So, you want to grow some dracaena to spice up your room.
I’m not surprised. This plant is very popular because it’s so freakin’ easy to grow.
It basically requires no maintenance after you set it up.
And it easily makes the centerpiece for any room with tis striking patterns and foliage.
In this guide, you’ll learn all the basics for planting and caring for this houseplant so you can enjoy it in your office, bedroom, or bathroom?
Think about it: A small plant sitting in the corner of the room just soaking all that light, getting compliments from guests, and adding some green while asking next to nothing in return from YOU.
That’s a good tradeoff.
Excited? Let’s get started to see how you can grow this gentle giant.
Quick care guide: Dracaena
|Plant type||Perennial (Zones 9-11), annual (lower zones)|
|Other names||Corn plant, cornstalk plant, ribbon plant, striped dracaena, Janet Craig plant|
|Soil type||Well-draining, basic houseplant soil|
|Soil pH||6-6.5 (slightly acidic)|
|Sunlight requirement||Full filtered sun (no direct light)|
|Bloom season||Spring, summer (when outdoor planted)|
|Colors||Yellow, green, white, orange, black|
|Max height||Up to 20 feet|
|Max width||Up to 20 feet|
|Ideal temperature range||60-70F|
|Humidity||Medium to high (50-60%)|
|Watering requirements||Low, water when top 1″ of soil is dry|
|Fertilizer requirements||Low to none|
|Days until germination||3-6 weeks|
|Days until bloom||Many years (outdoor plants only)|
|Speed of growth||Very slow|
|Hardiness zones||7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12|
|Plant depth||2-3 inches|
|Plant spacing||3 feet|
|Propagation||Seeds, cuttings, transplants|
|Common pests||Gnats, mealybugs, spider mites, aphids|
|Common diseases||Root rot, bulb rot, fungal problems|
|Grown in container||Yes|
|Flowering plant||Yes (outdoor only)|
|Care level||Low (Easy)|
|Uses||Decoration, color, centerpiece, showy, fragrance, potted plant|
Dracaena is a popular indoor plant that’s super easy to take care of.
If you’re always on the clock and you don’t have time for needy plants, dracaena is a good choice because it adds some green to any room without taking up all your time.
This is one of the most beginner-friendly indoor plants that can tolerate many rookie mistakes.
They also come in a variety of different dracaena types so you can find one that suits any room in your home or office.
This plant is popular because of its easy care. The colorful foliage, strapped leaves, and easy care make it so.
There are over 120 confirmed types of dracaena plants. There’s bound to be one suited for your needs.
Can you grow it outdoors?
Yes, dracaena can be grown outdoors in a container or the dirt if you’re in a warmer zone. Hardiness zones 8-12 should be OK for outdoor planting.
No need to bring it back in during the winter. Leave it outside and let it go dormant for next season.
Lower zones will need to keep it in a pot so you can bring it indoors during the winter. If you want to keep it in the soil, use mulch or plant covers to protect it from cold snaps.
That’s how you keep it outside in colder zones.
Types of dracaena
There are varieties of dracaena for nearly any purpose you need. Indoor, outdoor, shrubs, or even tall 10 footers. This plant comes in a variety of attractive patterns, colors, and sizes to suit any environment.
As cliche as it sounds, this is a jack of all trades plant.
Some of the most popular cultivars are the following:
This is the dracaena that you commonly find in nurseries or garden centers.
It has a rounded, thick cane with foliage that droops over in a U-shape. It grows extremely slowly and requires little maintenance making it a perfect houseplant.
The leaves are glossy green with yellow stripes in the center. The canes are woody and thick and easily seen under the foliage.
Song of Jamaica
This type is a weird one because the foliage curls around in a semi-spiral and curls upward. They have a yellow stirring on the sides of each leaf with a light green single stripe.
The pointed leaves and narrow highlights make this dracaena suitable for the corner of the room, where it won’t attract too much attention, but at the same time, spice it up a bit.
Some other honorable mentions are leggy dracaena, tropical elite upright, warneckii, Florida beauty, ribbon plant, Janet Craig, and lemon lime.
Is it toxic?
Yes, dracaena is toxic and should be handled with care. You should always wear proper equipment when pruning or handling it.
Keep kids and pets away from it as an infestation can cause a variety of symptoms like vomiting, salivation, diarrhea, and more.
