The Dracaena marginata is a species from a large plant genus (Dracaena) that has many variations in leaf sizes, leaf colors and different trunk types. The marginata is one of the most popular seen indoors that grows into an attractive plant and becomes a great focal point of a room, once it has matured enough.
How it looks and grows: The leaves are quite slim compared to other Dracaena's with arching leaves. There are three types, one has a dark red outer edge leaves with a green center, another is green in the center with red and yellowish stripes and the other the colorama has thick red edges. The leaves are produced when the trunk grows stems (cane) from the side that often needs to be trained (keeps them growing upwards). These stems have a grayish brown bark (the trunk) that can also produce smaller ones, so the Dragon tree really needs to be pruned to avoid the plant from growing in all directions.
These are slow grower's that can take about 10 years to reach over 5ft tall but look lush once they reach about a foot high. They have a very similar look like palm tree plants.
Level of care: The Madagascar dragon tree is one of the easiest house plants to grow and takes neglect on the chin - then recovers quickly once the correct conditions and care is provided. The one I gave to my sister (about 5ft in height) over 10 years ago was neglected more than cared for and is now looking great.
Leaves falling: If leaves start dying and coming away at the bottom of the plant - do not worry. This is natural and similar to how a yucca tree sheds its bottom leaves for new growth. You can remove them once you see them deteriorating in appearance.
Poisonous: This plant is toxic to both cats and dogs. The problem with cats is they love chewing the leaves, as I found out with my parents cats. My parents cats were fine, although they only nibbled a small amount. Because the leaves are very slim I'm sure they think it's a type of grass. See more about pets and the effect toxins have here at the ASPCA.
Improving air quality: The Dracaena marginata is one of the plants on NASA's air filtering plants list (part of the NASA clean air study) that reduces benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene, within the air.
|Names:||Dragon Tree (common). Dracaena marginata (botanical/scientific).|
|Max Growth (approx):||Height 8ft.|
|Poisonous for pets:||Toxic to cats and dogs.|
|Temperature:||Average room temperatures are ideal between 65°- 75°F (18°- 24 °C) or more. They will live through much colder temperatures during winter (as I have observed), but keeping them in optimal health requires the room to be no less than 50°F (10°C).|
|Light:||Bright conditions with shade is suitable for the dragon plant. Direct sunlight will damage the leaves.|
|Watering:||Keeping the soil slightly moist is the best indicator of correct watering. During the winter, like most plants they need much less.|
|Soil:||I have always used an all purpose potting mix that works fine.|
|Re-Potting:||These can be re-potted every two years during spring or later if needed.|
|Humidity:||Normal household humidity is fine and misting the leaves is advised. They do like fresh air during the summer from an open window, and do not like stuffy hot rooms from central heating systems.|
|Propagation:||Cutting and re-planting stem cuttings a couple of inches long is an easy method used. Apply root hormones and give it a few weeks for them to begin rooting.|
|Pruning:||You can remove old leaves that are ready to fall from the bottom of the trunk which will make it look more attractive. And, cut back stems to keep the plant to the size you want.|
As mentioned above the dragon tree will take lots of neglect, although this is not advised of course. Here's some potential problems to look out for.
Brown leaf tips: Possible cause could be dry air, cold drafts or under-watering. Check room humidity and water levels, then see if there are any drafts to identify the cause. Once the cause is found just provide the correct care or conditions needed.
Brown soft leaves : The room has become too cold for the plant and the soil could be water logged. Provide higher temperatures and check the soil.
Brown spots on leaves: The possible cause here is lack of water. The remedy of course is to water more often and keep the soil slightly moist.
Bottom leaves becoming yellow: This as mentioned above is normal. The plant is shedding lower leaves to allow new growth.
Insects: Mealy bug and scale can be a slight problem.