How to Grow and Care for Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata) Indoors


Dracaena marginata, Madagascar Dragon Tree

Botanical name: Dracaena marginata
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Nolinoideae
Common name: Madagascar Dragon Tree

Description

Dracaena marginata commonly called Madagascar Dragon Tree is a colorful plant that easily adapts to a wide range of indoor growing conditions and is also a good indoor air cleaner.

Madagascar Dragon Tree is a tough, drought-resistant plant with aggressive root system and is considered to be one of the hard to kill plants.

The origin of the plant name comes from the word "drakaina" for "female dragon". Madagascar Dragon Tree produces a red gum-like resin in the stems that was likened to dragon blood.

The trunk is tall and snake-like. It branches with age and can grow up to 10 ft high. The narrow, arching leaves are edged with red.

Madagascar Dragon Trees can grow as single-stemmed plants or grouped or even braided together in the same pot.

Origin

Dracaena marginata has its origins in Madagascar and other Indian Ocean Islands.

Air Cleaning

According to the NASA Clean Air Study, Dracaena marginata was found to be a good indoor air cleaner and gets rid of common VOCs like xylene, toulene, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloethylene.

Varieties

The most popular varieties of Madagascar Dragon Tree are the basic variety, Dracaena marginata, whose leaves are predominately green and edged with red.

The Dracaena marginata tricolor, in whose leaves a band of yellow separates the green and the red stripes and the overall color is greenish-gold.

Dracaena marginata colorama, where the red banding is more prominent and the leaves appear distinctly reddish.

Where to Buy

Dracaena marginata is a magnificent plant to add to any houseplant collection. Various sizes of these plants are available online at Etsy. Buy beautiful and healthy Dracaena Plants online from Etsy.

Dracaena marginata, Madagascar Dragon Tree

Photo Credit: Hortology

Dracaena marginata Care Indoors

Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata) thrives in bright, indirect light away from direct sunlight, average warmth and consistently moist, rich, well-drained soil coupled with monthly feeding.

Dracaena marginata has no need for high humidity but does well in average room humidity. Repotting is only necessary when the roots begin to grow through the drainage holes. Frequent pruning is necessary to keep the plant neat as well as rejuvenate growth. Keep reading for more on these growing conditions and how to achieve them.

Light Requirements

Madagascar Dragon Tree grows best in bright, indirect light, about 5 feet away from an east- or west-facing window. It can also grow under lower light but it grows slower and produces smaller leaves with the less intense color.

Keep Dracaena marginata away from direct sunlight as it can lead to sun burn on the leaves. Check out this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

Watering

Water Madagascar Dragon Tree thoroughly during the growing season while allowing the top 1-2 in. of soil to dry out between waterings to keep the soil consistently moist.

Water less during the cold season and maintain soil slightly moist as growth is minimal at this time.

Avoid soggy soil as it can lead to root-rot disease. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole to avoid soggy soil.

Use water that is at room temperature to water to avoid shocking this tropical plant.

Ensure that the water is free of chlorine, flourides and other chemicals to prevent brown leaf tips. Read more on how to water houseplants.


Temperature

The best temperature for Madagascar Dragon Tree is average warmth with a minumum of 130C. Protect it from cold draughts. Check out this guide on understanding temperature for houseplants.

Humidity

Dracaena marginata has no need for high humidity. Average room humidity is ideal for the plant. However, if the air is too dry especially where temperature is too high set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier to raise humidity. Read more on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

Occasionally clean the leaves by damp-wiping with a soft cloth to get rid of dust and discourage pest infestations. Read more on how to clean houseplants.

Fertilizer (Feeding)

Feed Madagascar Dragon Tree every 4 weeks during the growing period with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer. Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is minimal and feeding at this time can lead to fertilizer burn.

Regularly flush out accumulated salts from the soil by running a stream of water through the soil until the water comes out through the drainage hole. Allow it to run for a few minutes and repeat several times. Read more on how to feed houseplants.

Repotting

Repot Madagascar Dragon Tree at the beginning of the growing season when roots begin to grow through the drainage holes as it prefers to be slightly root-bound.

Use a pot at least 2 in. wider than the tree-trunk. Ensure that the pot has a drainage hole to avoid getting soggy soil.

Never allow the roots to sit in soggy soil as it can lead to root-rot disease and death of the plant.

Soil

The best soil for Madagascar Dragon Tree should be rich in organic matter and free-draining to prevent it from getting soggy while providing the required nutrients. Most multi-purpose potting mixes are ideal. Purchase quality Potting Mix for Dracaena marginata from Etsy.

Pruning

Pruning Madagascar Dragon Tree involves removal of dead and yellow leaves to maintain the plant neat and tidy. It is a slow grower and does not require regular pruning.

To encourage bushy growth (branching), cut the stem at the desired height. A new sprout of stems will emerge below the cut. This will result in the plant producing several stems instead of having just one stem.

