The Dracaena houseplant adds that tropical feel to your home and is often grown as the ideal ornament. It isn’t too complicated to care for either, so if you’re new to the world of houseplants then it’s the perfect plant for you too.
Throughout this care guide, we’ll be discussing exactly how to look after your Dracaena so that it flourishes year-round.
This easy to care for houseplant belongs to the Asparagaceae family and is native to Madagascar and Indian ocean islands.
Typically, the species have palm-like appearances that sprout stunning, glossy foliage. It is regarded as a broadleaf evergreen and you may hear its stems being called ‘canes’.
It is a fairly sturdy houseplant and can withstand a bit of neglect. Not only is it the perfect plant to care for but it removes harmful toxins from the air we breathe.
Fun fact: Dracaena originates from the ancient Greek word drakaina which means ‘female dragon’.
There are tons of Dracaena species and each varies in size, shape, and color. We’ll be briefly summarizing the ten most popular ones below.
- Dracaena marginata: The ‘dragon tree‘ has elongated, elegant, and thin leaves with red edges.
- Dracaena fragrans massangeana: It is also known as the ‘corn stalk plant’, ‘mass cane’, ‘dragon plant’, and ‘happy plant’. Its light green leaves are decorated with a stripy yellow pattern.
- Dracaena sanderiana: This is also called the ‘lucky bamboo‘ plant and it resembles a miniature palm tree with deep green leaves atop the stems.
- Dracaena trifasciata: It’s commonly known as the ‘snake plant‘, ‘good luck plant’, and ‘viper’s bowstring hemp’. Its foliage comes in an array of colors and is shaped like a sword.
- Dracaena reflexa: This variation is sometimes called the ‘song of Jamaica’ and its long, narrow, green leaves are framed with yellow edges.
- Dracaena deremensis warneckii: It has sword-shaped foliage that is decorated with white lines and a variety of shades of green.
- Dracaena compacta: This type is a more compact version of Dracaena fragrans and has a thicker green stem with great clumps of dark green leaves.
- Dracaena surculosa: It’s also referred to as the ‘gold dust’ Dracaena and ‘spotted’ Dracaena. It produces beautiful leaves that have splotches of yellow and it gives off a glossy appearance.
- Dracaena colorama: It grows bushy leaves from a central stem. This variation’s foliage is a jade-green color with white and pink variegation.
- Dracaena arborea: This houseplant goes by a few other names too, such as ‘ribbon plant’ and ‘African dragon tree’. It sprouts bright green, sword-shaped leaves from a smooth, woody stem.
Fun fact: There are around 40 different species that make up the Dracaena genus.
How Big Do They Get?
The average Dracaena can grow up to 3 to 6 feet (91 – 182cm) tall, and around 5 inches (12.7cm) wide.
How Fast Do They Grow?
A healthy Dracaena is a slow grower and can take up to 8 years to reach its mature size. Typically, it will grow 4 to 5 inches (10 – 12.7cm) per growing season until it reaches its mature height.
How Long Do They Live?
Just like the peperomia, the Dracaena can live for around 5 to 10 years. If well cared for then you can expect it to survive for 10 years, however, improper care will cause it to die young.
It contains a chemical known as saponins which are intended to protect the houseplant from diseases. Unfortunately, the chemical can have a bad reaction when ingested by your pets or child.
Below, we’ll discuss its toxicity in details.
Are They Toxic to Cats and Dogs?
The Dracaena is toxic to both cats and dogs. If one of your pets ingests any part of the plant then they may experience one of the following side effects;
- Swollen throat
Please seek professional advice from your vet to discover the best course of action.
How Poisonous Are They to Humans?
When either you or a child eats any part of the houseplant then you may begin to experience gastrointestinal discomfort.
Here’s a list of other symptoms:
- Numbing feeling in the mouth
- Swelling of the throat and tongue
If any of these symptoms worsen over time or persist then contact your doctor as soon as possible.
The Dracaena can withstand some neglect but if you want to see those glossy leaves year-round then you’ll need to provide it with the best care.
How Often to Water It
Dracaena can be a little fussy when it comes to watering. It should be watered frequently and it can’t withstand tap water.
Typically, you will water your plant once a week during the summertime and once every two weeks during the wintertime. If you’re uncertain of when to water it then feel the top 2 inches (5cm) of the soil and if it’s dry then you can water it.
