When it comes to houseplants, Dracaena plants are some of the most popular choices. And it's no wonder why. With their glossy leaves and striped or variegated foliage, they're sure to add a touch of style to any room. Moreover, they can purify the air by removing harmful toxins.
With so many great varieties available, it can be tricky to decide which one is right for you. But don't worry, we're here to help. This article will tell you everything you need to know about Dracaena plants, including the popular types and how to care for them.
But before that, let's quickly go through the basics.
Dracaena Plant and Its Characteristics
Dracaena plants are an evergreen flowering plant type that belongs to the family Asparagaceae. The family contains about 120 species, including the well-known asparagus plant. Dracaena plants are native to Africa, Madagascar, and southern Asia. They are most commonly found in tropical and subtropical regions.
The name "dracaena" comes from the Greek word "drakaina," which means "female dragon." This is in reference to the red sap that flows from the cut stems of some dracaena plants. This sap was once thought to be the blood of dragons.
The dracaena plant is a popular houseplant because it is easy to care for and grow. These plants can tolerate low light conditions and only need to be watered every week or two. In addition to being low maintenance, Dracaena plants are known for their ability to purify indoor air. They can remove toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from the air.
The characteristics of Dracaena plants are subject to vary depending on the species. However, some general aspects are shared among all Dracaena plants. These are some of these characteristics, and knowing them can help you understand them better.
Characteristics of Dracaena Plant
- Dracaena plants are characterized by simple, long, and strap-like leaves. The leaves can be green, yellow, or red. Some species of dracaena plants have variegated leaves with stripes or patterns.
- These plants have thick, woody stems with drooping branches, and the leaves grow on slender stems that can be either erect or trailing.
- The leaves of these plants are usually long and narrow with glossy green color. They have a sword-like shape and appear in a rosette pattern at the end of the stems.
- The Dracaena species are categorized into two types: tree-like dracaenas and rhizomatous dracaenas.
- They are tropical shrubs that are drought-tolerant and can be grown both indoors and outdoors.
- Their height varies as per the species. Typically, when grown indoors, dracaena plants can reach a height of 1.8 to 3 m (6' to 10'); however, outdoors, they can stretch higher.
- The flowers of these plants are small and fragrant. They usually bloom in the springtime. The flowers are white, pink, or red.
- They bear berry-like fruits that are either black or red.
- Their bright-colored foliage and low maintenance make them a widely grown ornamental plant.
Now that we've covered the dracaena plant's fundamentals and characteristics let's look at some of the most popular types.
Popular Types of Dracaena Plant
As mentioned before, there are over 120 species of dracaena plants. We can't cover all of them here, but we will touch on some of the most popular types. Let's begin the journey to get to know these plants better.
You might know this one by "corn plant" or "compact dracaena." It is simply one of the most used houseplants and is often seen in office buildings. The corn plant gets its name from its corn-like appearance. Typically multi-stemmed at the base, these slow-growing shrubs are native to tropical Africa.
This plant is characterized by its long, narrow, dark green leaves with yellow stripes. Owing to this attribute, they are also called striped dracaena or yellow-striped dracaena. The corn plants thrive in well-drained soils and partial shade. Their shiny, dense foliage makes them an attractive indoor plant and is excellent for containers. Moreover, they are pretty good at purifying the air. Even NASA has recognized them as an effective plant to remove toxins.
Hawaiian Sunshine Dracaena
Scientific name: Dracaena Fragrans’ Hawaiian Sunshine’
The Hawaiian Sunshine Dracaena is a hybrid plant categorized by its yellow and green striped leaves. Its name comes from the bright colors of its foliage. This is a cousin of Lisa and a mutation of another Dracaena variety called "Hilo Girl." The average height ranges between 0.9 to 1.8 m (3' to 6'), and the leaves grow in an upright spreading habit.
Moreover, the coarse texture and the lanceolate shape of the leaves give it a distinct appearance. The plant is native to tropical Africa and does best when provided with indirect bright light. When it comes to water, the Hawaiian Sunshine Dracaena cannot tolerate standing water and prefers to be on the drier side. They make excellent houseplants and can also be used for office decoration.