The foliage emanating from the pruning, can be used to propagate new plants. Read more on how to prune houseplants.

Propagation

Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata) can be propagated at beginning of the growing season in three ways; by air layering, from stem cuttings or by use of the crown from old leggy canes.

How to Propagate Madagascar Dragon Tree by Air layering

Make a notch on the stem of a healthy Madagascar Dragon Tree and coat the notch with a rooting hormone.

Surround the notched area with damp moss and then cover it with a polythene film or clear plactic wrap.

Maintain the area moist and allow some time for roots to develop in the notched area.

After the roots have formed sever the stem just below the covered part, remove the polythene and carefully pot the rooted cutting after which routine can begin.

New shoots will sprout from the shortened stem of the old Dracaena marginata.

How to propagate Madagascar Dragon Tree from the top crown of leaves

Remove the top crown of leaves from Madagascar Dragon Tree bearing about 3 in. of stem.

Apply a rooting hormone on the lower cut end of the stem cutting and insert the crown of leaves in moist, free-draining rooting soil.

Place the set in a warm, shaded place and maintain the rooting soil moist until rooting occurs. Rooting will occur in about 3-6 weeks.

When you observe new growth, the new Dracaena marginata can be transplanted to its own pot after which routine can begin.

How to propagate Madagascar Dragon Tree from stem cuttings

Take 2-3 in. long stem cuttings from a healthy Madagascar Dragon Tree. Ensure each cutting has some leaf nodes as this is where new growth will come from.

Dip the lower cut-end of Dracaena marginata cuttings in a rooting hormone.

Fill the rooting container with free-draining rooting soil. Lightly moisten the rooting mix.

With a pencil or similar object, make a hole in the moist rooting mix. The hole should be slightly wider than the diameter of the cutting.

Insert the cutting in the previously made hole in the moist rooting mix.

Cover the container with clear polythene sheet. Place the set up in a warm shaded place.

Maintain the soil moist through out until the new Dracaena marginata are well established after which routine can begin.

Dracaena marginata, Madagascar Dragon Tree

Dracaena marginata Problems Indoors

Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata) problems indoors are caused by poor care. They include plant death, brown leaf tips, yellow leaves, leaf spots, pests and diseases among others. Keep reading for more on these problems and how to fix them.

Brown leaf tips and yellow edges

There are four possible causes of brown leaf tips and yellow edges in Madagascar Dragon Tree. One possible cause is dry air.

Set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier to raise humidity. Read more on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

The second possible cause of brown leaf tips and yellow edges in Dracaena marginata is underwatering.

Maintain the soil moist at all times during the growing period. Reduce watering in the cold season but do not allow the soil to dry out completely.

The third possible cause of brown leaf tips and yellow edges in Madagascar Dragon Tree is chemical accumulation in the soil.

Use chemical free water only to water and regularly flush out salts from the soil.

The fourth possible cause of brown leaf tips and yellow edges in Dracaena marginata is cold draughts.

Protect the plant from cold draughts or keep it away from cold draughts to maintain average room warmth.

Plant death

The most common reason why Madagascar Dragon Tree is dying is root-rot. The plant is prone to root-rot disease which is promoted by soggy soil due to poor drainage.

Ensure the pot has a drainage hole and the soil is free-draining to avoid soggy soil. Also, reduce watering during the cold season to maintain the soil slightly moist as growth is minimal at this time.

Another possible cause of the death in Dracaena marginata is keeping it too cold. Maintain an average room temperature and keep it from cold draughts arising from drafty windows and doors, air conditioning units and others.

Madagascar Dragon Tree could also be dying from accumulation of salts in the soil. Regularly flush out accumulated salts in the soil by running a stream of water through the soil until the water comes out through the drainage hole. Allow it to run for a few minutes and repeat several times.

Yellowing lower leaves

Yellowing of the lower leaves is a natural process in Madagascar Dragon Tree. As the plant matures it sheds the lower leaves. Each lower leaf turns yellow and dries leaving a crown of leaves on top of the cane-like stem.

Soft, curled and have brown edges

If the temperature is too low Madagascar Dragon Tree leaves become soft and curled and the edges turn brown. Maintain an average room temperature and protect the tree from cold draughts.

Brown leaf spots

Madagascar Dragon Tree will form brown leaf spots if it is underwatered. Maintain the soil moist at all times and never allow the soil ball to dry out completely.

Bleached dry leaf patches

Direct sunlight will cause bleached dry patches on the leaves of Madagascar Dragon Tree. Move the plant to a shadier spot or protect it from direct sunlight.

Pests

Madagascar Dragon Tree pests; Mealy Bugs, Scale Insects and Spider Mites. Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to other plants and treat it appropriately for these pests.

Is Madagascar Dragon Tree toxic?

Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata) is toxic to both humans and pets as stated by ASPCA. The leaves contain alkyds which are extremely toxic. If ingested they can cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, loss of appetite and depression.

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