The Dracaena genus of tropical broadleaf evergreen shrubs and trees includes several species commonly used as houseplants throughout the world. But there are also plants from entirely different genera that are also commonly known as dracaenas. For example, the houseplant sometimes called "ti tree" is now officially labeled as Cordylineaustralis, even though it is still sometimes sold as a dracaena. Whatever official genera it belongs to, when you purchase a dracaena, you are usually buying a species characterized by spear- or grass-shaped leaves that extend off one or more thickened, cane-like main stems. (There are also other Dracaena species that grow from rhizome-like roots, but these are generally sold under other names.)
In their native tropical environments, some dracaena plants can grow to 20 feet or more, but as indoor houseplants, most remain under 8 feet tall. Dracaena plants grown outdoors may produce yellowish-white flowers followed by berries, but this is rare for those grown as houseplants.
Be aware that plants in the Dracaena genus contain saponins that are toxic to cats and dogs.
|Common Name||Dracaena; various species have different common names|
|Botanical Name||Dracaena spp. (also Cordyline spp.)|
|Mature Size||2-10 ft. tall, 1-2 ft. wide|
|Soil Type||Moist, well-drained|
|Hardiness Zones||10–12 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Asia, Africa, Australia|
|Toxicity||Toxic to dogs and cats|
The Dracaena species commonly grown as houseplants are generally quite easy to grow in large, well-draining pots filled with ordinary commercial potting mix. Proper watering and correct light exposure (plenty of indirect light, but not much direct sunlight) will keep them healthy.
Generally speaking, dracaena plants do best in bright, filtered, or indirect light, though they can stand short periods of direct sunlight.
Dracaena plants grown as houseplants do well in any peat-based commercial potting mix, which has the slight acidity that these plants prefer. If grown in the landscape in tropical regions, the soil should be rich and well-drained.
These plants should be kept consistently moist during their growing season (spring through fall), but allowed to go drier in the dormant winter period. Water them thoroughly each week during the active growing season, allowing excess water to drain through the pot into a tray or basin beneath. In winter, water more moderately every two weeks.
Temperature and Humidity
Most dracaena species thrive at temperatures of 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit but will react badly if temps fall below 50 degrees. These tropical plants like a fairly high humidity level, which can be a problem for indoor plants during the dry winter months. Misting or using a room humidifier may be necessary for dry-air conditions.
Dracaena plants do well with a monthly feeding with a water-soluble fertilizer formulated for houseplants during spring and summer. Feeding should be held back in fall and winter when plant growth slows down.
Dracaenas can get by with little fertilizing. Use a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer. Apply once a month during spring and summer. Cease fertilizing in fall and winter when plant growth slows down.
Types of Dracaena
Out of the 100-plus species in the Dracaena genus, a relatively small number are commonly sold as houseplants. These species vary widely in their size, but the species sold as houseplants typically have spear- or grass-like leaves that often emerge off one or more stems that grow thick and cane-like with time. The species normally sold as houseplants under the name Dracaena include:
- Dracaena fragrans (fragrant Dracaena, corn plant) has strap-like leaves that emerge in a fountain-like cluster from a thick woody stem. This plant can grow as much as 6 feet in height when grown as a potted plant. In outdoor settings where it is hardy (zones 10 to 12), it has been known to grow over 20 feet.
- Dracaena deremensis is a widely cultivated species with many excellent named cultivars. Outdoors in zones 10 to 12, these plants can reach a large size, but when grown in pots they generally remain under 10 feet.
- Dracaena marginata (dragon tree) has thinner, grass-like leaves that fountain off of multiple thick stems.
- Dracaena sanderiana (lucky bamboo) is often trained to have curled stems by careful manipulation of the direction of sunlight. This is a familiar novelty plant that may be kept only a few inches tall, or grown to several feet in height.
- Cordyline fruticosa (cabbage tree, ti tree, or ti plant) is a palm-like plant with thicker strappy leaves that emerge in a fountain-like arrangement atop one or more thin woody stems. It has colorful lance-like leaves that arch from the base.
- Cordyline australis (cabbage palm) is often sold as Dracaena, since the plant was initially categorized under that genus. It grows to be quite a large tree in its native habitat, but immature plants are often used as houseplants. It has thin, grass-like colorful leaves that arch in a fountain-like growth habit. Houseplants are sometimes sold as Dracaena 'Spikes'.
Although pruning is not essential, dracaena plants tolerate cutting back when necessary to control their shape or height. Pruning is best done during the active growing periods of spring and summer. Yellowing or dead leaves should be removed as they appear.
Dracaenas are usually quite easy to propagate by rooting stem cuttings, which is best done in spring as the plant is beginning to actively grow. Even just a bare section of the stem will often produce a new plant.
Here's how to propagate a new dracaena:
- Using sterilized sharp pruners, cut an 8-inch length of the stem, then remove the leaves. (It's possible to simply "behead" the top of the plant, and use this section to start a new plant.)
- Dip the bottom end of the stem in rooting hormone powder, then plant the stem into a small pot filled with moistened potting mix.
