How to Grow Dracaena Marginata

Madagascar dragon tree
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Dracaena marginata is an attractive, stiff-leaved plant with colorful foliage that sometimes goes by the name "dragon tree." Most of the time it’s sold simply as “Dracaena marginata” or just “Dracaena.” These plants are perfect for a beginner gardener because they're very easy to grow indoors.

They are tough, drought-tolerant plants with aggressive root systems that make excellent houseplants because they are a little more forgiving than some of the other dracaena. It helps that they’re attractive and varied. Sometimes they are grown as single-stemmed plants; other times grouped or even braided together in the same pot.

Growing Conditions

Dragon trees grow best in medium sunlight but they can survive in partial shade as well. Plants in lower light situations will grow slower. Don't put your dragon tree in full sun because its leaves will burn. For indoor potting soil, use loose, well-drained potting mix. Make sure their pot has room for the extensive root system. They have a lower need for fertilizer, so fertilize lightly at the beginning of spring or twice a year with controlled-release fertilizer. It's easy to over water this plant. To ensure that you don't drown your houseplants wait until the topsoil is half dry before watering.

Propagation

Dracaena marginata roots easily from root tip cuttings, so easily that it’s often used in dish gardens and readily propagated by nurseries and retailers. It takes about three weeks for a cutting to sprout roots and rooting hormone isn’t necessary. Dragon tree cuttings can make a thoughtful housewarming gift and using cuttings from your own plant is a personalized touch.

Repotting

Repot your dragon tree into larger pots as necessary. Since these trees grow so slowly, they might not need to be repotted more than every second or even every third year. Refresh potting soil annually with fresh soil to replace any that has compacted.

Varieties

Although there are several varieties, the most commonly found at plant stores include:

  • D. marginata ‘Tricolor,’ which has dark red margins, green leaves, and an ivory stripe down the leaf center
  • D. marginata ‘Bicolor,’ with red and green stripes
  • D. marginata, the basic form with dark green leaves and thin red leaf margins

Grower's Tips

Dracaena marginata is not a difficult plant to care for indoors. Keep it on the dry and warm side, and give it plenty of light, and the plant should respond well. Like other plants in its genus, Dracaena marginata is sensitive to fluoride, which can cause discoloration. To avoid fluoride that might be in your tap water, water them with distilled or non-fluoridated water if you know that your tap water has fluoride added to it. Although they are usually disease resistant, Dracaena marginata are susceptible to scale, mealybugs, and thrips.

Another thing to keep in mind with Dracaena marginata is that beautiful as they are, the plant is also poisonous. While it's not harmful to humans, the leaves are extremely toxic to cats and dogs. If your pets like to nibble on your houseplants, this might not be a good fit for your home and should be avoided.