Friday, January 21, 2011

Dracaena Deremenis ‘Janet Craig’

Janet Craig, a tried and true beauty with dark green, glossy leaves, is one of the most commonly-available (next to the Dracaena Marginata, of course) and commonly-grown Dracaenas (in competition with the Dracaena Fragrans Massangeana). Its popularity is based on a few things: 1) it is easy to care for, 2) it is very long-lived and 3) it tolerates low light better than most plants. Eventually, with its longevity ability, it is capable of reaching heights of ten feet, although this may take quite some time since it’s very slow-growing. For that reason, if you have a specific height in mind, buy a Janet Craig close to – or just slightly smaller – than the size you desire.

Like all its Dracaena cousins, Janet Craig is highly prone to root rot; therefore it’s important to water carefully. Less is always best; you are on much safer ground if you under-water. Do not use heavy soil. It should be light so that it can drain well. When it’s time to water, drench the soil until water comes out of the bottom. If no water comes out, pour a little more into the potted plant until some does. After half an hour or so, empty out any water sitting in the saucer. Do not water your Janet Craig again until the soil is fairly dry; then repeat the cycle. As long as you are using a fast-draining, airy soil, do not be afraid to water thoroughly (until the medium is saturated) whenever your plant is thirsty. Giving a plant measly sips of water can cause large dry pockets in the medium, which can keep the root system from getting a drink at all. Water well, and then allow the medium to dry considerably.

Janet Craig will tolerate low light conditions quite well, but the plant appreciates and thrives in an area that offers medium to bright, indirect light. Place it right up against a north or east window, near a west one, or in a bright but sunless spot in a southern location, making sure to protect against the hot midday sun. Although it will survive very low levels of light, it requires better quality for optimum growth and appearance. Already quite slow-growing, this plant will barely produce any noticeable new growth in very low light areas, and the small number of leaves that will finally emerge will be narrower, smaller than normal. Brighter, better quality light will encourage healthier, faster growth.

Average household temperatures are fine. If you are comfortable, so is your Dracaena. Just make sure you shield your plant from chilly encounters. This warm-weather lover is sensitive to cold drafts and chilly temperatures. Is your plant sitting in a cold draft? Do you have it on a chilly windowsill? Is it near patio doors that are opened throughout the day, causing the plant to get hit by cold air? 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 a wonderful candidate for the hydroculture system if you’re looking to ditch soil mediums. Conversion is fairly simple, with very few visible signs of stress. There may be a loss of some lower leaves and slight wilting, but not much more than that. Keep the plant warm during the conversion, increase humidity and spray mist now and then 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.

The adaptable Janet Craig will put up with dry air but it prefers higher levels of humidity in its environment. Air that is too dry will lead to brown tips on the leaves. In lower levels of humidity, your plant may also be more susceptible to pest invasions, particularly by the insufferable spider mite. There are many ways that you can increase the humidity in your home, in individual rooms or around your plants. A few things you can do include: pebble trays, double potting, grouping, humidifiers.

Janet Craig is not a heavy feeder, mainly due to its slow-growing style. Go easy on the fertilizer; give your plant a dose of liquid fertilizer, diluted to half recommended strength, no more than once a month during the spring and summer periods. I’d even go so far as suggesting that you feed only 2 – 3 times during the entire active growing season. Over-fertilizing can cause damage. If you’re not sure whether you should feed or not, err on the side of caution and feed very little. Do not feed your plant at all during the late fall and throughout the winter.

It is normal for your plant to shed its lower leaves as it ages. As time progresses, the lower growth drops and is replaced by new growth on top. A minimal 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 drop. Under-watering and over-watering can both cause premature leaf drop so check your watering habits and adjust them accordingly.

The broad leaves accumulate dust over time, so your plant will benefit from an occasional cleaning of the foliage. If your plant is not too big to lug around, place it in the shower and hose it down. Place aluminum foil over the top of the soil to avoid saturating it and making a mess. Smaller plants can be rinsed in a kitchen sink under running water or with a spray nozzle. Plants that are too big and heavy to move around can have their leaves wiped clean with a wet sponge. Pay particular attention to the undersides of leaves where pests harbor. Giving your plant an occasional shower or wiping down its leaves regularly provides many benefits: it keeps bugs at bay, helps leaves to breathe easier, stimulates growth, increases humidity (albeit for a short period) and improves appearance. Carry out the grooming during the day, preferably during the morning hours, so the leaves have a chance to dry before nightfall. Leaving a plant wet at night can encourage or invite fungal/disease problems.

Ultimately, you don’t need to worry or fuss very much over this easy plant. Once the basic needs are met - proper watering, well-draining soil, decent lighting, warm temperatures, healthy humidity levels, an occasional cleaning and the right container size – this houseplant will thrive. As an added bonus, this quick-to-forgive specimen will hang in there for better or worse. With proper care, it will grace your home with its lovely foliage for many, many years.


  1. I am really enjoying this information. It's Christmas Day, and my Janet Craig is getting a new container and new soil. I appreciate the beauty she is.
    Thank you so much for the thorough information. It is splendid!