- Place the planted cutting in a spot with bright indirect light and keep moist until leaves begin to sprout from exposed nodes; this can take as much as three weeks.
- Repot the new plant when it fills its starter container.
It's also possible to suspend a cutting in a container of water, let it develop a good network of roots, then plant it in potting mix.
How to Grow Dracaena From Seed
Because indoor dracaena plants rarely flower and produce fruit, it's not common to propagate them from seeds.
Potting and Repotting Dracaena
Dracaena plants will do well in any commercial peat-based potting mix in a large pot with good drainage. It's good practice to place a saucer or tray beneath the pot, which allows you to fully drench the plant with each watering. Yearly, replace the top 2 to 3 inches of potting mix with fresh mix to replenish nutrients.
Repot into a slightly larger container when the plant starts to lift up or when roots start to emerge through the drainage holes.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Dracaena is susceptible to some of the same pests that affect many houseplants, especially thrips and mealy bugs. Fungal leaf spot disease can sometimes be a problem if the soil is overly moist.
Common Problems With Dracaena
Dracaena species are sensitive to fluorides and built-up salts, which can cause leaves to turn brown. If you notice this, try watering with non-fluoridated water, with an especially deep watering once each month to flush out salts. Browning leaves can also occur if indoor humidity levels are too low; mist the plant regularly or use a room humidifier to rectify this.
Too much direct sunlight can scorch leaves, and too little light can cause the leaves to become very narrow.
Yes. In tropical regions (zones 10 to 12), dracaena plants are sometimes grown as permanent landscape specimens. They may be used as screening plants in these climates.(Video) 5 Quick tips Dracaena
Like many slow-growing tropicals, dracaena plants can be long-lived—which is one of the reasons they are so popular as houseplants. However, individual leaves tend to fade and die within two or three years, at most, so the plant is constantly renewing itself. And when the plant gets too large for a big container, growers often take cuttings to start new plants, then discard the overgrown parent plant.
Yes—in a manner of speaking. According to the NASA Clean Air Study,Dracaena reflexais fairly efficient at removing formaldehyde and other VOCs from small, sealed spaces. It is one of several plant species shown to have this ability. In practice, it would take more than one plant to cleanse the air in a typical home. By one estimate, a 1500-square-foot home would require 15 healthy plants to be an effective air-quality measure. Thus, the idea that growing houseplants is an effective anti-pollution strategy has been largely debunked.
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.
Dracaena fragrans. NC State Extension.
Dracaena Diseases. PennState Extension.
Dracaena Production Guide. Mid-Florida Research & Education Center.
Dracaena sanderiana. Missouri Botanical Garden.(Video) Dracaena Care // How to care for Dracaena fragrans //Northlawn Flower Farm
Houseplants for Healthier Indoor Air. Cornell Cooperative Extension.
How to Grow and Care for Dracaena Plants? ›
Never place a dracaena plant in direct sun, as the rays will scorch its foliage. Water: Dracaena require less water than most indoor plants. Keep them hydrated by misting the leaves with water and keeping the soil lightly misted (never soggy) as well with good drainage.Does dracaena need sunlight? ›
Grow dracaena indoors in bright, indirect light. Most types will tolerate fairly low light conditions, but you'll notice increased growth if you move plants to sunnier locations. Don't put them where the sun will shine directly on them, though, as the leaves may scorch.How do you keep a dracaena alive? ›
Dracaena benefit from bright, indirect light. If given too much sun, leaves are at risk of scorch. It's a good idea to grow them in a bathroom or kitchen for humidity. Dragon plants prefer underwatering to overwatering, so let the top few centimetres of soil dry out – test with your finger – before watering again.How often do you water dracaena? ›
Dracaena trees prefer the soil to dry between waterings, but not completely through the pot. Typically, watering every 10-14 days will keep the soil with a nice even level of moisture.Are dracaena easy to care for? ›
Dracaena fragrans, or corn plant. Also called mass cane, this slow-growing plant is easy to care for and adapts well to a variety of conditions.How do I know if my dracaena needs water? ›
Dracaena Water Requirements
How much water does dracaena need and when to water dracaenas? A general rule of thumb is to only water dracaena when the soil feels dry to the touch. Water plants thoroughly, or until water freely flows from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
In general, dracaena care is relatively simple. Light: Filtered indoor light (such as through a sheer curtain in front of a sunny window) or a semi-shade spot is an ideal location. Never place a dracaena plant in direct sun, as the rays will scorch its foliage.Why is my dracaena plant dying? ›
Key Takeaways: Usually the reasons for a dying dracaena are overwatering and poor drainage. Dracaena plants need good drainage and do not tolerate, consistently damp soil, boggy soil. If the soil is too damp the dracaena leaves turn yellow with a drooping and dying appearance, due to root rot.How long do Dracena plants live? ›
The Dracaena Marginata is one of the most popular home plants since it is very easy to care for and its tropical appearance integrates well in modern environments. With proper care, it has a great lifespan, living up to a decade in a pot, and it has an even longer life expectancy outdoors.Why are the tips of my dracaena turning brown? ›
Dracaena's are extremely sensitive to excess fluoride. In certain municipalities, fluoride is added to drinking water and can make levels too high for Dracaena. This will accumulate in soil from irrigation water and can cause yellowing of leaf tips and margins which progresses to brown as the toxicity builds up.