Scientific name: Dracaena Fragrans ‘Lindenii’
The Lindenii Dracaena is a popular houseplant that is native to tropical Africa. Lindenii has an arch style and green foliage resembling a Massangeana. However, the leaves of this Dracaena species do not have a stripe down the centerline but have yellow to creamy-white edges. This plant can reach a height of about 1.8 m (6') and has long, glossy leaves lanceolate in shape.
To support their growth, it's best to plant Lindenii Dracaena in a potting mix with well-draining soil and an organic mixture. They prefer an average temperature of 15 to 21 °C (60 to 70 °F) and work well in indirect light. Periodic pruning of the foliage and stems can propagate proper growth.
Lemon Surprise Dracaena
Scientific name: Dracaena Fragrans ‘Lemon Surprise’
The Lemon Surprise Dracaena is one of the newer members of the fragrans species, and it is known for its unique coloring. As the name suggests, the leaves of this plant are a lemon-yellow color with green stripes running through them. They are closely related to the Lemon Lime Dracaena and share many similarities. The plant is native to tropical Africa and can grow about 0.60 to 0.91 m (2' to 3')
When it comes to water, the Lemon Surprise Dracaena doesn't require regular watering and does best when provided with indirect bright light. They make excellent houseplants and can also be used for office decoration. You don't need to concern yourself with pruning unless it's to remove old foliage or maintain its height for tabletops.
Scientific name: Dracaena Deremensis “Rikki”
Rikki Dracaena is a cultivar of the Dracaena deremensis species and is native to Tropical Africa. Plus, it's closely related to Janet Craig, Compacta, and Warneckii and shares several attributes. It has long, glossy leaves that are dark green, with a yellow stripe running along the length of the leaf. The evergreen perennial plant grows upright and fast, touching about 2.4 to 3.6 m (8' to 12').
The Rikki is an excellent houseplant as it is known to be resistant to pests and disease. Provide it with bright, indirect sunlight and water when the soil has dried out completely. It is a low-maintenance plant that can make a great addition to any indoor space.
Scientific name: Dracaena fragrans ‘Victoria’
The Victoria Dracaena is an evergreen shrub categorized by its glossy, ovate leaves. Their leaves are not very long, and the foliage somewhat looks like Massangeana. However, the leaves mark the distinction with silver streaks and broad golden stripes on the edges. These shrubs can reach a height of about 0.91 m (3') and have long, slender stems, out of which narrow and shiny leaves emerge.
The Victoria Dracaena is native to Africa and can be an excellent houseplant as it is easy to take care of. The growing requirements are similar to other fragrans species; they need well-draining soil with organic matter and prefer medium to low light. Moreover, through the summer, it requires monthly fertilization. It can be a little difficult to find them at your local nurseries. However, if you get your hands on them, they would make for excellent indoor and outdoor decoration.
Scientific name: Dracaena Fragrans ‘Lisa’
With broad, woody branches and tabular trunks, it resembles the yucca palm. The Lisa Dracaena is a tropical plant native to Africa, and it can grow up to about 1.5 m (5') tall. Its dark green, tufty foliage with glossy leaves makes it an excellent houseplant.
One unique growing attribute that separates them is that Lisa Dracena gradually loses its colors. As the plant grows, the color at the tip turns yellow and eventually brown. However, if your plant frequently loses leaves, you need to make some light or water adjustments. The ideal conditions are medium to bright indirect light and well-drained soil.
Gold Dust Dracaena
Scientific name: Dracaena Surculosa ‘Gold Dust’
Originating from Africa's western tropical rainforest region, this species of dracaena gets its name from the yellow dust-like spots on top of its leaves. Although very similar to Florida Beauty Dracaena, they differentiate themselves with their oval leaves. Moreover, they have thin stems that resonate with the stem of bamboo, owing to which they are dubbed Japanese Bamboo.
This shrub-like plant can grow about 0.91 m (3') in height. They produce small white flowers and red berries during spring if developed properly. The Gold Dust Dracaena prefers being in an area with bright, indirect sunlight and can tolerate some shade. They are low maintenance and easy to care for, making them great for novice gardeners.
