Dracaena is a popular no-fuss ornamental house plant that effortlessly adds depth and personality to a room. Beginner gardeners are often directed to this plant as it is easy to maintain and yields a lot of benefits. Dracaena’s leaves come in different shades of green, while its stems are often textured. Most of its species are native to Africa, but a few others also come from southern Asia and northern Australia. While Dracaena is often grown indoors, it may also thrive outdoors under subtropical conditions. Indoor Dracaena plants can grow as high as three feet and typically feature glossy leaves. Aside from its effortless beauty, Dracaena is a practical plant to have, thanks to its ability to remove toxins from the air. A NASA Clean Air Study found that certain Dracaena species are capable of removing harmful contaminants and toxins from the air such as formaldehyde. So, whether you are looking for an aesthetically pleasing ornament for your indoor space or just an easy-to-maintain, practical plant, Dracaena will surely have something for you.
Varieties & types of dracaena
Dracaena has about 120 species of shrubs and trees, the same way there are many different varieties of Hibiscus. Some are more popular than the others, but all have interesting features and characteristics that make them ideal accents when planted indoors or displayed in public spaces. Most of these species have sword-like green leaves and yield attractive foliage. They are not heavy eaters and typically require little to no fertilizer. The most well-known species include Marginata or Red-edge Dracaena, Fragrans, Deremensis, Sanderiana, Draco and Massangeana.
Dracaena braunni belongs to the smaller species under the Asparagaceae family and is also known as Lucky Bamboo, although it has no connection to actual bamboos. Other types that are often used as ornamental house plants include Reflexa, Janet Craig, Lemon lime, Cinnabari, Warneckii and Compacta, which is characterized by its tufty foliage and unique form. Some species have shinier leaves than the others like Surculosa, which is also called Gold Dust Plant.
If you are new to gardening or are looking for plants that are easy to maintain, then you will never go wrong with any Dracaena species. In this article, we will discuss ways to care for some of the most popular species of Dracaena, as well as common questions when growing these plants.
How To Care For A Dracaeana Marginata
Also known as Madagascar Dragon Tree, Dracaena Marginata has sword-like leaves with red edges and narrow stems. This variant is highly recommended if you are new to gardening, thanks to its low-maintenance quality. While Marginata is popular as an indoor plant, it can also be grown outdoors. But nurturing this plant outdoors requires warm climates as it does not do well in a cold environment for a prolonged time. Its outdoor variety often produces small, white flowers and yellow-orange fruits in spring. Read our article on purple flowers as well.
Marginata needs water when half up to two-thirds of the soil is parched or dry. On average, watering Dragon Tree should be done every two weeks. You may water it slightly more frequently during warmer days, and less often during fall and winter since its growth is slower when the weather is cold. Marginata is fluoride-sensitive similar to other plants so consider watering it using non-fluoridated or distilled water. Brown leaves indicate overwatering, while yellow leaves signal dehydration.
A popular house plant, Marginata thrives in medium light but it can also survive in a low-light environment. The latter, however, slows the plant’s growth rate and can make new leaves smaller than usual. Brown spots on leaves typically signal too much light, while pale leaves indicate insufficient light.
The ideal temperature for this plant ranges from 65 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm weather suits Marginata best especially when it gets direct sunlight. Hence, if you are living in a tropical climate, then you can easily grow marginata. Cold climates or temperatures below 63 degrees Fahrenheit may sometimes cause this plant to lean or curve.
Marginata does not require much fertilizer. You may feed it with liquid fertilizer once every two weeks during its early growth phase. After that, you can use controlled-release fertilizer at the start of spring. Feeding Marginata during winter is not recommended. As with any other plants, make sure not to overfertilize.
How to care for Dracaena Fragrans (corn plant)
Another popular houseplant variety within the Dracaena genus is fragrans, which is also called cornstalk. These lovely African evergreens are effective in getting rid of harmful toxins in the air. This type features solid green leaves and stems that are either dark brown or green, with the latter resembling the texture of Lucky Bamboo. Other varieties of Dracaena Fragrans are Massangeana, Lindenni and Victoriae. While it is popular as a houseplant, Fragrans is also cultivated as shrubs or a hedge, especially in Africa.
This type of plant needs plenty of water during its active growth phase. Its soil must be kept moist during this stage as well. Watering is typically reduced from late fall through winter, leaving the potting mixture only slightly moist. However, you should avoid turning the soil totally dry. Misting should also be done if you notice that the leaves’ edges turn brown as a result of low humidity. Non-fluoridated water is the most recommended for this plant.
This houseplant is recommended to be placed close to a window where it can get filtered sunlight. Ideally, Fragrans requires medium light but it can also live in conditions with low light. However, keep in mind that constant exposure to very little light may result in stunted growth and lack of color variegation among the leaves. Meanwhile, too much exposure to direct sunlight may cause the plant to wilt. If you decide to place Fragrans outdoors, make sure to position it where it will get partial shade.
