Dracaena Genus – Guide to Dracaena Plants

Dracaena is a genus of plants that belongs to the Asparagaceae family and the subfamily Nolinoideae. There are well over 100 species in the genus, many of which are trees or succulent shrubs. Plants from the former genera Pleomele and Sansevieria are now categorized as dracaena.

Most dracaena plants are relatively easy to care for due to their light and watering requirements. Several species are extremely popular as houseplants, and some can be grown outdoors. Please read our guide to dracaena to find out more, including answers to frequently asked questions about dracaena plants.

An Introduction to Dracaena Plants

  • Family: Asparagaceae
  • Subfamily: Nolinoideae
  • Other Scientific Classifications: Tracheophyte/Vascular, Angiosperm, Monocot
  • Common Names: Dragon Plant, Dragon Tree

The majority of dracaena species are native to Africa, southern Asia, and northern Australia. They typically prefer tropical and subtropical climates, although many species are hardy and can survive in most conditions.

Dracaena plants come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. There’s at least one type of dracaena suitable for any area of the home, including outdoor spaces. The smaller species are excellent for tabletops and windowsills, for example, while the larger species are ideal floor plants.

Although a very diverse genus, certain characteristics are common throughout many types of dracaena plants. They typically have one or more thick stems (or trunks) with narrow, sword-shaped leaves. Foliage is usually bright and dense, which is partly what makes dracaena plants so attractive.

Dracaena leaves are typically green (but can be other colors), and many species of dracaena are capable of flowering in the right conditions. Dracaena is usually slow-growing, although there are techniques you can use to speed up growth.

Top Tip: The best way to encourage faster growth in dracaena is to simply provide optimal care in terms of sunlight, water, humidity, and nutrients.

Many types of dracaena can help purify the air in your home, but they are also poisonous to most animals. You may want to consider other plants if you have pets.

Types of Dracaena Plants

There are at least 120 known types of dracaena. You can find listings of all dracaena species at Plants of the World Online or World Flora Online.

Here are some of the most popular dracaena plants commonly grown at home.

  • Dracaena Marginata
  • Dracaena Trifasciata
  • Dracaena Sanderiana
  • Dracaena Fragrans
  • Dracaena Reflexa
  • Dracaena Warneckii

Dracaena Species on Gardenzy.com

We currently have guides published on the following Dracaena species.

Benefits and Common Uses of Dracaena Plants

Dracaena plants are both decorative and functional. Here are some of the top uses and benefits of dracaena in the home and garden.

  • Low Maintenance: Whatever purpose you’re using dracaena plants for, one of their most significant benefits is that they don’t require much maintenance.
  • Ornamental Value: Dracaena plants are mainly grown for their attractive appearance and make excellent indoor and outdoor plants. Among other options, they are great as floor plants, tabletop plants, and hanging plants.
  • Air Purification: Many types of dracaena can effectively remove toxins and pollutants from the air, including formaldehyde and carbon dioxide.
  • Lead Absorption: In addition to detoxifying the air in general, dracaena plants can also absorb particles of lead and some other metals that can be harmful.
  • Increased Humidity: Dracaena plants a great for releasing moisture into the air and increasing humidity levels. Higher humidity levels can bring health benefits and help other plants that prefer humid conditions.
  • Feng Shui: Some people believe that certain dracaena plants bring good luck and fortune, making them suitable for feng shui practices.
  • Varnish: The resin from the stems of some dracaena plants can be used as a varnish.

All of the general benefits of houseplants and gardening apply to dracaena plants, too. Check out the following articles for more on those.

Propagating and Growing Dracaena Plants

The best approach to propagating and growing dracaena plants varies from species to species. However, here’s some general information and advice that applies to most types of dracaena plants.

Growing Requirements and Optimal Conditions for Dracaena Plants

  • Soil: Will tolerate most soil types as long as there’s good drainage.
  • Sunlight: Can survive in low light but prefers bright, indirect sunlight.
  • Water: Require minimal watering.
  • Temperature: Need warmth to grow well, ideally 20-25 degrees Celsius (68-77 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Humidity: Prefer medium to high humidity.