Janet Craig Dracaena
Scientific name: Dracaena Fragrans’ Janet Craig’
This is one of the most popular houseplants and is widely grown for its attractive dark green foliage. Native to tropical Africa, 'Janet Craig' is a popular indoor plant choice for offices and homes. The Janet Craig Dracaena is a slow-growing shrub that can reach a height of about 1 m (3') in containers and about 3 m (10') outdoors.
The dark shiny leaves give a unique statement with their leathery texture and wavy edges. These small shrubs have clusters of tiny white flowers that bloom in the spring. They prefer indirect sunlight but can tolerate low light; however, it may hamper their growth. Janet Craig cannot perform in soggy soil, so it's best to plant them in well-draining soils.
Scientific name: Dracaena Deremensis ‘Bausei’
Hailing from tropical Africa, this Dracaena species is categorized by a central white band running through the length of its leaves. The white band is bordered by dark green margins, which give a unique and beautiful appearance. The Dracaena fragrans 'Bausei' can grow up to about 1.8 m (6') indoors and reach about 4.5 m (15') outdoors.
The foliage forms a rosette of leaves at its apex and consists of long, lacing leaves with a glossy texture. These slow-growing shrubs can survive in low and bright light but prefer indirect sunlight. A slightly acidic, well-draining soil with rich organic content is ideal for growth. They are easy to take care of and can be an excellent addition to indoor and outdoor decoration.
Scientific name: Dracaena Fragrans’ Limelight’
Hailing from tropical Africa, Limelight Dracaena is a slow-growing perennial plant with similarities with the Lemon Lime and the Lemon Surprise Dracaena. However, Limelight doesn't have a trail going through the middle; its leaves are neon yellow. Moreover, it forms rosette foliage with unbranched leaves.
The ideal temperature for them to grow best is 18.3 to 32.2 °C (65 to 90 °F), and a temperature below 12.7 °C (55 °F) can affect their growth. Typically, they can reach up to about 1.8 m (6') and bear tiny pink, yellow, or white flowers upon reaching maturity. Provide them with bright indirect light and loamy, well-draining soil, and they'll grow healthy!
Song of Jamaica Dracaena
Scientific name: Dracaena Reflexa ‘Song of Jamaica’
This hybrid species of the Dracaena Reflexa is famous for its glossy and dense foliage. The plant is native to Mauritius and other parts of the Indian Ocean. They share various attributes with Song of India Dracaena; however, it is multi-stemmed and has lime green leaves that grow in whorls.
The Song of Jamaica Dracaena performs better outside, reaching about 3.6 m (12'). However, they touch about the 0.91 m (3') mark in containers. When given a suitable tropical environment, they can grow into full bushy plants. They love humid conditions and being in an area with bright, indirect sunlight.
Scientific name: Dracaena Fragrans ‘Warneckii’
The Warneckii Dracaena is one of the most popular houseplants, and it's not hard to see why. It is categorized by its sword-like, dark green leaves, sharply pointed and rigid with white or yellow stripes. The leaves are branchless, originating from the stem in random directions. Warneckii is a slow-growing plant that can stretch about 0.91 to 1.5 m (3' to 5') high.
It will flourish well as long as you provide moderate to bright indirect light and well-draining soil. Moreover, it requires 18.3 to 27 °C (65 to 80 °F) and needs less water. Warneckii is susceptible to root rot, so ensure the soil isn't soggy. Also, remove any dead leaves promptly to encourage new growth. Preferred for their bushy and upright growth, they are an excellent houseplant option.
Zebra Striped Dragon Tree
Scientific name: Dracaena’ Goldieana’
You must know it by its popular name Green Zebra Plant. It is a native of tropical Africa and is categorized by the horizontal cream stripes and deep green bands. The zebra plant is a slow-growing shrub that reaches an average height of about 1 to 2 m (3' to 6'). The leaves are oval and pointed with a leathery texture.
The perennial plant usually has a single stem, but as it grows, branches may appear. And from the succulent stem, the plant produces bell-shaped flowers if the plant is maintained well. This plant prefers being in an area with bright, indirect sunlight but can also tolerate some shade. It is a low-maintenance plant and can make a great house plant.