It’s relatively safe for humans, but why take chances? You can read more about the toxicity of this plant here.
What’s it good for? Best uses?
Dracaena comes in everything from small single plants to entire shrubs.
So there’s something for everyone.
This plant is used as a decorative plant indoors to add some green, but can also be used as a pathing plant, border plant, or even a privacy plant!
There are also many different colors, patterns, shapes, sizes, and plant types for you to choose from.
So you have the options to do whatever you want as it’s extremely versatile.
These are plants that can be utilized for their decoration with their striking stripes and high contrast colors. They’re often confused with cordyline plants, but they are NOT the same.
How to grow dracaena
Dracaena is extremely easy to grow and care for.
They’re good for the “black” thumb who just can’t seem to get their plants growing well. This plant tolerates a lot of rookie mistakes and will be forgiving, so don’t worry if you mess up.
Chances are you can revive your dracaena with some minor adjustments to your routine.
Check your hardiness zone
Dracaena grows well in zones 9, 10, and 11. It can tolerate some lower zones if kept indoors and temperatures are stable.
If you’re in a very cold zone, but you have the heater running all the time, you should be OK provided the lighting is sufficient.
This plant can be grown outdoors all year if you’re in zones 9-11. Lower zones may have to bring it inside during the winter or add mulch to protect it from cold snaps.
Relocating to a greenhouse or using floating plant covers also may help. But taking it indoors is the easiest way.
Use well-draining soil made for general houseplants.
Nothing special is needed. Dracaena only needs soil that doesn’t get waterlogged and clump over time. This is important because it’s sensitive to additives in the water.
If your soil doesn’t drain well, it can build up fluoride in the soil to toxic levels.
The same goes for plant food. So choose a soil that DRAINS.
This plant is sensitive to water impurities- and that’s probably as “needy” as it gets.
Avoid using water from the sink if it’s high in municipal additives, such as fluoride or calcium.
Over time, the excess buildup from these minerals damages the plant.
You can use purified water or fluoride-free drinking water.
Rainwater also works if you have rain barrels running outside.
The water should be clean, pure, and fresh.
Keep the soil moist but never wet. Don’t let the water buildup and get waterlogged, especially if you’re planting in a pot.
Watering too much will cause the leaves to yellow and wilt.
Plus you add the potential to introduce some kind of root rot or fungal problem at the base.
Dracaena likes high humidity, so moisture will evaporate slowly. This is a bad combination for overwatering. Use a soil meter or auto bulb waterer to monitor the levels.
Or dip your finger in the top 1” of soil and water when nearly dry.
Dracaena likes high to moderate levels of humidity.
If you have very low humidity in your house, you can move the plant to the bathroom or areas that allow moisture to build up.
You can also place your dracaena near a pot or saucer to increase humidity easily. Be sure to check the levels so you don’t raise it too high.
Some people use a DIY humidity dish, like this:
Note that the higher the humidity levels you have, the less you’ll need to water your dracaena. So don’t overdo either or else you may introduce root rot or yellowing of the leaves.
Dracaena likes a steady, stable temperature of 70F. It can tolerate some degree of coldness in the night, but nothing too extreme.
Try to keep the range between 60-80F at all times. If the temperature drops too low (below 60F), the plant can become damaged.
You can add mulch or relocate it to a warmer room to correct this. Keep the plant out of direct sunlight, vents, HVAC, drafts, radiators, or other sources of artificial heating/cooling.
Nighttime temperatures should be above 50F. But it’s not picky. It can tolerate small temperature changes, so no worries.
Keep dracaena out of direct sunlight as it succumbs to burns easily. Keep them in a warm, sunny area, but out of the light.
They like scattered ambient lightings such as that from a curtained window or other filtered light. You can also use a grow light if you don’t have enough sunlight or the sunlight is too strong.
Dracaena doesn’t need much in terms of fertilizer.
They grow extremely slowly, so they don’t have any growth spurts to worry about.
However, if you want to speed up growth or get greener foliage, you can supplement with some plant food.
Or if you notice any yellow or brown tips on the leaves. This may be a sign of poor nutrients in the soil profile, which can be corrected with some plant food.
You can supplement watering with a liquid plant fertilizer once every other month if necessary. If container planting, try to avoid using any plant food at all because these plants are very sensitive to nutrient buildup.
You may want to try diluting the strength of the plant food in half or so to minimize the risk of buildup.
