Growing Dracaena In The Garden – Can You Plant Dracaena Outdoors
By: Mary Ellen Ellis
Dracaena is one of the most commonly sold houseplants, but dracaena in the garden outside is more less common. It requires constant warmth, so only attempt this if you have a warm, near tropical climate.
Can You Plant Dracaena Outdoors?
Dracaena varieties are among the most popular houseplants because they have gorgeous foliage, come in a lot of different sizes and colors, and because they are difficult to kill. One sure way to kill your dracaena is to plant it outdoors in a climate that is too cold. Dracaena is a tropical plant that won’t tolerate frost.
If you live in zones 9, 10, or 11 though, go for it. Dracaena thrives outdoors in areas that are frost free. Zone 9 can be a little risky in the winter months. If you live somewhere that gets an occasional frost, be prepared to protect your outdoor dracaena plants with some kind of covering.
Growing Dracaena Outdoors
If you do have the right climate for it, dracaena in the landscape can add drama and beauty. There are so many varieties to choose from with different heights and shapes, leaf colors, leaf patterns, and textures. These plants aren’t too picky, so nearly any soil type will do. They do best in richer soils, though, so add compost or other organic material to give it the best conditions.
For light, choose a spot that is not in direct sun. Most dracaena do best with a lot of indirect light but not too much shade. Make sure your plant gets enough water but avoid standing water. It should be somewhere with soil that drains well. Use a basic fertilizer every couple weeks during the growing season to encourage more growth.
Be sure that you know the specific needs of any dracaena variety you choose. They should be very similar, but there may be some differences, especially in size and how much space the plants need. Some varieties stay low, while others grow up to several feet (1 m.) tall.
Once your dracaena is established outside, you won’t have to give it much attention or care. These plants are famously easy to grow and this is true of growing them outdoors too as long as you give them the right conditions.
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Read more about Dracaena Plants
How to Grow Dragon Tree (Dracaena Draco) Indoors
The Spruce / Anastasiia Tretiak
The dragon tree, also called dragon's blood plant or by its Latin name, Dracaena draco, is an evergreen succulent tree native to subtropical zones on and near the northwest coast of Africa. It is closely related to the corn plant, but unlike that species, dragon tree is a much less common houseplant because of its large size. It is, however, quite slow-growing, so don't let its 25- to 50-foot mature size dissuade you—this plant can take 10 years to reach 4 feet in height.
The dragon tree forms a palm-like canopy of long, pointed leaves on stems that emerge from a thick trunk. It is not the most beautiful of houseplants, but it has the single most important quality for your indoor foliage: It is tough beyond all measure.
The dragon's blood name comes from the fact that it exudes reddish resin from wounds and nicks. As a point of interest, it is said that this resin was used as a wood dye to stain the famous Stradivarius violins. It is a member of the agave family and is related to the yucca and century plant.
This is a very slow-growing species but one that is very long-lived. In the garden, it can take as much as 25 years to reach 25 feet, but its slow-growing nature can be an advantage for an indoor plant, as the dragon tree will take many years to outgrow its space.
|Botanical Name||Dracaena draco|
|Common Name||Dragon tree, dragon's blood plant, drago|
|Plant Type||Broadleaf evergreen tree|
|Mature Size||15–50 feet (but very slow-growing)|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun to part shade|
|Soil Type||Any well-drained, porous soil|
|Soil pH||6.0–6.5 (slightly acidic)|
|Bloom Time||Begins producing a single flower after 10–15 years|
|Hardiness Zones||9–12 (USDA)|
|Native Area||The Canary Islands, northwest coastal Africa|
|Toxicity||Mildly toxic to animals|
Corn Plant Care
Home gardeners usually grow corn plants as large potted plants rather outdoors in the garden. Corn plants do best in bright indoor locations that are protected from direct sunlight, drafts, and airflow from air-conditioning and heating vents. Also, maintaining a high humidity environment indoors is key for these plants.
You can bring your corn plant outdoors during the summer if you place the pot in a sheltered, somewhat shady location. Make sure it is protected from strong winds. Bring the plant indoors well before temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
The ideal indoor location for this plant is near a window with filtered sunlight. Too little light will result in the leaves losing their color variegation and might stunt the plant's growth. Exposure to direct sun can burn the plant and cause it to wilt. Outdoors, the plant does best in part shade.
