Perhaps one of America’s favorite house plants, which sometimes even ends up out in our landscapes, is the dragon tree. This exotic-looking plant sports wiry branches which end in clusters of ribbon-like leaves. A member of the agave family native to Madagascar, this abstract plant is beautiful in a variety of settings.
You have probably seen the dragon tree in either a dish garden, as a floor plant, in an outdoor planter or maybe even in the landscape. This plant grows as series of cane-like stems topped with a rosette of leathery, eighteen-inch leaves. The curvy, gray stems can grow up to fifteen feet tall and are adorned with diamond-shaped leaf scars giving the stems a textured appearance.
Dragon plants are excellent low-maintenance houseplants that will thrive in full sun to shade. As young specimens grow, they lose their bottom leaves and develop an attractive stem which adds to the eye-appeal of the plant. Large specimens which have become tall, out-of-bounds and lanky, can be cut back. Once a stem is cut, new shoots develop below the cut end and produce a bushier plant. The cuttings can also be rooted to make additional plants.
The species Dracaena mariginata has green, strap-like leaves with a red-marginal edge. There is also a cultivar with a more exotic color combination of red, cream and green stripes called ‘Tricolor’. While very drought tolerant once established, the dragon tree has poor salt tolerance so keep this in mind. Dragon trees can adapt to outdoor settings especially in protected sites, but if we have a frost or freeze, bring the containerized plants in or cover landscape specimens for protection. Technically hardy from zones 10 B to 11, environments closer to the water can offer temperature moderation and protection. Microclimates near a building or in some type of a protected spot are better overall for survival outside.
In addition to taking cut stems and rooting them, dragon trees can be propagated via air layering or simply taking two to four inch-long cane sections placed horizontally in potting medium. New shoots will emerge from nodes located along the stem sections.
The Madagascar Dragon Tree is one of many other interesting and colorful Dracaenas available. The dragon tree is also noted as a plant that can improve the air quality indoors – a great added feature! For more information on all types of house plants suitable for containers and maybe outdoors, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer. Don't forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area. Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times - http://charlotte.ifas.ufl.edu/horticulture/Plant%20Clinics%20Schedule.pdf.
Gilman, E. F. (2014) Dracaena mariginata Red-edged Dracaena, Madagascar Dragon Tree. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Gilman, E. F. (2014) Dracaena mariginata ‘Tricolor’ Three-Color Madagascar Dragon Tree. Madagascar Dragon Tree. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Nelson, J. (2009) Dracaena. University of Illinois Extension Service.
Harper, E. (2016) Interior Plants Improving Air Quality. University of Georgia Extension Service.