Growing Dracaena Reflexa (Pleomele) Plants

Dracaena reflexa is a popular houseplant that’s known for its beautiful leaves. It is often referred to as Pleomeles because it used to be classified under the genus Pleomele.

As such, you’ll likely come across it being called names like:

  • Pleomele reflexa
  • Dracaena Reflexa Pleomele
  • Dracaena Pleomele

To make things a bit more confusing, the plant it bunched up together with its popular varieties. As a result, you’ll hear people refer to the Dracaena reflexa as the Song of India or Song of Jamaica.

Both are technically correct. But, there are differences.

All you need to do is check the foliage color:

  • Dracaena reflexa has solid green leaves
  • Dracaena reflexa ‘Song of India’ has green leaves with yellow stripes
  • Dracaena reflexa ‘Song of Jamaica’ has green leaves with off white stripes

Beyond that, they all look very similar, and are likewise very attractive.

They sport short, narrow foliage that come outward in a spiral. Each leaf measures from as short as 2 inches all the way up to around 7 to 8 inches.

The plant itself can reach anywhere from 13 to 18 feet tall outdoors. It is much smaller indoors which makes it manageable as a houseplant.

If you do decide to grow it outside, do note that it will lose its lower leaves as its grows taller.

Dracaena Reflexa Plant Care

Dracaena Reflexa Light

Dracaena reflexa does best when given bright, indirect light. This is especially true indoors.

Outside, it prefers bright shade as it all varieties of the plant cannot tolerate long periods of direct sunlight. Leaving them in this condition, be it in the garden or in a south-facing windowsill will burn its leaves.

So, the most important thing to remember with this plant is avoiding direct sun.

On the other hand, the plant will be happy in medium light, especially those with solid green leaves. Varieties like the very popular Song of India and Song of Jamaica, which have yellow and white stripes require more light. As such, they’re better off with bright, indirect exposure.

When in doubt, the brighter light is better as long as it is not direct. More light will bring out the colors of the plant’s leaves.

The Dracaena reflexa will likewise survive in low light. But, you also want to observe it in this situation as insufficient light will slow growth and cause it to become spindly.

 

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Dracaena Reflexa Temperature

Dracaena reflexa is hardy to USDA zones 10 and 11. That’s because it likes warm temperatures given that it comes from tropical climates.

As such, when growing it as a houseplant, it does best when temperature stays consistently between 65 to 80 degrees. It will also tolerate hotter conditions up to the 90s. But, it is not a good idea to keep it there for long periods as it will experience sluggish growth and stress.

That said, it fares way worse in the cold.

Here, you want to avoid temperatures under 55 degrees. While its minimum tolerance goes down to 50 degrees, once things drop under 55 degrees, it will start experiencing damage.

Similarly, keep it away from areas where the temperature can suddenly drop especially at night. This includes areas that experience cold drafts and breezes as well as near air conditioners.

 

Humidity

Humidity is another important factor you need to consider to keep your Dracaena reflexa healthy.

It likes high humidity. But, it doesn’t have a problem with normal room humidity. So, you don’t have to take any special measures to increase humidity in your home unless the air in your locale is fairly dry.

That said, the plant grows best and produces more vibrant colors when humidity it kept above 60%.

More importantly, you want to watch out for signs of dryness. The most obvious of these are brown leaf tips.

Note that like people, symptoms often appear at least 1 to 2 weeks after the problem starts. So, you want to act immediately because by the time you see the symptoms, it’s been suffering quite a while already.

The best ways to increase humidity include:

  • Keeping the plant in the bathroom.
  • Grouping it together with other plants.
  • Placing trays of water under it (with pebbles to keep the plant above water) or keep water around the plant.
  • Using a humidifier.

While I do suggest misting for many houseplants, I don’t particularly like the strategy for dracaena because they are susceptible to leaf spot.

 

Watering Dracaena Reflexa

Keep your Dracaena reflexa on the dry side when it comes to watering. They prefer less to more when it comes this aspect.

And, you want to avoid overwatering as they are susceptible to root rot.

On the other hand, the plant can tolerate periods of drought. In general, you will be watering once above 10 to 14 days. And, it won’t mind if you extend that a bit when you go on vacation.

This is what makes the plant easy to care for and low maintenance.

However, it is not that forgiving when it comes to overwatering.

So, one good way to reduce the chances of this happening is to keep it slightly root bound. In a smaller pot, there is less soil. This means soil will dry quicker as the roots will absorb the moisture in less time.

In doing so, the plant stays on the dry side.

In contrast, you want to avoid pots that are much larger for the plant. This will increase the time it takes for the soil to dry. Thus, keeping the plant sitting in water longer.

As always, expect to water more in spring and summer as the plant is actively growing. During this time, keeping the soil slightly moist works best.

You want to water once the top 2 inches of soil gets dry. But, never before that.

In the winter, scale back on water and allow soil to almost dry before watering.

Deep watering is likewise the way to go. You want to soak the root ball so the moisture reaches the roots. This means slowly pouring water until you see liquid start to drip from the drainage holes.

Then, take the time to allow the excess water to drain completely.

Yes, this requires patience as it takes around 10 minutes or so to fully drain. But, it is a crucial step in avoiding overwatering or waterlogging.

Last but not least, be aware that the plant is sensitive to fluoride and chlorine. These are two chemicals that are very prominent in tap water as most cities add them.

So, to be sure, you want to let the chemicals evaporate first before using tap water on your Dracaena reflexa. To do so, let tap water sit anywhere from overnight to 24 hours in room temperature.

