How to Grow and Care for Dracaena

Dracaena spp.

Do you love the look of lush greenery indoors, but you’re not ready to commit to anything that requires a lot of maintenance?

Dracaena houseplants are ideal for busy, absentminded gardeners.

They are so easy to take care of, and they are likely to withstand occasional neglect. With many different species available in varying sizes and colors, you can find the perfect option for any space.

A close up vertical image of a dracaena plant growing in a decorative ceramic pot indoors, with a cream-colored brick wall in the background. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

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Read on to learn all you need to know to grow and care for dracaena indoors.

Cultivation and History

Part of the Asparagaceae family, the Dracaena genus includes approximately 120 species, varying in size from small houseplants to larger shrubs and trees. But you may note that some sources claim there are in fact as few as 40 named species in the genus.

A close up horizontal image of the variegated foliage of a dracaena plant growing indoors pictured on a soft focus background.

This wide range is partially due to the fact that there is an ongoing debate as what exactly should be classified in this genus.

Also worth noting, they often are confused with Cordyline plants, though these are in fact distinct. One clear way to tell the difference is to look at the roots. Cordylines have white roots, while dracaena roots are orange in color.

Most of these species are native to the tropics, in parts of Africa, southern Asia, and northern Australia. A couple are endemic to South America.

A close up horizontal image of the red and white variegated foliage of a dracaena plant, pictured outdoors with water droplets on the leaves on a soft focus background.

While many dracaena trees can grow over 10 feet tall, it is generally the smaller shrubs that are cultivated as indoor houseplants.

These can be found in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors, and many popular types feature dazzlingly colorful striped foliage.

Dracaenas have been part of human culture many centuries and was officially named in the 1700s after the ancient Greek Drakaina, a mythical female spirit dragon with humanlike features.

A close up horizontal image of the foliage of a houseplant in light green and yellow.

Some varieties contain a red resin in their stems known as “dragon’s blood,” which has been used for thousands of years to make dye, incense, and medicine.

Since the 17th century, it has also been used to make varnish for violins and other string instruments, and is often used in stains and wood polishes.

Dracaena began to appear ornamentally in Europe in the 1800s, and by the end of the century had become a relatively common houseplant.

Dracaena Plant Propagation

Dracaenas are slow growers, best started from cuttings or purchased as nursery stock.

From Cuttings

The first method that I’ll cover, top cutting, involves snipping off the entire top just below the leaf line, being sure to include at least a few nodes on the stem.

Don’t worry about harming the parent plant – it should begin sprouting new leaves very quickly.

A close up vertical image of the stems of a houseplant with new growth appearing where it has been cut down, pictured on a soft focus background.

You can choose to either plant the cutting directly in a pot of moist potting soil, or in a translucent vase filled about a quarter of the way with cool water. Be sure to choose a vase or pot that’s large enough, so the cutting does not tip over.

Planting in water first speeds up the process a bit and also is a fun way to monitor the progress of the root development.

Once you have planted the cutting, set the vase or pot in a warm spot (about 65-75°F) that receives indirect sunlight. The first signs of root growth should appear in about a week or two.

If you are using the water method, change the water every few days, checking for white nodules which will develop into roots.

A close up horizontal image of the new growth shoots of a dracaena plant growing in moist, rich soil pictured on a soft focus background.

If cuttings are planted in soil, you can check for root growth by gently tugging on the stem. If roots have developed, you should feel resistance.

When the nodules have developed into roots about an inch long, it’s time to transplant the cutting into a two- to four-inch pot with good drainage.

Fill with a porous soil mix that’s rich in organic matter; one that’s formulated for indoor houseplants will work well. Be sure to completely bury the roots.

A close up horizontal image of the rooted cuttings of a houseplant set on a white surface.

A second method, rooting stem cuttings, allows you to propagate many cuttings at once.

Start by cutting off the top just as you would for a top cutting, but this time, remove more of the stem along with it. Leave at least half of the stem of the parent plant intact so it can grow back.

Cut the stem into sections, making sure each contains at least a few nodes.

Plant each stem segment in soil or water, with the base facing down to maintain its original orientation, following the same instructions described above.

When plants become root bound, move them to larger containers. See the pruning and maintenance section below for more detailed instructions to transplant your dracaena to a larger pot.

