Dracaena, care, diseases, varieties

The specific care that’s needed for a dracaena, how and when it should be repotted, watered and what diseases infect it.

Key Dracaena facts

Name – Dracaena, dragon tree
Family – Agavaceae
Type – indoor plant

Height – 3 to 6 ½ feet (1 to 2 meters)
Exposure – very well-lit, or even full sun
Soil – soil mix

Foliage – evergreen

These are the answers to the many questions that can arise when one has the luck of owning a magnificent dragon tree.

Planting and repotting dracaena

There are many cultivars with different foliage but all are cared after in similar fashion.

Dracaena in pots

Dracaena requires good soil mix that can be amended with â…“ compost, if you’ve got any.

In order to enhance drainage, pour clay pebbles or small stones into the pot to form a layer at the bottom.
This will help ensure that roots won’t wallow in water, which could be fatal to it.

  • Set up your dracaena in a fair-sized pot filled with special indoor plant or green plant soil mix.
  • Although it may be necessary to repot it in spring every 2 or 3 years, when not repotting then go for regular topdressing which should also perfectly answer the growth medium needs of the plant.
  • Certain species like goldieana, sanderana and surculosa don’t need repotting because their growth is very slow.

Dracaena outdoors

Just as is practiced for plants in pots, feel free to place a bed of gravel, small stones or clay pebbles to drain the water better.
Atop this layer, you’ll be using a blend of soil mix, garden soil and sand.

Generally speaking, dracaena is intolerant to the cold and will only grow outside wherever the climate is quite warm with a temperature always higher than 63 to 65°F (17 to 18°C).

The most hardy variety, Dracena draco, can withstand temperatures as low as 34 or 35°F (1 to 2°C).

Where to place your indoor Dracaena

Under our climates, Dracaena adapts well to living indoors in our apartments and homes.
It grows best when surrounding temperatures hold at around 70 to 72°F (20 to 22°C) and requires very good light, and even direct sunlight.

Choose for it a place near a South or West-facing window so that it would bathe in a good deal of both indirect light and sunlight.

If you live in a house that is quite dark, avoid purchasing dracaena because it won’t cope well with the lack of luminosity.

Watering dracaena

All year long, mist water on the leaves, preferably soft water.

In spring and summer

This is usually the time of the year when dracaena grows most.
Water regularly while letting the soil mix dry in the surface before watering again.

Watering must be regular but limited, in order to not suffocate the plant’s roots.
You might say that watering every 4 or 5 days is largely sufficient.

More or less every two weeks, you can offer it some liquid fertilizer, taking great care to moisten the soil mix beforehand.

Starting in fall and then in winter

Start reducing the watering because the plant water needs begin to decrease.
Only when the soil is dry down to the first inch or so (a couple centimeters), water to moisten the entire soil mix clump again.

Again, one might contend that watering one or 2 times a month should suffice.
But this also depends on where your dracaena is placed: if it is in full sun, its needs will surely be higher.

  • This season is also when to stop adding fertilizer, from October all the way to March and April.
  • If you don’t change your watering rhythm, Dracaena leaves turning yellow is what you’ll experience due to overwatering and root rot.

Diseases and parasites that attack dracaena

Falling or withering leaves

This is undoubtedly due to lack of light or excess water.

  • Find a more exposed location for it and reduce watering to match our recommendations above.

The Dracaena loses its leaves

This is what happens when the dracaena is too cold.

  • Find a more appropriate location for it, it requires minimum temperatures of 65-66°F (18-19°C) and ideally 70 to 72°F (20 to 22°C).

Leaves turn yellow

If the plant continues to produce new leaves, this is part of your dracaena’s natural cycle. Trees, even evergreen trees, lose their leaves to renew them.

  • However, if no new shoots appear and your dracaena looks a bit sad, it might have fallen victim to red spider mites due to an excessively dry atmosphere.
    If so, you must treat the plant with an insecticide. Here is more on removing spider mite.
  • Large number of yellow Dracaena leaves? Follow the link to check if you aren’t overwatering your Dracaena.

White velvety spots appear, leaves turn pale and lose their colors

This is surely due to an onslaught of scale insects.

  • You can eliminate scale insects with a rag dipped in methylated spirits, carefully rinsing the leaves with water afterwards.
  • Read the tips you need on fighting mealybugs

Dracaena varieties

There are quite a few amazing types of Dracaena! Their look is sometimes stick-drawing-like spindly and sometimes they’re outright massive giants. Here are the main varieties, two of which are familiar houseplants that also each have sub-varieties.

If ever you can get your hands on a Dracaena variety you find appealing, check with the owner and ask whether it’s ok to cut a stem off. They’re very easy to propagate!

Learn more about dracaena

Although some varieties look very similar to palm trees, dracaena isn’t a palm tree.
But the similarity is confusing and the care it needs is often very close to that of a palm tree.

All in one aesthetic, resilient and very easy to grow, this is one of the most appreciated and often-purchased indoor plants.

Its foliage is particularly elegant and unique, and its shape and bearing brings a touch of exotic life to a living room, dining area, or any other room of the house that is well-lit.

  • The lifespan of a dracaena can be long, provided it isn’t infected with the diseases that sometimes impact these trees.

Read also:


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Collection of dracaena houseplants by Flower Council Holland / the joy of plants