’ is a newer cultivar with chartreuse, green, and white stripes on the leaves. ‘Warneckii’ has leathery leaves that are green with white stripes.

Song of India or Jamaica. These cultivars come from the reflexa species. ‘Song of India’ has thin leaves, with edges of cream or white, while ‘Song of Jamaica’ has darker green leaves with light green in the centers.

There are so many different types of dracaena, and they are so easy to grow that there is no excuse not to have one in each room of the house.

Variety Info June 2019

Let’s Talk Dracaena
By Andrew Britten

Draceana are one of the most popular and diverse families in the ornamental plant world. From small to large, there is a type of dracaena to fit your conditions and needs. In addition to the different sizes, there are also a large range of plants from green to variegations with many different colors. Some of the most common species are deremensis, fragrans, reflexa and sanderiana.

GROWING DRACAENA

Dracaena are typically propagated by vegetative methods which can incorporate many different processes. The most common types are tip cuttings, stem cuttings, air layers, as well as cane production depending on the species. In all methods, rooting is a relatively easy process for dracaena. The addition of IBA will aid in better rooting.

The most common insect issues for dracaena are mites, mealy bugs, scale and thrips. The most common disease issues to look out for are Fusarium and Erwinia. In addition, dracaena can also be very sensitive to fluoride toxicity.

If you are using city water for irrigation, the fluoride injected can cause tip burn on the dracaena leaves. Symptoms of this toxicity include tip and margin burn. Avoid using fertilizers that contain superphosphate as they typically have higher levels of fluorine.

The soil mix for dracaena should be well drained. To avoid rot, plants should be allowed to dry between irrigations. The humidity for dracaena should be maintained above 40%. If the humidity does drop below 40%, plants can benefit from an occasional misting of the foliage. This will be more of an issue at the customer level, than the production facility.

TYPES

Dracaena deremensis, which is part of fragrans, include the popular varieties of warneckii and ‘Janet Craig’. The warneckii have leaves that are striped in shades of gray, green and white. The variety ‘Lemon Lime’ also has yellow variegations. ‘Janet Craig’ dracaena have solid green leaves. These plants make great houseplants with their ability to tolerate lower light levels. Plants are best indoors in bright light, but not direct sun. They do best in temperatures in the mid 1970s to early 1980s.

Dracaena fragrans includes the very popular massangeana, also known as corn plant or Chinese Money tree. They are typically produced by canes and are often used with multiple cane sizes within
a pot. They will perform well in the same conditions as the deremensis. Plants will flower in optimal conditions, releasing a very pleasant aroma, particularly at night. Once a stalk flowers, it will split and create multiple breaks. These plants can tolerate full sun, with adequate humidity. They will also survive well indoors with bright light.

Draceana reflexa incorporates the frequently produced varieties of ‘Song of India’ (green and yellow striping) and ‘Song of Jamaica’ (multi shade green striping). They both originate from Madagascar and other Indian Ocean islands. They can tolerate full sun to partial shade. Indoors they will perform best with bright light, but can tolerate lower light levels for extended periods of time.

One of the most commonly used dracaena is the Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia. These are the plants most commonly referred to
as Marginata. As with massangeana, these are often sold as multi-level canes or braids, but are also sold as a multi cutting bush in larger pots and as individual plants in smaller pots. The most commonly sold varieties are Marginata, Bicolor, Colorama, Magenta and Kiwi.

In tropical environments, these can grow in full sun, but will survive low light conditions in the home. It is important to watch your water levels on these as they can quickly succumb to overwatering.
Marginatas have a lower requirement for fertilizer than most other dracaena. They will do best with half of the rate as the others.

Dracaena sanderiana include the common gold (yellow and green) and white (white and green) varieties as well as ‘Lucky Bamboo’. Although they do resemble the growth of bamboo, they are not actually in the bamboo family. They can be produced in soil as well as hydroponically. Plants will do well in full sun in tropical environments and bright indirect light indoors.

Dracaena have been proven to remove toxins from the air. According to the NASA Clean Air Study, Dracaena reflexa is one of the most efficient plants at removing formaldehyde from the air in your home, as well as other VOCs, including benzene, trichloroethylene and xylene.

With all the beauty that can be had with the many different types of dracaena as well as their positive properties to clean our air, they should definitely be a plant that is in your greenhouse and home.