Propagating Dracaena

  • Planting dracaena from seeds is possible, but establishing seedlings can take a long time.
  • The best option to propagate dracaena is to use cuttings from an existing plant.
  • You can use cuttings from the top of the plant, just below the leaves, or stems from the side of the plant.
  • You can propagate dracaena in soil, compost mix, or water.

If you prefer to buy established dracaena plants, you’ll find them available at most garden stores and online nurseries.

Caring for Dracaena

  • Keep away from drafty locations.
  • Water when the surrounding soil is dry to the touch but be careful not to overwater.
  • Fertilize dracaena every three months or so with a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer.
  • Prune as necessary to remove any yellow or dying leaves.
  • Report perennial dracaena every two years.

Common Problems With Dracaena Plants

Dracaena plants don’t tend to suffer from too many problems with garden pests and diseases, but there are not entirely immune. They can be susceptible to mealybugs, spider mites, thrips, root rot, soft rot, and fungal leaf spot.

An appropriate pesticide will normally solve the problem if you notice pests on your dracaena. Keeping your dracaena healthy through proper care should prevent most diseases.

Check out the following post for more specifics on dealing with common problems with dracaena plants, including brown leaves, drooping leaves, and wilted stems.

Dracaena Meaning and Plant Symbolism

The word dracaena comes from drakainia, the ancient Greek word for “female dragon.” This is because of the red sap some dracaena species produce, which was thought to be the blood of dragons.

Throughout history, the dracaena plant has had several cultural meanings and associations in different parts of the world. In ancient Egypt, for example, it was thought to represent purification and rebirth. In China, it was believed to bring good luck. In Japan, it was often given as a gift to express gratitude.

The dracaena is still associated with good luck and fortune by some today. Some people believe it promotes harmony and balance in the home, too, which is why the plants are popular in feng shui.

Dracaena draco is an official plant symbol of Tenerife, home of the largest and oldest living example of the species. “El Drago Milenario” is around 20 meters tall (66 feet) and was made a national monument in 1917.

Dracaena FAQ

Is Dracaena Toxic to Cats?

Yes, dracaena plants are poisonous to cats (and other pets). They contain saponin, a chemical compound that is toxic for most animals and can cause vomiting, nausea, and other issues.

If you’re growing dracaena at home, keep your pets away from it. Speak to a vet if you think a pet may have eaten some.

Can Dracaena Plants Go Outside?

Yes, dracaena plants can grow and even thrive in outdoor areas. Dracaena is tropical, though, and does not like cold climates. You may need to protect outdoor dracaena plants when the weather is colder.

Make sure that dracaena is not exposed to frost. Frost will almost certainly kill most dracaena plants.

How Tall Do Dracaena Plants Grow?

Most dracaena plants can grow up to three meters (ten feet) tall. Some species can grow even taller, but it’s easy enough to maintain dracaena plants at shorter heights if you want.

Do Dracaena Plants Purify Air?

Yes, dracaena plants can effectively purify the air by removing toxins and pollutants. They can also absorb particles of heavy metals that can be harmful, such as lead.

Are Dracaena Perennials?

Many dracaena plants are perennials, meaning they can live for at least three years. Several species of dracaena can thrive for many more years with the proper care.

Some dracaena plants are annuals and will only live for one season before dying.

Do Dracaena Plants Flower?

Some species of dracaena can flower in the right conditions and with the correct care. Flowers are more likely to appear on mature dracaena plants and are typically quite small.

The blooming period for dracaena plants varies by species. Some can bloom several times a year, while others can only bloom once.

Can Dracaena Grow in Water?

Yes, most dracaena species can grow in water providing the conditions are correct. The water will need changing regularly, the temperature must be right, and there must be some light.

Dracaena marginata is one of the best species to grow in water.

Do Dracaena Plants Like Coffee Grounds?

Coffee grounds can be an excellent natural fertilizer for most dracaena species as they release valuable nutrients for the plants as they decompose.

For the best results, we recommend adding coffee grounds to soil or compost mix a few days before then using that to fertilize a dracaena plant.

References and Other Dracaena Resources