Dracena - Plant of the Month
Dracena are an easy to care for house plant native to parts of Southern Spain, Portugal, tropical Africa and Western Morocco. However the most common variety found indoors is the marginata, native to Madagascar and recognisable by it’s thin (often variegated) and glossy leaves. They are incredibly tolerant of erratic and minimal watering, and even if you see signs of neglect (which you surely will if its suffering), it’s easy enough to make it spring back to its former glory.
Dracena do best in very bright but indirect light and a warm room, but they can tolerate a drop in temperature and lower light levels over winter. The warmer and brighter the space, the more frequently you will have to water – just be careful not to place your Dracena in direct light as this will cause the leaves to scorch and brown, as will being too close to a draught or heat source. If you do notice the leaves starting to brown, simply pull the damaged ones off where they meet the trunk (this will encourage new growth) and re asses its environment, moving it if necessary.
Overwatering is the main killer of Dracena - they can tolerate fairly long periods of drought and would much prefer that to being overwatered. The most obvious signs of overwatering are soft brown leaves or a soft looking trunk. If you notice this happening, leave your dracaena to dry out fully and then reduce watering going forward. They like the top 2/3 inches of soil to dry out before being watered again so just stick your finger into the soil if you’re unsure, leaving it to dry out a little longer if you feel any moisture.
Waterlogging will also cause your plant to suffer, so planting into a pot with plenty of drainage and a free draining compost will help to keep Dracena at their best. Feeding every few weeks over the spring and summer months will also help it to keep a thick and full head of foliage.
Although some varieties of Dracena are used to very dry air, marginata and fragrans prefer slightly more humid conditions. Regular misting, grouping with other plants, or sitting on a tray of pebbles and water will help to stop the tips browning.
It is a common misconception that Dracena are suffering when their lower leaves go yellow/brown and drop off – this is actually a part of their natural life cycle and will happen regularly, encouraging the growth of new leaves from the top of the plant.
If you notice your Dracena starting to get a little leggy and the trunk curving, this is probably because light levels are too low and it’s arching towards a brighter spot - moving the plant should solve this.
Dracena are very easily propagated by cutting, although you’ll need to get some secateurs to cut through the thick trunk. It is advisable to propagate during the spring and summer months for a higher success rate.
Take one stem and cut it into sections approximately 15-30cm long each, remembering which end of each cutting is the bottom.
Place the bottom of each cutting into a jar filled with water (you can add rooting hormone to speed up the process) and place in a spot with bright light and warmth. After a few weeks you should see roots emerging from the nodes.
Keep the roots in water until you see little swellings of leaves (almost like buds) pushing through the bark close to the top end of the stem. Once this has happened and the cutting is well rooted, pot it up into a small container with a free draining compost and drainage holes, watering and feeding regularly.
Once you have successfully rooted a few new cuttings and they start to outgrow their first pot, you can group them into one larger pot to create a fuller looking plant.