Dracaena reflexa is a popular houseplant with origins in Madagascar and other Indian ocean islands. The origin of the plant name comes from the ancient Greek word drakaina or “female dragon,” due to a red gum-like resin in the stems of dracaena that was likened to dragon blood. Centuries ago, this resin was used for toothpaste, dyes, and medicines. Today, it is still used for varnish and photoengraving. The dracaena plant is also known as the Song of India and Pleomele.
Dracaena plant care is fairly simple, and they can even withstand a certain amount of neglect. Best of all, dracaena help purify the air we breathe.
The dracaena plant is a popular ornamental houseplant, grown both indoors and outdoors in subtropical climates. It reaches a height of about three feet indoors, and has a bushy tree type of look. Its glossy leaves can grow up to one foot long and a couple of inches wide.
From the asparagus family (Asparagaceae), the genus dracaena comprises about 40 species. The most popular cultivar is the yellow edged variegata type named Song of India. An interesting fact about dracaena is that it possesses a secondary thickening meristem (the tissue which helps plants grow). Its secondary meristem allows it to grow wide, thick and succulent roots.
Not only does its dramatic foliage with beautiful color patterns make a great focal point in any room, but dracaena can also help improve air quality. Wiping both the upper surfaces and undersides of the leaves regularly with a damp cloth allows the plant to exchange air freely.
Types of Dracaena
Commonly known as song of india or pleomele, Dracaena reflexa is the most common of the dracaena species. As one of the most visually striking houseplants, the leaves are its main attraction. You can’t miss the yellow stripes featured on the narrow pointed leaves of this houseplant. This adaptable, houseplant thrives indoors or a partially-shady outdoor area, like a patio.
Commonly known as red-edge dracaena or Madagascar dragon tree, Dracaena marginata is an evergreen tree that can grow eight to 15 feet high and three to eight feet wide with proper care. It has stiff purplish-red leaves and slim, curving stalks for trunks. Since it cannot tolerate low light but is not frost hardy, it is often grown indoors. They make excellent houseplants because they are drought tolerant and among the more forgiving dracaena plants.
Dracaena fragrans massangeana or Dracaena massangeana is commonly referred to as mass cane or corn plant, and is widely used indoors. It is inexpensive compared to other houseplants, and the least expensive of the dracaena varieties. Mass cane is characterized by its thick, woody canes and long strap-like leaves. Although moderate natural lighting is ideal, it is tolerant of low light conditions. Dracaena massangeana grows slowly, so it can fit in a particular space for a long time without requiring much maintenance.
Dracaena Care Tips
If you’re wondering how to care for dracaena, we’ve got you covered with these growing tips. In general, dracaena care is relatively simple.
Light: Filtered indoor light (such as through a sheer curtain in front of a sunny window) or a semi-shade spot is an ideal location. Never place a dracaena plant in direct sun, as the rays will scorch its foliage.
Water: Dracaena require less water than most indoor plants. Keep them hydrated by misting the leaves with water and keeping the soil lightly misted (never soggy) as well with good drainage. Always allow the top soil to dry out before watering. Do not overwater, as it may cause root rot.
Drooping or yellowing leaves could indicate over-watering or poor drainage, but don’t worry if you notice the bottom leaves beginning to turn yellow and fall. It is normal for dracaena to shed leaves in order to grow new ones.
These plants are sensitive to fluoride, which can be found in tap water, so it’s essential to use purified water when caring for this plant. Leaves with dark brown and dead areas with yellow edges may indicate fluoride toxicity.
Temperatures: Dracaena prefers temperatures ranging from 65 – 78℉ during the day. Night temperatures can drop about ten degrees cooler, but cold drafts and temperatures below 55℉ will harm the plant. Make sure that you display your dracaena away from any heating or cooling appliances. Natural room humidity is fine seeing as the dracaena is such a hardy houseplant, but it does prefer the higher humidity of its natural rainforest habitat. You can improve humidity with a commercial humidifier or by placing the plant on a tray of pebbles, with water reaching just below the pebble tops.
Toxicity: Toxic to cats and dogs, if eaten. Cats may have dilated pupils, and both cats and dogs can present symptoms such as vomiting, excess saliva and lack of appetite. As a pet owner, it’s important to select your houseplants with care and doing so means being educated about plants that are poisonous to our furry friends.
Pests and Problems: Dracaena plants are generally free from serious insect or disease problems. However, you should watch out for mealybugs, spider mites, and scale. Mealybugs and scale can both be treated with an insecticide that contains pyrethrin.
Dracaena is an adaptable, easy-to-care for house plant that does well indoors or outdoors in partial shade if you live in a subtropical area.