How to Grow Dracaena Houseplants

These plants are incredibly easy to grow. Just set them somewhere with filtered light, such as a bright window with a sheer curtain.

A close up horizontal image of a dracaena plant with dark and light green variegated foliage, growing in a small pot indoors in a location with indirect light pictured on a soft focus background.

Avoid areas that receive direct sunlight, as it could burn the foliage. They can tolerate low light but medium, indirect light is best.

A Note of Caution:

Be aware when considering placement that dracaena is toxic to dogs and cats.

Ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, hypersalivation, and other unpleasant symptoms.

While considered nontoxic to humans, it still should not be consumed. It is best to keep this plant out of reach of all pets and children.

They can tolerate a range of temperatures, with a preference for indoor temperatures ranging from 60 to 70°F during the day, and a bit colder at night.

A close up vertical image of a houseplant growing in a small white pot set on a shelf pictured against a white wall.

Just be sure to avoid placing them in locations where the temperature may dip below 55°F, and keep plants out of range of heating or cooling vents, to avoid cold drafts or blasts of heat.

Dracaena can also be grown outdoors year-round in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 11.


Be sure to water with purified water or rainwater, as dracaenas are sensitive to fluoride salts common in tap water.

A close up horizontal image of a houseplant with green and red foliage pictured with droplets of water on the leaves on a soft focus background.

Keep the soil moist but never soggy, always letting the top of the soil dry out completely between waterings. Too much moisture or poor drainage can cause leaves to yellow and droop, and will likely lead to root rot.

Though adaptable, these tropical plants thrive in climates with high humidity.

You can increase the humidity indoors by setting a shallow tray filled with small rocks underneath the pot, and adding enough water to barely cover the rocks.

The evaporating water will help provide additional moisture. It is also helpful to mist the foliage every few days.

Find more tips on watering here.


These slow-growing plants don’t require much in the way of fertilizer, and I refrain from feeding mine much at all.

Instead, I opt to keep an eye on them for signs of distress, such as yellowing or browning of leaves, which could indicate a nutrient deficiency.

A close up horizontal image of a garden trowel from the left of the frame scooping potting soil into a white container around a houseplant.

If you like, you can choose to feed your dracaena about once a month during the spring and summer with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength.

Some gardeners do this more sparingly, feeding once in the spring and again at the end of summer.

Do not feed during the winter, when growth naturally slows down.

Top dressing or repotting in new soil every couple of years can also help to keep your plants healthy and well fed, with plenty of available nutrients.

Growing Tips

  • Choose a location with filtered light and 60-70°F daytime temperatures. Never let temperatures drop below 55°F.
  • Water with purified or filtered water, allowing the soil surface to dry between waterings.
  • Place a shallow tray of rocks and water underneath pots to increase humidity.

Pruning and Maintenance

As a dracaena plant grows, it will naturally shed its bottom leaves.

Pruning may be done at any time to remove damaged canes and to prevent them from getting out of control.

Some species can grow up to 10 feet tall, so pruning may be a necessity to keep the size of indoor trees in check.

A close up vertical image of a dracaena houseplant growing in a pot with furniture in soft focus in the background.

Luckily, this genus is very tolerant of pruning. You can cut healthy plants back to any height without worry of causing harm. You can also prune them as bonsai plants.

To prune, simply use a sharp blade and cut any cane you wish to remove. Make your cut at a 45-degree angle to avoid water damage.

You can also prune out any leaves that have turned brown or appear to be dead or dying. Brown tips or sections may be trimmed off without removing the whole leaf.

Find more dracaena pruning tips here.

When a section of the stalk is removed, new growth will usually appear below the cut a few weeks later.

If you like, you can also propagate healthy canes that you’ve removed to start a new plant!

It is also a good idea to occasionally dust off the leaves with a damp cloth. Dust can block sunlight, inhibiting photosynthesis.

A close up horizontal image of two hands from the left of the frame using a tissue paper to wipe the leaves of a small green houseplant placed on the side of a bathroom vanity.

Repot dracaenas every couple of years to help replenish soil nutrients, as well as to prevent plants from becoming root bound. Select a container that’s two inches larger than the current pot.

A day or so before you plan to repot, water well so that the soil is damp. This will help hold everything together when transplanting.