Fragrans thrives amid warm conditions, with temperature levels that range from 75 degrees to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything below this does not bode well for the plant. Fragrans’ leaves may become damaged if exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. At the same time, growth may stall if the level is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter and light frosts are not friendly to this plant.
Fragrans thrives in rich, organic soil. They may require slow-release or liquid fertilizer once every month during its growth stage. During winter, feeding should be done modestly or not at all. You can also use iron drench to prevent yellowish leaves.
How to care for Dracaena Janet Craig
Native to Africa, Janet Craig is a favorite home and office plant. It features dark green and shiny leaves that are shaped like a sword. These leathery leaves typically measure three inches in width and three feet in length. Janet Craig can grow as high as 15 feet but its varieties grown indoors are much smaller. It is perfect as floor plants but it can also be mass planted in garden beds.
Janet Craig has low watering requirements. Make sure to have half of the soil dried out before watering the plant. Like other Dracaena varieties, Janet Craig must not be left sitting in water to avoid root rot. If you are using tap water, set it aside uncovered overnight to let the chemicals evaporate. In terms of duration, this plant needs to be watered every seven to 10 days, depending on its size.
Janet Craig does well in medium-light conditions, where it grows much faster. It prefers filtered indirect sunlight, making it an excellent choice for an indoor plant. If placed in a low-light environment, Janet Craig tends to grow slower, and produces smaller and narrower leaves. Do not place this Dracaena variety under direct sunlight as it will cause the leaves to burn.
The ideal temperature for Dracaena Janet Craig is from 65 degrees to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature levels below 55 degrees Fahrenheit are considered harmful to this plant. You should avoid exposing Janet Craig to harsh winter conditions as well as blowing heaters as they can destroy the leaves.
Commercially sold Janet Craigs are usually sensitive to fluoride so the best supplement for them is liquid fertilizer. Overall, using fertilizers for this Dracaena species is not a requirement. Fertilizers tend to leave behind salts, which could damage the leaf tissues and cause the leaves to turn brown.
How to care for Dracaena Dorado
Dracaena Dorado is an indoor plant that has long, dark green leaves and sturdy-looking canes. Also a native to Africa, this plant is undemanding and requires very little maintenance. Aside from adding depth and beauty to an interior space, this plant helps clean the air by removing contaminants such as benzene and formaldehyde. Dorado, however, is not pet-friendly as it can cause digestive reactions among your four-legged furry friends.
Like Anthurium, Dracaena Dorado requires moderate watering during its growth phase and slightly more than usual during winter. The soil should be dried out in between watering. Also, make sure not to leave excess water as this plant’s roots do not like getting soaked in too much water. If you see root rot or yellow leaves, then this may be an indication of overwatering.
Similar to the aforementioned varieties, Dracaena Dorado does well in low-light conditions with partial shade. It prefers indirect sunlight as too much direct sun exposure may damage and bleach its leaves. You can give it up to three hours of sunlight a day. Also a known office and house plant, Dracaena Dorado is recommended to be placed next to a window where it can get filtered sunlight.
The ideal room temperature for Dorado is between 60 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Light misting once a week may be needed if the air is too dry.
Dorado is a low-maintenance plant that requires little to no fertilizer. You may consider feeding it with liquid fertilizer during the summer or spring, though it is also perfectly fine if you decide not to. Keep in mind that giving it too much fertilizer may lead to root damage.
How to care for Dracaena Deremensis
White stripes across its sword-shaped leaves differentiate Dracaena Deremensis from other species. This no-fuss hardy also features thick stems and is easy to plant in the garden or containers. Like most Dracaena varieties, Deremensis is widely grown as an indoor plant. It is not needy and requires very little care, making it a perfect plant for people who want to start their gardening journey but are always on the go. It will look nicely on top of a desk or on a window sill with its simple but elegant appearance. Deremensis planted in containers or are mostly kept indoors rarely yield any flowers. However, plants grown outdoors or in the garden may produce small yellow flowers at times.
Deremensis needs regular watering during its growth period, which spans from spring to fall. The soil must be moist, organically rich and has drainage to avoid root rot. During winter, watering must be scaled back without causing the soil to completely dry out. The best way to know if it is time to water your Deremensis is if the soil feels dry once you place your finger in it. As will be discussed later on in this article, yellow and brown leaves are indicators that you are watering your plant too much. Rainwater or distilled water is ideal for Deremensis, which is fluoride-sensitive.
Indirect sunlight is the most recommended for Deremensis. If indoors, place your pot or container close to a window so the plant can get enough filtered sunlight. Deremensis can tolerate some shade but a constant exposure to poor light conditions will prevent the leaves from growing to their full potential. In contrast, too much direct sunlight will cause its leaves to burn.