Can you water dracaena with tap water? ›
One of the worst things you can give any houseplant is tap water. Municipal water supplies have numerous added chemicals that can be harmful to your plants. These include bromine, chlorine, and fluoride.Should I cut off the brown tips? ›
Should you cut off dying leaves? Yes. Remove brown and dying leaves from your house plants as soon as possible, but only if they're more than 50 percent damaged. Cutting off these leaves allows the remaining healthy foliage to receive more nutrients and improves the plant's appearance.What does an overwatered dracaena look like? ›
Overwatering is the most common cause for Dracaena leaves to turn yellow. Leaves of the dracaena lose their green color and turn pale. They lose their crisp, semi-rigid bearing and start feeling soft and limp. Instead of reaching for the sky, they droop down and sag towards the floor.Why are the leaves on my dracaena turning yellow? ›
The most common cause of yellowing leaves among Dracaena plants is improper soil moisture–in particular, overwatering. Your Dracaena likes to be kept damp (but not wet or saturated!), so keeping a regular watering schedule is key.What do you feed dracaena? ›
Dracaenas will thrive with a water-soluble commercial houseplant fertilizer. You can buy these products at a local home-and-garden shop or online. Look for mixes with a 3:1:2 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. You will see these nutrients listed as N, P, and K on the packaging.Can you cut the top off a dracaena plant? ›
The good news is that pruning dracaena plants isn't difficult. These sturdy plants tolerate trims with little complaint, and you can cut back a dracaena to any height you like.How do you care for a dracaena plant indoors? ›
Dracaena plant care involves keeping the soil of houseplant dracaena moist, but never soggy. Drooping or yellowing leaves indicate over-watering or poor drainage. Learning how to care for a dracaena includes finding well-draining soil in which to grow your houseplant dracaena.When can you repot a dracaena? ›
Time of year for Dracaena repotting
Spring, summer, and into early fall are good times for repotting Dracaenas. If you live in a climate where winter comes early, then spring and summer are best.
Likely, the cause of a leaning Dracaena is a watering issue. Sometimes underwatering causes these plants to droop, but more often overwatering is the culprit. Other potential causes include drainage issues with the pot or soil, temperature extremes, pests, or inadequate exposure to sunlight.What kind of pots do dracaena like? ›
It doesn't matter how large the plant is; it will grow in a pot that is 4 inches tall by 4 inches wide. If you don't know how to choose the right pot size, consider the current pot's size. If the current pot of the plant is 10 inches or smaller, you should choose a pot that is at least 1-2 inches larger.
Is Dracena a good indoor plant? ›
Growing conditions: Dracaena prefers bright, indirect light; it tolerates dimmer light, but growth slows as a result. The plant grows well with standard indoor potting soil and average house temps and humidity.What is the best soil for Dracena? ›
Soil. Like many easy-to-care-for indoor plants, dracaena likes rich, but well-draining soil in a pot with good drainage. Regular indoor plant potting mix works beautifully!Will leaves grow back on Dracaena? ›
If any leaves are brown or damaged, you can carefully prune them to improve the look of the plant, and new leaves will grow in their place as the plant recovers. As long as the tree's trunk and roots are healthy, and proper growing conditions are maintained or adjusted, the dragon tree should regrow its lost leaves.Why is my dracaena not growing? ›
Like all living things, Dracaenas need energy to grow, and since sunlight is a critical factor in photosynthesis, a lack of sun is the most likely explanation for slow growth. Dracaenas can tolerate medium to low-light conditions, but they will grow much more quickly if they're given plenty of bright, indirect light.Can Dracena handle full sun? ›
Can Dracaena Marginata Plants Take Full Sun? No, direct full sun will scorch the leaves. It can grow huge outdoors in warm climates comparable to its native habitat, but it cannot handle the cold.Can a dracaena plant go outside? ›
Dracaena thrives outdoors in areas that are frost free. Zone 9 can be a little risky in the winter months. If you live somewhere that gets an occasional frost, be prepared to protect your outdoor dracaena plants with some kind of covering.Why are the tips of my dracaena turning brown? ›
Dracaena's are extremely sensitive to excess fluoride. In certain municipalities, fluoride is added to drinking water and can make levels too high for Dracaena. This will accumulate in soil from irrigation water and can cause yellowing of leaf tips and margins which progresses to brown as the toxicity builds up.Is dracaena good for bedroom? ›
The Dracaena is the perfect bedroom plant for smokers. Beyond its air-purifying qualities, the Dracaena can also suck up particles of smoke that cause health problems. While the plant used to be considered magic, it has since made an appearance on NASA's clean air study, so it must be doing something right.