Madagascar Dragon Tree Plant

Dragon Tree Plant Care – How To Grow Dracaena Marginata

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Madagascar dragon tree is one of the most popular exotic evergreen houseplants throughout the world. Although it has been very popular during the ‘60s, it still doesn’t stop to attract the attention of indoor gardeners. Besides that, it is pretty cheap to buy and take care of! In addition, it is known as an air-purifying plant. So, what more could a gardener want? Madagascar dragon tree has remarkable dark green foliage with red and/or golden stripes. The plant looks like an unusual (house) palm, thus another common name – dragon palm.

Madagascar Dragon Tree summary: It likes moderate watering. Still, you can leave the soil to dry out a little bit, but never leave it soggy or waterlogged! When it comes to light requirements, it likes bright places with a little shade. The leaves require occasional pruning since they tend to grow chaotically sometimes (still, the chaos they produce is so charming). It doesn’t require often repotting since it is very adjustable to small spaces. It likes moderate humidity as well – occasional misting is enough. When it comes to temperature, the average room temperature between 18 and 24 degrees Celsius should be okay. Still, dragon palm doesn’t like cold temperatures in any case. (It is native to the south part of Africa, for heaven’s sake!)

Intrigued by this short description? You would like to own your first dragon tree? In the following article, you’ll find the answer to all of your questions and doubts!

Where Does it Originate From?

Also known as Dracaena marginate, this plant belongs to the Dracaena genus.

The genus contains hundreds of different plant varieties that are different in shape, size, and foliage type.

Madagascar dragon tree is native to the island of Madagascar, known for its colorful exotic greenery.

Besides the island of Madagascar, it is found on another island nearby – Mauritius.

The origin of its common name is pretty interesting.

Namely, the ‘dragon tree’ name is rooted in the one Dracaena variety, known as Dracaena Draco (or, if translated from Latin – Dragon).

The name comes from the plant’s characteristic to release red waxy matter when cut.

There is a more interesting story behind the name, an old Madagascar myth. There was a hundred-headed evil dragon. Once he was killed, rivers of blood flowed throughout the field where later hundreds of dragon trees appeared.

Still, this story is valid only for the dragon palm’s above-mentioned close relative. This particular variety, Madagascar dragon tree, doesn’t release ‘blood’ when cut.

Dragon Tree Plant Appearance

Dragon tree plants are large house plant.

Once they reach full maturity, they can grow up to a stunning 3 meters in height! Still, to be this tall, dragon palm requires a fairly big container. Objectively speaking, you can expect it to grow up to 2 meters, tops.

It has an appealingly long, spiky foliage. The leaves are thin and slim – thinner than the rest of the members of the Dracaena family.

Although the Madagascar dragon tree does bloom, the flowers are unnoticeable and not really appealing – they are pale and greenish.

However, it is very rare for them to appear when the plant is kept indoors.

If you are lucky enough for the plant to bloom, expect shy flowers during springtime.

Dracaena Marginate Appearance

How Many Cultivars of Dragon Tree Are There?

There are four different varieties of this extraordinary plant, and they differ in foliage color.

What all varieties have in common is a strong, woody trunk. The leaves grow from it.

However, they do need some management when it comes to the direction of growth. You’ll have to prune the bottom ones if you want the leaves to aim up.

It’s interesting that the leaves actually grow on stems, and don’t be surprised if you spot more than one leaf. You’ll want to prune all the excess leaves if you want your Madagascar dragon tree to look nicely arranged.

Even though dracaena marginata is a tall house plant, it is a slow grower. It will take years and years for it to reach its full height. A decade should be enough!

Still, they look nice and appealing even when they are young.

Also, another reason why this Dracaena species is so popular – although it is a stunningly tall house plant, it doesn’t require much space. It will look lovely in a dull corner of your room.

 Now, let’s take a closer look at those four cultivars:

Dracaena marginata

This is the typical Madagascar dragon tree. At the leaf edges, you will notice a thin red line that goes along the side of the edge. The center of the leaf is deep green.

Dracaena marginata tricolor

This variety looks exactly the same as the previous one, except that it has another color added to the foliage – kind of a yellowish shade.

The edges are red-striped, but the center is not fully green. It has stripes in yellowish gold tones.

Dracaena marginate colorama

This is the youngest variety of them all, and it has the most exotic appearance. The leaves are practically colored bright-red.

When you look closer, you’ll notice that the foliage has a green stripe in the center. As for those red stripes on the edges, they are much wider than in the previous two varieties.

Dracaena marginata tarzan

This variety is a little different than the others since the stalk is different. It is kind of longer, and the leaves don’t grow as palm, but rather as some kind of an unusual ball-shaped spiky bush at the top of the stalk.

The leaf color palette is the same as in the original dracaena marginate.

Still, although the color is the same, the quality of the leaves isn’t. This variety has a bit thicker leaves, and also wider. The spiky leaves are pointed upwards at first.