Just like the prayer plant, this houseplant is sensitive to the chemicals found in tap water. It’s best to use distilled water or even rainwater.
The Dracaena is sensitive to overwatering and root rot, so it’s imperative that a good drainage system is in place. You can achieve this by using the right type of soil and container.
By adding some vermiculite or coco coir to a general potting mixture, you can enhance drainage and allow excess moisture to flow out easily. This will aerate the soil as well as allow more oxygen to reach the roots.
Make sure to use a container with 3 to 5 drainage holes so that excess water can drip out. You could even scatter a layer of pebbles at the bottom of the pot too.
How to Prune It
During the spring and summertime, it is ideal to prune off any unhealthy, damaged, or leggy growth. Pruning also maintains a plant’s size and creates a pristine appearance.
When trimming the Dracaena you should use a sterilized and sharp blade as jagged cuts can ruin your plant’s look.
Follow the steps below:
- Clean your pruners and determine which areas you will be trimming.
- Cut the leaves or stems down to the base of the plant.
- Water it well if the soil is dry.
Always keep in mind that you don’t want to remove too much foliage at once. Never trim off more than one-third of the plant at one time.
Top tip: While pruning, take a damp cloth and wipe the dust off of the leaves. This is an effective way of maintaining a glossy appearance.
Every three years during the springtime, you should transplant the Dracaena into a new container. The houseplant does enjoy being a tad rootbound, but once the roots begin growing through the drainage holes then you need to repot it.
Check out the guide below:
- Remove the plant out of its container and shake off the extra soil.
- Cut off any unhealthy roots.
- Fill a new pot with some fresh soil and plant the Dracaena.
- Water it well and place it back in a sunny location.
If you want your houseplant to flourish then it needs to be placed under bright, filtered sunshine. Indirect sunlight is ideal but it can survive in shady locations.
Keep in mind that when grown in a shady area, the growth may slow down and even become leggy. The foliage is also sensitive to harsh sun rays so keep it out of direct sunlight especially during the summertime.
The best type of soil for this houseplant is one that’s loose, loamy, and lightweight. The soil must be quick-draining and aerated too.
You can purchase any commercial potting mix and add in perlite or compost. You can also mix in some peat moss or vermiculite too.
The Dracaena isn’t a particularly hungry houseplant and has low fertilizing needs. It only needs to be fed once a month during the spring and summertime.
It loves a liquid fertilizer with a ratio of 3-1-2. You should try to find a fertilizer with zinc, manganese, sodium, copper, and iron to ensure that your plant is never deficient in any nutrients.
Pot Size and Type
A Dracaena isn’t picky when it comes to what type of pot it needs as it thrives in both a plastic or terracotta container. The pot must have at least one drainage hole to prevent the plant from becoming waterlogged.
We previously stated that this houseplant prefers a snug fit and doesn’t do well in a large container. Ideally, it should be about 1 to 2 inches (2.5 – 5cm) wider than the rootball.
The preferable temperature range is between 70 and 80°F (21 – 26.6°C). The houseplant cannot tolerate frost and may even die when temperatures dip below 50°F (10°C).
As this houseplant is native to tropical and humid regions, it loves humidity levels around 60 and 80 percent.
It can cope with the average household humidity level, but you will see absolutely gorgeous foliage when the air is moist. You can place a humidifier near the plant if you’re worried about the lack of humidity surrounding it.
Outdoors vs. Indoors
It can only be grown outside if you reside in USDA hardiness zones of 9 to 11. The most important aspect to consider is that the plant needs to be grown in a moist environment so you will have to mist and water it more often.
You will also need to ensure that temperatures do not dip too low as this plant isn’t frost tolerant. Another important factor is sunlight because the foliage is sensitive to direct sunshine, so plant it in partial shade.
The Dracaena genus rarely ever blooms indoors. The houseplant will only flower outdoors once it is 5 or 10 years old.
The blooms usually last for 3 to 7 days and will appear anytime between late autumn to early winter or late spring and early summer. They appear in clusters of white and green flowers.
The best way to try to encourage blooms is by creating the optimal environment for the houseplant and placing it under bright sunlight.
How to Grow It
You can grow a new Dracaena in the springtime by either propagating it or planting its seeds. We’ll guide you through the variety of options available.
