Dragon Tree Plant Care at Home: Your Complete Guide

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 at Home_ Your Complete Guide

Dragon Tree Plant Care Essentials:

Common Name:Dragon Tree, Madagascar Dragon Tree
Scientific Name:Dracaena marginata
Native Range:Madagascar
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:

A potted dragon tree in a small wooden side table

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

  1. Prepare a soil mix of 1/2 to 1/3 potting soil and 1/2 to 2/3 perlite or loam.
  2. Create a 1 to 2-inch layer of pebbles or lava rock at the bottom of your container.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Finally, place your dragon tree in its new location and enjoy.

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.

Temperature and Humidity Preferences

Dracaena marginata grows best in temperatures ranging from 65°F to 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:

A Dracaena Marginata plant in a contemporary plant pot on a wooden table next to a sunny window

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.

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 tree plant stalks in the soil of a square plant pot

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

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

A variety of houseplant tools for plant care
  • 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

  1. Classic Dragon Tree – Features dark-green leaves rimmed with red.
  2. D. Marginata ‘Bicolor’ – Leaves striped with red and green.
  3. D. Marginata ‘Tricolor’ – This plant has similar leaf markings to the original with a band of yellow between the green and red.
  4. D. Marginata ‘Colorama’ – An accentuated red rim gives the plant an overall pinkish and green look.
  5. 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.

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 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.

Editorial Director | andrew@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.

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