Dracaena Plant (Dragon Tree): a Perfect Houseplant for Beginners (2024)

Dragon tree (Dracaena marginata), is a tall plant with green, sword-like, red-edged leaves. Native to Madagascar, the eye-catching spiky tree is a great entry plant for household gardeners wanting an indoor tree—it's easy to care for, drought-tolerant, and nearly indestructible.

This slow-growing tree can take a decade to reach a few feet tall but can eventually grow to about 20 feet. However, it is generally grown as a potted houseplant and kept pruned to 6 feet or less.

Keep the dragon tree away from pets because it's toxic to animals if ingested.

Dracaena Plant (Dragon Tree): a Perfect Houseplant for Beginners (1)

Common NamesDragon tree, dragon plant, Madagascar dragon tree
Botanical NameDracaena marginata
FamilyAsparagaceae
Plant TypeBroadleaf evergreen
Mature Size15–20 ft. tall, 3–10 ft. wide
Sun ExposureFull sun, partial shade
Soil TypeLoamy, well-drained
Soil pHNeutral to acidic
Bloom TimeSpring (rarely flowers indoors)
Flower ColorWhite
Hardiness Zones10–12 (USDA)
Native AreasMadagascar
ToxicityToxic to dogs, toxic to cats

Dragon Tree Care

Dragon trees are very popular as large potted plants for homes and offices. Here are the most important care requirements.

  • Plant in well-draining soil
  • Water regularly during their growing season.
  • Place in bright, indirect light, though they can thrive in a variety of light conditions.
  • Fertilize conservatively at the beginning of spring.

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Dracaena Plant (Dragon Tree): a Perfect Houseplant for Beginners (5)

Light

Place your dragon tree in an area with bright, indirect light. These plants can also survive in partial shade. Keep in mind, plants kept in lower light situations will grow slower and produce smaller leaves with less intense color. Additionally, take care not to place your dragon tree in a spot that receives direct rays of sunlight—its foliage can burn easily.

Soil

Use a loose, well-drained potting mix when growing dragon tree as a potted plant—loamy soil amended with peat moss is ideal. Make sure the container you choose has room for the plant's extensive root system. Some varieties are imported from Hawaii and will arrive with lava rock—if this is the case, remove about one-third of the rock and replace it with potting soil.

Water

Wait until the top half of the soil is dry before watering a dragon tree, which could take three weeks or more. Like many drought-tolerant plants, the dragon tree can be easily overwatered.

Temperature and Humidity

Keep your dragon tree in their preferred warmer temperatures of between 70°F and 80°F. Regular household humidity should be fine for them, but if your house is particularly dry, you can consider misting the plant lightly from a spray bottle every few days.

Fertilizer

Feed a dragon tree lightly at the beginning of spring with a balanced controlled-release liquid fertilizer. Although they have a relatively low need for fertilizer and it is not an essential component to having a thriving plant, it can support new growth.

Types of Dragon Tree

Although there are several varieties of dragon tree, the most commonly found at plant stores (and used as household plants) include:

  • Dracaena marginata 'Tricolor': This varietal has dark red margins, green leaves, and an ivory stripe down the leaf center.
  • D. marginata 'Colorama': This dragon tree may appear to be completely pink, but it's actually variegated with white and green stripes. It will need very bright light to keep its unique colors.
  • D. marginata 'Bicolor': True to its name, this dragon tree varietal has red and green stripes.

Pruning

It's perfectly normal for a dragon tree to self-shed dead leaves. Just pick them up and discard them.

To keep the plant trim and neat, remove leaves that look like they are about to fall off or cut back stems with sterile, sharp pruning shears to tidy up the tree. Sterilize your pruning tool with a clean rag doused in a common household item, such as rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, then rinse with water, and wipe the tool dry before using it on your plant.

Propagating Dragon Tree

You can propagate your dragon tree using stem cuttings rooted in water. In fact, it's so easily done that the varietal is often used in dish gardens and readily propagated by nurseries and retailers. It's best to do this in the spring when the plant is growing vigorously. It takes just about three weeks for the cuttings to sprout roots, and using a rooting hormone isn’t necessary.