As a tropical plant, Deremensis thrives in warm climates. Its ideal temperature levels range from 60 degrees to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and anything below 50 degrees could kill the plant. In terms of humidity, anything above 40% is great for this Dracaena species. If you notice brown leaves due to dry air, consider misting once in a while or making a pebble tray to raise the level of humidity.
Deremensis only needs liquid fertilizer once a month during summer or spring. Fertilizer is not necessary in winter and fall. Older plants, however, may need to be fed once a week during their growth season.
The Dracaena family not only requires little maintenance but it is also easy to propagate. For this genus, the ideal time to start pruning is during its growth stage in spring and summer. Dracaena plants are dormant between fall and winter so avoid pruning during these seasons.
There are several ways by which you can propagate any variety of Dracaena and each of these can be done even if you are not an expert. The first option is simply by cutting off the top part of Dracaena. To do this, start cutting below the plant’s leaf line including one or more nodes, where roots grow. Afterward, you may plant it in a moist soil or put it in a vase with fresh water. Make sure to place the cutting in a warm area.
Another way to propagate Dracaena is through stem cutting, which is the perfect method if you want to have more plant clones. As in the first method, simply make top cuttings but be sure to include a large part of the stem. Next, the stem portion should be cut into 8-inch sections. Afterward, place the cuttings in a container filled with water or plant it in soil. Make sure that the cuttings get enough indirect sunlight from their location. You can then transfer it in a pot and consider repotting once the plant’s roots become larger especially during spring. However, repotting should be avoided if the plant is budding.
You can also propagate Dracaena through air layering, a method that needs a moist location to enable the aerial roots to come out. To do this, choose a portion of the stem and scrape off one layer of bark using a sterilized knife. This should expose a band that measures half an inch in width, creating a wound. You can use a rooting hormone and apply it onto the new mark, though this step is optional. Next, cover the wound with wet sphagnum moss, which should then be covered with a plastic wrap. You can remove the wrap once you start seeing new roots come out.
Are they poisonous to cats?
Most, if not all, types of Dracaena should be kept away from cats and dogs as they are poisonous to them. This houseplant has a chemical compound that can result in vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, fatigue and depression among your four-legged furry pets. In extreme cases, cats and dogs may vomit with blood and exhibit dilated pupils when they chew on Dracaena. If this happens, contact your veterinarian immediately to have your pets treated. Since many varieties of Dracaena can be kept in small containers or pots, you may consider hanging it or placing it somewhere that your pets are unable to access. But if you have had the plant for quite a while and your pet does not seem to notice it, then it is fine to keep it in its original place.
Leaves turning yellow and brown
Yellow and brown leaves are sometimes an indication of poor health conditions among plants including cucumbers, tomatoes and lemon trees. Unfortunately, the Dracaena family is no exception to that. The most common culprit of leaves turning yellow among Dracaena plants is overwatering. If Dracaena were a person, then it would only require a half-bath, not a full shower. In general, overwatered plants are prone to fungal infection, which in turn causes the roots and stems to rot. To prevent this, make sure that the water comes out of the drainage hole of the pot and flows straight into the saucer. Excess water from the saucer must be discarded right away. Also keep in mind that you should not allow your Dracaena to sit in water for a long period. Aside from overwatering, poor water quality may also lead to yellow leaves. To prevent this, make sure to only use filtered water when hydrating your Dracaena plants. Alternatively, you can fill a container with tap water and let it sit without a cover overnight, allowing fluoride and chlorine to evaporate. Cold water is a no-no for Dracaena. Make sure that the water’s temperature level is higher by a few degrees than room temperature. You can keep a watering schedule to keep track of your most recent watering date. This will also help you trace if overwatering is indeed the cause of those yellow leaves or some other factors.
Aside from overwatering, the humidity level is also a contributing factor. Low levels of humidity may cause Dracaena leaves’ edges to turn brown before turning yellow completely. Regular misting, making a pebble tray and using a humidifier are just some of the simple tricks to solve this problem.
Aside from creating holes, pests can also lead to yellow leaves. Bugs, spider mites and scale insects can suck moisture out of the plants, thereby accelerating the leaves’ transformation into yellow. Stressed plants are even more susceptible to this and should be treated early on. Fertilizer salts may also cause yellow or brown leaves. This is common if you are using potting soil that has perlite. If you think that there is a build-up of fertilizer salts in the soil, flush them out using fresh water.
In some cases, yellow leaves can be addressed by repotting your Dracaena plants and placing them in bigger pots where they can get enough air. If by any chance your plant is close to a radiator, choose another location as the radiation can also affect the color of the plant’s leaves.
Having said these, it is important to note that some yellowing is natural, particularly among older leaves to give way to new ones. These older, yellow leaves are typically seen at the bottom part of the plant.
Other plants are also susceptible to yellow leaves if maintained poorly. If you want to know why tomato plant leaves turn yellow and ways on how to avoid it, check out this article. Make sure to read this article as well if you want to grow pineapple.