Dracaena Marginata “Dragon Tree”: Plant Care Guidelines
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Last Updated on March 25, 2021 by Gary Stephen
Dracaena Marginata or better known as “dragon tree” is one of today’s most popular indoor plants. This slender tree comes with strikingly gorgeous red-edged green leaves. It somehow appears like having a burst of fireworks right inside your space.
Now, isn’t that quite cool?
What’s even cooler, though, is that this plant has the amazing ability to purify the air. According to NASA’s clean air study, dracaena is among those houseplants tested to have air-filtering capabilities. That means these plants have an inherent way of eliminating volatile organic compounds. In particular, the dracaena marginata is known to remove benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toluene. Thus, transforming the surrounding air cleaner and safer for us to breathe into.
That said, the dragon tree is not only visually appealing, but it also bears an impact on air quality. Thus, making it the perfect houseplant for any indoor space.
Dracaena Marginata is very easy to care for. Nevertheless, we are still here to tell you everything you need to know to ace growing this plant like a pro. From lighting to watering and even the best products to use, we got it all covered in this article.
So, sit back, relax, and just read it all ’till the end.
Dragon trees are very adaptive to different levels of lighting. No matter if you have bright or low-light conditions, you can sure bet it would still thrive. This feature is what makes them an ideal choice for indoor houseplants.
To maximize its health, though, know that this plant would love to be under bright but filtered sunlight. Although it can tolerate a good amount of sunshine, it can get scorched too if placed in full direct sun for too long. So, it is rather advisable to place it near windows where it can still get excellent yet filtered indoor lighting.
If you are worried that your room ain’t got enough sunlight, fret not! You can always seek the help of an artificial lighting system. Grow lamps are the perfect solution for supplementing light to areas where your plant needs it most.
This comes in different varieties and sizes. So, you have to find one that best suits your plant’s requirements. Opt for those lamps that can offer full-spectrum and sun-like appeal to mimic that of natural sunshine. Remember, the bigger and more pots you have, the more lamps you would likely need as well.
Here are some of our top picks for grow lamps:
The dragon tree is not a picky type of plant. It can even get by just fine with an all-purpose potting soil mix. Nevertheless, you can further optimize its growth by providing it with loose well-draining soil. In such a case, a loamy soil mixed with peat moss fits the job pretty well.
There are also instances where you might find dragon trees potted in 100% lava rocks. This is quite natural since dracaena marginata originated from Hawaii. Lava rocks give your plants plenty of aeration while holding a good amount of moisture. Even so, it would still be best if you try to mix it with some potting soil and fertilizer to further support growth.
Our top picks for potting soil mixes:
Okay, so you already know what type of soil to use. Let’s now talk about the best container for you to plant the dragon tree in.
In the wild, dracaena marginata receives plenty of sunlight, water, and ground so it can freely grow as tall as 20 feet. Indoor spaces, however, are a totally different setting. Thus, it is quite understandable to see some level of growth stunting. When grown in an enclosed space, the dragon tree can most often reach a height of only 3 to 6 feet.
Considering its expected size and height indoors, find a container that can provide a good base of support. In such a case, it is a good idea to use a container made with heavier material such as ceramic or terracotta. This will provide your plant’s upward growth with more stability.
Regardless of the material you choose, always make sure it has at least one drainage hole. This enables you to let the excess water flow out of the pot. Thus, ensuring your soil will not get waterlogged and lead to root rotting.
Be careful as well not to use a pot that is way too big. Doing such increases the tendency of overwatering. Instead, allow about 1 to 2 inches between the roots and wall of the pot. This should be wide enough to give the root system ample space to grow into.
Our top picks for containers:
The dracaena marginata can be quite fussy when it comes to watering. You should know that dragon trees are sensitive to salts, especially fluoride. Discoloration of the plant is the most common indication of fluoride toxicity.
On that note, you have to be extra careful about the type of water you use to hydrate your plants. In this case, it is safer to use non-fluoridated or distilled water.
As for the frequency, it is best to water a dragon tree only when the top 2 to 3 inches of the soil already feels dry to touch. It may usually take about 2 to 3 weeks between watering.
Although this may still vary depending on the season. For instance, you may need to water more often or sooner than 2 weeks during the warmer months. On the other hand, you should also minimize watering when the plant is less active during the winter season. Doing so will give you a good balance of moisture as deemed necessary for the situation.
Your plants also have their own way of expressing their current hydration status. Browning of the tips of the leaves and stems are the usual signs of overwatering and as well as salt toxicity. Meanwhile, the yellowing of the leaves may indicate that your plant is dry and thirsty for water.
In both instances, though, the issue should be addressed immediately as soon as you take notice of the signs. Dracaena marginata is pretty much a resilient plant. So, there are still high hopes for it to recover from over or under-watering if prompt actions are being taken.
If you don’t feel confident though with your watering schedules, it would help to use a moisture meter instead. This simple garden tool takes you out of the guessing game. The sensor probes enable you to detect the moisture levels deep within the soil. Thus, you will exactly know when to water or not.
