Dracaena Marginata: Care And Growing Guide


Dracaena marginata also referred to as Madagascar Dragon, red-edge dracaena or rainbow plant is a member of the Dracaena family, Asparagaceae native to Madagascar and one of the most popular houseplants in North America and Europe. This plant is great for beginners because it is drought tolerant and not at all fussy about their light conditions.  It is tall with an open braid weave consisting of 4 canes or stems. Dracaena marginata becomes interesting over time. The plant drops its slender, sharply tapering leaves as it grows, until what remains are grayish-green stems crowned with topknots of the red-margined, deep-green foliage. As it grows, it maintains its upright appearance making it perfect for blank walls, spots behind furniture or narrow corners.

Plant Profile/Facts

  • Botanical Name: Dracaena Marginata
  • Family: Asparagaceae
  • Other Names: Dragon tree, dragon plant, rainbow plant, ribbon plant, Madagascar dragon tree
  • Plant Type: Perennial, usually grown as houseplant
  • Leaves: Long narrow evergreen leaves
  • Mature Size: 5 to 15 feet
  • Sunlight Requirement: Bright indirect light
  • Soil PH: 6-6.5
  • Soil Type: Well-drained soil such sand, loamy etc
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Rarely flowers indoors)
  • Flower Color: White
  • Hardiness Zones : 10 to 12
  • Native: Madagascar and Mauritius
  • Uses: House plant and perennial borders

How To Effectively Grow And Care For Dracaena Marginata


Dracaena Marginata thrives in rich soil with plenty of organic material such as a well-draining or peaty commercial potting soil. Generally, plant dracaena marginata in any soil that doesn’t become soggy and isn’t prone to pooling water. Slightly sandy soil that drains quickly provides the best growing conditions for the plant.


Dracaena Marginata requires moderate to bright indirect sunlight. Brown spots on the leaves may be a telltale sign that the plant is getting too much direct light. Also, if the plant doesn’t get enough light, i.e growing in low light condition its leaves generally turn pale or yellow.

Also Read: Begonia Maculata Care


Just like any other houseplant, dracaena marginata should be consistently watered when the top layer of soil dries to a depth of approximately two inches. Insert a finger into the soil near the plant’s base to check the soil’s level of moisture. Water the plant when the top 2 inches of the soil feel dry but before the soil dries completely at a 6-inch depth. Check the soil moisture weekly, especially during extended dry weather.

Water the plant’s soil when the soil begins to dry out during spring and summer while the plant grows actively. Apply the water near the plant’s base, keeping its stems dry. Provide about 1-inch of water or enough water to moisten the top 6 inches of soil lightly. Allow the soil to dry again before the next watering session. Water dracaena lightly during the winter if the leaves begin to look shriveled. Provide only enough water to moisten the soil as the plant deteriorates quickly in cool, damp soil.

Like other houseplants, dracaena marginata is very much sensitive to fluoride, which can cause discoloration. To avoid effects of fluoride on your dracaena plant, water it with rain water, distilled or non-fluoridated water.


Like all indoor plants, dracaena Marginata thrive with only one or two feedings with a fertilizer designed specifically for houseplants. Apply the fertilizer at the rate recommended on the label for your pot size. Feed the plant with a liquid houseplant fertilizer every two weeks in spring and summer and monthly in fall and winter. After fertilizer application, watch for signs of excess salt or nutrient in the soil such as burning or crisping along the edges of the leaves. Discontinue feeding if this occurs.


Dracaena Marginata prefers room temperatures of between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit may cause the plant to wilt.


Dracaena marginata prefers average humidity for it to grow vibrantly. Regular household humidity is perfect for growing this plant. If your house is particularly dry, consider a light misting from a spray bottle. The most effective way to maintain an average humidity to a dracaena plant is to place it on a thin layer of rocks on a saucer and balance the container on top and ensure that the saucer is filled with water. In this case, evaporation of water will provide the necessary humidity to your plant.


Dracaena Marginata plants respond well to pruning. When the leaf growth becomes excessive, it is always a good practice to trim away some leaves to help promote vigorous, healthy growth of the remaining leaves.

