In the dead of winter, the best way to warm your home is with fire. So, why not adopt a dragon? A dragon tree, that is. You’ll love this fiery houseplant for its exotic silhouette and low-maintenance needs. It’ll only devour one village per year. Just kidding. Keep reading to find out the ins and outs of dragon tree plant care at home (Dracaena marginata), including what they actually eat and how to grow one of your own. Whoever believed that dragons weren’t real anyway?
- Dragon Tree Plant Care Essentials:
- How to Grow Dragon Trees at Home:
- How to Care for Indoor Dragon Trees:
- Common Dragon Tree Problems and How to Fix Them
- What You Need: Dragon Tree Growing Supplies
- About Dragon Trees (Dracaena Marginata)
- Growing Dragon Trees FAQs:
- Dragon Tree Plant Care at Home – Wrapping Up
Dragon Tree Plant Care Essentials:
|Common Name:||Dragon Tree, Madagascar Dragon Tree|
|Scientific Name:||Dracaena marginata|
|Soil:||Well-draining, loamy soil; prefers slightly acidic to neutral pH (6.0-7.0)|
|Light:||Bright, indirect light; can tolerate lower light conditions, but growth may be slower|
|Watering:||Allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again; do not allow the plant to sit in water|
|Temperature:||Ideal range is between 65-80°F (18-27°C); does not tolerate temperatures below 50°F (10°C)|
|Fertilizing:||Feed with a balanced liquid fertilizer once a month during the growing season (spring and summer); reduce fertilizing in fall and winter|
|Pruning:||Prune to maintain desired size and shape; can also propagate from stem cuttings|
|Pests:||Common pests include spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects; they can be managed with regular cleaning, appropriate watering, and the use of insecticidal soaps or neem oil if needed|
|Toxicity:||Toxic to pets, especially cats and dogs, if ingested; it’s best to keep plants out of reach from pets and small children|
How to Grow Dragon Trees at Home:
Growth Expectations – Dracaena Marginata
Although they grow relatively slowly compared to other houseplants, mature dragon trees are worth the wait. In their natural habitat, dragon trees can reach up to 20 feet in height with about 10-foot foliage spread. Growing indoors, a mature dragon will likely reach around 6 feet in height with up to three-foot foliage spread.
Preparing to Plant
Before planting, find a good location for your new Dracaena marginata. Choose a room with plenty of bright sunlight and find a spot well away from cold air drafts coming from air conditioning vents, leaky windows, or exterior doors.
Then make sure you have all the supplies you need. Dragon trees grow tall and skinny, making them perfect for tabletop containers and large pots for the floor. Choose a well-draining container 2 to 3 inches larger than your plant’s root ball. Then find an all-purpose houseplant potting soil, perlite or loam, and pebbles or lava rock.
The Best Dragon Tree Soil Mix
Dragon trees are low-maintenance and can survive in just about any well-draining soil. However, they’ll do best in a mix containing 50% neutral (6 to 7 pH) houseplant potting soil and 50% loam or perlite.
How to Plant a Dragon Tree
- Prepare a soil mix of 1/2 to 1/3 potting soil and 1/2 to 2/3 perlite or loam.
- Create a 1 to 2-inch layer of pebbles or lava rock at the bottom of your container.
- Add a few inches of soil and place your dragon tree’s root ball on top. Be sure you have at least 2 or 3 inches of space between the top of the roots and the top of the container.
- Fill in around the sides with your remaining soil mixture until the entire root ball is covered and only 1 to 2 inches of space remains in the pot.
- Water thoroughly and allow all excess moisture to drain. This should settle the soil. You can add more to the top of your plant if needed.
- Finally, place your dragon tree in its new location and enjoy.
For more, see our complete guide to the best soil mix for Dracaena marginata.
Dracaena Marginata Light Preferences
Indoor dragon trees prefer bright, indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight will scorch their leaves. While they can tolerate lower-light conditions, dragon trees won’t produce foliage of the same brilliance as they would with proper sunlight. A room with a south-facing window is best, as long as you don’t put your plant directly in front of the window.
For more, see our in-depth guide on where to position Dracaena marginata plants in the home for optimal care and Feng Shui benefits.
Temperature and Humidity Preferences
Dracaena marginata grows best in temperatures ranging from 65°F and 80°F. Average household humidity is usually adequate. If your home is particularly dry or you live in an arid environment, you can mist your plant’s leaves with water once a week. Alternatively, you can place your plant atop a homemade humidity tray. Simply fill a cake tin with pebbles and add water.
How to Care for Indoor Dragon Trees:
How to Water a Dragon Tree
In an average environment, a dragon tree will need watering once or twice a month (more frequently in the spring/summer and less frequently in the fall/winter).
Overwatering is one of the most common pitfalls of dragon tree care. That being said, dragon trees do like their soil to always hold a little moisture. It’s best to water a dragon tree when the top half of its soil is dry. A moisture meter or soil probe can help you monitor your plant’s needs.
