Horticulture Magazine

Dracaena Marginata Care, Watering & Growing Tips

leaves and trunk of Dracaena marginata with white background

Dragon Plant Overview

Official Plant NameDracaena Marginata
Common Name(s)Dragon Tree
Plant TypeHouseplant
Native AreaMadagascar
Hardiness RatingH1B
ToxicityNone
FoliageEvergreen
FlowersSmall flowers, rarely seen
When To Sow (Indoors)March, April, May, June, July, August, September
When To PruneMarch
Sunlight

Preferred
Full Sun

Exposure
Sheltered (Indoors)

Size

Height
2.5 – 4M

Spread
1.5 – 2.5M

Soil

Preferred
Loam

Moisture
Well drained

pH
Any

Dracaena marginata, also known as dragon tree, is an eye-catching houseplant to consider for your home.

Read on to learn a little more about this interesting plant and how to care for it correctly so it can enhance your home for many years to come.

What is Dracaena Marginata?

dragon plant in a green pot with blinds in background
Dracaena marginata in a pot

Dracaena marginata – ‘dragon tree’ – is an evergreen that commonly finds a home in offices and homes in temperate climes. It is also named Dracaena reflexa var. angustifolia. in its native range – in Madagascar, and the Indian Ocean islands.

It is a towering tree, which can grow over 3m in height, with trunks as wide as a man’s leg, or even wider. It is a tropical plant, which thrives in the intermittent heavy rains and droughts of its native range.

When grown as a houseplant in temperate climates, it will not grow anywhere near as large. Typically, when grown in a container indoors, Dragon trees will have a height of around 2m or so, rarely exceeding 1.5m.

In its native range, it produces tiny white flowers in the spring, though it is extremely rare for this plant to flower at all when it is grown indoors. It is a tender plant (H1B hardiness rating) which can only be grown indoors in the UK.

Even though a dragon tree grown as a houseplant cannot hope to compete with the wonderful wild specimens, it can still be a very attractive addition to your home.

These plants have sword-like green leaves with reddish edges, which fan out a little like a palm atop a slender trunk.

Why Grow Dracaena Marginata?

Dracaena marginata in a plastic pot on white background
Dracaena marginata’s bold appearance

Dracaena marginata is an extremely popular houseplant for a number of reasons. For one thing, it has a bold, architectural form that can lend itself to a range of interior design styles.

They are moderately easy to care for (as you will learn below) and will thrive in a reasonably wide range of conditions. It is well suited to indoors growth and can thrive even with little care.

NASA research published in the late 1980s also revealed that Dracaena marginata is one of a few houseplants that can help clean the air. This study showed that this plant helps to remove formaldehyde off-gassed by materials inside your home. And this is also said to be amongst the best plants for removing other VOCs (volatile organic compounds) xylene and trichloroethylene.

Air quality inside your home is important. And choosing houseplants like the Madagascar dragon tree can help keep your home healthier.

If you are considering growing a Madagascar dragon tree in your home, there is one important thing to note. This plant is toxic for cats and dogs, and so may not be the best choice if it is to be grown in an area where these pets are present.

Choosing a Dragon Tree

There are a number of named cultivars to consider when choosing a dragon tree to grow as a houseplant in your home. ‘Tricolor’ is one of the most commonly grown cultivars here in the UK and it has received an RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Other named cultivars include ‘Colorama’, ‘Magenta’, and ‘Tarzan’. See more types here.

Where to Grow

Dracaena marginata should be grown indoors, in a light and bright location, but out of direct sunlight, which can cause burning to the foliage. Choose a location where temperatures consistently remain above around 15°C.

Optimum temperatures for a dragon tree are between around 21 and 26°C.

Regular household humidity should be absolutely fine for these plants. However, if the conditions are particularly dry, consider increasing humidity by grouping this with other houseplants, and perhaps by misting lightly every week or so in drier periods.

While this plant can do well as a lone houseplant, it may do better when grouped with several other low maintenance tropical plants.

Caring for Dracaena Marginata

green and red leaves of Dracaena marginata from a top angle
A Dragon plant from above

Container and Growing Medium

Dracaena marginata should be placed in a container of sufficient size to accommodate its root system, with around an inch or so of the medium around each side, In terms of the growing medium: a well-drained, fertile, loam-based compost is the best choice.

Watering

Watering is where many houseplant owners may go wrong when it comes to caring for Dracaena marginata. Like other drought-tolerant plants, overwatering is the most common issue. While these plants can cope rather well with dry conditions, they cannot tolerate waterlogged, soggy conditions.

When watering, try to use rainfall where possible. Take care with water that contains higher levels of salt or fluoride.

Both overwatering and watering with water high in salt or fluoride can cause browning of the leaves on your dragon tree plant.

Pests and Diseases

Dracaena marginata is blissfully untroubled by many common pests and diseases. And it is largely an extremely trouble-free plant to grow. Where things do go wrong, it is more likely to be a sign of overwatering or otherwise less than optimal conditions.

However, some pests that might be found on this plant are mealybugs, sap-suckers like scale and thrips – and spider mites.

These can do some damage, though will not usually kill your plant. It is a good idea to keep on top of any problems by checking over your plant regularly and rinsing off any pests that you find.

See more on common houseplant bugs in this guide.

Repotting Your Dragon Tree

Dracaena marginata grows rather slowly, and will typically only need to be repotted every 2-3 years. Topdressing your container with a new layer of compost on the top is worthwhile doing more often, however.

It is a good idea to replace the top section of growing medium annually, to replace less fertile and compacted material. Both repotting and refreshing/top dressing are best done in the spring.

Pruning Requirements

These plants do not typically require any pruning at all. However, if necessary, weak stems can be cut back to around 15 cm in the spring.

Propagating a Dragon Tree for New Plants

If you would like to make new plants from an existing dragon tree, it is unlikely that you will be able to collect any seed when growing indoors.

However, it is reasonably easy and straightforward to take cuttings from the tree that will increase your own stock of houseplants or give you plants to give away as gifts, perhaps, to family or friends.

Stem cuttings from Dracaena marginata will root relatively easily in water. And it is unlikely that you will need to use rooting hormone to get cuttings to root successfully.

You can take semi-ripe or hardwood cuttings in summer, though note that these may require a heat mat or propagator with bottom heat in order to get off to the best start.

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