The Red Edged Dracaena (Dracaena marginata) is often referred to as the:
- Madagascar Dragon Tree
- Dragon Plant
It is a member of the (Asparagaceae family which is better known as the Dracaena family.
As you would expect it is a sizeable plant with beautiful foliage. But, what makes it stand out is its palm-like appearance and red to maroon edged sword-shaped leaves.
This makes it instantly bring some life into your living room as it steers slightly away from the usual greens or yellow greens that most foliage houseplants provide.
Outdoors, it will grow up to 20 feet tall. But, will need warm climate all year round to survive. Fortunately, indoors, it doesn’t grow as big reaching about 6 feet or so. This makes it perfect if you’re in need of a large houseplant to fill in some blank spaces in your home.
Red Edged Dracaena Plant Care
Red Edged Dracaena Light
Red Edged Dracaena does best in bright, indirect light or filtered light. I can also tolerate low light. But, the less light it receives the more its red/maroon striped accents will fade as the plant adjusts to try and absorb more light.
As a result, it will not be able to produce as much energy from photosynthesis. This will cause its growth to slow. And, it will produce smaller leaves in the process.
It is important to keep in mind that indoor light is much less than that of the outdoors. That’s because our homes have walls and ceilings which block a lot of light. Thus, the only entrance sunlight is able come through are windows and doors, unless you have some kind of sun roof.
As such, indoors, the plants need bright light. But outdoors, it will do well in partial shade.
The reason here is that you also want to avoid direct sunlight. Allowing exposure to the sun’s rays causes it leaves to burn. This means you want to avoid hours of direct exposure especially when the sun is most intense.
This includes afternoons and the peak of summers.
To allow the plant to grow evenly, rotate it every week or two. You can also do it every time you water which makes it easier to remember.
This allows all sides receive similar amounts of sunlight so the plant won’t lean towards one direction.
Finally, do take the time to clean its foliage. Over time, dust will collect. And this will affect how much light it is able to absorb.
Use a damp cloth to clear out all the small dust and debris.
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Red Edged Dracaena Temperature
Your Dracaena marginata is hardy to USDA zones 10 to 12.
Because it is not frost hardy, the most important thing to remember is to keep the plant away from cold and freezing temperatures.
If you keep it outdoors, it is essential to bring it indoors or somewhere warmer before the weather drops under 50 degrees.
Leaving it in temperatures below this threshold will turn this perennial into an annual.
That said, the plant’s ideal temperature runs between 70 and 80 degrees. It will also be able to tolerate temperatures slightly higher or lower than this. But, in general, as long as you are comfortable with the temperature it will be happy.
That’s because Red Edged Dracaena enjoy temperatures similar to what humans do.
It is worth knowing that the plant gets much bigger when grown outdoors. There is will reach 15 to 25 feet.
Indoors, it will be much smaller making it more manageable as a houseplant. This is likewise the case when grown in containers. In most cases growers prune the plant to keep it around 6 feet high or so.
Red Edged Dracaena also enjoys humid conditions.
In dry conditions, including the warm months during summer and the colder ones of winter, it is a good idea to increase humidity indoors.
Misting is the easiest way to do this. But, it is also tedious.
In general, the bigger the plant gets, the harder it is to mist because of the limited size of your spray bottle. It also becomes more difficult to use pebble trays or group it with other plants.
As such, a humidifier may be the best option.
You can likewise keep it in the bathroom is there is enough light there.
Whichever method you decide to go with, I highly recommend picking up a digital hygrometer. This is an inexpensive device that measures humidity.
It can instantly tell you what the room humidity is at any given time of the year. This will let you know if you need to increase it. And, how much you’re able to increase that humidity after you’ve made the changes.
source: wikimedia common
Watering Red Edged Dracaena
Allow your Dracaena marginata to dry out a little between waterings. You want to wait until the soil is dry to the touch before you water again.
A good way to tell is to insert your finger down into the soil to a depth of about an inch or so. It should feel dry at that level before you water again. If it is a little moist, wait a little longer before you test again.
This is very important is the plant is susceptible to overwatering. And, if this is done regularly, you can expect it to experience root disease sooner than later.
Similarly, when you water, it is a good idea to water thoroughly. This allows the moisture to reach the plant’s roots.
Just as importantly, allow the excess liquid to drain completely right after. This will prevent waterlogging or letting the plant stay in water for long periods.
Another thing to consider is that the amount of light it receives affects how much you water.
The more light it receives, the faster it grows. Similarly, more natural light means more heat which increases the rate of evaporation.
So, if it lives in low light, you won’t need to water as often. In fact, it can take up to 3 weeks between waterings.
On the other hand, in bright light, it will need more regular waterings.
Do watch out for brown tips as this is a sign of a few possible problems. They include:
- Fluoride toxicity
- Water that contains too much salt
The plant is sensitive to fluoride. As such, be careful with hard water or tap water that contains lots of chemicals. It is better to use rainwater or distilled water.
If you prefer using tap water, make sure to let it sit out at room temperature for at least overnight. This will allow the chemicals to evaporate before you water the plants.
Salt content in water is likewise dangerous to the plant. If you use a water softener or softened water, this can be a problem. It could likewise be a problem is you live near a beach or the sea.
Because of the finicky nature of the plant with water, if you have one, using a self-watering container helps a lot. This allows even distribution of moisture. And, lets the soil dry a bit before watering again.
Soil for Red Edged Dracaena
Red Edged Dracaena thrives in well-draining soil that’s slightly acidic (pH 6.0 to 7.0). Ideally, you want to give it loamy soil which is rich and loose.