Andrew Britten

Andrew Britten is product development manager with ForemostCo Inc. He can be reached at

Dracaena

Dracaena

Dracaena is a large group of popular houseplants that tolerates a wide variety of growing conditions. It is grown primarily for the upright, straplike foliage that is either green or variegated. Occasionally the plants set clusters of small, fragrant, white blossoms (but rarely indoors). The small, bushy form of young plants suits mantels, tabletops, and desks. In the right conditions, the plants eventually reach 5 to 6 feet tall, making it perfect for adding life to a corner of the living room, dining room, or solarium.

genus name
  • Dracaena
light
  • Part Sun,
  • Sun
plant type
  • Houseplant
height
  • 1 to 3 feet,
  • 3 to 8 feet,
  • 8 to 20 feet
width
  • 1 to 20 feet
flower color
  • White
foliage color
  • Blue/Green,
  • Purple/Burgundy,
  • Chartreuse/Gold,
  • Gray/Silver
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Good for Containers
zones
  • 10,
  • 11
propagation
  • Stem Cuttings

Colorful Combinations

Dracaena’s narrow foliage may be completely green or may include stripes or edges of green, cream, red, and/or yellow. Leaves start as rings around the center stem and take on the appearance of bamboo as they age. (In fact, one of the most commonly grown dracaenas is marketed as Lucky Bamboo.) Use this plant outside as a colorful accent in mixed containers or seasonal displays.

Create a bamboo display in your space for a boost of harmony.

Dracaena Care Must-Knows

Dracaena is extremely easy to grow indoors as long as you pay attention to a couple of details. It requires well-drained soil. Let the soil dry to the touch between waterings. Let it get completely dry out too often, though, and leaves begin to turn brown, especially at the tips. Soggy soil, on the other hand, may be fatal. Fertilize once or twice a year to keep this plant healthy, more often to promote growth. Any general-purpose houseplant fertilizer applied according to the package directions will do.

Dracaena is quite flexible about its lighting requirements—happy to live in anything from a dimly lit office building to the ledge of a brightly lit, south-facing window. Varieties sporting bright colors do best in bright light. If planted outdoors, this plant prefers part sun; full sun may burn the foliage.

When left to grow in the same pot for a long time indoors, the plant experiences problems that don’t occur in a flower bed. The edges and tips of leaves may brown and die back as a reaction to a buildup of fertilizers and salts from softened water. One solution is to repot dracaena on a regular basis, replacing as much old soil as possible each time. Or make a regular habit of leaching the soil, which means flushing it with water until it runs clear from the bottom of the pot.

Keep your eyes open for spider mites, which love the hot, dry environment commonly found in household settings. You’ll know your plant has unwelcome visitors if you see webbing and stippled foliage. Spider mites (which are arachnids, not insects) reproduce quickly and should be eradicated as soon as they are noticed. Periodically wetting the plant (especially the undersides of leaves) and the soil beneath it with neem oil spray helps control this pest. Prevent spider mites outdoors by rinsing dracaena regularly with water.

Become an expert repotter using these five simple steps!

More Varieties of Dracaena

‘Compact Janet Craig’ Dracaena

Dracaena deremensis ‘Compact Janet Craig’ has solid green leaves with short internodes, making it a shrubby plant that adapts well to low light conditions.

Corn Plant

Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’ is named for its uncanny resemblance to the crop with the same common name. However, this dracaena has a woodier stem and a broad band of gold down the center of its leaves.

‘Florida Beauty’ Gold Dust Dracaena

Dracaena surculosa ‘Florida Beauty’ is smaller and shrubbier than most other dracaenas, rarely reaching more than 2 feet tall. It has broad leaves brilliantly spotted with creamy yellow.

‘Lemon Lime’ Dracaena

Dracaena deremensis ‘Lemon Lime’ has leaves with a central green band and wide margin of chartreuse green.

Lucky Bamboo

Dracaena sanderiana is not a bamboo at all, but rather a dracaena with a pliable stem that is often woven into elaborate shapes. It grows quite well directly in water or gravel filled with water.

Madagascar Dragontree

Dracaena marginata may be grown either as a multiple-stem shrub or tree. Stems of tree-form plants often are trained to grow with crooks or bends. Deep green straplike leaves are edged with a narrow band of maroon.

Ribbon Plant

Dracaena sanderiana ‘Variegata’ is the same species as lucky bamboo, but its leaf margins are creamy white. It is sometimes grown in terrariums because it remains shorter than most other dracaenas.

‘Song of India’ Pleomele

Dracaena reflexa ‘Song of India’ is a shrubby plant, usually grown with multiple stems in a pot. Leaves are edged with a band of gold and are 6-8 inches long. It is sometimes sold as Pleomele reflexa.

‘Tricolor’ Dracaena

Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor’ or rainbow plant is a lighter color version of Madagascar dragontree. Its narrow straplike leaves have a central band of medium green, surrounded by a narrow gold band, and edged with a stripe of red.

‘Warneckii’ Green Dracaena

Dracaena deremensis ‘Warneckii’ is one of the most popular varieties. It has straplike leaves with narrow bands of white, gray green, and medium green.

