Everyone who develops a love of houseplants needs to start somewhere. A great plant for novices is the rewarding, yet forgiving, Dracaena reflexa or Song of India.
A native to the islands of the Indian ocean, this broadleaf evergreen will often grow 18 to 20 feet in the wild but can be an adaptable plant when grown indoors. It will suit your needs as either a tabletop or floor specimen. As a house plant, look for it to reach a maximum height of three to six feet.
What draws admirers to the Song of India, besides, its relatively easy care, is the eye-pleasing foliage. It has striking alternating dark green and chartreuse stripes on narrow-lanceolate leaves with veins that run parallel along their length. These leaves are in a whorled arrangement and will gradually die off revealing a stem with an interesting pattern.
Dracaena reflexa was first described by famed French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in 1786. Though it has gone through several name changes since then, its genus name Dracaena comes from the Greek word drakaina meaning a female dragon.
Most of the 120 plants of the genus come from Africa and many of its species are kept as house plants due to their tolerance to low light and infrequent watering.
If you choose the Song of India you will be rewarded with a beautiful, slow-growing plant that is easy to grow and easy to propagate from cuttings.
|Botanical Name||Dracaena reflexa|
|Common Name||Song of India|
|Plant Type||Broadleaf evergreen|
|Mature Size||18 - 20ft outdoors, 3ft plus as a houseplant|
|Sun Exposure||Indirect Sun indoors/Partial Shade outdoors|
|Soil Type||Rich, well draining.|
|Bloom Time||Winter, but rarely blooms as a house plant|
|Hardiness Zones||11-12, USA|
|Native Area||Mozambique, Madagascar|
|Toxicity||Toxic to dogs and cats|
Song of India Plant Care
The appeal of this plant is how easy it is to grow and care for. This is common with most of the plants in its genus, which is why they make amazing houseplants.
The key to helping Dracaena reflexa thrive is to keep things balanced. If you are comfortable with your room temperature, your plant will be too. Do not water too much and it will be happy. It likes bright light but, like you, it will get a sunburn.
The Song of India requires bright indirect sunlight, at least four hours a day. You will get the most vibrant leaf coloration in these conditions but be sure to remember that too much sun is a bad thing. It can cause scorch which will appear as browning of the leaf tips and margins.
Dracaena reflexa is not very particular about soil. A peaty, well-drained potting mix is best. It is good to remember that the more peat in the mix the faster the soil will decompose. You will need to repot plants and change the soil to alleviate this issue. Check yearly in the spring if this is a problem. One way to remedy this is by making a potting mix of your own with bark, peat, pumice, vermiculite, and perlite.
Keep your plant’s soil moist but not soaked spring through fall. You should keep it less watered in the winter. Never overwater this plant as it can cause root rot. One issue to be aware of is the genus’ sensitivity to fluoride. A good practice is using bottled, or purified water to water your plants. A symptom of fluoride damage is yellow wilting on the leaf margins.
Temperature and Humidity
When keeping this plant indoors, normal room temperatures of 65-75°F are perfect for the Song of India. It is important to know that it does not tolerate cold well, and even a slight draft near a cold window can do serious harm to this plant that is a native to the warm climes of the Indian Ocean. If you live in one of the areas in USDA Zones 9b-11 you can grow it outdoors in the partial shade.
The Song of India should be fed bi-weekly in the spring and summer with a 10-10-10 water-soluble fertilizer diluted by half. No feeding is needed during the winter months.
Song of India Varieties
In this particular species, there are several cultivars. ‘Variegata’ in particular, is often used. It has bright lime yellow leaf margins that contrast with the dark green of rest of the leaf. The foliage’s light color matures to a creamy white with age and makes the contrast even more prominent.
Propagating Song of India Plants
This plant is easily propagated from cuttings. Place the cutting (usually more than one) into a new pot with a moist potting mix. You can choose to use rooting hormone or not.