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Dracaena Marginata (Dragon Tree) Care Guide

Dracaena Marginata is a tough, drought-tolerant houseplant that features sword-like green leaves, edged with deep red that grow atop a small tree. Commonly known as Dragon Tree, it’s native to Madagascar and Mauritius, where it can reach up to 20 feet (6 m) in height. Indoors it will usually reach up to 6 feet (1.8 m). 

Being a slow-growing indoor plant and gaining around half a foot in height per year (15 cm), it might take up to 10 years for a Dracaena Marginata to reach its mature size. While with some plants that sounds almost impossible (definitely not talking about ferns), this is not the case with Dracaena Marginata. Being low maintenance and adapting to most growing conditions, this plant will stay with you for a long time.

However, as most houseplants out there, it’s not immune to chronic neglect, pests and diseases. That’s why we’ve created this complete guide on how to take care of your Dragon tree. From growing requirements to maintenance and pest control tips, we’ve got you covered! 

1. General Information

Scientific name:Dracaena Marginata
Common names:Dragon tree, Dragon plant, Madagascar Dragon tree, Red-edge Dracaena
Native to:Madagascar, Mauritius
Toxicity:Toxic to dogs and cats. Not toxic to humans. 
Category:Slow growing indoor tree
Mature size:6 feet (1.8 meters) 
Hardiness: 10–12 (USDA)

2. Dracaena Marginata Care & Growing Requirements

Dracaena Marginata will forgive you for almost anything. And I know that because it’s one of the first plants I’ve ever got. My old apartment didn’t have a lot of light and most plants would have died there, but my Dracaena grew from a few inches to 3 feet tall and is now happier than ever (we’ve got lots of natural light this time). But let’s take a look at its growing requirements, just in case. 

» Watering

In its native habitat Dracaena Marginata is used to extended periods of drought, which makes this plant tolerant to inconsistent watering. Depending on its growing environment, a dragon tree could need watering twice or thrice per month. However, if the soil dries out too fast or too slow, you might have to adjust the watering frequency accordingly. The safest way to make sure your dragon tree is not waterlogged is by waiting for the first half of the soil to dry out before attempting to water it again. 

You should also know that this variety is sensitive to chemicals found in tap water, especially chlorine and fluoride, which means it’s best to use distilled water or rainwater whenever it’s possible. 

» Light

Dracaena Marginata grows best in bright, indirect light, but can also survive in partial shade. However, low light conditions will slow down its growth rate, which is not desirable, since this plant is already a slow-grower. On the other hand, it should not receive direct sunlight because its foliage can burn easily. 

» Soil

A loose, well-draining and slightly acidic (pH 7 or slightly below) soil with high nutrient content is ideal for Dracaena Marginata. You can either buy a commercial potting mix that satisfies the requirements mentioned above or create your own. 

Whichever option of soil you choose for your dragon tree, make sure it allows proper drainage and aeration. 

» Temperature

Indoors, Dracaena Marginata will thrive in temperatures ranging between 65°F – 80°F (18°C – 26°C). While the temperatures from its native habitat are usually higher, this plant will have no issues adapting to the average household temperature. However, keep in mind that it’s not cold tolerant and exposure to freezing temperature will cause serious damage or even kill it. 

During winter, it’s recommended to keep your dragon tree out of chilling drafts. On the flip side, you should avoid placing it near air conditioning vents during summer. 

» Humidity

In its native habitat, Dracaena Marginata thrives in a high humidity environment. Even so, it has adapted quite well to indoor growing conditions and can thrive in the average household humidity. 

However, if the tips of the leaves are starting to turn brown it might mean that your humidity levels are too low even for its adapting capabilities, in which case you should consider increasing the humidity around it. There are multiple ways to do so, but the most common one is frequent misting. 

» Fertilizer

Fertilizing your dragon tree is not mandatory, but it can boost its growth rate. Using a liquid 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer designed specifically for Dracaena species would be ideal. You can apply the fertilizer according to the package instructions during spring and summer. Since fall and winter mark the dormancy phase, there won’t be any need for fertilizer. 