As the plant ages, leaves will naturally turn brown or fade.  Any damaged leaves require removal as they occur, as leaving broken or weak leaves on the plant opens it up to possible pests and disease. Trimming browned areas improves the overall look of the plant and stops further damage to the leaves.  While you can safely prune this plant anytime throughout the year, trim back during spring or summer to enhance effective growth. Use clean, sharp shears or loppers to prune the dracaena marginata.

Propagation Of Dracaena marginata

Root Cane Cutting

  1. Dracaena marginata foliage grows on top along, bare stems referred to as canes.
  2. Cut the cane into pieces about two inches long, each with one node, reserving the top four to five inches of the cutting for use as a tip cutting.
  3. Dip the stem cutting into a rooting hormone, preferably indole-3-butyric acid to get faster results and stronger roots.
  4. Lay the pieces horizontally on a tray of seed-starting mix and push them down so that about half of the cutting remains above the soil.
  5. Wrap the tray in a transparent plastic bag to keep the humidity high and place it in a location that receives filtered sunlight.
  6. Pot the pieces in significantly large pots when they begin to grow.

Air Layering

  1. Air layering is the most efficient way of getting a good-sized plant from a dracaena marginata.
  2. Using air layering, root the plant before cutting it away from the parent plant.
  3. Selecting a healthy section of stem is very important in this process.
  4. Remove a ring of bark from the stem or make a shallow tongue-like shaped cut into the bark.
  5. Pack moistened sphagnum moss around the wound, wedging it into a tongue cut.
  6. Wrap a transparent plastic paper around the bundle of moss and the stem and secure each end with tape or twist ties.
  7. Visible roots will begin to develop at the wounding site within the bundle.
  8. When a healthy bundle of roots is observed, cut the air layer off the plant, unwrap the roots and plant in a good potting soil mix.


  1. Leave at least 5 inches of stub in the pot when you remove the top part of the original plant.
  2. Ensure that the soil remains consistently moist. Do not allow the soil to completely dry.
  3. A pair of new shoots will emerge to take the place of the old top growth.
  4. Apply a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer every two weeks.
  5. Continue applying fertilizer and watering the soil and within 8 weeks your dracaena will be fully grown.

Tip Cuttings

  1. Ensure that the tip cutting is at least six inches long.
  2. Cut back all but a few leaves at the top and dip the lower two inches into a rooting hormone like indole-3-butyric acid.
  3. Stick the cutting at least 3 inches deep into a pot filled with seed starting mix.
  4. Water the tip-cutting growing medium sparingly.
  5. Wrap the entire pot in a transparent plastic bag and keep it out of direct light.
  6. Ensure that the seed starting medium remains consistently moist throughout.

Also Read: Different Types of Monstera

Repotting Dracaena marginata

Just like most houseplants, Dracaena marginata occasionally outgrows its current growing container and therefore, moving the plant to a larger container becomes inevitable. Moving the plant to a larger container isn’t a difficult task if done properly. Here is how you should proceed:

  • Select a container/pot, made of any material that is at least 2-inches larger than the current growing container. Also, ensure that the container has sufficient drainage holes at the bottom.
  • Pour 1 to 2 inches of potting soil into the new container and moisten with water.
  • Remove dracaena marginata from its original container and shake off or wash off the roots to remove most of the old growing medium.
  • Place the dracaena marginata in the center of the new container. Check the dark area of the stem that marks the top of the root ball’s former position in the soil and make sure that the dracaena marginata plant sits no higher or lower in the new pot that it did in the original container.
  • Pour enough potting mix soil into the container to hold the dracaena plant in place and moisten the soil. Use fresh potting soil rather than re-using the old soil, to help prevent diseases and boost nutrition.
  • Adjust the position of the plant if need be, to keep it centered. Complete filling the pot with potting soil to within 1 inch of the rim of the container, preventing soil overflow when you water the plant.
  • Place small pebbles in a plant saucer or other drip pan before setting the new container on top; this raises the humidity around the plant as excess water from the pot fills the saucer/drip pan and evaporates slowly.
  • Place the repotted dracaena marginata back in its original point in the home garden or yard. In case you are relocating the plant, ensure that the new location receives medium to bright indirect sunlight. The place should also be warmer and well protected from drafts or wind gusts.
  • Mix a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer with water according to the label instructions and then water the newly repotted dracaena thoroughly.