Be sure to NEVER feed in the wintertime.
Dracaena will “rest” and not soak up any plant food at this time so the fertilizer just goes to waste and builds up in the point. The best time to feed your plant is during the summer and maybe spring. Feed during the growth periods only.
Check your plant pot at the end of the season (winter) to see if there’s plant buildup at the base of your potter.
Also, check for water buildup from calcium or fluoride. Hard water tends to leave behind those familiar white streaks. Change pots or reseed the soil if needed.
Dracaena will need some trimming over time to keep that signature look.
The sharp, pointed foliage will be shed from this base of the plant. You can prune to remove any damaged foliage, canes, or overgrown leaves to keep it looking clean.
The plant is easy to trim and can be done with any sterilized blade cut cleanly across the leaves.
Prune off any browned or yellow leaves. This will prevent the plant from wasting any energy to grow them. Tips can be cut off if brown- no need to cut the entire leaf off. Stalks can also be trimmed for new foliage.
Pruning can be done anytime. Most will reach only up to 8 feet indoors, so pruning is easy.
Don’t forget to wipe the leaves with a wet cloth.
Dust buildup can lead to stunted growth because it blocks sunlight from reaching the leaf.
The most popular methods to propagate dracaena are from cuttings and transplants.
Although you can grow from seed, it takes a long time and you’ll need patience (which many people don’t care for), so we’ll focus on the two commonly used techniques.
Planting from seed can be done by following the directions on the seed packet.
Can you grow dracaena from cuttings?
Yes, you can propagate dracaena from bare cuttings.
This is the easiest way to do so in my opinion and can readily be done with a neighbor’s plant.
All you need to do is cut the top off right at where the leaf meets the stem. Include the stem so you have a few inches of growth.
Use a sterilized pair of pruners or scissors so you don’t introduce foreign bacteria into the flesh that’s exposed.
Some people plant the cutting into a container filled partially with water, as this may help the cutting root. If your previous cuttings failed and didn’t root, try planting them directly in water.
Place the container near a warm, sunny area, but don’t let the sunlight directly shine on the container. Keep temperatures around 70F for best results.
Monitor the root development.
It should slowly take root after a few weeks.
If not, check to make sure there’s no fungal infection developing at the root or signs of rot.
Use a clean pot or vase that you can see through so you know exactly when it’s ready to be transplanted into a larger container.
The cutting can be planted in a container with well-draining, high-quality soil or you can plant it directly into the soil outside.
Since it’s a bit harder to check if it is rooted or not, an easy way is to pull on the stem ever so slightly. The plant will be “firmly” planted into the soil if roots have developed. If it just slips out, try again.
You’re waiting for the cutting to form roots that are about 1-2 inches in length.
When this happens, it’s ready to be transplanted into a larger container if needed. Use organic soil that’s made for indoor plants.
The original plant won’t be harmed as it’ll regenerate soon afterward, so no worries.
Transplanting from a grown plant
Follow the guide outlined above in the previous sections, as this is already covered.
The process is simply as follows:
- Remove the original plant from its container by tipping it sideways and sliding it out
- Put the planting the new container
- Withhold watering for a short period
- Water regularly afterwards
- Supplement plant food if necessary
No magic to it. Keep it simple. These are hardy houseplants that tolerate a variety of different zones.
When do I transplant my dracaena to a larger container?
The easiest way to tell is when it becomes its root-bound. These plants like some resistance against the edges of the pot when growing, but don’t like to be cramped.
When your roots start touching the edges of the container, you know you’ll have to transplant it soon.
If growing in soil, this isn’t a problem you have to worry about.
This usually occurs every few years and is good for replenishing the nutrients in the soil. The roots will also get more room to grow and prevent root bounding that’s not necessary.
A good rule of thumb is to upgrade to a larger container that’s 3 inches wider in diameter than the previous one.
The entire dracaena can be pulled out of the container on its side.
Trim off any roots that are a mess and keep it clean. If the plant doesn’t slide out easily, water it to loosen the soil and roots. Assess any nutrient buildup from fertilizer or fluoride.
This can be a good time to see if your water is contaminated or if you’re using a poorly utilized fertilizer. Trim and prune any browned tips.
Growing dracaena indoors poses little to no risk for pests.
Outside growing may attract bugs that like high humidity environments such as aphids, scale, and mealybugs. If you notice any web or cottony substance on the leaves, it’s like the work of mealybugs with their fuzzy white egg sacks.
