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February 14, 2022

Dragon Tree Care (How to Care for Dracaena Marginata)

I love Dracaena marginata from the Asparagaceae family, also known as Dragon Tree or Dracaena Plant, as it’s one of the easiest houseplants to care for. Resilient and tough, it is adaptable to a wide range of light conditions, as it tolerates everything between low light to bright light, but not full sun. Dragon tree loves to go dry in-between waterings, and as such is a non-fussy houseplant that requires minimum maintenance and can do really well even if you ignore it for a while.

Scientific classification:
Botanical Name/Latin Name: Dracaena Marginata
Family: Asparagaceae
Genus: Dracaena
Species: Marginata
Common name:
Dragon tree

Dracaena Marginata Care Guide (Dragon Tree)

Dragon Tree Light Requirements

Minimal amount of light: 50 Lux (5 FC)
Optimal amount of light:
750 lux (75 FC): low light tolerant
Direct sun tolerance:
1-2 hours

Dragon tree houseplant is highly adaptable and can tolerate low light conditions. Actually, it won’t be bothered by low light at all. The only difference between Dragon tree in low light and bright light, apart from the growth rate, is the number of leaves it will produce – the plant that receives more light will be able to grow and support a greater number of leaves.

However, it’s best to place this houseplant in medium to bright indirect light. Medium-light would be light between 750 and 3,000 lux (75-300 foot candles) and bright light is light over 3,000 lux (300-foot candles). If you don’t have the right conditions, you can always use artificial grow lights that look great and keep your houseplants happy. If you’re confused with grow lights and not sure which one to buy, check out my Grow Light Finder.

If you happen to grow your Dragon Tree in lower light conditions, make sure to adjust the frequency of watering accordingly. The less light your Dragon plant gets, the slower it will use the water from the soil, and you will need to water it less frequently.

There are different varieties of dragon tree — some are variegated, some are not. If you have a variegated kind (Dracaena marginata tricolor or Dracaena marginata colorama), be aware that, like all other variegated plants, yours also needs more light than its non-variegated counterparts. In low light, they tend to lose their variegation.

Dragon Tree Watering

Don’t water your Dragon tree until it gets fully dry, or at least the top half of the soil has dried out if it’s in bright light. If you ever find yourself in doubt, wait for a few more days just in case, because they prefer to stay on the dry side.

The worst thing that can happen if you underwater, is that they will lose a couple of their lower leaves, while the worst thing that can happen if you overwater it is that it can die from root rot.

You want to aim for the soil to dry out in about a week, that way it’s not likely to be overwatered. If it’s staying wet longer than a week, you have several options: use less water when watering, give it more light, repot into a better draining mix, or move to a terracotta pot.

Dracaena Marginata Plant, photo by Alex Quezada, Unsplash
Dragon Tree plant, photo by Alex Quezada, Unsplash

What Soil to Use for Dragon Tree

If you plan on keeping the houseplant in a lower light area, use a porous mix that doesn’t retain too much water. Most potting mixes will need to be amended because they contain mostly small, fine particles, so they retain a lot of water and fail to provide enough oxygen for the roots. Lack of oxygen leads to roots suffocating and dying of rot. Amend the potting mix using approximately one to two parts of perlite or bark to three parts of potting soil.

If you plan on keeping your drafon tree in front of a window with bright light, then you can use any tropical mix (like Proven Winners Potting Soil or Mother Earth Groundswell Soil), but it’s still suggested to amend it with perlite or bark.

How to Fertilize Dracaena Marginata

Like most houseplants, Dragon Tree doesn’t need to be fertilized. Most potting mixes are full of nutrients and contain a lot of synthetic fertilizer, so there is really no need to add more fertilizer.

If you repot your Dragon Tree once a year, you will replace the old soil with new soil and provide it with enough nutrients. But if you wish, you can fertilize. Just make sure to do it only if the plant is actively growing and follow the instructions on the label. I recommend Dyna Gro Fertilizer as it contains all essential minerals in addition to N-P-K.

Dracaena Dragon Tree, photo by Gabriele Lässer, Pixabay
Dracaena Dragon Tree photo by Gabriele Lässer, Pixabay

Repotting Dracaena Plant

I recommend repotting your Dragon Tree annually to replenish it with fresh nutrients and replace the compacted soil but you don’t need to move it to a larger pot necessarily. Dracaena is one of the slow growers, so the larger pot may be needed every second or maybe even every third year. This will, among other factors, mostly depend on the amount of light your plant is getting. More light equals more photosynthesis equals faster growth.

If you need detailed instructions on how to repot your houseplant properly, get them here.

How to Propagate Dragon Tree

You can propagate your Dragon Tree in soil or water, it doesn’t make a lot of difference. You should do what you are more comfortable with. Try one approach, then the other, and see what works for you.

You can see how I did it below.

Here’s how to propagate Dracaena marginata in water.

  1. Cut off any of the branches.
  2. Remove some of the lower leaves, so there are empty nodes that can grow roots.
  3. Put the cutting in water.
  4. Place next to a window, in bright indirect light.
  5. Replace water weekly.
  6. Once the roots get 1 to 2 inches long, you can pot in soil.

