Dracaena marginata, often thought to be a palm tree, is a truly magnificent indoor plant.
Key Dracaena marginata facts
Name – Dracaena marginata (horticulture)
Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia (scientific)
Family – Agavoideae (formerly 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
Here is advice on caring for your Dracaena marginata.
- Focus: Dracaena marginata watering
Growing Dracaena marginata
Potted dracaena marginata
Growing Dracaena marginata in a pot requires good soil mix that can be amended with ⅓ compost, if you’ve got some at hand.
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 roots won’t wallow in water, which could be fatal to it.
- Set your Dracaena marginata up in a fair-sized pot filled with special indoor plant or green plant soil mix.
- It may be necessary to repot it in spring every 2 or 3 years.
- When not repotting then go for regular topdressing. This should perfectly answer growing needs of the plant.
Outdoor dracaena marginata
Growing dracaena marginata outdoors is only possible in warm climates because this plant can’t stand the cold.
- Generally speaking, dracaena marginata is intolerant to the cold and will only grow outside in places where the temperature never drops below 63 to 65°F (17 to 18°C), even in winter.
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 potting blend of soil mix, garden soil and sand.
Exposure for Dracaena marginata
Under temperate climates, Dracaena marginata 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, even direct sunlight. In tropical climates, Dracaena marginata can grow very large!
- Select a place for it near a window facing to the South or West in the Northern hemisphere, and North or West if you live in the Southern hemisphere.
- This ensures it would bathe in a good deal of both indirect light and sunlight.
If you live in a house that is quite dark, avoid dracaena because it won’t cope with the low luminosity if you water too much.
If the soil is allowed to dry well – almost like a cactus – between waterings, all of these Dracaenas do well for years and years in low light.
– Marlie Graves, interior landscaper
If you live in tropical climates, closer to the equator, Dracaena marginata will thrive outdoors with little or even no care.
- Read on: Dracaena marginata in the wild
Dracaena marginata watering
Outdoors, you won’t have to worry very much: as long as the soil drains well, rainfall will cover the plant’s needs.
Inside, as a houseplant, the biggest trap is overwatering: your dracaena will get yellow leaves and die. Make sure the soil dries out entirely before watering again.
- More instructions on when and how to water your D. marginata
- Special: drought resistance of Dracaena marginata
Multiplying and propagating Dracaena marginata
Learn more about Dracaena marginata
Although some varieties look very similar to them, Dracaena marginata isn’t a palm tree. It’s in a houseplant category that’s called “false palm”, which looks similar to real palms like the Areca palm or the saw palmetto.
All in one aesthetic, resilient and very easy to grow, this is one of the most appreciated and purchased indoor plants the world over.
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.
- When grown in containers or pots, it can last years, even up to a decade, if properly repotted, topdressed and cared for.
Proper name for Dracaena marginata
Dracaena marginata has a troubled name history. The scientific name for the dragon plant is Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia. In garden stores, the simpler name “Dracaena marginata” prevails. Originally, Dracaena marginata Lam. was associated to the plant, after botanist Charles Lamoureux. He was first to describe the plant.
Seeing the “reflexa” in the classification name shows how close a relative dracaena marginata is to the famed “Song of India”.
Dracaena marginata varieties
Occasionally Dracaena marginata will go to seed and new hybrids will appear. Mutations also may appear in cells that grow into a branch with new characteristics. From these, dracaena cuttings can be prepared and this leads to a new type of Dracaena marginata.
Here are a few of the dracaena marginata varieties
- Plain Dracaena marginata – this is the regular ‘type variety‘ against which other varieties are compared
- Dracaena marginata ‘colorama’
- Dracaena marginata ‘tricolor’
- D. marginata ‘tarzan’ – this cultivar has a plant patent on it.
- Dracaena marginata ‘bicolor’
- Dracaena marginata ‘magenta’
A few newer cultivars came out in recent years:
- Dracaena marginata ‘Ray of Sunshine’ and another very similar to it, the D. marginata ‘kiwi’
Dracaena marginata diseases & parasites
Falling or withering leaves on Dracaena marginata
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.
- In case you’ve forgotten to water your plant altogether, the Dracaena marginata drought reaction is to shed its lower leaves.
Dracaena marginata 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).
Dracaena marginata leaves turn yellow
If the plant continues to produce new leaves, this is part of your dracaena’s natural cycle. All plants, even evergreen trees, lose their leaves to renew them. The yellowing shows that nutrients are being pulled back into the tree before the leaf detaches and falls.
- However, if no new shoots appear and your dracaena looks droopy, it might have fallen victim to red spider mite. This is frequent in dry settings. Treat the plant with an insecticide.
If many leaves turn yellow and droop over, check if you’re overwatering the dracaena. In extreme cases, the stem starts turning soft and bends over.
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.
- Other strong spirits or alcohols also work, like vodka, gin or rhum.
- If there are only a few bugs, use a cotton bud to pinpoint the pests without dousing the whole plant.
- Read the tips you need to fight mealybugs
Dracaena marginata leaves turn pale without any pests
Leaves are pale but still feel firm. Lack of light usually is the cause of this.
- Transfer your Dracaena marginata to a window facing full sun, or at least a well-lit room.
Dracaena marginata leaves has brown spots
Too much sun or dry air can lead to leaves showing signs of water stress.
- Check if the plant has been watered recently
- Follow watering recommendations listed above
If necessary, place the pot of the dracaena on a tray filled with clay pebbles or gravel. Douse the gravel or clay with water. Evaporation creates extra moisture around the plant. Ensure the pot itself doesn’t sit in water, but rests above it. Tips on using clay balls as air humidifiers.
Dracaena marginata brown tips
If you water your dragon plant with tap water, excessive fluoride may disturb the plant’s normal functions.
- Fluoride causes necrosis and discoloration and inhibits leaf growth
- Use rainwater to water your plant
Smart tip about Dracaena marginata, the dragon plant
When propagating your dracaena, you can actually prepare several cuttings at a time! Chop the stem into as many one foot (30 cm) pieces as you can. Place stems in a separate glass of water and you’ll see roots and leaves sprout for each cutting.
Dracaena marginata on social media
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Dracaena marginata leaf crown (also on social media) by Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois, own work
Dracaena marginata outdoors by Glenn Brown under © CC BY-NC 2.0
D. marginata at home by Flower Council Holland / the joy of plants
Shaded dracaena marginata (also on social media) by Mike Marquez under Unsplash license