Dracaena are slow-growing, leafy plants. These plants hail from deserts or tropical rainforests in Africa, although they can also be found in South America and Madagascar. Also known as Dragon Trees or Corn Plants, Dracaena are now incredibly common houseplants. Dracaena plant care is easy, mainly because these low-maintenance plants require minimal attention.
Types of Dracaena Plants
Most Dracaena have sword-shaped leaves that grow in a rosette formation. Mature plants typically lose lower leaves, giving the plant a tree-like appearance. Some cultivars grow long leaves and resemble palms. All Dracaenas have bold foliage that is predominately green but may have red pinstriping or thick, creamy yellow stripes. The pointed foliage can be broad or narrow but always adds an architectural look to a home. Some of the more common Dracaena houseplants include:
- Dracaena Dorado
- Dracaena Hawaiian Sunshine
- Dracaena Lemon Lime
- Dracaena Warnock
- Dracaena White Jewel
- Dracaena Janet Craig
- Dragon Tree Colorama
- Dragon Tree Magenta
- Dragon Tree Tricolor
- Lucky Bamboo
- Mass Cane
All in the Family
It’s a hotly debated topic in some circles, but Sansevieria, or Snake Plants, are now considered Dracaena. Sansevieria and Dracaena were assigned their own unique genera hundreds of years ago. Modern research has found that these plants are closely related in terms of DNA, so close that having two separate groups doesn’t make sense. To create a more accurate plant family tree (that pun was absolutely intended), Sanseveria were reclassified. The groups were merged, and the name Dracaena won out.
While these plants are closely related, they have different looks and care needs, so they both have dedicated care articles on this site. Dracaena plant care is easy but slightly different from Snake Plant requirements, so it’s worth breaking them down. Also, while this change went into effect several years ago, it has yet to be widely adopted, so I continue to use both terms to avoid confusion.
Dracaena Plant Light Requirements
Bright indirect light is ideal for Dracaena plant care. These leafy plants need lots of sunlight to fill out and look their best. Dracaena are slow-growing plants, so insufficient light will cause them to grow even more slowly. Muted or faded foliage is a sign of not enough sunlight. Some direct light is okay, but avoid a spot directly in a South-facing window. Leaves will turn brown if they receive too much sunlight.
How Often to Water Dracaena Plants
Dracaena like damp conditions when they are actively growing during the spring and summer. Water when the top few inches of soil is dry, but the soil at the bottom of the container is still damp. Plan to water Dracaena once every one to two weeks during the growing season.
Dormant plants are not very thirsty and only need water when the soil is completely dry. Plan to water Dracaena every two to four weeks during the fall and winter. Sunlight and humidity impact how often a houseplant needs water, and these timing estimates will vary. The most dependable way to know when to water a houseplant is to feel the soil and gauge the level of dampness.
Best Soil for Dracaena Plants
Rich, well-drained, slightly acidic soil is best for Dracaena plant care. Soggy soil is bad news and will cause root rot, so you want a mix that allows excess water to drain. Soil mixes with peat moss is an excellent choice because it adds nutrition and acidity. Most all-purpose potting mixes are suitable.
Temperature for Dracaena
While Dracaena can naturally be found in various corners of the globe, its native habitats are always warm. A comfortable room temperature for humans is suitable for plants, but avoid direct exposure to winter drafts and summer air conditioning. Temperatures between 70° and 80° F provide excellent Dracaena plant care. Dracaena must always be kept above 50° F, so wait until the overnight temperature warms up before moving your plant to an outdoor area for the summer.
Dracaena Plant Humidity
Humidity is necessary for proper Dracaena plant care. Tropical varieties like 80% humidity, but average humidity of around 50% is acceptable for most cultivars.
Browning along the edges of the leaves indicates there is not enough moisture in the air for your Dracaena. Locate your plant in an area with increased moisture, like a bathroom or kitchen, or increase the humidity if you see damage caused by dry air.
Dracaena Plant Fertilizer
Help your plant look leafy with routine applications of fertilizer. Proper Dracaena plant care should include monthly feedings using a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer. Only feed Dracaena during the spring and summer, and stop fertilizing during the fall and winter when the plant is dormant.
Pruning Dracaena Plants
Pruning is not a big part of Dracaena plant care, but it can help maintain the size of your plant. Prune Dracaena during the spring and summer. Remove dead leaves as necessary.
When to Repot Dracaena
Dracaena is a slow grower, so it takes time for it to outgrow its container. Repot your plant when the roots show through the drainage holes, or plan to repot every 3 to 5 years. Select a new container that has drainage and is one to two inches bigger.
Dracaena Plant Propagation
The process can seem intense, but you can propagate Dacanena through cuttings. This process is sometimes called beheading because you remove the top of the plant. Cut the stem using clean, sharp shears or a knife. The stem section should be at least 4 to 5 inches long. Peel off the bottom leaves, exposing the lower two inches of the stem and the nodes. The growth nodes look like tiny, barely noticeable bumps. Place the cut end in soil or water, covering the leafless stem. Roots should emerge in a couple of weeks.
Loping off the top of a Dracaena can seem drastic, and it is, but the parent plant will grow back in a new and different way. The parent plant will not grow where it was cut, but it will send out new stems on the sides of the existing stem. These new stems will grow leaves and eventually resemble branches. New growth can take a couple of weeks to appear on the parent plant. Cut back on watering if the entire top of the parent plant was removed and it no longer has leaves. The parent plant is more prone to overwatering when it doesn’t have foliage.
Is Dracaena Pet Friendly?
No, Dracaena are not pet friendly. Dracaena are toxic to dogs and cats, and eating the plant can cause your furry companion to become ill. Be mindful of bringing Dracaena into your home if you have pets.
Dracaena Plant Styling Tips
You have options when it comes to styling your home with Dracaena. Small plants look adorable on a desk or end table. Tall plants make a nice statement in an entryway or framing a console table. Floor plants can become top-heavy since all their foliage is at the top, so use a ceramic or heavier cover pot to weigh down the plant.
Dracaena Plant Care Tips
Upright foliage with stunning variegation makes Dracaena a wonderful houseplant. This beauty is also low-maintenance and does not require much in terms of Dracaena plant care. You don’t need to fuss over your Dracaena, but you may find it hard not to just stare at it and admire the foliage.