Carefully slide the plant out of the container, cutting away any roots that may have started growing out of the drainage holes. Running a knife around the inner edge of the container may help to loosen the plant if it’s stuck.

Place the root ball into the new pot, surrounded with moist potting soil. Water thoroughly.

A close up horizontal image of hands from the bottom of the frame lifting a small houseplant out of a plastic container to repot it into a larger pot.

If plants are very large and heavy or unwieldy, instead of repotting, you can replace the top few inches of soil with new soil instead. Top dressing at least one a year helps to restore nutrients without disturbing the roots.

Fluoride toxicity is another potential problem to keep on your radar.

Depending on the species, this may be indicated by browning in the white stripes on leaves, by yellowing and dying leaf tips, or by dead brown spots with bright yellow rings that appear along leaf margins.

Be sure to avoid using fluoridated water on your plants and maintain a soil pH between 6.0 and 6.5. You can learn more about soil testing here.

If you suspect fluoride toxicity, try repotting in fresh soil.

Dracaena Species to Select

There are many species and unique cultivars of dracaena that make wonderful houseplants.

A close up horizontal image of the red and white variegated foliage of a dracaena houseplant growing in a pot in indirect light, pictured on a soft focus background.

You should be able to locate the more popular species at your local nursery, or even better, from a friend if they’re willing to give you a cutting.

For added convenience, you can even order dracaena plants online. Get started with the following recommended varieties:

Dracaena Fragrans var. Massangeana (Corn Plant, Mass Cane)

A common indoor plant, this variety tends to be the most affordable of the dracaenas.

It is also very slow growing, low maintenance, and can tolerate lower light than other varieties, making it a great choice for your indoor space.

Dracaena Corn or Mass Plant on a white, isolated background.

Costa Farms Live Mass Cane

It is characterized by long glossy green leaves with bright yellow central stripes and thick, woody canes.

Plants in six-inch pots can be purchased from Costa Farms via Wayfair.

Dracaena Marginata (Dragon Tree)

A great focal point for an indoor space, this striking evergreen tree can reach heights of around six feet indoors, though it is slow growing and it may take 10 years or so to reach this height.

The dragon tree has curved stalks and slim, arching green leaves with red edges.

Dracaena Dragon Tree on a white, isolated background.

Dragon Tree

One of the most tolerant of the dracaena species, it is a very popular choice for indoor growing.

You can purchase a four-inch potted plant via Wayfair.

Dracaena Reflexa (Song of India, Song of Jamaica)

Perhaps the most common species grown as a houseplant, D. reflexa is popular for its distinctly colorful foliage.

The pointed, narrow, deep green leaves have bright yellow stripes. It is highly adaptable and makes a great choice for indoor growing.

A close up square image of Song of India houseplant growing in a plastic pot set on a beige surface on a white background.

Song of India

Song of India (aka Song of Jamaica) plants are available for purchase from Walmart in four-inch pots.

Want More Options?

We present our favorite varieties in our supplemental guide, “7 Best Types of Dracaena to Grow at Home.”

Managing Pests and Disease

You won’t have to worry too much about potential issues plaguing these incredibly easy to care for plants, but there are a few pests and diseases that can come up, and it is always good to be prepared.


There are a few insects that enjoy feeding on dracaena foliage. Luckily, pests are generally pretty easy to keep under control, as long as you remember to check on your plants occasionally.


These tiny bugs may form clusters on the plant, sucking juices from the stems, leaves, and buds. Infestations can cause wilting and reduced vigor.

You can read more about addressing a problem with aphids here.

Mealybugs and Scale Insects

Wingless insects with a waxy coat, mealybugs congregate together in what resembles a cotton-like mass, and scale insects have brown bodies with a cotton-like coating.

They also produce fuzzy white egg sacs, which can be found attached to plants.

A close up horizontal image of the stem of a plant that is infested with mealybugs pictured on a soft focus background.

These pests can be found hiding in protected areas such as leaf axils. Signs of infestation include stunted growth and leaf drop.

Mealybugs, scale, and aphids all secrete honeydew as well, which attracts ants.

Mild infestations can be controlled by spraying plants regularly with a strong stream of water. Spray every few days while pests are present.

