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DRACAENA

Image of Dracaena

Michael E. Herman

Family

Agavaceae

Botanical Name

DRACAENA

Plant Common Name

Dracaena

General Description

The genus Dracaena includes about 50 species of evergreen tropical perennials with large shrub or tree-like habits. They inhabit a wide range of habitats, from forest to open, dry prairies, in the Canary Islands and Africa.

Young plants appear as ground-hugging rosettes of foliage, but as they mature they develop stems that branch out. The stems are topped with clusters of pointed strap or lance-shaped leaves of varying widths and textures. The stems can become very thick and trunk-like or remain more willowy and less woody. Most species have an upright form. Mature specimens develop into shrubby plants or tall vase-shaped trees.

The flowers are on branched stems that rise from the foliage. They have six petals/tepals, are cup or bell-shaped and generally ivory or yellow-green. Some are fragrant. The berry-like orange or red fruits cover the branched stems like dangling Christmas ornaments and can be very showy. Flowers and fruit are rarely produced on houseplants.

Popularly species for cultivation include the Canary Island dragon tree (Dracaena draco). Once grown for the red resin it produces, it is now favored as a tough landscape plant in frost-free zones that are arid and mild. The popular houseplant Dracaena fragrans, or corn plant, is native to tropical Africa. It has long, wide leaves that may be blue-green or striped with yellow, green or white. Dracaena marginata is the classic houseplant with long narrow leaves of dark olive with red or purple margins. And, the ever popular “lucky bamboo” is not a bamboo at all but a selection of ribbon dracaena (Dracaena sanderiana).

Culture and hardiness are species dependent, but most Dracaena are very cold sensitive and grown in the landscape in only the warmest regions. Outdoors they prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Most are drought tolerant once established but prefer regular water when actively growing. Dracaena grown as house plants like bright indirect light and well-drained potting soil. It is good to keep the soil evenly moist, but not wet. Excess drying or water will cause their leaf tips to turn brown.

These are versatile plants in the landscape. In temperate climates, they are used as bedding plants to add height and texture to container plantings and where hardy they are ideal for accents in large landscapes or for foundation plantings.

Characteristics

  • Native To

    Canary Islands, Africa

Growing Conditions

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Evergreen

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Feature Plant, Houseplant, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No