Dragon trees are sensitive to fluoride and salty water. They’re best watered with distilled, filtered, or non-fluoridated water.
Fertilizing a Dragon Tree
Slow-growing dragon trees don’t require much feeding. To avoid burning the roots, only fertilize once at the beginning of the growing season. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer that’s been diluted to half-strength.
For more, see our in-depth guide on when and how to fertilize Dracaena marginata plants at home.
Pruning a Dragon Tree
Dragon trees don’t have to be pruned. However, they’re very tolerant of pruning, and trimming them back can help you obtain the desired look. You can trim their leaves to remove brown tips or weak growth areas. You can also prune a dracaena by cutting its stem to shorten your plant or remove branches.
Whatever your desired look, be sure only to prune your plant during the growing season and always use sharp, sterile pruning shears.
How to Propagate a Dragon Tree
Like pruning, dragon trees should only be propagated during the spring and summer. They’re easy to propagate with stem cuttings. You can simply cut a portion of the stem from the tree’s main trunk and then plant it in soil.
If you remove a sizeable portion of the trunk from your plant, you can cut it into several smaller sections (at least 4 inches long). Keep track of which end is the root and which is the top. Plant each section root-side-down in soil and water. New growth should appear within weeks.
To speed the propagation process, dip the root side of your cuttings in growth hormone before planting.
How to Repot a Dragon Tree
Dracaena Marginata should be repotted during the spring or summer. They actually like to be slightly root-bound, so they don’t need to be repotted too frequently. On average, repotting once every two years should be often enough – unless you notice your plant’s roots sprouting above the soil or a root coil pushing your plant up and out of its container.
To repot, first find a new, well-draining container no more than two or three inches larger than your current pot. Remove your dragon tree from its current container and tease the soil from its roots. If yours has a large coil of root, this can be trimmed away (to repot in the same container and restrain growth) or left intact (to move into a new container and encourage growth).
Then simply, follow the potting instructions from above.
Common Dragon Tree Problems and How to Fix Them
Dragon trees are easier to train than actual dragons, but you could still encounter a few problems.
Soft, Browning Leaves
Leaves might go soft and brown if your plant is water-logged and suffering from root rot or if your plant has gotten too cold. First, check the plant’s soil and ensure it drains properly. Next, check the room temperature and ensure your plant is in a location that’s completely safe from cool drafts. Move the plant to a warmer area, if necessary.
Brown Leaf Tips
Cold drafts can also cause leaf tips to brown. Additionally, dry air and drought can also lead to brown leaf tips. If you’re sure your plant is safe from blasts of cold air, try increasing the frequency of your watering schedule, misting your plant with water once a week, and/or adding a nearby humidifier.
Yellow leaves on dracaena marginata plants are a common sign of dehydration. Increase your watering schedule and provide enough water to balance the sunlight, temperature, and humidity.
Brown Spots on Leaves
Brown spots indicate thirst. While ensuring excess water drains completely, increase your watering schedule to keep the soil always moist.
Discolored Stem and Losing Leaves
If your plant has a discolored stem or is losing many leaves, it likely has root rot. Several different types of fungi can cause root rot. They’re all brought about by over-watering.
If your plant has root rot, remove it from its container. Trim off any diseased roots (they’ll look and feel slimy). Repot in clean soil and adjust your watering routine.
Why is my Dracaena Marginata Plant Not Blooming?
Don’t worry if your dracaena hasn’t bloomed. Indoor dragon trees rarely bloom. If you live in hardiness zone 10 to 12, you can move your plant outdoors during spring and summer to encourage flowering. If not, don’t fret. Sit back and enjoy your whimsical plant’s foliage and spiraling trunk.
What You Need: Dragon Tree Growing Supplies
- All-purpose houseplant potting soil
- Perlite or loam
- Lava rock
- Well-draining pot
- Watering can and misting bottle
- Water-soluble fertilizer
- Moisture meter or soil probe
- Sharp secateurs
About Dragon Trees (Dracaena Marginata)
What Is a Dragon Tree?
Native to the island after which it was named, the Madagascar dragon tree is more simply referred to as the dragon tree (Dracaena marginata). It’s one of about 120 species of succulent shrubs and trees that belong to the genus Dracaena, under the Asperagaceae (yep, the same family as the notorious vegetables) family of flowering plants and the sub-family Nolinoideae.
Dragon trees are most notable for their unique looks. They start with a long, narrow trunk that spires upward. Atop the spindly, brown trunk, dragon trees sprout a tuft of spikey, green leaves edged with red. Mature plants will produce branches, each equally slender with a pom-pom of stiff, sword-shaped leaves at the end. Apart from their traditional brown-and-green colors, dragon trees look a little like the Truffula Trees that grew inside Dr. Seuss’s imagination.