This can be controlled by pruning and a regular application of diluted neem oil. Use as directed.
Aphids can be controlled by spraying with a mixture of dish soap and water. Regularly praying them down will knock them off into the soil and disturb their environment so this may make them go away on their own.
You can commonly find pests hiding in the gap between the leaves and cane. Stunted growth, yellowing the tips, and droopy leaves are all signs of a pest problem.
Spider mites are too small for you to see without magnification, but you see their damage- yellow or brown tips on the leaves or spots appearing.
They also may make thin white webs, as their name implies. If conditions are too dry, spider mites will appear.
Consider watering more often or raising the humidity of the room. Prune off any affected foliage and use a natural horticultural oil to get rid of them.
These are hardy plants that are tolerant of most plant problems. They’ll warn you way ahead of time so you can react and do something about it.
The most critical problem you should watch out for is rot. Root rot, soft rot, or leaf spot. All of these may be present and you’ll see brown spots forming on the leaves. There also may be a smelly odor.
Rot is caused by fungal infections or bacteria, both of which appear when conditions are humid and wet.
Reduce watering or improve drainage to get rid of the rot. Decrease the humidity by using a fan, dehumidifier, or keeping windows open to allow the water to leave the place.
This should benefit your plant. Relocate the plant to a drier room with more light to help reduce the moisture content of the pot if you don’t want to run any electronics.
Other common questions
Here are some questions commonly asked by readers regarding dracaena care. I hope you find them useful:
Do they like coffee?
Some people use coffee grounds to feed their dracaena. This should pose no harm and does well because it’s a natural (or sometimes organic) plant food. Just be careful it doesn’t build up over time by using a soil meter to check. Use it as plant food or compost for your dracaena. It’s cheap and it works just fine.
What are signs of overwatering
Common signs of overwatering include fluoride build up in the pot, yellowing of the leaves, and drooping. Withhold watering to fix these problems.
Good for beginners? Easy to grow?
Yes, this plant is extremely easy to grow and perfect for beginners.
Do leaves grow back again?
New foliage will grow under the cut or pruned portion, so don’t be afraid to trim off any parts that are damaged. This helps conserve energy so it grows new leaves.
Does dracaena need sunlight?
They like bright, filtered sunlight that’s not directly shining on them. Use a curtain or drape to accomplish this.
The tips are browning- what do I do?
Try adding some plant fertilizer and making sure it’s not root-bound. Ensure adequate lighting and watering.
How to make it grow faster?
Water it, add fertilizer and keep it under bright lights. There’s no magic to it.
Can I put it outside in the summer?
Yes, dracaena can be moved outdoors in the summertime. But keep it out of direct sunlight at all times to prevent burning.
Does dracaena flower?
Dracaena is not a flowering houseplant for most people, but it does flower if it grows large enough.
How do you revive a dracaena plant?
Start by pruning off by pruning the damaged foliage. Check the soil conditions. Add fertilizer or reseed the soil if needed. Check the watering schedule- it shouldn’t be overdone. Check local humidity and keep it around 50%. See if the pot has any fluoride buildup and switch to distilled water if possible. Relocate if not enough light. Add fertilizer once a week until green foliage appears on the cane.
Why isn’t my dracaena growing?
This could be to no water, no nutrients in the soil, or poor lighting. Try making small adjustments at a time and seeing the results.
Can you plant it in the garden?
If you’re in a higher hardiness zone, you can plant it in the garden without worry. If your winters are mild enough, there’s no need to move it around during the chilly period.
Here are some references for dracaenas care you might find useful:
Now you know how to grow and care for dracaena
This plant is very easy to grow and makes one of the most basic houseplants on the planet.
They’re tolerant of mistakes, require little maintenance, barely need pruning, don’t need plant food, and grow to adapt to any environment to spruce it up.
Add some life to any room with this easy to care for beginner houseplant. They’re everything but ordinary. Get growing.
Do you have any questions? Where will you be putting your dracaena? Leave a comment and let me know.
I took interest into microflora and microgreens before it became mainstream. The idea of growing an entire ecosystem on a tiny scale simply was astounding. That’s where I discovered that I actually like raising plants and wasn’t as much of a black thumb as I thought. Now, I’m relaying what I’ve learned to others who are getting into the hobby in a way that anyone can understand.