How to Care for Dracaena: Types & Growing Tips

Attractive and easy to grow, dracaena varieties make great houseplants

dracaena houseplant

The Spruce / Krystal Slagle 

The Dracaena genus of tropical broadleaf evergreen shrubs and trees includes several species commonly used as houseplants throughout the world. But there are also plants from entirely different genera that are also commonly known as dracaenas. For example, the houseplant sometimes called "ti tree" is now officially labeled as Cordyline australis, even though it is still sometimes sold as a dracaena. Whatever official genera it belongs to, when you purchase a dracaena, you are usually buying a species characterized by spear- or grass-shaped leaves that extend off one or more thickened, cane-like main stems. (There are also other Dracaena species that grow from rhizome-like roots, but these are generally sold under other names.)

In their native tropical environments, some dracaena plants can grow to 20 feet or more, but as indoor houseplants, most remain under 8 feet tall. Dracaena plants grown outdoors may produce yellowish-white flowers followed by berries, but this is rare for those grown as houseplants.

Be aware that plants in the Dracaena genus contain saponins that are toxic to cats and dogs.

Common Name Dracaena; various species have different common names
Botanical Name Dracaena spp. (also Cordyline spp.)
Family Asparagaceae
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size 2-10 ft. tall, 1-2 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Partial
Soil Type Moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Hardiness Zones 10–12 (USDA)
Native Area Asia, Africa, Australia
Toxicity Toxic to dogs and cats

Dracaena Care

The Dracaena species commonly grown as houseplants are generally quite easy to grow in large, well-draining pots filled with ordinary commercial potting mix. Proper watering and correct light exposure (plenty of indirect light, but not much direct sunlight) will keep them healthy.


Generally speaking, dracaena plants do best in bright, filtered, or indirect light, though they can stand short periods of direct sunlight.


Dracaena plants grown as houseplants do well in any peat-based commercial potting mix, which has the slight acidity that these plants prefer. If grown in the landscape in tropical regions, the soil should be rich and well-drained.


These plants should be kept consistently moist during their growing season (spring through fall), but allowed to go drier in the dormant winter period. Water them thoroughly each week during the active growing season, allowing excess water to drain through the pot into a tray or basin beneath. In winter, water more moderately every two weeks.

Temperature and Humidity

Most dracaena species thrive at temperatures of 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit but will react badly if temps fall below 50 degrees. These tropical plants like a fairly high humidity level, which can be a problem for indoor plants during the dry winter months. Misting or using a room humidifier may be necessary for dry-air conditions.


Dracaena plants do well with a monthly feeding with a water-soluble fertilizer formulated for houseplants during spring and summer. Feeding should be held back in fall and winter when plant growth slows down.

Dracaenas can get by with little fertilizing. Use a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer. Apply once a month during spring and summer. Cease fertilizing in fall and winter when plant growth slows down.

dracaena fragrans
The Spruce / Cara Cormack 
cordyline plant
The Spruce / Cara Cormack
closeup of dracaena plant
The Spruce / Krystal Slagle  

Types of Dracaena

Out of the 100-plus species in the Dracaena genus, a relatively small number are commonly sold as houseplants. These species vary widely in their size, but the species sold as houseplants typically have spear- or grass-like leaves that often emerge off one or more stems that grow thick and cane-like with time. The species normally sold as houseplants under the name Dracaena include:

  • Dracaena fragrans (fragrant Dracaena, corn plant) has strap-like leaves that emerge in a fountain-like cluster from a thick woody stem. This plant can grow as much as 6 feet in height when grown as a potted plant. In outdoor settings where it is hardy (zones 10 to 12), it has been known to grow over 20 feet.
  • Dracaena deremensis is a widely cultivated species with many excellent named cultivars. Outdoors in zones 10 to 12, these plants can reach a large size, but when grown in pots they generally remain under 10 feet.
  • Dracaena marginata (dragon tree) has thinner, grass-like leaves that fountain off of multiple thick stems.
  • Dracaena sanderiana (lucky bamboo) is often trained to have curled stems by careful manipulation of the direction of sunlight. This is a familiar novelty plant that may be kept only a few inches tall, or grown to several feet in height.
  • Cordyline fruticosa (cabbage tree, ti tree, or ti plant) is a palm-like plant with thicker strappy leaves that emerge in a fountain-like arrangement atop one or more thin woody stems. It has colorful lance-like leaves that arch from the base.
  • Cordyline australis (cabbage palm) is often sold as Dracaena, since the plant was initially categorized under that genus. It grows to be quite a large tree in its native habitat, but immature plants are often used as houseplants. It has thin, grass-like colorful leaves that arch in a fountain-like growth habit. Houseplants are sometimes sold as Dracaena 'Spikes'.