But as time goes by, they gently fall little by little. The ones that fall will begin to yellow and dry out little by little until they fall off.

Of course, you can prune them once you notice that they are dry and crispy. Still, this variety isn’t widely spread, and it is more expensive because of that.

If Dracaenas are your favorite plants, take a look at other types as well:

Dracaena Marginata tarzan

Madagascar Dragon Tree Care Requirements

Now, I have some excellent news for all of you who don’t have a green thumb!

Dragon plant care implies low care levels. This palm tree is known for its fast recuperating powers.

You can even forget about it for some time – it will forgive you!

 It should be watered occasionally, and you can even leave the soil to dry out a little bit. But never leave it soggy or waterlogged!

This plant prefers shadier places and average room temperature and moderate humidity as well.

The leaves require occasional pruning since they tend to grow chaotically sometimes (still, the chaos they produce is so charming). It doesn’t require often repotting since it is very adjustable to small spaces.

Now, let’s discuss each of the sections a bit more thoroughly! 

What Are the Sunlight Requirements?

Dragon tree house plants are a tropical plant that likes big amounts of indirect sunlight.

Provide some light shade as well, so you avoid foliage damaging. Direct sunlight could burn down the plant’s leaves.

On the other hand, an insufficient amount of sunlight will prevent the leaves from developing healthily. Through time, they will become limp and lifeless.

The best option would be a window facing north, east, or west. Still, if all of your windows are faced south, you can place the pot near the window, but not too close.

 Also, make sure you provide some distance from the window.

Does It Require Frequent Watering?

Dragon tree plant likes moderate watering. Never allow the soil dry out completely, but always let the top layer dry out before you pour the precious liquid again. Still, overwatering can do much more damage to your plant than underwatering.

During the growing months (in spring and summer), you can water it once a month. Use less water during the cold months, as you normally would with the other house plant.

The frequency will depend on the room temperatures, so you’ll have to judge by yourself how often the watering should be. Do know that it can hold without watering for up to three weeks.

Let’s say the golden rule for dracaena marginate care in the aspect of watering is – less is more!

As for those problems caused by overwatering I’ve mentioned- the most common is root rot.

In case that happens, you should cut the damaged roots as soon as possible since the rot tends to spread very quickly. Carefully prune all the contaminated parts and place the healthy leftovers in fresh new soil.

Dracaena Marginata Plant

Soil Requirements for Dracaena Palm

This is also the part where the Dracaena palm shows its low-maintenance nature.

You can use a regular all-purpose soil mix. Since it doesn’t require soil with lots of nutrients, you can mix loam and potting soil in a ratio of 1:1. Just make sure the soil is pest-free and fresh. Of course, as long as the pH value is 6 to 7- it’s optimal for this species.

Also, feel free to reuse some old soil. This only makes sense for plants which are not demanding, such is this one. Of course, make sure you follow the instructions on reusing it, so not to kill your plant.

Related: Best Potting Soil For Indoor Plants

Repotting Madagascar Dragon Tree- Is It Complicated?

Since it is a slow grower, you won’t have to worry about repotting your dracaena palm every year. Instead, you can do it every two to three years once you notice that the plant has overgrown the pot.

But, you will be surprised to hear that it’s not the plant that overgrows the container- the roots do so. They simply get overcrowded and congested.

How will you know this is the case?

Although the Madagascar dragon tree is a slow grower, you’ll notice a stagnation in growth in your Marginata plant.

Still, don’t buy an overly large container, or you could confuse your plant. And contribute to stagnation- not improvement.

Just like I said, it doesn’t need much space so there is no need to re-pot it more often than every couple of years.

Madagascar Dragon Tree Repotting

Does It Like Humid Environment?

Average room humidity should be enough for Dragon tree, provided that the air is not generally too dry.

Misting the leaves from time to time certainly won’t hurt– it will maintain the needed level of humidity and to preserve foliage health and shine.

During the hot months (especially summer), they like hot drafts so you can leave the pot near an open window. Still, never leave your dragon tree houseplant under the impact of a hot heating device as the air coming from them dries out the plant.

Do I Need to Fertilize It Often?

As with any other low-maintenance house plant, the plant dragon likes an occasional additional feeding.

I advise using a liquid fertilizer since it is considered to be the mildest of them all. Add it to the soil once a month during the growing season.

During autumn, do it more seldom – approximately every two months will be okay. Still, never fertilize your tree dragon during the winter.

Dragon Tree Temperature Requirements

This plant prefers moderate room temperatures between 18 and 24 degrees C.

Even though it is a tropical plant, it can survive colder temperatures during the winter as well. Still, never let the temperature fall below 10 degrees C.

The plant likes summer drafts and can be taken outside during summer.

As you notice the night temperature dropping, take the pot back inside as soon. Don’t let the frost get to your Madagascar dragon plant!

ABCs on Pruning and Propagation of Madagascar Dragon Tree Plant

If you are a fan of messy looking plants, then I’m positive that this one will steal your heart.