You can also cut off a whole cane and propagate it, but then you would get only one plant. By cutting off branches from a single cane, you can get multiple plants from one plant.

It took my Dragon Tree about 1,5 to 2 months to start showing roots in water, but the propagation speed will depend on many factors – the amount of light, water temperature, amount of oxygen it contains, etc.

Mr. Houseplant's Friend's Dracaena Marginata
My friend’s Dracaena Marginata

Ideal Temperature for Your Dracaena Marginata Plant

Your Dragon Tree will enjoy average daily temperatures of between 65°F (18°) and 75°F (24°C).

Humidity Levels for a Dragon Tree

Dracaena marginata houseplant doesn’t care a lot about humidity as long as it receives enough light and is watered correctly. Average humidity levels of 25% to 49% are considered favorable, although dracaena will be just fine even in low humidity, it adapts well to low humidity levels.

Dracaena plant by Gabriele Lässer, Pixabay
Dracaena plant photo by Gabriele Lässer, Pixabay

Frequently Asked Questions about Dragon Tree Care

Are Dragon Trees easy to care for?

Yes, they are very easy to care for and excellent plants for newcomers into the houseplant world. A Dragon Tree will love all the light it can get in your home but will also tolerate low-light areas if necessary, and also doesn’t require frequent watering. If you’re a frequent traveler, this is an excellent plant to have.

How fast does a Dragon Tree grow?

Dracaena Dragon Tree is not a fast growing plant. If you would like a bigger specimen, I suggest buying a bigger one right away, instead of getting a small plant and waiting for it for years to increase in size.

What’s the difference between Dracaena Marginata and Dracaena Draco?

Dracaena draco is a plant that is completely different from Dracaena marginata, as you can see in the photo of Dracaena draco below. I found at least one very popular blog mistakenly describing Dracaena marginata as Dracaena draco, which is probably one of the reasons why there is some confusion as to the difference between these two clearly very different species.

Large Dracaena Draco tree from Dave's Garden website
Dracaena Draco photo from Dave’s Garden website

Always happy to help!

Leaves are turning yellow on my Dragon Tree, why?

This is one of the questions about the Dragon Tree houseplant I get pretty often.

As the plant grows it will naturally lose the lowest leaves, so don’t be concerned about this. Most of the cane will be bare, with leaves on top of each stalk. As the new leaves emerge from the top of the plant, the bottom leaves will turn yellow and the plant will take mobile nutrients from them. They will turn yellow, they will dry out, and fall off. And it’s okay. :)

Also, if you notice a few small brown leaf tips, know that they are usually not something to worry about, as they can show up for many reasons, but are only an aesthetic issue.

When caring for dragon tree plants and houseplants in general, one of the most important lessons you should learn as soon as possible is that you should not expect perfection from your indoor plants. They are living beings and they go through seasons and stages. Leaves on your houseplants have a limited lifespan and if they turn yellow and fall off, that’s usually just a part of your plant’s lifecycle. The leaves will eventually die even if you make sure to give your plant the best care possible, as you should. So, as long as your Dragon tree keeps putting up new growth, you shouldn’t worry about some leaves turning yellow.

Have More Questions about Dracaena Marginata Care?

If you’re having any doubts or more questions regarding Dragon tree care, please let me know in the comments below. You can also schedule a virtual one-on-one consultation with me and get the help you need.

Always happy to help!

Yours Truly,

Mr.Houseplant-signature-tr

4 Comments

  1. MaryAnn Bower March 31, 2022 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    My Dragon Tree is a couple years old. All of a sudden, when I was checking all my plants last week, I noticed yellow spots on it’s leaves. Thought too much bright light or too much heat. It’s near a sliding glass door. So. I moved it farther away. What did I do wrong?

    • MrHouseplant March 31, 2022 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      Hi MaryAnn, diagnosing a plant is a bit more complicated and generally requires some photos and more information in order to determine what exactly happened. The reason for this is that one symptom can have different causes. For example, yellow spots could be caused by pests or by fluoride on different dracaena species, in some cases by too much light or by other reasons. I would be reluctant to move the plant away from the window unless you determine with 100% certainty that too much direct sun is the cause. If the plant is not getting a lot of direct sun, don’t move it away from the window.

  2. Cherie Aleman July 11, 2022 at 1:05 am - Reply

    My Dracaena Marginata has been under my care for about a year and a half. It’s quite small, but overall appears to be doing fine. However, I have noticed that its leaves have started to fall more in the shape of a weeping willing vs the way they looked when I bought it. The best way I can describe their original look is kind of like a spikey hairdo. The newer, top leaves still kind of stick up, but the lower leaves do not. Is it unhappy where it’s located, maybe, or is this normal? For perspective, the main trunk is 3 inches tall, and each of its three branches are 2 inches tall, while the longest leaves are 9 inches long.

    • MrHouseplant July 11, 2022 at 2:03 am - Reply

      Hi Cherie, it would be much easier if I could see a photo :) The top leaves should stand up and the lower leaves should fall downwards, that is generally normal. But the bottom leaves can get too droopy sometimes and it usually happens if the plant needs water. I would need to see a photo though to say for sure. Can you DM me on Instagram?

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