This post shares all about dracaena care, specifically about growing dracaena indoors! This plant, otherwise known as the dragon plant, the corn stalk plant, the corn plant, the dragon tree, and more. I’ll be chatting about the different dracaena varieties you’ll likely find in stores; how to fix brown tips; dracaena plant benefits; sunlight, watering, and soil needs, and more!
Dracaena Care: Growing Dracaena Indoors
Okay—today we’re talking all about the dracaena plant, one of Henry the cat’s absolute favorites to chomp on. I’ve had a smaller one for a while now and have been able to keep it on a shelf out of Henry’s reach. He’s my real plant chomper and will chew on and eat anything leafy. Ponytail palms, ferns, parlor palms, ivy varieties…and yes, dracaena varieties that have thinner leaves.
What is the Dracaena Plant?
So what is the dracaena plant? Well, it’s a popular, low-maintenance plant that can be grown both inside and out. It’s from the Asparagaceae family and contains over 100+ varieties. So today I’ll be talking about the dracaena in general because the care is mostly the same. Most dracaena plants are naties to Africa, Asia, northern Australia, and Central America. So a lot of places. 🙂
Dracaena plant benefits: What are they?
Some studies have shown that some Dracaena varieties are excellent at purifying indoor air, including formaldehyde and other VOCs. They have long-ish pointy leaves that give a striking tropical effect. While it grows only in USDA hardiness zones o 10–12, it can be grown year round as a houseplant. Which is where I have my two dracaena plants now—indoors! It is a pretty tolerant plant that can have bright green or yellowish foliage.
How tall do most Dracaena plants grow?
They can be pretty tall, but they can also be cute, compact little desk plants. Corn plant varieties (fragrans) can grow over 50 feet tall in their native environments in Africa. Sadly, only upwards of 6 feet tall when grown as houseplants (which is still pretty tall!)
However, most dracaena plants don’t reach 6 feet tall. I have a desktop plant on a shelf that—who knows—might get to be 6 feet tall one day. But right now it’s just a cute little bushy tree. The other dracaena I have is a tall waif-like plant that has a stunning resemblance to a tree-looking skinny fiddle leaf fig.
Dracaena care: What are the different dracaena varieties?
There are loads of different dracaena varieties, but I want to talk about 3 different kinds you’re most likely to find at your local plant store or nursery. Starting with the Dracaena Marginata.
This is the variety of dracaena that I have. I actually have two of these. One is very small and sits on a shelf. I got it from Ikea. The other is tall and waif-like with multiple twisted trunks. I got that as a local plant nursery.
This type of dracaena is also known as red-edge dracaena or the dragon tree. In its natural habitat, it can grow up to 15 feet high and up to 8 feet wide. (Mine are nowhere near this indoors, lol.) They are drought tolerant and absolutely lovely with their long, thin, spiky leaves.
The Dracaena massangeana is often referred to as the corn plant because it somewhat resembles a corn stalk. Honestly, I don’t really think it does. It reminds me more of a yucca cane plant. But apparently it resembles a corn stalk plant for a lot of people. Its long trunk/stems are thicker than the dracaena marginata varieties.
And its leaves are thicker as well. Another reason why it reminds me of the yucca cane plant. Although the Dracaena Marginata leaves can curl a bit more and seem a bit more upright, while the yucca cane leaves point out more and are completely straight. The massangeana or corn plant can tolerate lower light conditions and grows very slowly.
Want more plant care tips? You’ll also love my guides on how to take care of monstera plants, the ponytail palm, snake plants, elephant ear plants, pothos plants, rubber plants, fiddle leaf figs, cape ivy, peperomia plants, pilea peperomioides, succulents, and philodendron.
The dracaena reflexa variety is sometimes referred to as the song of India. It’s also referred to as the most common dracaena, but I don’t see it much, so, *shrug* It has more variation in its leaves than the other varieties, with some yellow.
Dracaena Sunlight Needs
Although different varieties do best in slightly different levels of sunlight with some tolerating lower light levels, generally dracaena plants do just fine with indirect indoor light. Direct sun is no good; it can burn its lovely leaves. While many varieties will do okay in lower light levels, they won’t thrive. They’ll conserve their energy and won’t grow as well.
Dracaena Watering: How Much Does it Need?
Like many easy-to-care-for houseplants, dracaenas need watering only about once a week when they’re actively growing (spring, summer, early fall). In the winter, you can water less as they aren’t growing as much.
Also like other similar houseplants, the easiest way to kill dracaena varieties is by overwatering them, which can lead to root rot. Don’t keep the soil overly wet, and plant them in a well-draining soil that allows the water the freely drain through a drainage hole. The top few inches of the soil should be totally dry before you water again. If your plant’s leaves are yellowing or floppy, you could be overwatering.
Humidity and Brown Tips on Dracaena plants
In dry indoor air, they might enjoy a misting with a spray bottle of plain ol’ water on the leaves. Since they like humid conditions in their natural habitat, they love a humidifier in their space. However, I’m too lazy to do that.
If you notice your dracaena has brown tips on its leaves, the humidity might be too low and the air too dry. Give them a little mist every few days and see if that helps. You can’t reverse the damage done on the brown tips, so you can just trim those or cut the dry leaves off entirely.
Interested in plant-related DIYs? Check out my test tube propagation station, my glass jar propagation station, my midcentury plant stand, my stainless steel bowl hanging planter, and my hanging plant pot holder.
Dracaena care: What is the best soil?
Just your average, run-of-the-mill well-draining houseplant soil works well. It’s best to have a drainage hole in the pot you plant your baby in. However, if you don’t have one, just take extra care not to overwater and put a later of perlite or pebbles in the bottom in the pot.
Toxicity to pets and kiddos
Not a great plant to have within reach of your pets, especially if they are leaf chompers. It is toxic to cats and dogs and can lead to vomiting. Henry ate a few leaves from one of mine right when I took it home, and he barfed. Which isn’t exactly abnormal for him—he’s a barfy cat. But I had to move the plant so he couldn’t get to the leaves. Don’t let you kids eat it…obviously.
Care & Problems for dracaena plants
Your average houseplant pests are problematic. That means mealybugs, spider mites, etc. Avoid overwatering. One thing I’ve read about that can be problematic is actually fluoride. Many areas have fluoride in tap water, so fluoride toxicity is a concern. Signs of fluoride toxicity in dracaena plants include dark brown, yellow, or dead areas.
If this seems confusing to you—yeah, me too. These can also be signs of low humidity, dry air, and overwatering! So, the best choice is to water these plants with distilled water. But I’m way too lazy to do that and my plants seem fine. If yours aren’t doing well, this is something you can try.
How to propagate dracaena
Full disclosure: I’ve not yet propagated my dracaena plants. But there are two ways the internet says you can do it. Will report back when I actually do one of these methods. The first is using top cuttings. You can remove the top of the plant by cutting just below the leaf line. Then plant the cuttings in moist soil or a cup of water to root. The area you cut from should regrow.
The second way to propagate dracaena plants is by using stem cuttings. This process is very similar to taking top cuttings. However, when taking stem cuttings, you actually cut more of the stem (obviously). Several inches more of the stem. You can add some rooting hormone and plant the cut stems in soil or water.