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How to Grow and Care for the Fuss-free Dracaena Marginata

How to Grow and Care for Dracaena Marginata
Otherwise known as the 'Madagascar dragon tree', or 'red-edged dracaena', the Dracaena marginata is a popular houseplant that is easy to grow. Here are a few tips about growing this hardy plant.
Sonia Nair
Last Updated: Jul 28, 2017
According to the NASA Clean Air Study, Dracaena Marginata is one among those common indoor plants that can purify toxins in the air.
Native to Madagascar, Dracaena Marginata is a plant species that belongs to the genus Dracaena. This genus comprises around 40 species, and many of them are grown for ornamental purposes. When compared to other species of the genus, the Dracaena Marginata has narrower leaves. On an average, the leaves can be around 30 to 40 centimeters long. The plant has slender, grayish-brown, woody stems, that are often called canes. Young plants have very short stems, with a tuft of upright, sword-like leaves. As they grow, new leaves emerge; and the mature ones arch over, turn yellow, and fall off. Without pruning, the Dracaena Marginata may reach of height of around 15 feet. Plants growing outdoors may produce tiny white flowers and yellowish berries.
The original species has dark-green, glossy leaves, with thin, red-colored margins. You may also find some cultivars with slightly different features. The leaves of the Dracaena marginata 'tricolor' has yellow-colored bands next to the red margins and through the center. The cultivar named 'Tarzan' has broader leaves that are retained on the plant for a longer time, when compared to other cultivars. Each stem has upright, new leaves that tend to arch sideways and downwards, before they turn yellow and fall off. So, this cultivar has long stems with a ball of spiky leaves on their tips. Another variety called 'colorama' has pinkish-red leaves with greenish-yellow hues. 'Magenta' is a variety that has green leaves with broad, purple margins. You can prune and grow Dracaena Marginata plants as bushes, or else, allow them to grow as straight or staggered canes. Even character forms are available in garden stores. Large specimens and character forms may cost more than the others.

The Dracaena Marginata is a tough plant that can be grown easily with minimal care and maintenance. However, they too have certain basic requirements that have to be met with, if you want these plants to grow healthy. They can be grown indoors as well as outdoors. Cultivars with colorful leaves are usually planted outdoors, because the leaves may turn pale without bright light. They can be grown as houseplants in bright indoor locations. Here are some useful tips to grow these plants properly.
Tips to Grow Dracaena marginata Indoors
Propagation and Planting
The Dracaena Marginata can be propagated using seeds or stem cuttings. It is really easy to grow these plants from stem cuttings. All you need to do is root the stem cuttings during spring. For best results, you can use a rooting hormone and provide bottom heat. Stem cuttings can be grown in water too. If you have the seeds of this plant, you can start them indoors before the last frost. Another method is division of root mass to separate individual plants.

Being one of the top-rated houseplants, this plant is ideal for growing indoors. Grow them in containers with proper drainage holes. Loose, fast-draining soil is preferred. An all-purpose potting mix will also do. It is better to avoid potting medium with perlite.
Light Requirement
They are often touted as low-light plants. In fact, low light causes their leaves to turn pale and limp. So, grow these plants in an indoor location with bright, filtered or indirect light. You can go in for a bright, artificial light, or a few hours of indirect morning sun. Avoid exposing these plants to direct sun, as they won't tolerate harsh sunlight for a long time. Too much light may burn the leaves.
Temperature and Humidity
The Dracaena marginata grows well in a temperature range of 65° to 75°F. These plants may not tolerate low and freezing temperatures. So, it is better to keep them in locations with a temperature that does not fall below 50°F. Temperatures above 95°F may also prove detrimental for the plant. As they like some amount of humidity, misting the leaves in between may prove beneficial, especially when the air becomes too dry. Avoid keeping them in rooms with a central heating system where fresh air is not available.
Watering and Feeding
Unlike outdoor plants, the indoor ones need not be watered frequently. Soggy soil is a strict no-no, as it can cause root rot. You must avoid watering the plant, even if the soil is slightly wet. It would be beneficial to empty the drainage saucer after watering. Use tepid, filtered water for these plants. Tap water may contain salt and fluorides that might cause browning of leaf tips. Though these plants do not need fertilizers, light-feeding during spring and summer will be enough for them. Too much fertilizer may also burn the leaves.
Pests and Diseases
The indoor ones especially are not prone to pest and diseases. However, they may develop leaf spots at times. In that case, remove the affected leaves and avoid overhead watering. Unhealthy plants may get infested with pests like spider mites and mealybugs. Spray the plants with a soapy solution, so as to get rid of these pests. Root rot is another condition that can be prevented with less frequent watering.
Pruning and Repotting
These plants may grow long with some leaves on the tips of their bare stems. If you want to make your plant more compact and bushy, cut the stems to the desired height. Within some time, new growths will emerge below the cut. You can root the cut stems in the same container, so that they grow into new plants. You could also grow them in separate containers.

Repotting can be done once in every two or three years, during spring. Usually, plants are repotted when they become too big for the containers. In order to repot a Dracaena marginata, you have to remove the existing container after watering the soil. Excess soil has to be removed from the roots, and a new, bigger container has to be used for growing the plant. You have to replace the potting medium too. If the plant has too many roots, it will be better to remove some of them before transplanting.
This is an ideal indoor plant, if you grow them in locations with bright, indirect light. Make sure that you dust the leaves in between. You can also wipe the leaves with a damp cloth. This is beneficial for preventing pests like spider mites. Apart from that, dust-covered leaves may not purify the air.
Outdoor Dracaena marginata Care
Choose a location with bright, indirect light. Direct morning sun will also work for this plant. It is better to avoid harsh afternoon sun, especially in regions with very hot summers. The soil must be well-drained with a preferred pH range of 5.6 to 7.5. The plant can be easily grown in USDA zones 10a to 11. The location must have enough space to accommodate the plant as it grows, and must protect it from winds. You must leave a space of at least three feet between individual plants. You can also enhance the soil by adding a good amount of compost, before planting. When compared to indoor plants, the outdoor ones need frequent watering. However, over-watering should be avoided. Young plants require frequent watering till they establish themselves. It is better to avoid growing it on the ground, if you live in locations with very cold weather. In that case, grow it in a container that can be shifted indoors during freezing temperatures.
In short, Dracaena marginata plants are not fussy and require minimal care. Though this plant is said to be safe for kids, it can be toxic for dogs and cats. Pets may develop symptoms like vomiting, lack of appetite, drooling, dilated pupils, weakness, etc., after ingesting any part of this plant. In that case, contact your vet as soon as you notice any of these symptoms.