That said, if you use regular potting mix, you can add some amendments to make it suit your dracaena plant.
One way to do so is to add peat moss. Peat moss is both light and airy. It likewise retains just enough moisture to allow the plant help keep the plant hydrated. The substrate also has a low pH.
On the other hand, if you feel that the soil is not draining well enough, you can add lava rocks. These are pellet-like media that will help aerate the soil while providing better drainage.
You can likewise use perlite, pumice or sand. But, be aware that:
- Perlite contains fluoride. So, you don’t want to use too much. Better yet, rinse the fluoride with water before using it in your plants’ soil mixes. This will remove the fluoride and eliminate its potential toxic effects to plants. Some growers ‘sweeten’ the soil by increasing pH which neutralizes the fluoride. But since your Red Edged Dracaena prefers acidic soil this is counterproductive.
- Sand compacts over time. Sand likewise works. But, over time it can get compacted. So, you also want to take precautions or refresh the soil more often.
Red Edged Dracaena has low fertilizer requirements. As such, like water, it is better to stay on the low end of things rather than give it a lot of plant food.
Dracaena will experience fertilizer burn much like the grass on your lawn does when you overfeed it. And when this happens, you’ll see its effects in yellowing or burnt leaf tips.
As such, if you’re buying the plant from your garden center, always check with them if it has fertilizer applied to it. And, what kind and how long will the dose last.
- If it comes with slow-release plant food, this can easily last 6 months. So, you don’t need to feed it during that time. In fact, giving it extra will likely cause overfertilizing.
- If it comes with a started dose, this might only last a few weeks to a month or so. Thus, it is likewise important to know when you’ll need to start applying yourself.
- Rarely, it won’t have any application. If this is the case, everything is up to you since potting mixes are often soil-less. As such, they don’t contain nutrients garden soil does.
That said, when the time comes that you will need to feed the plant, you have a few options.
For one, you only need to feed it during spring and summer when it is actively growing.
- One option would be to go with liquid houseplant fertilizer. Apply this once a month during its growing season. Do dilute it to half or quarter strength to reduce the risk of fertilizer burn.
- Option 2 is to use slow release fertilizer which I recommend. This cuts down the work as you only need to feed it twice a year – once in spring, another in the summer. Plus, the dosage is released gradually so it is more distributed over time. This reduces the potential of root burn. And, it allows for more consistent, even feeding over a period of time.
One big advantage of the Red Edged Dracaena is that it takes up a small amount of floor space. This, despite the fact that it grows up to 6 feet or so indoors.
That’s because the foliage are all on top. So, the base or container has a small footprint. This makes it an amazing accent piece in your home without taking up a lot of free space or room away from furniture.
However, because of its size and the spread of its foliage as it grows, it is a good idea to prune it every now and then.
How much and how often will depend on the size and form you want it to take.
Another reason to trim it is when stems get long and bare. Leggy plants are never a good look. And, cutting them back will help fix this problem.
Beyond that, it is all about maintenance. That is, removing unhealthy or dead leaves.
Red Edged Dracaena Propagation
Red Edged Dracaena are best propagated via stem cuttings. This makes it easier to grow a new plant since you don’t have to take it out of the container to divide.
While the plant is smaller, this may not be a problem. But, as it gets bigger, balancing and controlling the weight of the root ball becomes more cumbersome.
I know some growers who use the plant’s cuttings as gifts or housewarming gifts. Of course, they often do this to people whom they believe know what to do with the cutting.
In any case, all you need to do is take a cutting and dip it into rooting hormone. Then, lant the stem cutting into a pot with moist soil.
After 3 to 5 weeks, it should start rooting.
From there, it will take months to grow shoots and leaves.
Red Edged Dracaena Transplanting & Repotting
Red Edged Dracaena comes with a very robust root system. This makes it resilient to repotting. Thus, it won’t mind you doing this unlike many houseplants which hate it or experience lots of shock from the process.
However, since the Dracaena marginata is a slow grower, you won’t need to repot too often. In general, every 2 or 3 years is a good estimate. But, do check before doing so.
The only time you need to move it is when it outgrows its current container. That means it is root bound or its roots are sneaking out of the drainage holes.
Quick drying soil, say every 2 or 3 days, even when you give it enough water is likewise another sign.
Dracaena marginata is not toxic to humans. But, it is poisonous to dogs and cats. As such, if you own pets, it is a good idea to keep it out of reach.
The good news is, the height of the plant will likely keep smaller pets away from its leaves, which are the main parts they’re likely to chew.
If they do ingest these, it can result in salivation or other mouth and gastrointestinal issues. Often vomiting and fluids to reverse dehydration are the main forms of treatment.
Pests and Diseases
When grown indoors, your Red Edged Dracaena will rarely experience problems. Of course, this is under the assumption that it gets the proper conditions listed above.
Like other houseplants, the Dracaena marginata is less prone to pests and disease when healthy. But, under stress, shock or some kind of deficiency, it becomes a lot more susceptible to them.
The most common culprit often comes with overwatering.
This not only encourages mold and fungal disease, it also attracts some pests including fungus gnats.
As such, do keep an eye out for moisture issues, especially because the plant enjoys high humidity. When humidity is high, it reduces the need for water. This makes it easier to overwater the plant even when you’re giving it moderate water only.
When this happens, root rot and leaf spot can happen.
With pests, do watch out of thrips, scale and mealybugs which are attracted to the plant.