Heavy infestations can be controlled with a homemade insecticidal soap, or neem oil.

You can make a simple insecticidal soap for use on these pests by combining a tablespoon of biodegradable liquid soap with a quart of warm water.

You can add a little bit of garlic or hot pepper to the mixture to further deter pests. Spray the tops and bottoms of the leaves daily until the infestation is under control.

Find tips on combating scale insects here or find more information on controlling mealybugs here.

Spider Mites

Almost too small to see, spider mites from the Tetranychidae family may appear as tiny moving spots on the leaves. They cause brown and yellow spotting on foliage, and you may also notice thin webbing.

These pests prefer dry conditions and can often be found on plants that are given too little water. Spraying the foliage with a strong stream of water may knock off the mites.

Neem oil can also be applied when necessary.

Find more information on identifying and controlling spider mites here.


While caring for dracaena is relatively hands-off, it is a good idea to give plants an occasional thorough exam to ensure that they stay disease free.

A close up horizontal image of a dracaena plant growing in a small white pot with sections of its stem turning black as a result of disease.

Most pests and diseases can be kept in check by providing minimally adequate growing conditions – no need to fuss too much if you’ve covered the basics!

Soft Rot

This is a bacterial disease caused by Erwinia carotovora that leads to brown soft spots on roots and on the base of the stem accompanied by an offensive odor.

There is no treatment for soft rot, so prevention is best. Encourage good drainage and avoid overwatering. You can also look for plants that are certified disease free when you make your selections.

Infected plants should be discarded.

Leaf Spot

Caused by Fusarium moniliforme fungi, this infection is common on many types of dracaenas.

This disease causes spots to form on young leaves. The spots range in size and color, and often look reddish brown or tan with yellow rings.

Control leaf spot by watering at the base of the plant – not overhead – and discarding excess water in the saucers under your plants after watering.

Quick Reference Growing Guide

Plant Type:Evergreen shrub or treeFoliage Color:Green, red, yellow, variegated
Native to:Africa, southern Asia, northern Australia, South AmericaTolerance:Drought, low light
Hardiness (USDA Zone):9-11Soil Type:Potting soil amended with organic matter
Exposure:Bright indirect lightSoil pH:6.0-6.5
Time to Maturity:Up to 10 yearsSoil Drainage:Well-draining
Height:Up to 6 feet indoorsUses:Ornamental houseplant
Spread:Varies by speciesOrder:Asparagales
Growth Rate:SlowFamily:Asparagaceae
Water Needs: LowGenus:Dracaena
Maintenance:LowSpecies:arborea, draco, fragrans var. massangeana, marginata, reflexa
Common Pests:Aphids, mealybugs, scale, spider mitesCommon Diseases:Fusarium leaf spot, soft rot

The Perfect Houseplant

Dracaena may just be the perfect houseplant. Asking very little of us gardeners, one can sit happily unattended for long periods, adding a whimsical flair to your living room.

A close up horizontal image of the green and white variegated foliage of dracaena, a popular houseplant.

And with so many different species to choose from, you will never get bored!

What dracaena species do you like to grow? Share your favorites in the comments section below, and feel free to share a picture!

And for more inspiration, why not learn about some other houseplants next? These guides have got you covered:

Photo of author
Heather Buckner hails from amongst the glistening lakes of Minnesota, and now lives with her family on a beautiful homestead in the Vermont Mountains. She holds a bachelor of science degree in environmental science from Tufts University, and has traveled and worked in many roles in conservation and environmental advocacy, including creating and managing programs based around resource conservation, organic gardening, food security, and building leadership skills. Heather is a certified permaculture designer and student herbalist. She is also a fanatical gardener, and enjoys spending as much time covered in dirt as possible!

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rama narayan mallick
rama narayan mallick (@guest_11981)
3 years ago

very knowledgeble topic

Elaine Squires
Elaine Squires (@guest_14747)
2 years ago

My plant has developed new healthy leaves on the bottom of the plant. It is about 15 feet tall and the top leaves are no longer attractive. Can I cut the stem above the bottom leaves leaving the plant in the present pot and discarding the top of the plant?

MARY ANN YOUNG (@guest_15015)
2 years ago

My dracaena is probably 5 years old and is 4′ tall on a single stem. It was repotted about 2 years ago. Last year spouse knocked plant over. Even since it leans terribly and I have staked it, but stability does not improve. Any ideas on what to do?

