Dracaena Plant Profile

dracaena houseplant

The Spruce / Krystal Slagle 

The popular houseplants known collectively as Dracaenas actually include several species within the Draceana genus, as well as some plants that are now categorized in entirely different genera. For example, the houseplant sometimes called "ti tree" is now officially labeled as Cordyline australis, even though it still sometimes sold as a dracaena.

Thus, when you purchase a Dracaena houseplant, you usually buying one of the 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 have grow from rhizome-like roots, but these are generally sold under other names.

The species normally sold as houseplants under that 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 to 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, grasslike leaves that fountain off of miultiple 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 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'.

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.

Botanical Name Dracaena spp. (also Cordyline spp.)
Common Names Dracaena (various species carry other common names
Plant Type Broadleaf evergreens, usually grown as houseplants
Mature Size Varies by species; usually under 10 feet when grown as houseplants
Sun Exposure Most species prefer part shade or bright filtered light
Soil Type Rich, moist soil; peat-based potting mix
Soil pH 6.0 to 6.5 (slightly acidic)
Bloom Time Varies; flowers are generally insignificant
Flower Color Varies by species
Hardiness Zones 10 to 12 (USDA); usually grown as houseplants
Native Area Tropical Africa, southern Asia, Australia,
closeup of dracaena plant
The Spruce / Krystal Slagle  
dracaena houseplant
The Spruce / Krystal Slagle  
cordyline plant
The Spruce / Cara Cormack
dracaena fragrans
The Spruce / Cara Cormack 

Growing Conditions

Light: They can withstand light shade, especially the Ti Trees or D. marginal. D. Draco can withstand full sun.

Water: Water regularly; do not let dirt dry out. D. Draco, however, can withstand drier conditions in the winter.

Temperature: Most Dracaena prefers warmer temperatures of 65ºF and higher. D. Draco is the sole exception, able to withstand temperatures down to 50ºF.

Soil: Rich, well-drained potting compost.

Fertilizer: Feed weekly or biweekly during the summer, or use a slow-release fertilizer at the beginning of the season.

Propagation

Ti Trees can be sprouted from a section of the cane laid on their sides in moist, warm soil. Alternatively, old plants can be rejuvenated by cutting the tip and using rooting hormone. Air layering also works on larger plants.

Repotting

Repot when necessary, usually every two years or when their potting media is exhausted.

Grower's Tips

There are not generally demanding plants and will usually do well in shadier conditions than many other plants can withstand. With all but D. Draco, however, it is important to keep the soil evenly moist throughout the year—they should not be allowed to dry out—and they do not thrive in drafty, cold conditions. The most common cause of the collapse is generally too much water during the winter in combination with cold conditions. If the plant begins to show brown leaf margins, raise humidity by misting regularly.