Scientific name: Dracaena Fragrans "Massangeana"
Originating from Africa, Massangeana is spread all across the globe and is commonly found in homes and offices. The arching foliage and sword-like leaves with a golden-green center are the most highlighting feature of the plant. It's a slow-growing plant that can touch a height ranging between 1.21 to 1.5 m (4' to 5') tall.
They are drought-tolerant, so watering once a week is enough. Any well-draining soil with organic content can propagate their growth. This species appears to be a crossover of corn and cane dracaena. When provided with bright, indirect sunlight, Massangeana flourishes best. Also, ensure it isn't planted in conditions below 12°C (55°F); otherwise, the edges will turn grey or brown.
Scientific name: Dracaena Marginata
The Dracaena Marginata, more commonly known as the Dragon Tree, is an evergreen species of dracaena. This species is native to Madagascar but can now be found worldwide. It's also called Madagascar dragon tree and Red Edged Dracaena. It is popular for its long, thin leaves arranged around the stem in a spiral pattern.
The leaves are green with red or purple edges, and the plant can grow up to about 6 m (20') high. Being drought-tolerant and low-maintenance, they can survive on little water and prefer bright, indirect sunlight. They can prosper in any well-draining soil but make sure the temperature doesn't drop below 12.7 °C (55 °F).
Tricolor Dracaena Marginata
Scientific name: Dracaena Marginata ‘Tricolor’
A beautiful hybrid of the Dracaena Marginata, Tricolor has green and white leaves with red margins. Originating from Madagascar, this species is a striking plant that can make any place look more beautiful. It is a slow-growing plant that can stretch up to about 1.8 m (6').
Just like Marginata, they are drought-tolerant and can survive on little water. The colors are more prominent and vibrant when the plant is kept in an area with bright indirect sunlight. However, too much light can cause the leaves to fade. Basic household humidity works fine with them; however, temperatures below 21.1 °C (70 °F) can hamper their growth.
Song of India Dracaena
Scientific name: Dracaena Reflexa ‘Variegata’
Native to Mauritius and other parts of the Indian Ocean, this species is also called Pleomele or Song of India. It has long, narrow, glossy green leaves with yellow stripes running along the margins. The leaves grow in a star shape and are arranged in a spiral pattern around the stem. In its natural habitat, this slow-growing plant can reach a height of about 5 m (16') tall.
This plant prefers bright, indirect sunlight and can tolerate low light, but the colors will be less vibrant. It's among the most bushiest Dracaena plants and loves humid growing conditions. Upon maturing, they produce tiny yellow or white flowers. These plants are a popular ornamental choice used widely for homes and landscapes.
Lemon Lime Dracaena
Scientific name: Dracaena Fragrans ‘Lemon Lime’
The Lemon Lime Dracaena is one of the most recent additions to the Dracaena family. It also stands out the most. As the name suggests, it is categorized by its lemon and lime-colored leaves. It is closely related to Warneckii and Janet Craig and shares many similarities. Their indoor heights range between 1.5 to 2.1 m (5' to 7') and make for an attractive ornamental plant.
However, the most striking feature of this Dracaena species is the neon yellow and green striped leaves. It forms rosette foliage that presents a bushy look with lacing, sword-like leaves. Provide the plant with medium to bright light and well-draining soil, and watch it grow. A healthy-grown Lemon Lime Dracaena can brighten up your room.
Scientific name: Cinnabar Dracaena
This is the most unique-looking dracaena on our list and is a native of Yemen's Socotra archipelago. The tree has a stout trunk with red sap that seeps from the cut bark or leaves. The sap is where it gets its popular name from. The leaves are dark green and leathery with a glossy texture. They are needle-like and arranged in a spiral pattern on the stem.
The Cinnabar is a slow-growing tree that can reach an average height of about 9 m (29'). It relishes full sun but can also tolerate partial shade. The tree is drought-tolerant and does not require much water. Cultivated from its resin, the Cinnabar is widely used for commercial purposes. Larger than the other Dracaena container plants, this one can be a great addition to the parks and gardens.