Our top picks for soil moisture meters:
Temperature & Humidity
Dracaena marginata is native to Hawaii and Madagascar. Thus, this tropical plant is alternately referred to as the “Madagascar dragon tree”. Considering that, you can expect the plant to favor a warmer atmosphere.
To be precise, dragon trees find it more comfortable to be in a grow space with a temperature range of 65°F to 75°F. A room that is way too cold can trigger inactiveness and shift it into dormancy. Meanwhile, a room that is way too hot can also stunt its growth and even compromise its overall health.
With regard to humidity, dragon trees can adapt well even in the humidness of typical households. Nevertheless, it will further thrive best in a room with 40% to 55% relative humidity levels. What you should note though is to never place the plant near AC or heater vents. If possible, open the windows to allow fresh air to roam inside your space. Doing so promotes good air circulation and dispels the hot stuffy air out of the room.
To keep track of the temperature and humidity levels, it would help to install an indoor thermometer and hygrometer. This simple device will consistently provide you with accurate temperature and humidity readings. Thus, it would be easier for you to maintain the most favorable level of warmth and moisture for your dragon tree. Oftentimes, you can find both of these functionalities incorporated into a single device.
Our top picks for indoor room thermometers & hygrometers:
Dracaena marginata is quite a low-maintenance plant that barely requires frequent feedings. A schedule of once or twice a year would be enough to cover its nutrient needs. The best time for feeding is during spring up towards the end of fall.
Oftentimes, the paling of the leaves is a tell-tale sign that your plant longs for a boost of nutrition. With that, it is best to feed your plant with a low-dose yet balanced fertilizer. It would also be a great advantage to use a water-soluble type. This would make it a lot easier for the plant to absorb. Thus, rendering the nutrient uptake more effective.
Alternatively, you can also opt to use slow-release plant food. This often comes in a form of granules that are sprinkled on the topsoil. Because this preparation gradually dissolves, it thereby lessens the risk of burning your plant while continuously feeding it for weeks or even months.
Our top picks for balanced fertilizers:
Once in a while, your dragon tree may need to have a bit of grooming. Pruning dead or unkempt leaves is one good way to keep your plant looking tidy and well-shaped. It enables you to cut off those awkward long growths or to even out denser areas.
When you prune, always make sure to cut down towards the point where there are signs of good health. You can check this by slightly scratching the outer skin of the stem. If it appears greenish, then this part is still healthy. If it looks brown and feels soggy, this part of the stem is already dying. Skip this part too.
It is also important to cut any part of the plant at a 45-degree angle. Cutting it at a slant angle allows water to just slide off and not pool into the area. Remember, excessive moisture can potentially lead to the development of diseases.
To prune, all you need to have is a pair of clean and sharp pruning shears. Make sure to sterilize your garden scissors after each use. Wiping the blades with 70% Isopropyl alcohol is enough to kill possible diseases. Thus, preventing cross-contamination from one plant to another.
Our top picks for pruning shears:
Pruning isn’t necessarily done every season. If you do decide to prune, though, it is worthwhile to take this chance to propagate the cuttings from your plant. Propagation through this method is the easiest way to produce new dragon trees.
To do this, start by cutting healthy canes or stems at approximately 12 inches long. Fill a container with distilled or non-fluoridated water. Then, allow the cuttings to just soak. Replace the water every 3 to 5 days to prevent fungal growth.
Another method is to plant your cuttings directly in the potting soil. In this case, it would be a great advantage if you dip the tip of your cuttings into a rooting hormone first. This will help accelerate the growth and development of new roots.
It will take a few weeks for the root system to start growing. If done under the right conditions, you can expect new leaf growths in about a month or two. Once this is already established, you can now transfer your new root ball into a pot. Make sure to carry out this step as carefully as possible so as not to damage its fragile root system.
Our top picks for rooting hormones:
Dragon trees are fairly pest-resistant. But, when exposed to too much dry air, they can be susceptible to a few common bugs. The culprits may usually include spider mites, scales, thrips, and mealybugs.
Such kinds of infestations can be treated easily. The very first intervention you can do is to give your infected dragon tree a thorough rinse with plain water. Do not forget to always include the underside of the leaves too.
For heavy infestations, you can try to use insecticidal soaps, neem oil, or horticultural oil instead. This is not a one-time treatment. So, make sure to persistently apply this to your dragon tree until the issue is resolved.
Our top picks for insecticidal soap, neem oil, and horticultural oil:
Last, but not least, you should know that dracaena marginata is not quite pet-friendly. The flowers and leaves of the dragon tree contain steroidal saponins. This natural sap is poisonous to cats and dogs particularly when ingested.
Toxicity generally presents gastrointestinal symptoms. This may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and lack of appetite. Apart from that, it can also cause the animal to have dilated pupils, feel lethargic, and even depressed.
If you notice any of the signs, immediately seek professional veterinary assistance.
Dracaena marginata is one gorgeous houseplant. Its striking appeal, low-key maintenance, and air purification benefit make it a perfect addition to any indoor space. The guidelines we presented above are the basic things you need to know about taking care of a dragon tree. So long as you always keep our tips in mind, you are sure to enjoy this plant for a very long time.