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Dracaena marginata: 7+ Top Care Tips & Troubleshooting Guide

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Dracaena marginata, commonly called the Dragon Tree, is a tough houseplant that is native to Madagascar. It makes for a wonderful houseplant! Some other common names include Madagascar Dragon Tree, Dragon Blood Tree and Tree Dracaena.

Keep reading to find out more about its care, some of the beautiful varieties that you can obtain, and finally, the discover the most common problems encountered with this plant and with tips on how to resolve them.

dracaena-marginata

DRACAENA MARGINATA CARE

The accepted botanical name for this plant is actually Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia, but is mostly still referred to by most people as Dracaena marginata. Here are some care tips to help your plant thrive in your home.

1. LIGHT

Contrary to what many sources may tell you, this plant can take direct sun indoors. At a bare minimum, place your plant right in front of a window that does not get any direct sun.

Even better would be a few hours of direct sun per day indoors. Right in front of an Eastern or Western facing window would work very well, and these will also do well in your sunniest window.

If you have a really sunny window, you can safely set it back a little bit from the window and still have good results.

Although these plants can tolerate lower light, growth will suffer and be less vigorous. They’re already fairly slow growing to begin with, so low light will slow it down even more.

dracaena-marginata-leaning

2. POTTING MIX

These plants need excellent drainage. I always like to amend my potting mix with either perlite or pumice in order to increase drainage and porosity of my potting mix.

A good mix you can start with is 2 parts of an all-purpose potting mix and 1 part perlite or pumice. You can even add materials like orchid bark if you wish.

3. WATERING

One benefit of this plant is that they are pretty drought-tolerant. They do need to dry out sufficiently so make sure that at least the top quarter of the entire potting mix dries out before watering again.

They can even take drying out completely, but be careful not to leave it completely dry for too long.

Refer to the Troubleshooting section at the end of this post to discover what can happen if you have extremes in soil moisture.

4. TEMPERATURE AND HUMIDITY

If you are comfortable indoors, your plant will be too. Average indoor temperatures and humidity will do just fine.

Try and keep temps between 60-80F. As far as humidity, these plants really aren’t fussy and there is no need to increase humidity.

Avoid any cold drafts.

5. FERTILIZER

I like to use Dyna-Gro Grow, which is an amazing, nutritionally complete formula, and it’s urea-free so it won’t burn your plants.

Use during the active growing season, and refrain from fertilizing when your plant is not growing.

6. PRUNING AND REJUVINATING DRACAENA MARGINATA

There are numerous reasons why you would prune your Dracaena marginata. You can prune if:

  • You want to propagate (see the next section for details).
  • You have a single trunk plant and you want it to develop multiple trunks.
  • Your plant has gotten too leggy and you want to rejuvenate it.
  • All of the above!

These plants actually respond extremely well to pruning and you should see new growth within weeks or less after pruning.

For best results, prune your Dracaena marginata anytime from late winter through Spring and Summer.

It would be best if you can try and prune in late winter or Spring in order to allow for time for your plant to grow before winter time.

All you have to do is simply take some pruners and snip your plant where ever you want new growth to occur. You really can’t go wrong.

Take a look at the photo below. The trunk was cut off, and you can see that there are 3 new growth points starting to grow.

pruning-dracaena-marginata

Sometimes, it can even force growth at the very bottom of the trunk as well, like you can see in the photo below.

dracaena-marginata-pruning

7. PROPAGATION

Propagation is super simple. Simply cut the top off your plant, place your cutting in a vase of water, and wait until roots grow about an inch long or so.

Change the water weekly, and place it in a bright window. Some direct sun is ok too, but not all day while it’s growing roots.

For quickest results, keep your cuttings warm.

DRACAENA MARGINATA VARIETIES

Dracaena marginata

This is the plain old species that you’ll find everywhere. The beautiful, narrow green leaves have reddish edges.

dracaena-marginata

Dracaena marginata ‘Tarzan’

This cultivar has very similar leaves to the plain species, but the leaves are wider and a little thicker.

dracaena-marginata-tarzan
Photo credit: Ben PL, CC BY-SA 4.0

Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor’

This beautiful cultivar has an added yellow stripe on the leaves, in addition to the existing green and red (hence the name tricolor).

dracaena-marginata-tricolor

Dracaena marginata ‘Colorama’

This is perhaps the most stunning cultivar, and it has the most red or dark pink of all the varieties out there. The more direct sun it gets, the more pronounced the color will be.

dracaena-marginata-colorama

TROUBLESHOOTING

Lower Leaves Yellowing and then Turning Brown

Keep in mind that it is normal for your plant to eventually shed its lower leaves as the plant grows. If you find that many of the lower leaves have turned yellow in a short time frame, feel your potting mix.

If your soil has gone completely dry for too long, it will cause many of the lower leaves to yellow.

dracaena-marginata-brown-leaves
The potting mix on this plant was allowed to go completely dry for a while, resulting in many lower leaves turning yellow and then brown.

Plant is Drooping

If your plant is drooping, it is normally caused by extremes in soil moisture.

If your soil has gone completely dry for too long, your plant will droop. It will probably also be accompanied by yellowed lower leaves.

On the other hand, if your soil has stayed wet for too long (for example, by sitting in excess water for too long), it will eventually cause root rot, and your plant will droop.

Leaves are Growing in Thinner and Smaller

This is typically caused by insufficient light. If you increase the light on your plant, any future, new leaves will grow in bigger, but the existing foliage will remain the same size.

Plant is Not Growing

This is a slower growing plant, but if your plant hasn’t budged at all in months or longer, it probably isn’t getting enough light.

Move your plant to a brighter location.

Browning Leaf Tips

Browning leaf tips can be cause by the soil being too dry, as well as fluoride in tap water.

Dracaena plants are notoriously sensitive to additives in tap water such as fluoride. If you’ve been watering with tap water and you haven’t let your potting mix get really dry, the brown leaf tips are probably due to the water quality.

Note that once brown tips happen, they can not be reversed. You can simply cut off the brown tips with scissors if they bother you.

Toxicity to Pets

Plants in the Dracaena genus are toxic to cats and dogs, according to the ASPCA, due to compounds called Saponins.

Becky

Friday 22nd of April 2022

Lots of brown tips on mine. I don’t let it dry out so I’m guessing it’s my water. I have well water so no fluoride. What do you suggest I water it with?