  1. Using a sterile, sharp scissor, cut a long length of stem that's about 8 inches.
  2. Remove any low-hanging leaves.
  3. Put the cutting in moistened potting soil.
  4. Place the cutting in bright, but indirect sunlight.
  5. Once new leaves have sprouted, you'll know the plant has grown some new roots, and you can care for the plant as usual.

Potting and Repotting Dragon Tree

Make sure to check your dragon tree at least once a year to see if it should be repotted into a bigger pot. Check the bottom of the container for roots coming through the drainage holes, which is a sign that the tree is root bound and in need of a larger container.

Choose a new pot with a diameter about two inches larger than its current container. Make sure that it has one or more drainage holes.

Because these trees grow so slowly, they generally require repotting only every second—or even third—year. In the meantime, you can refresh the potting soil annually to replace any of the mixture that has become compacted.

Common Pests

Although they are fairly disease-resistant, dragon trees are susceptible to scale insects, mealybugs, and thrips. Mealybugs are easy to identify as they leave small, sticky, cottony deposits on the leaves of the tree. Dragon tree plants are also at risk of acquiring the common plant pest, spider mites. They tend to occur when temperatures are warm and the air is very dry; however, mites are very difficult to see until they have already damaged the plant.

Common Problems with Dragon Tree

While dragon trees are fairly easy to maintain, there are a few things to look out for.

Leaves Falling Off

Overwatering can cause the leaves of dragon trees to yellow and fall off. These trees are sensitive to excessive moisture in their roots. To avoid this, check the soil regularly. If the top two inches of soil feel too wet, it's a sign that you have gone too far with watering.

Drooping Leaves

If you notice the leaves of your dragon tree drooping, it could be a sign that the plant is thirsty. You should avoid waiting for the plant to dry out completely before watering it. If the lower leaves are drooping significantly more than the rest of the plant, it could be a symptom of root rot. To avoid any problems, also ensure that you are not over-watering the plant.

Brown Leaves or Leaf Tips

If the soil is too moist or too dry, dragon tree leaves may start to brown. Make sure you're striking the right balance when irrigating. Additionally, lack of humidity can lead to browning tips and eventually leaf loss. To improve humidity, place the plant on a dish filled with pebbles and water or use a humidifier.

If the plant develops brown tips on its leaves, that's usually a sign the water you're using has too much salt or fluoride, which can cause discoloration. To avoid fluoride buildup, water your dragon tree with distilled or non-fluoridated water.

Crispy Leaves

If you notice that the foliage on your dragon tree is crunchy, it could be a sign that the plant is receiving too much direct sunlight. When exposed to bright light, the leaves can curl and become crispy. For best results, it is recommended to keep the plant in indirect sunlight or even partial shade.

Yellowing Leaves

In some instances, you may notice the leaves of your dragon tree turning yellow. This could be the result of too much direct sun. The leaves can scorch, become discolored, and start to droop. Move the plant to a spot receiving more indirect or filtered sun before permanent damage is caused. Yellowing leaves could also be a sign the plant needs more or less water. Make sure you're striking the right balance.

FAQ

  • How tall does a dragon tree grow?

    The dragon tree is a slow-growing plant that takes around 8 to 10 years to reach a height of 2 to 3 feet. Indoors it could reach 6 feet tall, but outdoors it could reach 20 feet tall after another 30 years.

  • Do dragon trees need big pots?

    Dragon tree pots should be big enough to accommodate their extensive root systems. Although they may not require a large pot at first, this will change as they mature.

  • What is the lifespan of a dragon tree?

    In theory, a dragon tree could live for hundreds of years in the wild. As a houseplant in optimal conditions with appropriate repotting, a dragon tree can live up to 15 years.

  • Does the dragon tree bloom?

    Dragon trees rarely flower and bloom when grown indoors. Grown outdoors in optimal conditions, the dragon tree boasts tiny white flowers in the spring.

Plants You Might Also Like

  • How to Grow Dracaena Draco (Dragon Tree) Indoors
  • How to Grow and Care for a Banana Tree

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The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Dragon tree are toxic to pets. Pet Poison Helpline.

  2. Dracaena. Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center.

  3. Dracaena fragrans. North Carolina State University Extension.

  4. Dragon Tree. Henderson County Master Gardener Association, Texas Master Gardeners.

Dracaena Plant (Dragon Tree): a Perfect Houseplant for Beginners (2024)

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