Recognizable by their glossy green leaves and tropical feel, dracaena plants are a favorite for interior decorating and outdoor landscaping. Dracaenas grow tall and slim, making them the perfect plant to fill an empty spot in your front yard or light up a corner in your home.
However, if you want to keep your dracaena plants beautiful and healthy, you have to give them proper care and love. In this guide to dracaena plant care, we’ll teach you how to plant a dracaena in your garden and give it the care it needs to flourish.
Dracaenas are an ornamental house plant that can grow both indoors and outdoors in subtropical climates, such as in Central America and very southern United States. Dracaenas have a tree-like growing pattern that distinguishes them from other house plants and makes them a popular feature of interior and exterior design. Dracaenas also help purify the air, making your home or yard cleaner and healthier.
There are about 40 different varieties of dracaenas that each boast unique leaves, colors, heights and growing patterns. Most dracaena plants have vibrant green leaves, often with a yellow or white stripe down the center or along the edges. Some dracaenas also have pink or red stripes on their long and shiny leaves.
The leaves of dracaenas are typically just a few inches wide but can grow up to one foot long on some plants. When cultivated outdoors, some dracaenas can grow as tall as 15 feet or taller. Indoor varieties tend to remain around three to six feet tall with proper pruning.
Dracaenas are native to the Mediterranean region, Africa, Madagascar and islands in the Indian Ocean. The name dracaena originated from the ancient Greek word “drakaina,” meaning “female dragon.” This name comes from the red gum contained in the trunk of the dracaena draco variety of dracaena plant. This scarlet gum was nicknamed “dragon’s blood” and was once used in medicines and dyes.
Dracaenas are resilient plants that can withstand stressful conditions and a bit of neglect. However, if you want your dracaena plant to flourish, follow these tips for how to care for your dracaena plant properly.
Dracaena plants prefer temperatures between about 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Overnight, dracaenas can withstand about a 10-degree drop in temperature. Cold drafts or extended periods of cold can be harmful to dracaena plants and may stunt their growth. If you are growing a dracaena plant indoors, keep it away from any heaters or cooling vents to maintain a more consistent temperature.
Because they are native to subtropical climates, dracaenas prefer slightly higher humidity than you are likely to have inside your house. However, dracaenas can often adapt to normal room humidity. In regions like southern Florida, dracaenas are happiest outdoors where they can enjoy more moisture.
When dracaenas are planted in areas where humidity is too low, their leaves may turn brown and eventually fall off. If you believe your dracaena is not getting enough moisture, you can raise the humidity in your home by placing a humidifier near the plant. You can also place your dracaena plant on a shallow tray of pebbles with water just covering the pebbles. As the water evaporates, it will provide additional moisture for your dracaena. Misting the leaves of your dracaena every few days will also help it thrive.
Dracaenas can survive in areas with low or medium light but prefer bright filtered light. When planting a dracaena outside, look for an area that receives partial shade or where sunlight is filtered through other trees like palms. For indoor dracaena plants, place them near a sunny window with a sheer curtain. Never plant a dracaena in direct sunlight, as too much sunlight will stress the plant and scorch the leaves. When dracaenas receive too much light, their leaves will turn brown and fall off.
When choosing the right location to plant your dracaena, think about sunlight and humidity. Look for an area in your yard or home that receives just the right amount of light and where the air is not too dry. Different varieties of dracaena plants require more or less shade and humidity, so check the preferences of your specific dracaena plant.
Dracaenas can thrive outdoors in warmer regions that fall within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant hardiness zones 10 to 12. Hardy dracaenas can also be grown in plant hardiness zone 9 but may need additional protection during winter months. Once you establish your dracaena plant outside, it can grow well without much attention.
Dracaenas are a perfect plant to incorporate in your outdoor landscaping, as their roots are not invasive and they can be pruned to the desired height. Dracaenas can be planted close to your house or near other foliage and trees. These beautiful plants grow fairly slowly and are fairly easy to trim as needed.
When growing dracaenas from seeds, sow them in moist soil and keep the soil damp for the first several weeks. Dracaena seeds will begin to sprout in about four to six weeks. For the most success cultivating dracaena seeds, maintain their preferred temperature, light and humidity levels until the plants are well-established.
If you are purchasing a mature dracaena plant, follow these steps for how to plant a dracaena outside:
If you are planting multiple dracaeanas in your garden, leave at least three feet between each plant. Even if your dracaenas are small now, they will eventually grow to fill that space.
When planting dracaenas inside, follow the same tips to find the best location and select the right type of soil. Choose a pot that is about twice as wide as the dracaena’s root system to accommodate for future growth.
Dracaenas do not require a lot of water and are happiest when their soil is kept slightly moist but never soggy. Water your dracaena about once a week or every other week, allowing the soil to dry between waterings. You can also help keep your dracaena hydrated by misting its leaves once or twice a week. Dracaenas can be watered more during the growing season and less during the fall and winter when they are dormant.