 

Soil

Dracaena reflexa prefers loose, airy, well-draining soil. This helps prevent overwatering.

As such, you want to use high quality potting mix. You can add perlite and pumice to improve drainage.

You can also use sand to increase drainage. But be on the lookout as sand will get compacted after a while. This prevents it from being loose, light or airy. In doing so, it makes it hard for oxygen to get to the roots.

 

Fertilizing

Dracaena reflexa is not a heavy feeder. So, it is important to know when to feed it and when to hold back.

It will only need fertilizer when it is actively growing. This is between April and September. In fall and winter, you don’t need to feed it.

During spring and summer, apply a monthly dose of balanced fertilizer (10-10-10). Dilute this to either 50% or 25% of the recommended strength. And, water when you fertilize as well.

These extra precautions will help dilute and distribute the liquid fertilizer so the concentration or dosage isn’t too high. Doing so will avoid fertilizer burn damages the plant’s roots and leaves.

Like water, you want to be on the conservative side when it comes to feeding your Dracaena reflexa. That’s because too much is way worse that not giving it enough. Also, you cannot take back the excess fertilizer. In contrast, you can always add more plant food if it is not growing as expected.

One thing you want to watch out for is brown tips. This besides watering  and humidity issues, this can also be a sign of too much fertilizer.

Unfortunately, you will need to eliminate the potential causes one by one to get to the bottom of the problem.

 

Pruning

Your Dracaena reflexa is a slow growing plant. This means you can keep it on tabletops while it is small.

But over time it will get bigger and end up as a floor plant.

That said, be aware that outdoors, the plant will get to between 12 to 15 feet high. In its natural habitat, it can reach nearly 20 feet.

The good news is, it is much smaller when grown indoors. Nevertheless, it is important to be ready that someday it will get big, although it will take years.

This means that you will need to prune it from time to time. Its slow growth is your friend here as it keeps the pruning to low maintenance.

In addition to size control, you also want to remove unhealthy, discolored or damaged leaves and stems.

Be aware that its lower leaves will turn yellow naturally as they get older. That’s just their natural life cycle. So, it is not a disease, water, humidity or fertilizer problem.

Still, you want to remove them when they occur.

It also helps to trim the plant as doing so allows the trimmed areas to branch out. This will give you a fuller, bushier plant.

 

Dracaena Reflexa Propagation

Dracaena reflexa can be propagated through stem cuttings. This is the most common way to grow more of this beautiful houseplant because it is fairly easy to do.

The best time to propagate is during spring or at the latest early summer.

Here’s how to propagate Dracaena reflexa from stem cuttings.

  • Take several stem cuttings. You wan to get 4 to 6 inch long stems with a least 2 or 3 leaves each.
  • Dip the cut end of the stem cuttings into rooting hormone power.
  • Place the cuttings into a small pot with fresh, well draining potting mix. You want to put between 2 to 4 cuttings per container. This will keep the small pot from getting crowded. At the same time the multiple stem cuttings will give you a fuller looking pot once the leaves grow.
  • Keep the soil moist and leave the plant in a humid place with shade.
  • It will take about 4 to 6 weeks for roots to develop.
  • Once they get established, move them to a brighter spot with indirect light.
  • Soon they will grow bigger. Then, you’ll need to repot.

The reason you want to take several cuttings is that propagation is not an exact science. As such, you won’t get a 100% success rate. So, getting multiple cuttings increases the odds of success.

Growing a few together will also give you bushier plants.

 

Dracaena Reflexa Transplanting & Repotting

Repotting your Dracaena reflexa is only needed when they’ve being root bound.

But, do keep in mind that they don’t mind being in this situation. Plus, it helps keep soil dry.

So, you’ll only need to repot when you start seeing the roots coming out of the drainage holes or loosening the soil. Similarly, signs of stress also means it is time to move it to a larger home.

In general, this takes about 2 to 3 years.

When you repot, you want to use a container that’s just slightly bigger. Ideally one size larger. And, do refresh the potting soil.

 

Toxicity

Dracaena reflexa is listed as non-toxic to humans but slightly poisonous to dogs and cats. That said, I don’t like keeping it nearly young children because they can play, chew or ingest parts of the plant.

While it won’t poison them, it will still cause gastrointestinal issues.

Dogs and cats will likely vomit some time after. But, they can also experience unpleasant symptoms.

 

Pests

Mealybugs, scale and spider mites are the most common pests that will bother your Dracaena reflexa.

As such, it is important to keep the plant healthy to make it as strong as possible to resist these critters.

Regular inspection along with routine foliage cleaning (with a damp cloth) also help. Both also let you spot these creatures early.

Once you see them, you want to immediate take action. That’s because they spread very quickly to other plants. And, each day they’re not removed, they will keep eating away at your plant.

So, you want to trim off any affected areas. Separating the plant also helps prevent other plants from getting infected.

Use insecticidal soap to treat them. You can also use dishwashing soap combined with water.

 

Diseases

When it comes to diseases, Fusarium leaf spot disease is something to watch out for because it is common with Dracaena reflexa.

This is a fungal disease that is caused by allowing leaves to get wet and not dry quickly enough. Allowing moisture to stay on leaves increases their risk of mold and fungal problems.

As such, prevention is important. You can do so by:

  • Not wetting the leaves when you water
  • Giving it enough sunlight to help it dry
  • Provide good air circulation which speeds up drying

Leaf spot disease often manifests itself with brown and yellow spots that get larger over time.

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