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Dracaena Marginata Growing & Care Guide

If you’re looking for a highly attractive and easy to grow houseplant, the Dracaena Marginata might just be the perfect addition to your home's collection. This hardy tropical plant features green sword-like leaves with burgundy-red edges and a slender, tall-growing habit.

This plant makes for an excellent choice as an entry plant for household gardeners as it is easy to care for and hard to harm. Here is everything you need to know to grow and care for Dracaena marginata. 

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Dracaena Marginata Growing & Care Guide

Adored for its ornamental qualities and tough nature, this small tree makes for an ideal potted plant for your home or office. The tall, spiky green foliage can add natural texture to your lived-in spaces.

This plant can be grown in many different sizes, giving you a lot of control over the growth and density depending on your pruning. You will need to place this plant strategically and keep it away from your pets as it is toxic if ingested. 

Dracaena marginata is a slow-growing tropical evergreen plant that is now commonly referred to as dragon tree, dragon plant or Madagascar dragon tree

Introducing Dracaena Marginata

Native to Madagascar, the Dracaena marginata is a slow-growing tropical evergreen plant that is now commonly referred to as dragon tree, dragon plant or Madagascar dragon tree.

It forms a part of the Asparagaceae family and thrives in warm and tropical outdoor climates. Grown in its natural environment, this plant can reach up to 20 feet tall but grown as a potted houseplant, they are usually kept pruned to around 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide. 

Grown outdoors, dragon trees produce tiny white fragrant flowers in the spring however they rarely bloom indoors. They are mainly used for their attractive foliage, slender growth habits and hardy houseplant qualities.

Grown indoors, they can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and the study, spiralling narrow trunks are self-supporting. Recommended USDA hardiness zones for this plant are 10 to 12. 

Plant Name:

Dracaena Marginata

Genus:

Dracaena

Species:

 marginata

Common Names:

Dragon tree, Dragon plant, Madagascar dragon tree

Location:

Indoor

Type: 

Evergreen plant, small tree

Growth:

6 ft. tall, 3 ft. wide

Sun Requirements:

Full sun to part shade

Foliage Color:

Green with red edges

Flower Color:

White

Flowering:

Spring (seldomly flowers indoors)

Hardiness Zones:

USDA 10 to 12

Maintenance Level:

Low

Poisonous for Pets:

Popular Dragon Plant Indoor Cultivars

Dracaena marginata – The classic dragon tree that features dark-green leaves with red edges. 

Dracaena marginata is the classic dragon tree that features dark-green leaves with red edges

Dracaena marginata ‘Bicolor’ – This variety features more variegated foliage striped with red and green. 

Dracaena marginata ‘Bicolor’ features more variegated foliage striped with red and green

Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor’ – This plant has similar leaf markings to the classic dragon tree but features a band of yellow between the green and red. 

Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor’ has similar leaf markings to the classic dragon tree but features a band of yellow between the green and red

Dracaena marginata ‘Colorama’ – A vibrant variety that features accentuated red leaf rims with a more pinkish hue in the foliage overall. 

Dracaena marginata ‘Colorama’ is a vibrant variety that features accentuated red leaf rims with a more pinkish hue in the foliage overall

Dracaena marginata ‘Tarzan’ – Again, this variety is similar to the classic dragon tree however the leaves are a lot thicker, tougher and broader. The foliage also grows with different patterns from the original.

Dracaena marginata ‘Tarzan’ is similar to the classic dragon tree however the leaves are a lot thicker, tougher and broader.

Source: flowersandfancies.com

How to Grow Dracaena Marginata

These plants are easily propagated using stem cuttings. Many local nurseries or retailers will therefore stock healthy plants that you can pot at home or you can take cuttings from a thriving parent plant.

It is recommended to propagate and grow during spring to early summer during the plants' active growing season. 


Propagating Dragon Tree Using Stem Cuttings

How to Grow Dracaena Marginata
  • Use a clean, sharp pair of scissors or a knife, and cut a length of stem that is about 8 inches long from the tree’s trunk.
  • Remove any leaves from the cutting, taking note of which end is supposed to be planted into the soil.
  • You can dip the root side of the stem into some rooting hormone before planting but this is optional. 
  • Plant the cutting into rich and moist potting soil. 
  • Place your cutting in a warm location with bright but indirect light.
  • Leaves will begin to sprout from the upper nodes of your cutting and it can take around three to four weeks for the cutting to start sprouting roots.

Planting Madagascar Dragon Tree

Dracaena marginata can be planted year-round but it is recommended to do so during spring to summer while the plant is actively growing. Your desired location should be sheltered from cold drafts coming from doors, leaky windows or air conditioning units. 

Best Soil for Dragon Plants

These trees are pretty tolerant growers and can thrive in almost any soil as long as it is well-draining. A good soil mix for these plants is one-part rich potting soil and one part loam, perlite or vermiculite

Light Preferences

Dracaena marginata will thrive best in daily indirect, bright light but they can also grow in partially shaded conditions. Too much direct sunlight can scorch their leaves whereas too much shade will result in slower growth and smaller, less colorful foliage. 

Temperature & Humidity for Dracaena Marginata

Being native to tropical climates, these plants grow best in warm temperatures of between 65°F and 80°F. Regular household humidity levels should be fine for these plants but if you live in a dry area, you can boost humidity levels by frequently misting your dragon tree or placing it atop a pebble tray filled with water. 

These plants grow tall and slender with small root balls so they can be planted in tabletop containers or larger pots for the floor. Your container must feature good drainage and be at least 2 to 3 inches larger than your plants' root ball.

