The dragon tree (Dracaena draco) is an evergreen succulent tree native to subtropical zones and can be grown outdoors or as a houseplant. In the landscape, the dragon tree grows tall and develops a thick cylindrical trunk topped with rosettes that have sword-shaped leaves. The much shorter houseplant produces the same leaves. The plant is toxic to animals, especially cats.
|Common Name||Dragon tree, dragon's blood plant, drago, corn plant, ribbon plant|
|Botanical Name||Dracaena draco|
|Plant Type||Broadleaf evergreen tree|
|Mature Size||15–50 ft. outdoors, 3-4 ft. indoors (very slow-growing)|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun to part shade|
|Soil Type||Any well-drained, porous soil|
|Soil pH||6.0–6.5 (slightly acidic)|
|Bloom Time||Begins producing a single flower after 10–15 years|
|Hardiness Zones||9–12 (USDA)|
|Native Area||The Canary Islands, northwest coastal Africa|
|Toxicity||Mildly toxic to pets (especially cats)|
Dragon Tree Care
It is not the most beautiful of houseplants, but it is easy to care for a Dracaena draco since it is tough beyond all measure.
This plant likes to grow in relatively bright light, but it may resent being in full harsh afternoon sun. Indoor plants will do best in a location that gets a full 10 hours of bright but indirect light.
Dragon tree prefers a very loose, well-drained potting mix. A succulent/cactus potting mix can work well; or you can make your own mix by blending fine gravel, peat moss, and leaf humus in equal parts.
Allow the plants to dry between waterings, but not completely. These plants are more susceptible to root rot, so be very careful never to allow them to sit in standing water.
Temperature and Humidity
D. draco is more cold-tolerant than other Dracaena species and can briefly tolerate temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In native settings, this plant absorbs most of its moisture from the air rather than the soil, so you may find it helpful to humidify indoor air, especially during dry winter months.
Feed your plants every six months with controlled-release fertilizer. Well-fed plants will develop a slightly reddish tinge to the edges of the leaves.
Types of Dragon Tree
D. draco is only one of several related species that can be grown indoors. In addition to the dragon tree, there are some other options:
- Madagascar dragon tree (D. marginata) boasts long, slender leaves that may be deep green with a thin dark red edging or deep green with red edges and a yellow line up the center.
- Corn plant (Dracaena fragrans) is native to Africa. Indoors, it grows to about 6 feet with olive-green leaves which feature a creamy yellow center line.
- D. reflexa 'Variegata' grows to between 3 and 6 feet tall indoors and features lime-green stripes on the outer edges of its leaves.
Pruning for shape is not necessary with this plant, but do remove dead leaves as they appear. If the plant is growing too tall for your space, crop the top branches, which will also stimulate denser growth.
Propagating Dragon Tree
Dracaena draco can be propagated from cuttings. Take cuttings in late spring through the summer when the plant is growing. Follow these steps:
- Cut from the crown a few inches. Leave a couple of leaves on the stem.
- Dip the bottom of the stem a couple of inches into rooting hormone.
- Stick the bottom of the stem in a 3-inch pot filled with equal parts of peat moss and perlite. Slightly dampen the mixture.
- Place a plastic bag over the cutting to keep it warm. Make a small slit at the top so the cutting can breathe.
- Put the rooting in a partially shady area for around four to six weeks until roots form.
- When roots form, remove the plastic bag and water the plant. Replant the plant into a permanent home.
How to Grow Dragon Tree From Seed
Plant dragon tree seeds in the spring. Take these steps for the best seed germination:
- Soak the seeds in room temperature water for three to five days.
- Add seed starter mix to a small pot and water the soil until it is slightly moist.
- Place seeds on the potting mix and cover them lightly with more mix.
- Place the pot on a heated germination pad. Cover the pot with plastic for a greenhouse effect. Keep soil moist, but not saturated. Check for condensation inside the plastic. If there is condensation, poke a few air holes in the plastic for air circulation.
- When the seeds germinate (about 4-6 weeks), remove the plastic. Transplant seedlings to regular potting soil in individual pots. Put the pots in bright, indirect light, but not in direct sun.
Potting and Repotting Dragon Tree
Repot this plant annually or every other year. D. draco thrives when slightly pot-bound, but make sure the plant doesn’t become top-heavy, which can tip over smaller containers. Make sure the potting mix is very porous and well-draining, and that the pot has several good drainage holes. Wet roots can kill this plant.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
The dragon tree is free of pests, except for aphids, which usually attack seedlings but not mature plantings. The only disease to watch for is fusarium leaf spot, a fungus that can be prevented with a fungicide. To prevent leaf spot in houseplants, keep water off the leaves when watering the plant.
Common Problems With Dragon Tree
Though a hardy plant, the dragon tree can show you symptoms if it's having problems. Watch for the following signs that can be usually be remedied.
New Leaves With Spots
If new leaves develop white or yellow spots, especially around the tips, your plant has a disease called Flecking Dracaena marginata. The temperature, moisture levels, and lighting may need to be adjusted to make your plant happier.
Leaves Turning Yellow or Tan
When leaves turn these colors, the plant may be getting too much fluoride in the water. The leaf tips can become yellow, too. Try fixing by eliminating any soil that has fluorides, such as perlite. Check the soil's pH to make sure it stays slightly acidic.
Leaves With Reddish Spots
If the leaves develop reddish, brownish, or tannish spots, possibly with yellow halos, you have a leaf spot disease, which can be avoided with proper watering and fungicide.
Lower Leaves Drooping or Falling Off
If you have a cutting that you recently rooted, but the lower leaves are drooping or falling off, you likely have root rot. This problem also comes with a foul odor. Unfortunately, you will need to discard the plant.
Why is the dragon tree called dragon's blood?
The dragon's blood name comes from the fact that it exudes reddish resin from wounds and nicks. As a point of interest, it is said that this resin was used as a wood dye to stain the famous Stradivarius violins.
Can you grow a dragon blood tree in the United States?
If you are in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 through 12 you can try growing D. draco outdoors. If successful, these trees can live for hundreds of years. You can sometimes see old ones in the U.S. preserved on estates or in botanical gardens.
Are dragon trees worth money or are they rare?
Dracaena draco isn't the least expensive plant, so when you do find one, it might cost more than the average houseplant. It is, however, becoming rare and vulnerable as listed on tree conservation sites.