Dracaena marginata, caring for Madagascar dragon tree

Dracaena marginata - dragon tree

Dracaena marginata, often thought to be a palm tree, is a truly magnificent indoor plant.

Dracaena marginata facts

NameDracaena marginata or
Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia
Common – Madagascar Dragon tree

Type – indoor plant
Height – 3 to 6 ½ feet (1 to 2 meters)
Exposure – very well-lit, even full sun

Soil: soil mix       –       Foliage: evergreen

Here is advice on caring for your Dracaena marginata.

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Growing and care for Dracaena marginata

The Madagascar Dragon tree is a rare houseplant: it can take full sun indoors!

Potted Dragon tree

Growing Dracaena marginata in a pot requires good soil mix that can be amended with ⅓ compost, if you’ve got some at hand.

Dracaena marginata in a potIn order to enhance drainage, spread clay pebbles or small stones into the pot to form a layer at the bottom.
This will ensure roots won’t wallow in water, which could be fatal.

  • 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

Dracaena marginata outdoorGrowing 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. It will only grow outside in places where it 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 water out better.

  • Atop this layer, use a potting blend of soil mix, garden soil and sand.

Exposure for Dracaena marginata

Beautiful Dracaena marginata with blue sky.The dragon tree adapts well to living indoors in apartments and homes.
It grows best when surrounding temperatures hold at around 70 to 72°F (20 to 22°C). It requires very good light, even direct sunlight.

  • 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 gets both indirect light and sunlight.

If you live in a dark house, avoid dracaena: it can’t cope with low light if you water too much.


If the soil is allowed to dry well between waterings – almost like a cactus – all of these Dracaenas do well for years and years in low light.

– Marlie Graves, interior landscaper

If you live in tropical climates, Dracaena marginata will thrive outdoors with little or even no care.

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, remember the “seven-day rule“: optimum water is every 7 days, once a week.

The biggest trap is overwatering: your dracaena will get yellow leaves and die. Make sure soil dries out entirely before watering again.

Multiplying and propagating Dracaena marginata

Learn more about Dracaena marginata

Though clearly a look-alike, Dracaena marginata isn’t a palm tree. It’s in a category called “false palms”, plants similar to real palms like Areca palm and saw palmetto.

Luckily, the care it needs is nearly identical to that of a palm tree.

All in one aesthetic, resilient and very easy to grow, this is one of the most appreciated and successful houseplants ever.

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

  • The lifespan of a dracena plant extends over decades if it doesn’t fall sick.
  • In pots this is shorter: about 10-15 years if properly repotted, topdressed and cared for.

Proper name for Dracaena marginata

Dracaena marginata has a confusing name history. The scientific name for the dragon plant is Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia.  In stores, the simpler names “Dracaena marginata” and Dragon tree prevail.

The Dracaena genus is extensive. Many cousins of Dracaena marginata are also grown as houseplants, like Dracaena massangeana.

Dracaena marginata varieties

  • Occasionally a dragon plant flower will bear seeds: new hybrids.
  • Mutations (sports) may appear in cells and produce a branch with new characteristics.

From these, cuttings can lead to a new type of Dracaena marginata.

Common types of dragon tree

  • Plain Dracaena marginata – ‘type variety‘, serves as reference
  • Dracaena marginata ‘colorama’
  • Dracaena marginata ‘tricolor’
  • D. marginata ‘tarzan’ – this cultivar has a plant patent on it.
  • Dracaena marginata ‘bicolor’
  • Dracaena marginata ‘magenta’

In recent years:

Dracaena marginata diseases & parasites

Dracaena marginata, like most houseplants, may fall victim to pests and diseases. Troubleshoot  issues here:

Smart tip about the dragon plant

When propagating dracaena, prepare several cuttings at a time! Chop the stem into as many 1 foot (30 cm) pieces as you can. Place in water for roots and leaves to sprout on each.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
adobestock: Studio Light and Shade
CC BY-NC 2.0: Glenn Brown
Flower Council Holland
own work: Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois
Pixabay: Gabriele Lässer
Unsplash: Mike Marquez