Florida Beauty Dracaena
Scientific name: Dracaena Surculosa ‘Florida Beauty’
Native to central and western Africa, this species of dracaena is also known as the Spotted-Leaf Dracaena. It gets its name Florida beauty from its beautiful yellow and green leaves that have spots on the top. It appears to be more of a shrub as it can reach a maximum height of about 0.60 m (2').
It can tolerate a temperature down to 10 °C (50 °F), but not lower, and prefers bright, indirect sunlight. These plants are known to be resistant to pests and disease, making them an excellent choice for those who are not experienced with plant care. They are best to enhance the look of your patio, balcony, or any other outdoor space.
Janet Craig Dracaena Compacta
Scientific name: Dracaena Fragrans ‘Janet Craig’ Compacta
As the name suggests, this is a smaller version of the 'Janet Craig' Dracaena that only grows to about 1.8 m (6'). This Dracaena species has several common names, such as Pineapple Dracaena, Dwarf Dracaena, and Dracaena compact. The plant is native to Africa and found in South East Asia and has long, glossy, dark green leaves. The foliage is bushy and somewhat oval-shaped, plus their leaves reflect a yellow-green shade resonating a pineapple.
From the center of the rosette, it blossoms white to light pink flowers giving a honey-like fragrance. This small shrub can be an excellent houseplant as it is easy to take care of and does not require much light. They can survive dark areas, and a rich organic mixture and quick-draining soil can do wonders for their growth.
Lucky Bamboo Dracaena
Scientific name: Dracaena Sanderiana
Although this plant is not a true bamboo, it is popularly known by this name owing to its similar appearance. It has several other names, such as Chinese water bamboo, Sander's dracaena, and friendship bamboo. Native to Central Africa, this perennial plant grows upright and can reach about 1.5 m (5'). However, they are commonly found in smaller sizes used for tabletop decoration.
The Lucky Bamboo is a prevalent plant used for indoor decoration as it is known to bring good luck and fortune. It is a low-maintenance plant that can grow in both soil and water. It prefers being in an area with bright, indirect sunlight but can also tolerate low light conditions.
Scientific name: Dracaena Arborea
This species of dracaena is also known as the tree dracaena or green dracaena. It is native to tropical Western Africa. It has a tree-like appearance and grows better outside, reaching about 3 to 4.5 m (10' to 15'). However, their average height ranges between 2.1 to 2.4 m (7' to 8') when grown indoors.
They are best suitable for semi-desert areas and have woody branches with a dense crown of stiff, glossy leaves. They somewhat resemble palm trees but are much smaller. It loves full sun but can also tolerate partial shade and well-draining. This drought-tolerant Dracaena is an excellent landscape ornamental plant.
Scientific name: Dracaena Fragrans ‘Dorado’
Native to tropical Africa, Dorado Dracaena is a beautiful houseplant commonly used for decoration. Dorado differentiates itself from the other plants in the Dracaena genus with their finer foliage and coarse texture. These plants have long, glossy, bluish-green leaves with yellow margins; they somewhat resemble swords.
These slow-growing plants can grow up to about 1.5 to 2 m (5' to 6.5'). The plant blooms tiny yellow flowers in the spring that are not very noticeable. The Dorado Dracaena prefers indirect sunlight but can tolerate low light conditions and grow best in slightly acidic, well-drained soil. Dorados are easy to care for and make an excellent choice for indoor and outdoor decoration.
Snake Plant Dracaena
Scientific name: Dracaena Trifasciata
This species of dracaena is also known by several other names such as mother-in-law's tongue, viper's bowstring hemp, and snake plant. It is a native of tropical West Africa. It is an evergreen perennial that grows erect and can reach about 1.8 m (6') height. The leaves are sword-shaped, dark green with light yellow or white stripes running vertically along the length of the leaves.
The snake plant is a very popular houseplant as it is very easy to care for. It prefers bright, indirect sunlight but can also tolerate low light conditions. It is a drought-tolerant plant and does not require much water. It is also resistant to pests and disease and is mostly used as filler plants in gardens.
