Dracaena Marginata, also known by the common names of Madagascar Dragon Tree and Red Edged Dracaena, is a flowering plant (but don’t hold your breath for blooms) native to Madagascar. Resembling a small palm tree, this extremely popular, tropical-looking plant makes a bold statement in the home with its thin, red-margined, glossy green leaves that sprout from the top and hang over a slender, woody stem. Although it’s a fairly slow grower, it can eventually grow to a height of 10 – 15 feet. Dracaena Marginata is a member of one of the most beloved genus of plants. Some well-known cousins include Dracaena Deremensis, Dracaena Fragrans (Corn Plant), Dracaena Reflexa (Song of India), Dracaena Sanderiana (marketed as the ‘Lucky Bamboo’) and Dracaena Surculosa (Gold Dust Dracaena).
Like all its cousins, this Dracaena is a great candidate for hydroculture; consider growing it in the soilless medium, which will eliminate the water juggling act. Dracaena Marginata converts quite easily with very few visible signs of stress. Expect a loss of some lower leaves and slight wilting. Keep the plant warm while it adapts to its new environment, increase humidity and spray mist from time to time to provide much-needed moisture. You can also place your Dracaena on a pebble tray during this period. The first glimpse of water roots can begin as early as two weeks or as late as one month, rarely more.
Able to tolerate different light levels – from low light to full sun – you can place a Marginata right up against a north or east window, near a west one or in a bright area of a southern location making sure to protect against the hot midday sun. Although it will survive in very low levels of light, it requires better quality for optimum growth and appearance; bright, indirect light is the preference. Direct sun is not necessary but a little morning sun coming in from an east window or some late afternoon rays through a west one doesn’t hurt. The reward for providing more light is lovely, variegated leaves and well-defined, coloured margins - not to mention faster growth. If you’re growing a Dracaena Marginata in a dimly-lit area, move it to a brighter spot; it will thank you by growing faster and developing thicker, stronger foliage.
This lovely plant is generally rugged and carefree, except where temperature is concerned. Fairly sensitive to cold drafts and chilly temperatures, it is important to place your Dracaena where it is warm. Is your plant sitting in a draft? Do you have it on a cold windowsill? Is it near patio doors that are opened throughout the day, causing the plant to get hit by cold air constantly? Are the leaves touching cold glass? Is it located in a room where you lower the thermostat significantly? Is it in front of a window that you open daily for fresh air – in the middle of winter? If your plant is placed anywhere where cold air hits it, move it. Correct any situations that have the potential to cause cold damage or your Dracaena will deteriorate rapidly.
This is not a heavy feeder, considering how slow it grows, so I suggest going easy on the fertilizer. Give your plant a dose of liquid fertilizer no more than once a month during the spring and summer months if it’s growing in an ideal location that offers ample light. In less favourable conditions, dilute to half recommended strength or feed only two or three times throughout the entire growing season. Do not fertilize at all during the late fall and throughout the winter.
It is normal for Dracaena Marginata to shed lower leaves as it ages. As time progresses, the lower growth drops and is replaced by new growth on top. A small amount of yellowing leaves being discarded during this gradual process is normal. What’s not normal is when too many leaves simultaneously turn yellow and are discarded. Under-watering and over-watering can both cause premature leaf drop so adjust your watering habits accordingly when necessary. Other triggers for sudden leaf loss include temperature fluctuations, cold drafts and heavy pest infestations. If your plant’s stem becomes long and bare, you can cut it back to a desired height; new leaves will appear shortly. In addition, you can plant the top part to start a new plant.
Easy to care for and quick to forgive, Dracaena Marginata is an ideal choice for indoor gardeners. With proper care, it will grace your home with its lovely foliage for many years.