Potting & Repotting

You will need to repot your dragon tree into larger containers as necessary. Due to the slow-growing nature of these plants, you will only need to repot every two to three years on average.

When repotting, do so in spring to summer and move one container size up each time. You can also annually refresh your potting soil and lightly aerate it to keep the drainage optimal and to avoid overly compacted soil. 

Planting Madagascar Dragon Tree

How to Plant Dracaena Marginata

  • Prepare a soil mix of one part potting soil and one part perlite or loam. 
  • Place a 1-to-2-inch layer of pebbles in the bottom of your desired container. 
  • Add a few inches of your soil mix to the top of the pebbles. 
  • Gently remove or slide your plant out from its current container, lightly tousling the roots loose and removing old soil. 
  • Place the plant into the new container with the root ball on top of the soil layer you added, being sure that you have at least 2 to 3 inches of space between the top of the roots and the top of the container. 
  • Fill in around the sides with your remaining soil mixture until the whole root ball is covered and only 1 to 2 inches of space remains in your container. 
  • Gently firm down the soil slightly with your palms being careful not to overly compact it. 
  • Water well after planting and allow excess moisture to drain. 
  • Place your dragon plant in its new location and it should establish itself and settle within a few weeks.

Caring for Dragon Tree

Caring for Dragon Tree

These plants are widely considered low-maintenance additions that shouldn’t give you a lot of trouble as long as the growing conditions are as ideal as possible. Here is how you can best care for your Dracaena marginata. 

Watering Dragon Plant

These drought-tolerant plants are very often overwatered. They enjoy a little moisture at all times but not too much. It is recommended to only water your plant when the top half of the soil is dry.

On average, this could mean only watering once or twice a month, about every 3 weeks or so. Your dragon tree will need a little extra water during its growing seasons in spring to summer and less frequent water during the colder months in fall to winter. 

These plants are sensitive to fluoride so it is recommended to water with distilled, filtered or non-fluoridated water. If the plant develops brown tips or spots on the leaves, this could indicate it is receiving too much water whereas yellowing leaves can indicate it may need more water.

If your water has too much salt or fluoride the foliage will also begin to discolor.  

Ideal Fertilizing Routine

These slow-growing plants don’t require much feeding at all. It is recommended to fertilize your dragon tree once annually at the beginning of spring to encourage new growth.

Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer that has been diluted to half strength. Avoid fertilizing in winter. 

Pruning Dracaena Marginata

Pruning isn’t necessary but these plants do respond well to being trimmed. Prune your dragon tree as needed to keep it tidy and to obtain the look you want.

Trim leaves to remove browning tips or weak foliage that may be falling or leggy. It is normal for these plants to self-shed dead leaves. It is recommended to prune dragon plants during the growing season and always use sharp, sterilized pruning shears.

 (See our buying guide for the best pruning shears available today.)

Overwintering Dragon Plant

You can move your plant outdoors to encourage flowering during the warmer months if you live in hardiness zones 10 to 12. However, these plants will need to be overwintered indoors.


Common Dragon Plant Problems & Diseases

Although dragon trees are quite disease resistant and hardy, they can suffer from a few issues. If you follow a healthy caring routine and give your plant the best possible conditions, you will give yourself the best shot at a disease-free, low-maintenance houseplant.

How to Plant Dracaena Marginata

Scale Insects & Mealybugs

You can identify scale or mealybug infestations as they leave small sticky deposits on the leaves. Treat your plant by spraying it with a soap and water mixture or an insecticidal spray.  

Spider Mites

If you notice silvery webbing beginning to form on the leaves of your plant, this could indicate a spider mite infestation. To treat, try hosing down your plant to knock the mites off and then follow by treating with an insecticide like neem oil. 

Overwatering & Underwatering

Watering issues can cause brown spots, dying leaves or discolored foliage. These issues can lead to other diseases like root rot or fungi problems.

Be sure to always first check if your plant needs water and try to supply enough moisture during the hotter months while the plant is actively growing. 


Madagascar Dragon Tree FAQs

How do you make Dracaena marginata grow faster?

Grow your dragon plant indoors in a location with bright, indirect light. Growth is accelerated by growing these plants in sunnier positions. Avoid too much direct light as this can scorch the leaves. 

Why is my Dracaena not growing?

Too little water or very low humidity can cause the leaves to dry on the edges resulting in stunted growth. Be sure to prune away dead and damaged foliage and perhaps mist your plant more frequently to help increase moisture levels. 

What is the best soil for Dracaena?

The ideal soil should contain loam to add nutrients, peat to lower pH levels as needed and vermiculite or perlite to improve drainage.

Interested in growing other popular Dracaena varieties? Be sure to check out our other helpful grow and care guides below:


Boost Your Home's Visual Appeal with Dracaena Marginata

This tropical ornamental tree is perfect for beginner and expert growers alike who are looking for an all-around attractive and easy-going houseplant.

The dragon tree can spruce up your indoor spaces with colorful, textured foliage and an attractive, slender growing habit. Whether used as a new feature plant or a tropical addition to your existing collection, the Dracaena marginata is a must-have houseplant. 

About the Author Mabel Vasquez

Mabel has enjoyed a long career as a horticulturist, working in nurseries and greenhouses for many years. Although she loves all plants, Mabel has developed a particular passion over the years for herb gardens and indoor plants. Mabel has since retired from her horticulture career and loves sharing her many years of experience with our audience here at Sumo Gardener.

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