How to Identify a Dracaena Plant?
The Dracaena plant is a family of plants in many shapes and sizes. They can be found in both tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Some features are unique to specific species, but they generally share various characteristics. And knowing these can help you identify a Dracaena plant.
So let's some of the most identifying features of a Dracaena plant:
- The leaves of Dracaena plants are usually long and narrow with pointed tips. They are often variegated, meaning they have different colors on the same leaf. The leaves can be green, yellow, red, or purple.
- The stems of Dracaena plants are typically woody and thick. They may be straight or a bit curved and can grow to be quite tall.
- Dracaena plants often produce small, white flowers. However, not all species of dracaena will flower indoors.
- Dracaena plants are low-maintenance and easy to care for. They can thrive in various conditions and only need to be watered about once a week.
- Their trunks often have a decorative appearance with stripes or patterns.
- Several Dracaena varieties share similarities with palm trees; they appear like miniature palms.
Tips to Grow and Take Care of Dracaena Plants
To ensure your Dracaena plant grows healthy and strong, there are a few things you need to do. Proper care is essential for any plant, and Dracaena plants are no exception. Although Dracaena plants are low maintenance, giving them the right care will make them thrive. So here are the essential tips on how to take care of Dracaena plants:
The first and most important thing your Dracaena plant needs is well-draining soil. Your choice of soil forms the foundation of a healthy plant. The root system of Dracaena plants is quite sensitive, and if the soil is too wet, the roots can rot. For Dracaena plants, a potting mix with peat moss or coco coir is a good option. You can also utilize perlite or vermiculite to improve drainage.
Dracaena plants need bright, indirect light to grow properly. If the sunlight is too direct, the leaves will scorch, and the plant will become leggy if it's too low. Some species can even survive in dark areas, but other members of the Dracaena family do not share this attribute. The best way to provide your Dracaena plant with the right amount of light is to place it near an east- or west-facing window.
Dracaena plants are pretty drought-tolerant, so you don't need to water them too often. Once a week should be sufficient. It's essential to make sure the soil is dry before watering again. Be attentive while watering, as overwatering is a common issue when caring for Dracaena plants. If you get the soil too wet, the roots will rot.
Dracaena plants don't need to be fertilized too often. Once every month or two should be sufficient. A general-purpose fertilizer will do the trick. Just make sure to dilute it to half the recommended strength. Most varieties can do well without fertilizers, but hybrids and new cultivars can benefit from it.
Dracaena plants like warm temperatures, but they can also tolerate cooler temperatures. The ideal range is 18.8 to 28.8 °C (65 to 75 °F). If the temperature gets too low, the leaves will start to drop. They can work fine through the common room humidity in your home, but they prefer more moisture in the air.
Dracaena plants can be pruned to control their growth or remove damaged leaves. Cut the stem back to the desired length to prune your Dracaena plant. You can also remove any yellow or brown leaves. Brown leaves are usually a sign of too much or too little water. Pruning becomes necessary when they are placed indoors and need to maintain their appearance.
If you are aware of the needs of Dracaena plants and take care of them accordingly, you will have a healthy and happy plant that will thrive for many years.
Interesting Facts About Dracaena Plant
Did you know that the Dracaena plant has been around for centuries? However, in more recent years, they have become popular houseplants. Here are some interesting facts about Dracaena plants:
- The name "Dracaena" comes from the Greek word "drakaina," which means "female dragon." It symbolizes the red gummy substance that comes out upon cutting the stem. The belief was that it's a dragon's blood and hence the name.
- If left in their natural habitat, they can live for hundreds of years.
- Dracaena plants are toxic to pets like dogs and cats. They are not harmful to humans, but it's suggested not to consume them and keep them out of reach of children and pets.
- They are a distant cousin to the Asparagus plant.
- The red sap of the plant was used in the 18th century by Italian violin makers for making varnish paints.
Dracaena plants are beautiful, easy to care for, and make a great addition to any home. With the information we imparted above, you will find a type of dracaena suitable for your home. Keep in mind the care tips, and you will enjoy your plant for years to come.