3. Dragon Tree Maintenance

» Repotting

Dracaena Marginata is a slow grower, which means it will require repotting once in two or three years. If the roots look congested and start popping up from the bottom of the pot, it’s time to give it an upgrade. Make sure to choose a pot that’s 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) bigger than its current one and also comes with drainage holes. 

The best time to repot your Dracaena Marginata is spring since that’s the start of its growing season. 

» Pruning

Usually, a dragon tree won’t require a lot of pruning, the most common action being old leaves removal. However, pruning is recommended when your dracaena is becoming spindly, especially if you want to keep it in a nice shape or reduce its height. The best time to do this is during the growing season – spring or summer. To ensure that your plant won’t get any infection or fungal disease, use a clean and sharp pair of scissors to cut the canes that need to be removed. 

Don’t throw away the canes, since they can be used for propagation! 

» Propagation

Dracaena Marginata propagation is extremely easy. Once you’ve collected the canes, you can put them in a glass of water and place it in a warm spot with bright, indirect light. After the roots have developed, your cuttings will be ready to be placed in a potting mix. 

A rooting hormone can also be applied on the cut ends. 

4. Common issues 

» Drooping leaves

Your Dracaena Marginata’s drooping leaves are likely caused by improper watering. If the soil looks extremely dry, make sure to give it a thorough watering. If that’s not the case, let the soil completely dry out before deciding what to do next. 

Other possible causes of drooping leaves are sudden temperature changes, not enough light and even pests or diseases. 

» Yellow Leaves

The main culprit in this case is overwatering. While Dracaena Marginata enjoys moist soil, wet and soggy soil is going to cause some damage. To make sure your plant stays healthy you should optimise its watering frequency and also check if the current potting mix offers proper drainage and root aeration. 

Since Dragon trees are sensitive to the chemicals found in water, yellowing leaves might also be a sign that you have to use distilled water or rainwater. If that’s not an option, you can let your tap water sit overnight so chemicals like chlorine and fluoride can evaporate. 

» Brown Edges

Prolonged periods of underwatering can lead to brown edges on your Dracaena’s leaves. In this scenario, you should resume normal watering, without overdoing it, as overwatering is the leading cause of death when it comes to dragon trees. You can remove the brown edges by using clean scissors or pruning shears.

Lack of humidity can also cause leaf tips to turn brown. If your Dracaena is also starting to lose leaves and the edges are yellowing, you should consider increasing the humidity levels. 

» Root Rot

Overwatering, poor drainage, and compacted soil are the main culprits in this case. The signs of root rot are usually yellowing leaves and mushy stems. To save your dragon tree, you’ll have to take it out from its pot as soon as possible, wash off the old soil from the plant and then remove all the affected roots by using clean scissors. After the cleaning is done, you can repot your plant in fresh soil. 

5. Dracaena Marginata Diseases & Pests

» Spider mites

Spider mites are a common pest when it comes to houseplants and Dracaena Marginata is no exception. While they are not visible with the naked eye, the first signs of a spider mites infestation are discoloured spots on the plant’s leaves. To check for spider mites you can closely look at the undersides of the leaves for tiny white dots scattered across or delicate webs. Check out our article on ways to get rid of spider mites to learn more about this issue. 

» Scale bugs

Scale bugs are another common pest that can threaten your Dracaena plant’s health. Scales can be hard to recognize at first, since their colour can vary from white to dark brown. To identify a scale infection you should look for bumps on the stems or leaves of your plant or the appearance of a sticky substance. To get rid of these pests you can use neem oil or insecticidal soap. 

» Mealy Bugs

Mealy bugs can be easily recognized by their white and fuzzy bodies. Usually found in groups under the leaves or on the stems, their damage include stunted growth and premature leaf drop. Neem oil or insecticidal soap is effective in getting rid of these pests. 

Conclusion 

A Dracaena Marginata won’t require a lot of effort to be kept alive, but that doesn’t mean it’s unkillable. If you pay attention to its development and correct any environmental management, your plant will happily develop and ultimately reach its mature site. Also, if you’re looking for another reason to get this houseplant, you should know that, according to NASA, it cleans the air and removes toxins

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