How To Grow and Care For Dracaena Plants

There are a lot of plants that have found lasting popularity among both outdoor and indoor plant enthusiasts.

The perennial genus dracaena (dra-SEE-nah) are among the most beloved.

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Better known as the following common names:

  • Dragon tree
  • Corn plant

This genus of approximately 120 shrubs and trees is a member of the Asparagaceae family.

It has absorbed other genera in recent years under the APG IV classification system.

Still, it has also lost many species over time. 

It is often confusing to track which plants count as a dracaena.

Yet, dracaenas have few demands and can even handle a little neglect. These traits make them wonderful plants for families that do a lot of vacations.

Many cultivars and variants exist, from Africa and southern Asia to Australia (and 2 South American species).

With so many different plants to choose from, there’s a dracaena for everyone.

Note: Sansevierias (AKA snake plants) have recently been reclassified as dracaena due to genetic similarities.

Always check to ensure your dracaena wasn’t renamed sansevieria before following this guide. And be sure to look for the appropriate sansevieria guide for your snake plant.

Dracaena Care

Size And Growth

Dracaenas vary significantly in size but generally fall under two categories:

  • Treelike dracaenas have an upright growth habit, with above-ground stems spread out as they flower or are pruned.
  • Rhizomatous dracaenas have a horizontal, subterranean growth habit. Their leaves sprout above ground along the rhizomes.

For the treelike species, one can control the maximum height by removing the top of the plant.

The rhizomatous species may have the rhizomes pruned to restrict spread.

All dracaenas are slow growers, which reduces their care requirements.

Dracaena foliage is usually oval to lanceolate, and some species may have a bit of curl to the edges.

The shade and presence of variegation also depend upon the species.

Flowering And Fragrance

Some species are known for their blooms. But, dracaena may take a long time to bloom indoors or not bloom at all as a domestic plant.

An excellent example is Dracaena fragrans, named for their fragrant flowers. It is often grown as a hedge plant in Africa.

Light And Temperature

A handful of species can be grown in low light to full shade, such as:

  • Dracaena fragrans
  • Dracaena massangeana

The majority are sun lovers that prefer bright, indirect sunlight, dappled sunlight, or afternoon shade.

Avoid exposing a dracaena’s leaves to direct sunlight, as they can scorch.

These plants all prefer moderate to high humidity. The levels vary from one species to another.

Here are some tips to follow:

  • First, keep them in your bathroom or kitchen when growing indoors. 
  • Augment the ambient humidity by grouping the dracaena with other plants.
  • Add a pebble tray, or use a humidifier.

Most dracaenas will be happy in 65° to 80° degrees Fahrenheit temperatures.

A few, such as Dracaena giganta, like the max temperature closer to 75° degrees Fahrenheit.

Regardless of the species, avoid placing it near drafts or allowing the temperature to drop below 60° degrees Fahrenheit.

Watering And Feeding

Dracaenas behave a lot like succulents when it comes to water needs, making the soak-and-dry method ideal.

Here are the following tips to consider:

  • Allow the top ¾ of the soil to dry out before watering.
  • If your plant is in a 4” inch deep pot, the top 3” inches should be dry before watering your dracaena.
  • When watering, use room temperature distilled water or rainwater.
  • Pour it slowly and evenly until moisture seeps from the drainage holes.

This ensures the proper amount of moisture and flushes mineral salts and other waste products from the soil.

Adjust as needed for your individual plant’s drinking habits.

Warning: NEVER use unfiltered tap water on a dracaena. They are sensitive to many of the chemicals present, especially fluoride.

Generally, your dracaena won’t need fertilizer.

Still, you can encourage growth by adding compost in the spring or give it a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted to ¼ strength monthly during the growing season.

Soil And Transplanting

Due to dracaena’s low tolerance to standing water, you’ll want to give it well-drained soil.

Succulent mixes work well, or you can mix the following:

  • 1 part succulent mix
  • 1 part standard potting mix
  • 1 part aggregate (such as coconut coir or perlite).

To ensure well-drained soil, remember these tips:

  • Avoid clay soils as these easily pack down and become too dense for proper drainage.
  • Consider adding small pebbles or gravel substrate when planting outdoors or in a container. This layer will help ensure a buffer layer for any excess water.
  • Be aware you may need to add a little extra soil or a layer of compost to the top each year due to soil compacting.
  • Repot your dracaena every 2 to 3 years to keep it from becoming rootbound.
  • While it’s possible to do this process throughout the year, the best time is spring.
  • Choose a container one size larger and be sure to use fresh soil.

Grooming And Maintenance

These plants don’t need much maintenance, but you may still wish to prune them in the spring to encourage new growth or regulate size.

You can also remove the tops of treelike species to limit their height and encourage fuller growth.

Flowering species may need deadheading to promote further blooming.

How To Propagate Corn Plant?

Stem or rhizome cuttings are the way to go when you want to propagate a dracaena.

Be sure to let the cuttings callous over before planting.

Dragon Tree Pests Or Diseases

The most common dracaena pests include:

  • Mealybugs
  • Scale
  • Spider mites

Aphids and other critters may also occur.

Root rot is the greatest threat to these plants, followed by fluoride toxicity.

Other potential diseases include:

  • Fusarium leaf spot
  • Flecking

The latter tends only to affect Dracaena marginata and isn’t contagious.

While the exact amount of toxicity varies from one species to another, the leaves of all dracaena are toxic to pets and harmful to humans.

Symptoms following ingestion usually involve the following:

  • Stomach irritation
  • Vomiting

Uses Of The Dracaena Plant

Dracaenas work great in most gardens, hanging baskets, and containers.

They’re clean air plants, meaning they help remove toxic VOCs (volatile organic compounds) such as formaldehyde from your home’s air.

Some research suggests that dracaenas absorb lead, although no definitive proof exists.