Everything You Need to Know About Dracaena Marginata Light Requirements at Home

Dracaena Marginata (aka the Dragon Tree) is a striking indoor tropical plant with slender leaves that requires medium to bright, indirect light to thrive. Although it tolerates low light conditions, its growth slows down considerably, and its health suffers. A location near an east-facing window is ideal as temperatures are cooler and the morning sun is milder than the afternoon sun. 

How Much Light Do Dracaena Marginata Plants Need? – The Essentials

Light is vital for photosynthesis, and many plants need direct sun to grow. Dracaena Marginata does not like direct sunlight, even if it is coming through window glass. The leaves of Dracaena marginata, or the Dragon Tree, are light-sensitive and will burn in direct sunlight. 

Light intensity is measured in foot candles or one lumen per square foot. Depending on the weather, outdoor sunlight ranges from four thousand to over eleven thousand foot candles (ft-c). Direct sunlight through a window is usually between one thousand and eight thousand ft-c and is too bright for the plant.

Dracaena Marginata prefers medium to bright, indirect light. It can tolerate lower light conditions but will grow much more slowly. A handheld light meter measures light intensity in different areas of your home, but make sure it is set to foot candles.

A Brief Overview Of The Role Light Plays In Plant Health, Growth, Why It’s Important

A Brief Overview Of The Role Light Plays In Plant Health, Growth, Why It's Important

You probably know that plants need light, but have you ever considered why? In short, light helps plants produce the food they need to complete essential functions. This process is known as photosynthesis.

While photosynthesis is a complex process, we can break it down into a simple equation. Dracaena plants take in carbon dioxide and water and use the sun’s energy to convert these inputs into oxygen and glucose. They then use these glucose molecules to produce other molecules and power functions like respiration.

What all this means is that plants need light to survive. However, light needs vary between plants. Plants will suffer if they receive too much, not enough light, or the wrong type of light.

Common Light Terminology

Common Light Terminology

With that in mind, it’s helpful to understand the different types of light. When reading through plant care guides, you may come upon the following terms.

Bright direct light: 

The light does not go through a filter before hitting a plant. It causes harsh shadows and is found right next to south-facing or west-facing windows.

Bright indirect light: 

This type of light is strong but is obscured by another object before hitting your plant. The light that filters through a sheer curtain or bounces off a wall is considered bright, indirect light. You can find bright, indirect light a few feet away from south-facing windows.

Low light: 

This type of light is found in dim but not dark areas. Think of places like a hallway without windows or a dim corner.


Medium-light falls in between bright and low light. North-facing windows typically offer medium light, as do interior locations of bright rooms.

Filtered light is when there are tree canopies or curtains between the plant and the sunlight that reduce its intensity. Full sun equates to direct sunlight for at least six hours each day. Indirect light means that the light bounces off other surfaces before reaching the plant, while direct light indicates that the sun’s rays have unimpeded access.

Along with the type of light, you’ll need to think about the number of hours of light. Some locations may receive bright, indirect light for two hours and low light for the remainder of the day.

Typical Light Conditions Dracaena Marginata Plants Receive In Their Native Habitats

Typical Light Conditions Dracaena Marginata Plants Receive In Their Native Habitats

The Indian Ocean islands of Madagascar and Mauritius are the native home of Dracaena Marginata. They have tropical climates with bright, sunny conditions. Thunderstorms typically occur in the afternoons in the rainy season, so the sun still shines in the mornings.

Signs Your Dracaena Marginata Plant Is Receiving Too Much Light

Brown leaf tips or curling leaves may indicate that your Dracaena Marginata is getting too much light. Plants have a limited ability to control how much light they absorb, so the location where they grow is essential. Too much light is as undesirable as too little, causing stress and disrupting the plant’s biochemical systems.

Signs Your Dracaena Marginata Plant Isn’t Receiving Enough Light

When Dracaena Marginata doesn’t get enough light, new leaves grow out pale, and their variegation disappears. Insufficient light impedes photosynthesis, and the plant eventually becomes malnourished. It wilts, and the leaves may curl and lose their vibrance. These may also be signs that your Dracaena Marginata is ready to be repotted.

The Best Light Exposure For Dracaena Marginata Plants Grown Indoors

The Best Light Exposure For Dracaena Marginata Plants Grown Indoors

Dracaena Marginata plants thrive best in a location that receives bright, indirect light throughout the majority of the day.

An east-facing aspect would be ideal, somewhere a few feet from a window behind drawn blinds or curtains to filter out some of the direct early morning light.

South or west-facing rooms are also suitable, you’ll just need to be cautious with direct light exposure.

If a window is too bright, you can filter the light with a sheer curtain, put an awning on the outside or plant a leafy shrub or small tree as a screen. You may have to move your plant with the changing seasons because a south-facing window that’s fine in winter could get too bright in summer. 

Dracaena marginata has an upright growth habit, so it doesn’t incline towards the light source like other plants. Rotating the pot periodically if the stem is leaning slightly won’t do any harm.

Dracaena Marginata Light Requirements FAQs

Can Dracaena Marginata Plants Live In Low Light?

Yes, they can, but they will not thrive and put out as many new leaves. If light levels are consistently too low, they will stop growing or produce small, stunted leaves, lose variegation and turn yellow. Dracaena Marginata needs a medium to bright indirect light to flourish.

Can Dracaena Marginata Plants Take Full Sun?

No, direct full sun will scorch the leaves. It can grow huge outdoors in warm climates comparable to its native habitat, but it cannot handle the cold. When grown indoors, temperatures and light intensity can become too high if the sun shines directly through a window for hours.

Nurseries and garden shops don’t cultivate the Dracaena Marginata plants they sell in direct sunlight, so they are unaccustomed to it.

What Kind Of Light Do Dracaena Plants Need?

If you have a light, airy house, Dracaena marginata will do just fine a few feet from a south- or east-facing window. If the house’s interior only has low light, you may need to use a grow light. The plant needs indirect light as direct sun will damage the leaves.

Will Dracaena Marginata Plants Live Happily Indoors

Yes, Dracaena Marginata is a popular plant that thrives indoors, provided it gets enough light, is planted in well-draining soil, and is not overwatered.

How Do You Know If Your Dracaena Marginata Is Getting Enough Light?

A happy Dracaena Marginata has perky, variegated leaves with no yellowing or brown spots. The green parts of the leaves are bright green, and the plant puts out new ones regularly. If the leaves look bleached and have brown tips, it is getting too much light, but there is not enough light if they are pale and yellowing.

Wrapping Up 

Dracaena Marginata needs medium to bright indirect light to thrive indoors. It does not grow as well in low light conditions, and direct sunlight scorches the leaves. The best location is a few feet away from an east- or south-facing window out of direct sunlight.


I’ve long been fascinated with the world of flowers, plants, and floral design. I come from a family of horticulturists and growers and spent much of my childhood in amongst the fields of flowering blooms and greenhouses filled with tropical plants, cacti, and succulents from all over the world. Today, my passion has led me to further explore the world of horticulture, botany, and floristry and I'm always excited to meet and collaborate with fellow enthusiasts and professionals from across the globe. I hold a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and have trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris.

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