Betty Akniyi Aringo
Betty Akniyi Aringo (@guest_15558)
2 years ago

Very informative. I have been looking for this information for a while but now I have got the tips which will assist me in improving my plants.

Thank you

Christopher Mayer
Christopher Mayer (@guest_16537)
2 years ago

I have four large dracaena plants that were doing beautifully in a south window. It has been years since I repotted them. About a month ago I did and…they’re all starting to die. I used a Potting Mix fresh out of the bag. The soil seems to be very wet and I fear I have overwatered them. Should I dig out half the new soil and replace? Should I once again totally repot the plants? It was a lot of work as they’re heavy and hard to manage. Help!

Kristine Lofgren
Kristine Lofgren(@kristinelofgren)
Gardening Writer
Reply to  Christopher Mayer
2 years ago

Rather than repotting everything again, try tilting the pots on their sides and letting any extra water drain out. While they’re on their sides, feel free to scoop out some of the soil and press in some fresh, dry soil. Next, soak the soil in a copper fungicide following the manufacturer’s directions. Don’t water for the next week and see how things go. If the plants still look unhappy, you’ll need to pull them out of the soil and brush away as much of the soil as you can. Trim away any dead, mushy, or black roots. Then, repot in… Read more »

KateThePlantGirl (@guest_17042)
2 years ago

I’ve cut the top entirely off my dracaena and have since rooted/potted the top. Woohoo! Now I’m stuck with a pot that has basically a rooted stick. What can I do to help this ‘stick’ start sprouting? I can’t seem to find many articles addressing the ugly stick left behind. I have twice broke off the top entirely and am yet to have success. Looking forward to your reply 🙂

Kristine Lofgren
Kristine Lofgren(@kristinelofgren)
Gardening Writer
Reply to  KateThePlantGirl
2 years ago

Not to worry, that stick will usually turn into a new plant despite having lopped of its head. The trick is to put the stick in slightly more light than it was receiving before and to let the soil dry out almost completely. Lots of people start adding more water to encourage growth, but that’s the wrong tactic. Once the soil feels pretty much dry, add a small amount of water. Keep this up for a few weeks and you should start to see little buds emerge from the nodes. Expect to have about four nodes on a six-inch stick.… Read more »

KateThePlantGirl (@guest_17087)
Reply to  Kristine Lofgren
2 years ago

Thank you Kristine! I’ll cut back on the water for sure, i fell in the trap of thinking it needed to be quite moist! I’ve also read that the top of the beheaded stick should be wrapped in saran wrap which I am now questioning. I’ll keep the pictures coming and thank you again! So glad I saved this page 🙂

Bilge (@guest_19743)
1 year ago

There is a picture of a snake plant in this article which is not at all related to this group of plants. Not only is it recognizable as a snake plant, it has bright orange roots which is a recognizable characteristic. Not a huge deal, but does call into question the validity of the article.

Last edited 1 year ago by Bilge
Clare Groom
Clare Groom(@clareg)
Reply to  Bilge
1 year ago

Hi Bilge, thank you for the feedback. The picture is indeed of a snake plant, which was formerly classified in the Sansevieria genus. But as of 2017, it has been reclassified in the Dracaena genus, and is now Dracaena trifasciata.

Tina (@guest_20958)
1 year ago

When you say cut top off, do you mean the part that looks like black wax?

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  Heather Buckner
1 year ago

Nurseries will sometimes coat the ends of cut stems with wax when shaping plants to prevent new growth in certain areas. This can be removed if you like.

Linu (@guest_22267)
1 year ago

My plant’s leaves fall down how can new leaves come

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  Linu
1 year ago

You’ll need to troubleshoot to determine the cause of the leaf drop and take action, Linu! Overwatering, underwatering, temperatures that are too warm, and temperatures that are too cold may all result in leaf drop in these plants.

Marge Fornwalt
Marge Fornwalt (@guest_22651)
1 year ago

Is there a way to transplant these sprouts. Both seem to be growing out of the main stem. Thanks

Ti Plant.jpg
Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  Marge Fornwalt
1 year ago

See our guide to propagating dracaena for tips!