Although pruning is not essential, dracaena plants tolerate cutting back when necessary to control their shape or height. Pruning is best done during the active growing periods of spring and summer. Yellowing or dead leaves should be removed as they appear.

Propagating Dracaena

Dracaenas are usually quite easy to propagate by rooting stem cuttings, which is best done in spring as the plant is beginning to actively grow. Even just a bare section of the stem will often produce a new plant.

Here's how to propagate a new dracaena:

  1. Using sterilized sharp pruners, cut an 8-inch length of the stem, then remove the leaves. (It's possible to simply "behead" the top of the plant, and use this section to start a new plant.)
  2. Dip the bottom end of the stem in rooting hormone powder, then plant the stem into a small pot filled with moistened potting mix.
  3. Place the planted cutting in a spot with bright indirect light and keep moist until leaves begin to sprout from exposed nodes; this can take as much as three weeks.
  4. Repot the new plant when it fills its starter container.

It's also possible to suspend a cutting in a container of water, let it develop a good network of roots, then plant it in potting mix.

How to Grow Dracaena From Seed

Because indoor dracaena plants rarely flower and produce fruit, it's not common to propagate them from seeds.

Potting and Repotting Dracaena

Dracaena plants will do well in any commercial peat-based potting mix in a large pot with good drainage. It's good practice to place a saucer or tray beneath the pot, which allows you to fully drench the plant with each watering. Yearly, replace the top 2 to 3 inches of potting mix with fresh mix to replenish nutrients.

Repot into a slightly larger container when the plant starts to lift up or when roots start to emerge through the drainage holes. 

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Dracaena is susceptible to some of the same pests that affect many houseplants, especially thrips and mealy bugs. Fungal leaf spot disease can sometimes be a problem if the soil is overly moist.

Common Problems With Dracaena

Dracaena species are sensitive to fluorides and built-up salts, which can cause leaves to turn brown. If you notice this, try watering with non-fluoridated water, with an especially deep watering once each month to flush out salts. Browning leaves can also occur if indoor humidity levels are too low; mist the plant regularly or use a room humidifier to rectify this.

Too much direct sunlight can scorch leaves, and too little light can cause the leaves to become very narrow.  

  • Can Dracaena be grown as a landscape plant?

    Yes. In tropical regions (zones 10 to 12), dracaena plants are sometimes grown as permanent landscape specimens. They may be used as screening plants in these climates.

  • How long does a dracaena plant live?

    Like many slow-growing tropicals, dracaena plants can be long-lived—which is one of the reasons they are so popular as houseplants. However, individual leaves tend to fade and die within two or three years, at most, so the plant is constantly renewing itself. And when the plant gets too large for a big container, growers often take cuttings to start new plants, then discard the overgrown parent plant.

  • Do dracaena plants really help clean indoor air?

    Yes—in a manner of speaking. According to the NASA Clean Air Study, Dracaena reflexa is fairly efficient at removing formaldehyde and other VOCs from small, sealed spaces. It is one of several plant species shown to have this ability. In practice, it would take more than one plant to cleanse the air in a typical home. By one estimate, a 1500-square-foot home would require 15 healthy plants to be an effective air-quality measure. Thus, the idea that growing houseplants is an effective anti-pollution strategy has been largely debunked.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Dracaena. ASPCA.

  2. Dracaena fragrans. NC State Extension. 

  3. Dracaena Diseases. PennState Extension.

  4. Dracaena Production Guide. Mid-Florida Research & Education Center.

  5. Dracaena sanderiana. Missouri Botanical Garden.

  6. Houseplants for Healthier Indoor Air. Cornell Cooperative Extension.