A Dracaena can be propagated in either soil or water. You can propagate it by dividing its rootball, planting the offshoots, or planting its cuttings.
How to Grow It in Soil
When propagating the houseplant in soil, you will need to use peaty, well-draining soil to enhance the chances of success.
Propagating by Division
We’re going to explain how to divide a houseplant’s rootball and grow a new Dracaena. We’ll list the steps below.
- Gently slide the houseplant out of the container and brush away the excess soil covering the roots.
- Examine the rootball to look for logical areas of division, and try to avoid cutting through the roots.
- Take out a new container and place a well-draining potting mixture inside.
- Plant your division and water it thoroughly.
- You can give the pup a slight tug in 4 weeks’ time to test whether or not it has rooted.
Growing from Pups
An offshoot is like a miniature plant and you can slice these pups away from the rootball and plant them. Check out the process below.
- Remove the plant out of its current container by loosening the soil and gently sliding it out.
- Dust off any soil surrounding the rootball and slice off the pup.
- While pulling the offshoots apart, be careful to gently untangle the roots to avoid damaging them.
- Plant the pups 2 inches (5cm) deep in some potting soil and water them well.
- The pups will root in a month’s time.
Propagating from Leaf Cuttings
An entirely new plant can be grown from a single leaf cutting and we’ll tell you how.
- Snip off a long leaf at the base of the stem.
- Fill a container with a fresh potting mix and plant the leaf-cutting inside.
- Water it well and place it under filtered sunshine.
- You will know that the cutting has rooted in 6 to 8 weeks when new leaves sprout.
Propagation in Water
You can propagate this houseplant’s leaf cuttings in water by simply trimming off a leaf and placing it in a glass of water.
Follow the steps below:
- Pluck a long leaf off by the base of the stem.
- Prepare a glass jar with room temperature water and place the leaf in the water.
- Position the cutting under bright sunshine, and change the water when needed.
- In about 4 to 8 weeks the cutting can be repotted in fresh soil.
Growing a Dracaena from seed is no easy task as you will need to be a little patient. This method isn’t very reliable and is unfortunately often unsuccessful.
Follow the step-by-step guide below:
- Fill a shallow tray with some seed starting potting mixture and moisten it.
- Scatter the seeds evenly across the surface and mist them lightly.
- Place a clear plastic bag over the tray and position it under bright light.
- Make sure to maintain a moist potting mixture until new growth emerges.
- In 4 to 6 weeks you can remove the plastic bag, and once the plant sprouts 3 inches (7.6cm) of new growth you can then repot it.
How to Revive It
The Dracaena genus can run into a few health troubles every now and then. If you’ve noticed that the foliage has discolored or the stem has become limp then you need to revive your houseplant.
We’ll tell you exactly what may be causing your plant’s poor health and how to fix the issue.
Leaves Turning Yellow
The yellowing of foliage is caused by watering your plant too much or watering it with tap water. It is sensitive to overwatering so always be careful to not drench it and make sure to stick to a consistent watering schedule.
If you don’t have any distilled water available then you can leave a container of water outside overnight. The harmful chemicals will then evaporate and you can water the houseplant normally.
The leaves begin to brown when the plant is overfed, watered incorrectly, lacking in moisture, or suffering from root rot.
If you have fertilized your houseplant too much then you must flush the fertilizer salts. You can do this by running a stream of water over the soil for 15 to 20 minutes.
Improper watering can damage the roots severely, so always feel the soil to determine if the plant needs to be watered or not.
A plant grown in a dry environment won’t thrive, so you will need to mist its leaves every second day until it has recovered.
If your houseplant has root rot then you must immediately trim off the unhealthy tissue and repot it in a new container with dry soil.
Leaf Spot Disease
This is a clear indicator of fungal or bacterial disease which is caused by overwatering. You will need to repot the houseplant in fresh soil and cut off the diseased foliage.
The foliage may become droopy and limp when the houseplant is overwatered, lacking in nutrients, or lacking in sunshine.
All you need to do is refrain from watering it until the topsoil has dried, feed the plant more frequently, or relocate it to a sunnier windowsill.
If you’ve just started collecting houseplants then we highly recommend you purchase or grow your own Dracaena. This resilient houseplant can handle an imperfect care regime and it’s relatively tough. The most important thing to remember is watering as it is susceptible to becoming waterlogged.