Dracaena reflexa is a popular houseplant with origins in Madagascar and other Indian ocean islands. The origin of the plant name comes from the ancient Greek word drakaina or “female dragon,” due to a red gum-like resin in the stems of dracaena that was likened to dragon blood. Centuries ago, this resin was used for toothpaste, dyes, and medicines. Today, it is still used for varnish and photoengraving. The dracaena plant is also known as the Song of India and Pleomele.

Dracaena plant care is fairly simple, and they can even withstand a certain amount of neglect. Best of all, dracaena help purify the air we breathe.

Dracaena Overview

The dracaena plant is a popular ornamental houseplant, grown both indoors and outdoors in subtropical climates. It reaches a height of about three feet indoors, and has a bushy tree type of look. Its glossy leaves can grow up to one foot long and a couple of inches wide.

From the asparagus family (Asparagaceae), the genus dracaena comprises about 40 species. The most popular cultivar is the yellow edged variegata type named Song of India. An interesting fact about dracaena is that it possesses a secondary thickening meristem (the tissue which helps plants grow). Its secondary meristem allows it to grow wide, thick and succulent roots.

Not only does its dramatic foliage with beautiful color patterns make a great focal point in any room, but dracaena can also help improve air quality. Wiping both the upper surfaces and undersides of the leaves regularly with a damp cloth allows the plant to exchange air freely.

Types of Dracaena


Dracaena Reflexa
Commonly known as song of india or pleomele, Dracaena reflexa is the most common of the dracaena species. As one of the most visually striking houseplants, the leaves are its main attraction. You can’t miss the yellow stripes featured on the narrow pointed leaves of this houseplant. This adaptable, houseplant thrives indoors or a partially-shady outdoor area, like a patio.

Dracaena Marginata
Commonly known as red-edge dracaena or Madagascar dragon tree, Dracaena marginata is an evergreen tree that can grow eight to 15 feet high and three to eight feet wide with proper care. It has stiff purplish-red leaves and slim, curving stalks for trunks. Since it cannot tolerate low light but is not frost hardy, it is often grown indoors. They make excellent houseplants because they are drought tolerant and among the more forgiving dracaena plants.


Dracaena Massangeana
Dracaena fragrans massangeana or Dracaena massangeana is commonly referred to as mass cane or corn plant, and is widely used indoors. It is inexpensive compared to other houseplants, and the least expensive of the dracaena varieties. Mass cane is characterized by its thick, woody canes and long strap-like leaves. Although moderate natural lighting is ideal, it is tolerant of low light conditions. Dracaena massangeana grows slowly, so it can fit in a particular space for a long time without requiring much maintenance.

Dracaena Care Tips

If you’re wondering how to care for dracaena, we’ve got you covered with these growing tips. In general, dracaena care is relatively simple.

Light: Filtered indoor light (such as through a sheer curtain in front of a sunny window) or a semi-shade spot is an ideal location. Never place a dracaena plant in direct sun, as the rays will scorch its foliage.

Water: Dracaena require less water than most indoor plants. Keep them hydrated by misting the leaves with water and keeping the soil lightly misted (never soggy) as well with good drainage. Always allow the top soil to dry out before watering. Do not overwater, as it may cause root rot.

Drooping or yellowing leaves could indicate over-watering or poor drainage, but don’t worry if you notice the bottom leaves beginning to turn yellow and fall. It is normal for dracaena to shed leaves in order to grow new ones.

These plants are sensitive to fluoride, which can be found in tap water, so it’s essential to use purified water when caring for this plant. Leaves with dark brown and dead areas with yellow edges may indicate fluoride toxicity.

Temperatures: Dracaena prefers temperatures ranging from 65 – 78℉ during the day. Night temperatures can drop about ten degrees cooler, but cold drafts and temperatures below 55℉ will harm the plant. Make sure that you display your dracaena away from any heating or cooling appliances. Natural room humidity is fine seeing as the dracaena is such a hardy houseplant, but it does prefer the higher humidity of its natural rainforest habitat. You can improve humidity with a commercial humidifier or by placing the plant on a tray of pebbles, with water reaching just below the pebble tops.

Toxicity: Toxic to cats and dogs, if eaten. Cats may have dilated pupils, and both cats and dogs can present symptoms such as vomiting, excess saliva and lack of appetite. As a pet owner, it’s important to select your houseplants with care and doing so means being educated about plants that are poisonous to our furry friends.

Pests and Problems: Dracaena plants are generally free from serious insect or disease problems. However, you should watch out for mealybugs, spider mites, and scale. Mealybugs and scale can both be treated with an insecticide that contains pyrethrin.

Dracaena is an adaptable, easy-to-care for house plant that does well indoors or outdoors in partial shade if you live in a subtropical area. Now that you know how easy it is to care for a dracaena plant, and are ready to grow one in your own home, check out our wide selection here.

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