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Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Dragon Tree Alive

dragon tree

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Dragon tree, also known as dragon plant, is the name for any number of species in the Dracaena genus of plants. These easygoing, rugged houseplants can add dramatic tropical vibes to any space. With spiky green leaves on long stalks, they can resemble miniature palm trees. 

In the wild, dragon trees can grow up to 70 feet tall and live for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Tall, elegant houseplant specimens are typically kept pruned at six feet, although there are some dwarf species, such as Dracaena deremensis ‘Janet Craig,’ also known as pineapple dracaena. Some of these species grow as tall as regular varieties when they reach maturity, but they grow much more slowly.

There are more than 100 varieties of dragon trees. Common types include Dracaena marginata or Madagascar dragon tree, which features long, spiny green leaves with red edges, and Dracaena draco, with two-foot-long, sword-shaped blue-green leaves.

Dracaena fragrans, or Massange’s dracaena, is also known as corn plant, thanks to its broad, shiny green leaves. The ‘Lemon Lime’ cultivar features broad, pointed green leaves with thin forest green and cream stripes running down the middle. And the plant that’s known as lucky bamboo isn’t actually related to bamboo—rather, it’s a variety of dracaena.

houseplants in pots on white windowsill in front of bay window
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Best Growing Conditions for Your Dragon Tree

Place your dragon tree in a spot with lots of bright, indirect light. If you move your dragon tree from a spot with less light to a spot with more light, you will notice a significant difference in its growth, which will be faster and larger with brighter light. Variegated or colorful types may also lose their distinctive coloring in low-light conditions.

These tropical plants grow best in temperatures that don’t drop below the high 60-degree range at night. Since they’ll do better with humid conditions, keep them away from air conditioning or heating vents and drafty areas.

These plants are also toxic to cats and dogs, so make sure they’re positioned away from curious pets. 

How to Care for Your Dragon Tree Plant

Dragon trees are pretty flexible when it comes to watering, but you still want to keep tabs on the moisture in the soil. Stick your finger in the soil and water when the top inch of soil has dried out. Cut back on watering in the winter months. 

Fertilize your plant every six months with a houseplant fertilizer. These houseplants can be repotted at any time during the year. When repotting, use fresh commercial potting soil, going up one pot size. 

If you notice browning tips on your dragon tree’s leaves, your space may be too dry. Create a more humid microclimate by grouping your dragon tree together with other plants which release moisture from their leaves, or move them to a humid, warm place like your bathroom window.

You can also put your plant on a humidifying tray: Fill a plastic tray with a layer of pebbles, then add water to just under the top of the pebbles. Place the pot on top of the pebbles, making sure that the bottom of the pot isn’t touching the top of the water. The water will evaporate and increase humidity in the air around your plant’s leaves. Be sure to check the tray periodically and add more water when needed. 

Because these plants can only hold about one foot of foliage on each stalk, they tend to lose their lower leaves as they grow. If your plant is starting to look leggy and palm tree-like, you can air layer it and cut back the stem to grow two new plants. 

How to Propagate Your Dragon Tree 

small pink-leaved dracaena plant in white ceramic pot next to magenta couch with orange pillow
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Dragon trees can be easily propagated into new plants. Air layering allows you to grow a brand new plant with mature foliage from the stalk’s top growth while removing the leggy, empty stem and spurring new growth at the base of the original plant. In addition to growing new dragon trees from the top and base of the mother plant, you can also cut up the bare stem section to grow new plants.

How to Propagate Your Dragon Tree Using Air Layering

To air layer your dragon tree, you’ll need a clean, sharp blade, a sheet of clear plastic (like a baggie or plastic wrap), a toothpick, twist ties or twine, sphagnum moss, and optional powdered rooting hormone. 

Step 1: Identify a point below the stem’s top leaf growth where you’d like the new plant’s roots to grow. Make an upward diagonal cut about one-third of the way through the stem at that point, taking care to make sure that the stem won’t topple over. 

Step 2: Insert the toothpick to hold the cut open and apply rooting hormone to the cut surface of the stem.

Step 3: Moisten a handful of sphagnum moss and wrap it around the cut. Wrap the clear plastic around the sphagnum moss and secure it to the stem above and below the moss with twine or twist ties. 

Step 4: Check the moisture periodically and mist the moss as needed. When the moss is full of new roots, the new plant is ready to remove (this can take up to several months). 

Step 5: Cut the stem just below the bottom of the new root growth. Plant the new dragon tree in an appropriately sized pot filled with moistened potting soil and keep it in a warm place with bright, indirect light. 

Step 6: Cut back the bare stem to four to six inches above the soil line. Soon, new growth will spring from nodes near the base of the plant. 

How to Propagate Your Dragon Tree Using Stem Cuttings

Use this method after air layering your plant or when pruning back overgrown stems. The leafy top portion of a pruned stem can simply be planted in soil to create a new plant if desired. 

Step 1: Cut eight-inch sections of dragon tree stem, taking care to note which end is the top and which end is the bottom of each cutting. 

Step 2: Place cuttings in a glass or jar of water. Keep the cuttings in a warm place with lots of bright, indirect light. Soon, white roots will begin to grow from the nodes on the stem, and the plants will begin to grow new leaves on top.

Step 3: When the roots have reached at least two inches long, pot them in small containers of moist potting soil. Keep the young dragon trees in a warm place with bright, indirect light and care for them as usual.

Article Sources
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  1. Lindley J. An Introduction to the Natural System of Botany: Or, a Systematic View of the Organisation, Natural Affinities, and Geographical Distribution, of the Whole Vegetable Kingdom. 2015; United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

  2. Lighting Indoor Houseplants. University of Missouri Extension. June 2016

  3. Cultural Guidelines for Commercial Production of Interiorscape Dracaena. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension. November 2018

  4. Dracaena. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.