The Dracaena marginata plant is a native of semi-desert areas of the Madagascar and Mauritius islands close to Africa. It therefore comes as no surprise that it is more often grown as a houseplant than in the garden because it cannot tolerate temperaturse below about 41°f (5°C). That said many people may wish to put the plant outside in a container during the warmth of Summer. As a member of the 120 species member Dracaena genus this plant is often referred to as being a Dragon Plant, but perhaps a little bit more accurately should be referred to as Madagascar Dragon Tree.
The genus name, Dracaena, is derived from the ancient Greek word for female dragon 'Drakaina'. One of the most distinctive parts of members of this genus is that they have a secondary thickening meristem within their trunk; this phenomenon is known as Dracaenoid thickening.
Dracaena with variegated leaves photograph by Forest and Kim Starr.
D. marginata is pretty easy to distinguish from other Dragon trees as it has slenderer linear to lance-shaped leaves with a leaf margin. Stems are slender and grey. Naturally leaves are deep green with thin red edges, but numerous cultivars are available: D. marginata 'Tricolor': Center of leaf has a white/cream stripe, main leaf green, edge dark red; D. marginata 'Bicolor'; Striped red and green.
This slow growing plant is considered easy to grow indoors as an House plant and does well in locations with indirect light. Don't keep it in too dark a place though as this will have a negative effect on leaf colors. The plant can reach up to 20 feet (6 m) in height in ideal growing conditions so you may want to prune the top with scissors to control its growth (don't worry new growth will appear over time). Typically indoor plants are grown to about 6 feet (2M), but this depends on space availability.
One of the biggest issues with this plant is that people tend to overwater it (remember it naturally grows in arid semi-desert regions. Ideally only water when the topsoil has completely dried out; this will usually be about every two weeks. Ideally use distilled water or non-fluorinated water as this prevents the tips turning brown (Dragon tree is fluoride sensitive). Don't over fertilize, perhaps once or twice a year with a standard weak indoor plant feed. If your home is not humid then give the plant an occasional spray with water.
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