How to Grow and Care for Dracaena

Liven up almost any space in your home with these adaptable houseplants.

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dracaena house plant overhead

BHG / Phoebe Cheong

Dracaena is a large group of popular houseplants that tolerates a variety of growing conditions. It is grown primarily for the upright, straplike foliage that is either green or variegated. Occasionally the plants set clusters of small, fragrant, white blossoms (but rarely indoors). The small, bushy form of young plants suits mantels, tabletops, and desks. In the right conditions, the plants eventually reach 5 to 6 feet tall, making them perfect for adding life to a corner of the living room, dining room, or den.

Dracaena's narrow foliage may be completely green or include stripes or edges of green, cream, red, or yellow. Leaves start as rings around the center stem and take on the appearance of bamboo as they age. In fact, one of the most commonly grown dracaenas is marketed as lucky bamboo. Use this plant outside as a colorful accent in mixed containers or seasonal displays.

Dracaena plants are toxic to dogs and cats, so place them in areas pets can't reach in your home.

Dracaena Overview

Genus Name Dracaena
Common Name Dracaena
Plant Type Houseplant
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 1 to 20 feet
Flower Color White
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Chartreuse/Gold, Gray/Silver, Purple/Burgundy
Special Features Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 11
Propagation Stem Cuttings

Where to Plant Dracaena

Dracaenas are usually grown as houseplants, but they can be moved outdoors in the summer anywhere with bright, indirect light. Some varieties of dracaena are winter hardy in semitropical USDA Zones 10 and 11, where the temperature remains at least 40°F.

different types of potted dracaena houseplants

BHG / Phoebe Cheong

Dracaena Care Tips

Dracaena is extremely easy to grow indoors with a little basic care.


Dracaena is quite flexible about its lighting requirements, happy to live in anything from a dimly lit office building to the ledge of a brightly lit, south-facing window. Dracaena plant varieties sporting bright colors do best in bright light. If planted outdoors, this plant prefers part sun. Full sun may burn the foliage.

Soil and Water

Dracaena requires well-drained soil. Let the soil dry to the touch between waterings. Let it completely dry out often until the leaves begin to turn brown, especially at the tips. Soggy soil, on the other hand, may be fatal.


Fertilize dracaena once or twice a year to keep this plant healthy and promote growth. Any general-purpose houseplant fertilizer applied according to the package directions will do.


Dracaena varieties range in height from 2 to 10 feet, so you may want to someday prune your plant to reduce its size. During the growing season, use clean pruners or a sharp knife to trim the stalks back to the height you want.

Potting and Repotting

When left to grow in the same pot for a long time indoors, a dracaena can experience a few problems. The edges and tips of leaves may brown and die as a reaction to a buildup of fertilizers and salts from softened water. One solution is to repot dracaena every couple of years, replacing as much old soil as possible each time. Or you can make a regular habit of leaching the soil, which means flushing it with water until it runs clear from the bottom of the pot.

Pests and Problems

Keep your eyes open for spider mites, which love the warm, dry environment commonly found in household settings. You'll know your plant has these unwelcome visitors if you see webbing and stippled foliage. Spider mites (which are arachnids, not insects) reproduce quickly and should be eradicated as soon as they're noticed. Periodically spraying the plant (especially the undersides of leaves) and the soil beneath it with neem oil helps control this pest. Prevent spider mites outdoors by rinsing dracaena regularly with water.

How to Propagate Dracaena

Taking stem cuttings is the best method for producing several clones of a plant at once. It may sound drastic, but the original plant will remain healthy and continue to grow as long as at least half the stem is left on the plant. Make sure each cutting contains several stem nodes (the points where leaves attach to the stem). Plant them in a container with moist potting soil or put them in a glass with water, which takes a little longer. After the cuttings develop roots, plant each one in a small container.

Types of Dracaena

There are more than 50 different species of dracaena houseplants. Here are some favorites.

'Compact Janet Craig' Dracaena

'Compact Janet Craig' Dracaena
Jay Wilde

Dracaena deremensis 'Compact Janet Craig' has solid green leaves with short internodes. This shrubby plant adapts well to low-light conditions.

Corn Plant

Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana'
Marty Baldwin

Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana' is called "corn plant" for its resemblance to the crop with the same common name. However, this dracaena has a woodier stem and a broad band of gold down the center of its leaves.

'Florida Beauty' Gold Dust Dracaena

'Florida Beauty' Gold Dust Dracaena
Dean Schoeppner

Dracaena surculosa 'Florida Beauty' is smaller and shrubbier than most other dracaenas, rarely reaching more than 2 feet tall. It has broad leaves brilliantly spotted with creamy yellow.

'Lemon Lime' Dracaena

Dracaena deremensis 'Warneckii'
Dean Schoeppner

Dracaena deremensis 'Lemon Lime' has leaves with a central green band and a wide margin of chartreuse green.

Lucky Bamboo

Lucky Bamboo
Peter Krumhardt

Dracaena sanderiana is not a bamboo at all but rather a dracaena with a pliable stem that is often woven into elaborate shapes. It grows well directly in water or a gravel-filled pot with water.

Madagascar Dragon Tree

Madagascar dragontree Dracaena houseplant

BHG / Phoebe Cheong

Dracaena marginata may be grown either as a multiple-stem shrub or tree. Stems of tree-form plants often are trained to grow with crooks or bends. Deep green straplike leaves are edged with a narrow band of maroon.

Ribbon Plant

Dracaena sanderiana 'Variegata'
Dean Schoeppner

Dracaena sanderiana 'Variegata' is the same species as lucky bamboo, but its leaf margins are creamy white. It is sometimes grown in terrariums because it remains shorter than most other dracaenas.

'Song of India' Pleomele

Dracaena reflexa 'Song of India'
Marty Baldwin

Dracaena reflexa 'Song of India' is a shrubby plant, usually grown with multiple stems in a pot. Leaves are edged with a band of gold and are 6 to 8 inches long. It is sometimes sold as Pleomele reflexa.

'Tricolor' Dracaena

'Tricolor' Dracaena
Jay Wilde

Dracaena marginata 'Tricolor' or rainbow plant is a lighter color version of Madagascar dragon tree. Its narrow straplike leaves have a central band of medium green surrounded by a narrow gold band and edged with a stripe of red.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • The leaves of my dracaena are turning yellow. What‘s wrong?

    Yellow leaves usually indicate you are overwatering the plant or have it in a container with poor drainage. Water the plant until the soil is moist but not soggy. Use a well-draining potting soil in a container with adequate drainage, and the plant should recover.

  • Is it true that dracaena houseplants clean the air?

    According to a well-known NASA Air Quality study, dracaena plants are among the most effective houseplants for removing pollutants from a home’s air. While these plants may indeed remove certain harmful chemicals from the air, the quantity of plants necessary to have any measurable effect on your home's air quality would be impractical. But you can enjoy these plants for the beauty their foliage brings to indoor spaces.

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  1. Wolverton, B. C., McDonald, R. C., & E. A. Watkins, Jr. (1984). Foliage Plants for Removing Indoor Air Pollutants from Energy-Efficient Homes. Economic Botany, 38(2), 224–228.

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