Avoid watering your dracaena too much as this can lead to root rot, which may kill the plant. Overwatering can also occur if the soil has poor drainage. Common signs of overwatering are yellowing or drooping leaves. If you believe your dracaena is strained from overwatering, adjust its watering schedule and consider replanting it in soil with better drainage. If your dracaena is planted outside, pay attention to when it rains and only water your dracaena after a period of drought.
Dracaenas will be the healthiest when they are given purified water, distilled water or rainwater. Because dracaena plants are sensitive to flouride and salts, they may respond poorly to tap water. Signs that your dracaena plant is not happy with your water are yellow spots and brown tips on the leaves.
Dracaena plants grow at a fairly slow rate that depends upon their growing conditions. Dracaenas that are planted in an ideal climate and cared for well will grow at a moderate pace, while dracaenas that are not cared for properly may grow very slowly if at all. These tropical plants grow most quickly in the spring and summer and are dormant during winter months.
As your dracaena grows, it may lose leaves from the bottom as a part of its normal growing process. You may prune these leaves once they have turned entirely yellow or brown and are easy to remove without pulling too hard.
Although it is rare for dracaenas to flower, the species dracaena fragrans massangeana, commonly known as a corn plant or mass cane plant, can flower when the plants are very mature. When corn plants are a few years old and living in optimal conditions, they may produce highly fragrant flowers that last for just a few days to a week. These white, yellow, green or light pink flowers emerge from the center of each leaf whorl and grow in bunches of small flowers. Each bunch of flowers can grow as long as three feet.
Dracaenas do not require frequent pruning but can be trimmed to maintain the height of the plant. Simply cut the main stalk — called a cane — at the desired height, and new leaves will sprout in a few weeks. Because some varieties can grow more than ten feet tall, pruning the cane may be necessary to keep the plant under control.
You can propagate dracaenas by planting the cane that you removed during pruning or rooting leaf cuttings. Simply place cuttings of at least six inches long in water and wait until roots grow. This may take a few weeks or months. Once the roots are at least an inch long, you can plant them in soil. As with any freshly planted dracaenas, your new dracaena sprouts will need a little extra watering for the first few weeks.
Dracaenas do not require very much fertilizer, especially if they are planted outdoors in peaty soil with a lot of organic material. The best way to feed your dracaena is to apply a thin layer of compost around the plant in the early spring. About a quarter to a half-inch of compost will usually do the trick.
If you prefer to use houseplant fertilizer, feed your dracaena about once every two weeks in the spring and summer. Reduce your fertilizer use in the fall and stop feeding your dracaena entirely in the winter. Applying too much compost or fertilizer can burn the dracaena’s roots.
If you live within USDA plant hardiness zones 10 to 12, your dracaenas will survive the winter without any trouble. Climates where the temperate does not drop below freezing are safe for dracaenas to grow year-round.
If you live in plant hardiness zone 9 and experience occasional frosts, you may still be able to grow dracaenas outside, but will need to protect them from damage on cold winter nights. On nights when the weather forecast predicts a frost, protect your dracaena by covering it with a bedsheet, blanket or plastic cloth. Use stakes to hang the fabric over your dracaena without touching it. Wrapping white string lights around your dracaena can also help keep it warm for short periods of cold weather.
Pest problems and diseases are not common with dracaenas, but these plants may sometimes be bothered by spider mites or mealybugs. Spider mites are small arachnids that can quickly demolish the leaves on your dracaena plant. You can identify spider mites by small webs on your plants and holes in the leaves. Mealybugs are insects that live in warm and moist climates and will similarly feed on your houseplants if you give them the chance.
To prevent spider mites and mealybugs from preying on your dracaena plants, rinse the leaves and cane of your dracaenas periodically with water. If your dracaena is planted indoors, you can simply wipe down the leaves with a damp cloth. If you see signs that your dracaena has been eaten by pests, you can spray it with an insecticide made with pyrethrin.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) lists dracaena plants as toxic to cats and dogs. If your cat or dog snacks on your dracaena leaves, they may experience vomiting, excessive salivation, severe lack of appetite and depression. Cats may also have dilated pupils after consuming dracaena leaves. When choosing a spot to plant your dracaena plant, look for somewhere that your pets will not be tempted to eat them.
Dracaenas come in many different varieties — from short and slim house plants to tall and bushy trees best suited for the backyard. Each unique species of dracaena boasts its own array of colors, textures and shapes. Here are a few different types of dracaena plants you are likely to encounter:
With so many different types of dracaena plants to choose from, it’s easy to find the perfect dracaena to fit your garden or house. These attractive and resilient plants are a great addition to your outdoor landscaping or to spruce up your home or office space.
If you want to grow beautiful dracaena plants in your garden or yard, Bee Green Pest Control can help you keep them healthy, happy and flourishing. As a leading pest control company in the central Florida area, we have extensive experience helping home gardeners provide the very best care to their plants. Our friendly staff is always available to offer advice for preventing an infestation in your dracaenas or answer any questions you may have about dracaena plant care. Contact Bee Green for more information or to schedule an estimate today.