Outdoors, dragon trees produce fragrant white flowers and yellowish-orange berries. Cultivated indoors, however, blooming is unlikely.
5 Most Popular Indoor Dragon Tree Cultivars
- Classic Dragon Tree – Features dark-green leaves rimmed with red.
- D. Marginata ‘Bicolor’ – Leaves striped with red and green.
- D. Marginata ‘Tricolor’ – This plant has similar leaf markings to the original with a band of yellow between the green and red.
- D. Marginata ‘Colorama’ – An accentuated red rim gives the plant an overall pinkish and green look.
- D. Marginata ‘Tarzan’ – The Tarzan is similar in color to the original dragon tree, but its leaves are much tougher, thicker, and broader. They also grow in a slightly different pattern that resembles the spiky ball of a dragon’s tail.
How Long Do Dragon Trees Live?
The plant’s lifespan is not precisely known, but we do know that they can live for centuries. A close relative of the Dracaena marginata, a Dracaena draco growing on the island of Tenerife is estimated to be nearly 300 years old.
Are Dragon Trees Poisonous?
Dragon trees contain saponins which are toxic to dogs and cats. They’re not considered toxic to humans, but dragon trees can irritate sensitive individuals. Precautions should be taken to avoid accidental ingestion by pets or children.
Dragon Tree Uses and Benefits
In addition to looking beautiful, the dragon tree is an air-purifying powerhouse. NASA’s clean air study found that while replenishing oxygen, dragon trees remove toxins like trichloroethylene, xylene, and formaldehyde from your indoor atmosphere.
Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata) Meaning and Symbolism
The name of the Dragon tree’s genus, Dracaena comes from the Greek word for female dragon. The genus of plants earned this name thanks to the red, blood-colored sap that drips from broken or lacerated trunks and stems.
Not all Dracaena species produce this vermillion-colored sap, but it was enough to give them the reputation of dripping dragon’s blood. You can find them in Greek mythology where they were said to have sprouted from a trail of blood from a dragon called Ladon that was slain by Hercules.
Growing Dragon Trees FAQs:
How do you care for a dracaena marginata?
Dracaena marginata should be potted using a soil mix of 1/2 to 1/3 potting soil and 1/2 to 2/3 perlite or loam. Find a spot in your home with bright, indirect sunlight throughout the day where possible and water every 14 days in spring and summer (and every 21 days typically during the winter months). Fertilizer only once or twice during the growing season with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength.
Does Dracaena marginata need much light?
Indoor dragon trees prefer bright, indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight will scorch their leaves. While they can tolerate lower-light conditions, dragon trees won’t produce foliage of the same brilliance as they would with proper sunlight.
Is Dracaena marginata an indoor plant?
Dracaena marginata is native to Madagascar where they grow in abundance in the wild. Due to their tolerance to varying light conditions and infrequent watering they can also be successfully grown as indoor plants.
How often do you water a dracaena marginata?
In an average environment, a dragon tree will need watering once or twice a month (more frequently in the spring/summer and less frequently in the fall/winter).
Should I mist my dracaena?
A very gentle misting of dracaena plants can be beneficial to boost the relative humidity around the plant though a humidity tray placed underneath the plant’s pot is generally a safer solution. Misting can lead to stagnant water on the leaves which may contribute to the emergence of fungal infections and pests.
Why does my dracaena marginata have brown tips?
Cold drafts can also cause leaf tips to brown. Additionally, dry air and drought can also lead to brown leaf tips. If you’re certain your plant is safe from blasts of cold air, try increasing the frequency of your watering schedule, misting your plant with water once a week, and/or adding a nearby humidifier.
Why does my dracaena marginata have yellow leaves?
Yellow leaves on dracaena marginata plants are a common sign that your plant is thirsty. Increase your watering schedule and make sure you provide enough water to balance the sunlight, temperature, and humidity.
Do Dracaena marginata plants purify air?
In addition to looking beautiful, the dragon tree has been shown to be an air-purifying powerhouse. NASA’s clean air study found that while replenishing oxygen, dragon trees remove toxins like trichloroethylene, xylene, and formaldehyde from your indoor atmosphere.
Dragon Tree Plant Care at Home – Wrapping Up
You have the know-how, now it’s time to gather supplies and head to your local garden center to pick out your newest plant baby. Whether you select a young Dracaena marginata for tabletop display or a full-grown, fire-breathing (just kidding) dragon tree to give an empty wall character, you’ll love the visual impact. Plus, you’ll find it surprisingly simple to keep yours alive and thriving.
Dracaena Plant Care Guides:
For everything you need to know about growing and caring for Dracaena plants at home, see our essential guides to:
- The Best Soil Mix for Dracaena Marginata
- 12 Best Dracaena Plants to Grow at Home
- Ultimate Guide to Corn Plant Care (Dracaena fragrans)
- Ultimate Guide to Snake Plants (Dracaena trifasciata)