A Dracaena marginata is a member of the Dracaena family (Asparagaceae), and is often referred to by its common name, Madagascar Dragon Tree. The plant got its nickname because it is native to Madagascar and is related to the Dracaena Draco which means dragon dracaena. When small it can be used as a table plant, but it is especially impressive as a tall, specimen tree and can often be seem decorating large office buildings. A Dracaena marginata is often called a “False Palm” because its long, bare trunk and tufts of leaves at the very top give it a palm-like appearance.
Dracaena Marginata Description and Varieties
A Dracaena marginata is a stately plant with multiple, snake-like canes, and hundreds of long, thin, leaves. The canes are often thick, twisted, and woody, making them desirable very three very unique appearance. The original variety has narrow, arching, dark green leaves trimmed in deep red. The newer varieties have much more colorful leaves.
Dracaena Marginata Tri-Color has three colors in its long, slender leaves. A yellow stripe separates the green and red stripes.
Dracaena Marginata Colorama again has three colors in the leaves, but the red leaf edges are more prominent which gives the plant a red or deep pink appearance.
Dracaena Marginata Tri-Color Silver has long, thin silver colored leaves
Dracacaena Marginata Tarzan was found growing in Florida only ten years ago. The green leaves are thicker and wider than the usual marginata leaves.
D. Tri-Color D. Tri- Color Silver D. Colorama D. tarzan
All types of dracaena plants, the D. janet cragii, the D. massangeanna (corn plant dracaena), the dracaena lemon lime, the D. reflexa, and the D. compacta are easy-care, durable, indoor plants well suited for offices and homes. They are extremely tolerant of low light and little water. Dracaenas are stalk plants which means it is normal for them to lose their bottom leaves if they are getting new leaves at the top of the plant. NASA lists a Dracaena marginata as a plant that cleans the air of harmful chemicals. These plants really do thrive on neglect! Check out the tips below to see exactly how to care for a Dracaena Marginata.
Dracaena marginata plants prefer medium light, but survive in low light situations. Lower light slows down the growth rate and reduces the size of new leaves. Direct sun burns the leaves.
Over-watering causes root-rot and is the main reason a Dracaena marginata dies. Water well and don’t water again until the top 50% of the soil is dry. In low light, this could take up to three weeks. Brown tips on the leaves indicate over-watering or too much fluoride or salt in the water. Never use water that has passed through a softener, it is too salty. If your household water has a lot of chemicals, allow it to sit out overnight before using it or use rain water or distilled water. This is a stalk plant, so it is common for the lower leaves to turn yellow and fall off if the plant is getting new leaves at the top. Numerous yellow leaves means the plant needs more water.
Dracaenas are slow-growing plants that do not require a large amount of fertilizer. Feed monthly in the spring and summer with a water-soluble, well-balanced plant food diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength. Do not feed a dracaena in the fall or winter.
These plants prefer temperatures between 70°-80°F (21.1°- 26.7°C).
Basic household humidity is fine.
Dracaena marginata plants are very susceptible to spider mites, especially when temperatures are warm and the air is very dry. These pests are difficult to see until they have damaged the plant. Mealy bugs are another pest problem; they leave small, sticky, cottony deposits that are easy to see. You can read more about spider mites and mealy bugs in the Glossary of the website.
Leaf spot disease and root-rot caused by over watering are the main disease problems.
Dracaena marginata plants grow well in a loose, quick-draining soil. These plants are from Hawaii and often arrive planted in lava rock. Remove 1/3 of the lava rock and replace it with a good potting mix.
Dracaena marginatas grow better when root-bound in small pots. Don’t be in a rush to re-pot any dracaena plant.
If the canes become bare at the bottom, cut the cane back to where you would like to encourage new growth. Several new stems eventually emerge below the cut and your marginata looks even more interesting.
I like to use stem cuttings rooted in water for propagation. You can use the canes you removed during the pruning process. Cut the stem piece you cut off into 12” sections. Mark which is the top and which is the bottom of each piece. Place the cuttings in a jar of water, bottom end in the water. Fill up the water as it is absorbed. Roots should start to develop at the bottom of each cutting within a few weeks. Leaves will develop along the stems. Once the stem sections are well rooted, you can plant them at the base of your original plant to make it look fuller or start new plants in small pots with drip holes in the bottom.
Clean Air Plant
NASA lists a Dracaena marginata as an excellent plant for removing harmful chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from the air.
Poisonous Plant Info
A dracaena marginata is mildly poisonous to humans, but they are extremely toxic to dogs and cats with a #2 toxicity level.
Dracaena marginatas develop brown leaf tips when there are chemicals like fluoride, chlorine, and salt in the soil. Using water containing chemicals, over-fertilizing, and using water that has passed through a softener puts these chemicals into the soil and causes leaf burn. Brown tips also indicate that a Dracaena marginata may be over-watered.
Dracaena marginata are cane or stalk plants and it’s normal for them to get a few yellow leaves at the bottom as long as they are getting new leaves at the top. If the soil gets too dry, the plant will get numerous yellow leaves and you should give it more water.
Spider mites are usually the cause of pale, blotchy leaves on a Dracaena marginata plant. These plant pests are difficult to see but do leave a very fine reddish webbing on the plant and a gritty feel to the surface of the leaves. Spider mites suck the juices from the leaves of plants and cause leaf discoloration. Spray your plant with my ” green solution” every 10 days for a month to get rid of spider mites. (Recipe for making the green solution is in the Glossary of the website)
Mushy stems and canes on a Dracaena marginata are caused by over-watering which results in root-rot. Root-rot is the number one reason these plants die. Stop watering until the soil is almost dry. Remove all soft and mushy parts of the stems, and move your plant into bright indirect light.