Dracaena marginata, otherwise known as the Madagascar Dragon Tree, may sound like an intimidating plant, especially for beginner gardeners. However, they’re very easy to grow indoors and make a perfect beginner-friendly plant.
For starters, the dragon tree isn’t as temperature sensitive as most other houseplants and can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. It’s also drought-resistant and an overall though plant that will keep you company for many years.
If you’re an indoor tree enthusiast and you’re looking for a bold accent to punctuate the decor in your home, the dragon tree may be that one decorative element that will make your arrangement complete.
But as any other plant, the dragon tree is not simply ornamental. It has keeping requirements that I encourage you to read below.
Dragon Tree Plant Care Tips
The requirements of this plant aren’t exuberant, and you can easily meet its needs, even as a newbie gardener. You should view these recommendations as a general guideline for growing D. marginata and supplement your knowledge with the particulars of each variety you have.
Here’s what you should know about caring for the dragon tree and helping it thrive indoors.
Provided that you have the space for it, Madagascar Dragon Trees can grow to 6 feet indoors. Of course, in its native habitat, it can reach 20 feet, but since you’re looking to keep it indoors, you will need to keep it at a reasonable height.
It’s a slow growing plant, so you won’t need to worry about it growing out of hand too soon. When it reaches a height that no longer works for you, simply cut off the top and see its leaves regrow again.
Watch out for the roots that will become coiled in the container and may poke out of drainage holes. When this happens, it’s time to consider repotting the plant.
Very bright indirect light works best for this plant. The plant will also grow in dim light, albeit much slower and its leaves will be smaller and less intense in color. Direct exposure to the sun should be avoided; the plant’s leaves can easily burn.
Because we’re dealing with a plant that can tolerate — and even thrive in — drought, it’s best to wait for the top inch of soil to dry out before watering. It’s easy to drown the dragon tree plant in too much water.
The plant is actually good at indicating its watering needs — brown tips on the leaves mean that the plant is getting too much water, while yellowing leaves means the plant isn’t getting enough water.
If the dragon tree plant is watered with water high in salts and fluoride, leaves can also turn brown. Therefore, it’s best to water the plant with fluoride-free water.
Temperature & Humidity
Ideal temperatures for the dragon tree plant range from 70 F to 80 F, but as I mentioned the plant can adapt to a wide range of temperatures, so staying close to this range will work fine and you don’t need to stress about temperatures too much.
If the air in your home is particularly dry, the plant will benefit from occasional misting with a spray bottle.
Good quality all-purpose potting soil may work for this plant, at least for a while, but in the long run it needs a well-draining potting mix (e.g. loamy soil with peat moss). Some dragon trees are shipped from Hawaii and come with lava rocks. If this is the case with your dragon tree, you should replace ⅓ of the lava rocks with potting soil.
There isn’t much need to fertilize dragon trees, but it may benefit from light fertilization during spring and summer. Use a slow-release fertilizer or a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half.
Potting & Repotting
Dragon trees have extensive root systems, so make sure the pot is large enough to accommodate their roots. Dragon trees don’t need repotting sooner than every 2-3 years because of their slow-growing nature. If you notice the soil getting compacted, refresh the potting soil as needed.
Dragon Tree Plant Propagation
You can propagate a dragon tree plant from its stem cuttings which you can root in water before planting them into their own container. It will take about 3 weeks for stem cuttings to root and they don’t require rooting hormone either.
Different Types of Dragon Tree Plant
Dragon tree plants have various cultivars that feature different color variations and patterns that allow you to match them even better with the overall design of your room.
Here are a few popular varieties to get you started:
This is the basic dragon tree variety that features dark green leaves with thin, dark red or purplish red leaf margins.
D. marginata Bicolor
As its name suggests, this variety has a dual color scheme, featuring red and green striped leaves.
D. marginata Tricolor
This variety has green leaves with the usual red stripe margins; however, a yellow or ivory stripe runs down the leaf center, creating a golden appearance. This cultivar is very similar to the basic dragon tree variety, but it has increased light requirements.
D. marginata Tarzan
This variety is different from the original D. marginata in that its leaves are positioned in a ball shape with leaves ‘sticking out’ in all directions. It also has tougher leaves, it can thrive even in shade, and it’s both pest-resistant and drought-resistant. All these qualities make this plant a bit more expensive compared to the ordinary D. marginata.
D. marginata Colorama
The Colorama is essentially a flashier version of the Tricolor because the reddish stripes that are found on the leaf margins of the Tricolor are much more pronounced on the Colorama and they have a thicker and pinkish appearance.
This variety grows slower than the original and because of the reduced amount of chlorophyll, it needs more light than the original variety.
These are some of the most popular cultivars that are available in stores. Some of the cultivars need different growing conditions than the original, some may be more resilient. I recommend reading up on the requirements of your specific cultivar so you can offer it the best possible care.
Dragon Tree FAQs
The FAQs below can help you manage some of the potential problems dragon trees can have and you can find answers to questions you may have about growing this plant:
Why is the Stem of my Dragon Tree Soft?
A soft or squishy stem is a sign of overwatering your Dragon Tree. It’s usually the result of prolonged overwatering and not a single instance of accidentally giving too much water to your plant. In some cases, a soft stem may be the result of exposing the plant to very low temperatures.
Unfortunately, if the problem runs too deep, there is nothing you can do to save the plant, unless there are still firm parts of the plant, which can be cut and propagated.
Why are the Leaves on my Dragon Tree Dropping?
If leaves are falling from the lower half of the plant and this phenomenon is spaced out over the course of a couple of weeks, it’s not something you should be alarmed about. Old leaves will fall and new leaves will emerge at the top of the plant.
Old leaves will also turn yellow, but if the plant’s leaves are falling from all over the place and the stem of the plant feels soft and squishy, you may be dealing with an overwatering issue.
Is Dragon Tree Plant Toxic for Pets?
Yes, according to the ASPCA website, the Dragon Tree plant is toxic to both cats and dogs because of saponins it contains. If ingested by your pet, it can cause vomiting, hypersalivation, dilated pupils, depression, etc.
Therefore, keep your dragon tree plant in a safe space, away from curious pets that may ingest the leaves of the plant.
What is the Lifespan of Dragon Tree?
The dragon tree plant is a slow-growing plant that can take 10 years to reach 5 ft. Therefore, if you offer your plant good conditions, you can enjoy its company for many years.
Do Dragon Fruits Grow on Dragon Trees?
Although, their name might suggest that dragon fruits grow on dragon trees, actually they are not. Dragon fruits are produce by an exotic cactus, commonly known as dragon fruit cactus.
As you can see, D. marginata is a versatile indoor tree that won’t ask for too much maintenance and doesn’t have extraordinary keeping requirements.
The plant can get very tall, but you won’t need to worry about that too soon, plus you can easily prune it to stay at the height you can accommodate in your home.
Because of the varying requirements of the different cultivars, make sure you check your variety’s specific keeping requirements and take this guide on dragon tree plant care only as a general guide for the growing of D. marginata.
The leaves of the plant can gather quite a bit of dust, so you may want to consider cleaning the plant off with a damp cloth or misting it with tepid water.
As a low-maintenance and fairly resilient plant, D. marginata makes a great starter plant for any beginner looking to add excitement to a room.