Dracaena Plant: Best Types, How to Grow and Plant Care

Dracaena plants are very easy to care for, and combining that with their lovely, variegated and elongated foliage and thick, bamboo-like stems, they are grown indoors as houseplants all over the world.

While they are slow to grow, they provide a lot of architectural structure and greenery into any indoor space, but they also have some health benefits.

Here’s everything you need to know.

At a Glance: What You Should Know About Dracaena Plants

Dracaena plants are among the most effective air-purifying houseplants you can grow in your home, while also adding character and greenery to any room you choose to grow them in.

They pull harmful chemicals from the air in your home, such as formaldehyde, and chemicals emitted from building materials and household cleaners, helping to improve the air quality, if only a little.

It’s very difficult to kill a dracaena plant (see also How To Figure Out What’s Wrong With A Lucky Bamboo), which only adds to their worldwide popularity, among seasoned houseplant growers and novice plant caretakers alike.

You may see some labeled as lucky bamboo, which is a much smaller dracaena species, Dracaena braunii, or as a corn plant, which is Dracaena fragrans, and the dragon tree, which is usually Dracaena marginata (see also Dragon Bones Tree).

The name Dracaena refers to a whole genus made up of about 120 succulent shrubs (see also Madagascar Palm) and trees, in the Asparagus plant family.

The term comes from the Romanized Ancient Greek word, drakaina, which means female dragon. 

Most species of Dracaena are fairly drought tolerant, making them perfect for people who travel a lot, or those who don’t want to dedicate a lot of time to plant care and maintenance.

Dracaena plants are characterized by their elongated leaves, typically variegated, branching out from the top of a tall, thick stem. Some may be much smaller, but these are much younger plants.

In the wild, some types of dracaena can grow up to 20 feet tall, but indoors, it’s more likely that these stunning plants will reach about 6 feet as a maximum height.

Is a Dracaena Suitable for Homes with Pets or Children?

Well, most dracaena plants are classified as toxic to pets, but they are regarded as safe to have around humans, so it makes them suitable for households with children.

If you can guarantee that your pets won’t go near a dracaena, or you can keep it somewhere completely inaccessible to pets, why not consider adding a dracaena into your home?

How to Make Sure Your Dracaena Thrives

While dracaena plants are easy to grow, and they forgive less-than-ideal conditions, there are some things that you need to get right in order for your dracaena to survive. 

Providing a dracaena plant with the ideal conditions doesn’t take a lot of work, and these striking plants are the perfect way to bring nature indoors.

Sunlight and Position

Dracaena plants need filtered, bright light in order to thrive, although they will survive in lower light levels. 

To get this right, you can place them in a bright spot that’s not too close to a window, or near a bathroom window which has a privacy screen, and this will help block the fiercest of the sun’s rays from scorching the leaves.

Placing your dracaena plant in a bright, indirect location will result in thicker, tougher leaves, and a healthier plant.

When to Water a Dracaena

Always check the soil before deciding to water a dracaena plant, as they don’t need as much water as you might think. 

Overwatering is the biggest killer of a dracaena, so it’s best to err on the side of underwatering, rather than risking drowning the plant.

Let the soil dry out completely in between watering, and depending on the size of the plant, this could be anywhere from two weeks to a month. This also depends on the temperature and the amount of light you expose the plant to.

Humidity Levels and Temperature

Dracaena plants thrive in temperatures between 65 and 80°F (or 18 and 26°C). In warmer climates, you may be able to grow them outside in a sheltered position, but they largely do better indoors.

Mist the plant occasionally to help the humidity levels, as while this is a drought-tolerant plant, it does need some humidity in order to thrive. 

How to Propagate a Dracaena

You can propagate most types of dracaena through cuttings, or division if there are a few healthy trunks.

To help bolster the success of dracaena cuttings, dip the open ends in rooting hormone powder, and put them in well-draining, slightly moist soil. 

Enclose the pot in a clear plastic bag or a greenhouse to help keep the humidity and temperature stable, putting the container somewhere bright without any direct sunlight.

If successful, you’ll notice new growth within six weeks or so.

Problems to Look Out For

There aren’t many pests or diseases which can trouble a dracaena, but you do still have to be vigilant, as that’s not to say that either won’t happen at some point. 

Houseplant pests such as thrips, mealybugs, or scale can be problems, and as soon as you spot signs of these you should treat your dracaena as soon as possible, to stop the infestation from overwhelming your plant.

Overwatering your plant will cause the roots to root, and it will result in plant death pretty quickly, so be aware of this.

It is worth knowing that dracaena plants are sensitive to too much fluoride in tap water. If your tap water does contain a lot of fluoride, this can brown the leaves, or kill it completely. 

You don’t have to use distilled or bottled water to avoid fluoride, however. Fill a bottle full of tap water, and leave it alone for at least 24 hours, or for a few days. 

This will let some of the chemicals, including fluoride, to evaporate, and this will go a long way to help keep your dracaena plant (among others) healthy. 

Should You Feed a Dracaena Plant?

Dracaena plants are not among the most nutrient-hungry houseplants out there, in fact, it can do them more harm than good. 

Some plant fertilizers contain fluoride, so if you do want to feed your dracaena plant, use a general purpose houseplant feed, at half the dose it recommends.

Why are the Dracaena Leaves Going Brown?

If you notice parts of the dracaena leaves going brown, this suggests that the conditions the plant are in are less than ideal. 

If you see brown tips on the leaves, this suggests that the atmosphere around the plant is too dry, or you may be underwatering the plant.

Types of Dracaena You Should Try Growing At Least Once

Dracaena deremensis ‘Corn Plant’

Reaching anywhere from 4 to 6 feet tall, this type of dracaena is suitable for growing in indirect corners of your home, away from drafts or sources of heat.

The rich green, sword-shaped leaves are a real feature of this species, and they can grow as long as 2 feet when the plant is mature.

It may also send out petite yellow flowers, but this is rare on dracaena plants kept indoors, and they are more prized for their foliage than their flowers.

Dracaena fragrans ‘Cornstalk’

You can find Dracaena fragrans in nearly any size possible, from compact, very young plants to more mature heights of 5 feet tall.

It’s a slow-growing plant like most dracaena types, and depending on the cultivar, the foliage can be completely green, or it can be variegated in different shades of green or yellow.

Dracaena reflexa ‘Song of India’

A very forgiving type of dracaena, ‘Song of India’ will grow to a maximum height of 6 feet indoors, while it can get to much loftier heights of 20 feet in its native habitat.

This plant will bring a plethora of shades of green into your home, with variegated foliage arranged in a whorled shape. 

The variegation is a great contrast on these lance-shaped leaves, featuring a rich, bottle-green and a greenish-yellow. 

You’ll find it available in compact, bushy forms, or as a tree, depending on the age of the plant you go for.

This plant may start off bushy when it is younger, but the lower leaves will die off with age, revealing the characteristic thick trunk of the dracaena plant family.

Dracaena surculosa ‘Gold Dust’

Also known as the spotted dracaena, Dracaena surculosa or ‘Gold Dust’ is a fantastic type, featuring unusual oval foliage. The leaves come in a rich, deep green with a glossy sheen, and each one has golden splotches.

You may also see it sold under the name ‘Japanese Bamboo’, as the trunk of this plant is fairly thin, resembling bamboo. 

This species is also capable of flowering, though it is a rare occurrence. It is a sight to see, as it produces a globular cluster of white flowers.

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