The dragon's blood plant (Dracaena draco) is not the friendliest or most beautiful of houseplants. But it has the single most important quality for your indoors foliage. It is tough beyond all measure. It has somewhat severe, stiffly pointed leaves that end in something resembling a spike. The leaves are solidly green, and the plant will grow to a height of 3 or 4 feet indoors.
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. It is a member of the agave family and is related to the yucca and century plant.
As a houseplant, give your Dracaena draco these elements to help it stay healthy and thrive:
- Light: This plant likes to grow in relatively bright light.
- Water: Allow the plants to dry between waterings, but not completely. These are more susceptible to root rot, so be very careful never to allow them to sit in water.
- Temperature: D. draco is more cold-tolerant than other Dracaena species and can briefly tolerate temperatures below 50 F.
- Soil: It prefers a loose, well-drained potting mix.
- Fertilizer: Feed your plants every six months with controlled-release fertilizer. Well-fed plants will develop a slightly reddish tinge to the leaves.
Repot this plant annually or every other year. D. draco thrives when slightly pot-bound, but beware the plant doesn’t become top-heavy and tip over smaller containers.
D. draco is the basic species. It appears that there aren't any other cultivars and this is the only one seen in trade.
D. draco can be a long-lived, easy houseplant to care for, and it has a certain cactus-ish appeal in its spiky appearance. Older leaves droop downward, while new leaves stick straight up, forming a kind of ball.
Native to the Canary Islands, these plants appreciate excellent drainage—the quickest way to kill it is to waterlog the roots. Watch out for leaf-tip browning, which can be corrected by using non-fluoridated water.
If you are in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 through 12 you could grow D. draco outdoors. It will develop a thick cylindrical trunk topped with rosettes with sword-shaped leaves you see in the houseplant. It can take 10 to 15 years to mature and flower, after which it will start to grow stout, upright arms in an umbrella shape.
These trees can live for hundreds of years, with some that are highly revered in the Canary Islands. You can sometimes see old ones in the U.S. on estates or in botanical gardens. Locations for viewing include Balboa Park in San Diego and the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. One in Montecito, California is registered as a California Big Tree with a height of 44 feet and a spread of 33 feet. Unfortunately, these trees are threatened in the wild in the Canary Islands.