It’s not one of those plants which require pruning as soon as its foliage goes all crazy.  Of course, unless you want to make it look “tidier”.

Your main concern should be removing dry leaves at the bottom of the plant.

In case you want, you can cut the stems and gain the shape you desire. Just don’t cut too many of them, or the plant will lose its natural charm.

There are a few ways to propagate the Madagascar dragon tree, but they are all based on the technique of stem cuttings.

Whichever of them you opt for, just make sure your plant is mature enough for propagation.

Madagascar Dragon Tree Propagation

Different propagation methods

The first way to propagate it is by a crown cutting. Gently remove it from the mother plant.

To ensure success, dip the crown in some rooting powder (you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to). After that, place the crown in soil mix and hope for the best!

You can also use the canes to make even more baby Madagascar dragon trees! Just cut them in half their length. They should produce small additional stems as they do on the grown plant.

Although the process is a bit lengthy – it may take a few months, it is still fun to see what will turn out of it!

Finally, you can remove the young parts on the stem or you can cut them and plant in missing soil. After you’ve planted your new baby plants, place the container somewhere warm, away from direct sunlight.

Bottom heat will speed up the process – place the pot on a heat source such as a radiator.

If you do this, choose the plastic pot. It will create the greenhouse effect on the roots, although the pot isn’t covered with a plastic lid.

Pro-Tip: Make sure that the young cuttings are facing up just as they did when they were attached to the mother plant. This way the plant will be able to adapt quickly and develop well.

Common Problems

Although you might consider leaves falling to be a problem (because it usually is for other common houseplants), know that the Madagascar dragon tree is an exception.

If you notice the bottom leaves fall off, it just means the plant is making space for new leaf growth. Just prune the leaves that are dry and damaged, so they don’t absorb valuable nutrients that could help other, healthy plant parts.

 Now, let’s see what really are the issues Madagascar dragon tree may deal with!

Leaf Browning

If you notice that the leaf tips are getting brown, there are a few possible reasons for it. Cold drafts may cause it, for example. Dry air may be causing it as well. Underwatering is also an option.

On the other hand, if you notice that the leaves are not only getting brown but also being soft and wilted, it is for different reasons.

You have either overwatered the plant, or the room temperature is too low.

Examine the soil and the room temperature to find the solution to the problem. The leaves may be still green, but you notice some brown spots on them.

Even though it’s a low maintenance plant that doesn’t need to be watered frequently, it doesn’t mean you should completely forget to water it.

If this is the case, water it thoroughly.

If the soil becomes too dry, you’ll notice that the water is just running through the pot and then flows right outside the container. Water it several times in one hour until you notice that the water is holding onto the soil.

If the Madagascar dragon tree is not too big, there is another, a better way to water a plant that has been lacking water for some time.

Take a big container, fill it with water, and then place the whole pot in it. Let the roots soak all the water they need. After an hour or so, remove the pot from the water.

You’ll notice when it is the time to take the pot out of the water by its weight. A well-soaked plant will weigh more since it has a lot of water in it. The soil on its own is pretty light.

The Root Ball Rises Above the Container

If you notice that the roots are going outside the container, it is because they have outgrown the pot.

Still, you don’t need to re-pot the plant because of it.

Let me explain why this happens in the first place. The roots tend to twist themselves around the pot walls, causing an overgrowth.

In this case, just take the plant out of the container (it shouldn’t be hard since the roots have practically done that for you) and prune some of the think root stalks.

Always do it with a sterilized tool because, if you infect the roots, you probably won’t be aware of it for quite some time. The roots may get sick and ruin the whole plant that way.

Bleached Leaves

If you notice that the leaves are losing their color it is because the plant is exposed to too much light. You need to relocate your pot.


Although it is considered to be a pretty resistant house plant, there are still some intruders that may cause you and your Madagascar dragon tree some issues.

Mealybugs and red spider mites are your main enemies.

The former ones can be pretty stubborn. The problem with that is, not only they will endanger your Madagascar dragon tree’s health, but they tend to spread very quickly to other house plants as well.

Also, they live only in humid, warm places. This is why you should pay attention to the level of humidity.

To get rid of them, use a cotton cloth or a piece of cotton wool. Dip it in alcohol and carefully rub over the contaminated parts.

On the other hand, if red spired mites are your visitors, you’ll probably want to use some stronger chemicals found in flower shops. If you don’t like using chemicals, you can take a test period for a few weeks.

Regular misting is an excellent way to say goodbye to unwanted visitors.

Is a Madagascar Dragon Tree Poisonous?

Dragon trees are toxic to pets. Although dogs aren’t known for chewing houseplants, cats sure are! So, make sure you keep the pot away from your furry friends.

This rule also applies if you live with small kids. They are curious and like to discover things themselves, so mind where you place the plant.

Even though it’s generally considered to be non-toxic to humans, it shouldn’t be consumed. That’s because it contains saponins. When ingested, it may cause weakness, vomiting, dilated pupils, and similar.

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