Common Problems


Dracaena Marginata are extremely sensitive to fluoride from water or superphosphate fertilizers. Dead, scorched-looking areas on the leaves and yellow or brown leaf margins and may indicate that a dragon tree has been exposed to high levels of fluoride. To avoid this type of problem, maintain a soil PH between 6.0 and 6.5, avoid fertilizing the dracaena marginata plant with products that contain fluoride (superphosphate fertilizers) and do not water the plant using water that has high fluoride levels. Also, regularly leach accumulated salts and fluoride out of the soil in potted plants by slowly running an amount of distilled water equal to about twice the volume of the corn plant’s container through the soil.

Potential Pests

Mealy bug

Commonly found in warmer climates mealy bugs are soft-bodied, wingless insects that often appear as white cottony masses on leaves and stems of plants. Not only do they cause stunted growth and premature leaf drop, but their massed groupings are unsightly. Spraying the infected leaves and stems with a fast-moving stream of water can remove a small population of mealy bugs from an infected dracaena marginata. For larger infestations, apply insecticidal soap or neem oil to get rid of these pests.

Scale Insects

Scale insects are small, with rounded waxy bodies. They range in color from white and light tan to dark brown. These insects pierce the tissues of the plants with their tube-like mouths and suck out sap from the plant’s tissues. Once they begin feeding, scales remain in the same spot.  Plants infested with scale become weak and growth slows or stops all together. When your plant is infested with scales, apply a horticultural oil or systemic insecticide on large scale populations when in their crawler stage.

Spider Mites

Spider mites are not true insects, but are classified as a type of arachnid, relatives of spiders, ticks and scorpions. Adults reddish brown or pale in color, oval-shaped and are very small and common in hot, dry conditions. They attack dracaena during the warmer summer months sucking sap and juices from health leaves. The first sign of spider mite damage appears as small lightly colored dots long the leaves. After a while, vibrant leaves of dracaena may fade in color and appear to have a bronze sheen.

The rubbing alcohol you have around the house can successfully kill the spider mites. Just soak a few cotton balls in rubbing alcohol and wipe across the foliage of infested dracaena. If infestation is high, use a toxic, short-lived pesticide to get rid of these insects.


Thrips also referred to as thunderflies, are insects with small, thin bodies and sport fringed wings. Thrips cause severe damage by sucking plant cell fluids. A heavy infestation causes premature wilting, delay in leaf development and distortion of leaves and young shoots. Control infestation by washing the pests with water, removing heavily attacked leaves and avoiding excessive application of high-nitrogen fertilizers.

Potential Diseases

Dracaena marginata plant is generally easy to grow indoors and disease is rarely an issue. However, leaf spot and root rot can easy attack your dracaena marginata should you not follow the required watering regimen.

Fungal Leaf spot

Fungal leaf spot can also be found on your dracaena marginata. Fungal leaf spot occur when fungal spores in the air find a warm, wet, plant surface to cling to. Spots are often oval in shape and may have beige or tan centers with dark brown borders. Also, angular or ragged-shaped spots do not necessarily rule out the disease as the round spots may change shape as the disease progresses.

The best way to deal with this disease, is pruning out heavily infected areas improves the appearance of the affected dracaena marginata as well as eliminates many infectious spores. Collect all fallen leaves and other plant debris around the dracaena plant and dispose away from the garden to avoid spreading spores. In addition to keeping plant debris cleaned up around the dracaena, fungicides applied before symptoms appear or at the first sign of infection may help prevent or lessen the impact of infection.

Root Rot

Root rot is a disease that attacks the roots of plants growing in wet or damp soil. If you notice that your Dracaena marginata plant is slowly wilting and the leaves are turning yellow or dull for no known reason, then the plant may be affected by root and stem rot. The wilting and dulling of color may happen quickly or over the course of several months.

To check whether your dracaena marginata has been affected by root and stem rot, uproot the plant and check the roots by feeling them with your hands. If the roots feel mushy and look dark instead of a creamy white or tan, you probably have root issues. Healthy roots have smaller feeder roots or rootlets, which can be easily spotted when checking the root system.

Treating mild or moderate root rot is very simple and not that involving. Wash the roots of the uprooted plant under running water. Wash away as much soil as possible and don’t worry about any affected roots that will fall off in the process. Cut away all of the remaining roots that are affected using a sharp pair of shears.  Re-grow the plant into fresh potting mix. The root system will now have a better chance to re-grow and get back to good health.

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