A loose, loamy potting soil mix is the best option for growing corn plants. Make sure the soil has good drainage because roots don't do well in standing water.
Keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy during the growing season (spring to fall). Reduce watering in the late fall to winter. However, never let the soil completely dry out. Soil that is too wet or too dry can cause leaf tips to dry out and turn brown. Moreover, like other Dracaena species, corn plants are sensitive to fluoride and boron, which can be found in tap water. Thus, it's best to use distilled water to avoid leaf tip burn, stunted growth, and even plant death.
Temperature and Humidity
Corn plants do best in temperatures from 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid exposing them to temperatures below 50 degrees—if you have moved plants outdoors for the summer, make sure to bring them back indoors before temperatures reach this point.
Try to maintain humidity levels between 40 percent and 50 percent, which mimics the plant's native environment. If you need to raise the humidity, use a humidifier or place the pot on a tray of water and pebbles. Do not let the bottom of the pot touch the water, and mist the leaves regularly.
Corn plants prefer organically rich soil. Use a balanced liquid fertilizer about every month throughout the growing season, and feed sparingly or not at all over the winter.
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You're probably familiar with at least one variety of dracaena, commonly known as "corn plant." But you may not know about the striking, acid-green foliage offered by 'Limelight' Dracaena (Dracaena deremensis 'Limelight').
With glossy, electric lime-green leaves, this tropical foliage plant thrives as a low-light interior plant. 'Limelight' Dracaena's durability makes it ideal for home or office settings in fact, keeping it in a low-light location helps maintain the dramatic lime coloring.
If you want to try growing 'Limelight' Dracaena, use a standard potting mix and keep the soil moist for best results. Florida's warm, humid air also helps the plant to thrive, and when mature, 'Limelight' Dracaena can grow to 5 feet tall by up to 4 feet wide.
This plant grows can also be used outdoors as a shade plant for south Florida gardens.
'Limelight' Dracaena was named a "Florida Garden Select" plant by the Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association (FNGLA) in 2007.
Best Varieties and Species of Dracaena to Grow
A slow-growing shrub usually sold as potted plants with lengths varying from 6 inches to 5 feet, Dracaena fragrans is simply one of the most popular and best interior plants. It has long, rugged leaves that have resemblance to corn foliage, hence, the common name Corn Plant.
The species has entirely green leaves but most houseplant aficionados prefer its more-colorful cultivars, like Massangeana, which accounts for nearly 90% of the corn plants sold. Also called Mass Cane, it has a rosette of long, sword-shaped leaves highlighted with golden-yellow stripes in the middle.
Other attractive cultivars include “Lindenii”, “Victoria”, “Lemon Lime”, “Janet Craig” and “Warneckii”.
Popular for its distinctive appearance, Dracaena Marginata or also known as Madagascar Dragon Tree or Red-edged dracaena, boasts bold but elegant dark green leaves with red margins. What makes this slow-growing plant a favorite for most houseplant enthusiasts is that its stems can be trained into different shapes which can give it different architectural vibes.
Other cultivars of the Madagascar Dragon Tree (“Tricolor”) have longitudinal ivory stripes through the center of their leaves, adding highlight to its green and red elegance.
Commonly called Pleomele, it generally has dense dark green rosettes of leaves swirling around the end of the stems that can be used as table plants, bush or tree. Song of India has yellow margin highlighting the short, sword-like leaves while Song of Jamaica has white longitudinal stripes.
Ribbon Plant, Chinese Water Bamboo or Lucky bamboo might have a striking resemblance with bamboo, but it is not actually bamboo. Usually sold as stem cuttings, this tough little plant can be grown in water for a year or more.
It will start to decline eventually if held in just water so it would be best to supply nutrition occasionally. The resemblance with bamboo makes it associated with the art of Feng Shui.
Unlike the other members of Dracaena, Dracaena surculosa (also Dracaena godseffiana) has oval shaped leaves with a pointed tip. It is commonly called Dracaena Gold Dust or Spotted Dracaena because of its cream and golden yellow blotches in its dark green shiny leaves.
It is also called Dracaena surculosa ‘Japanese Bamboo’ because of its thin bamboo-like stems. If grown in proper condition, it might even reward you with radial white inflorescence.
Other popular cultivars/varieties include: ‘Florida Beauty’ which has bigger and denser spots, and Dracaena surculosa ‘Kelleri’ with thicker elliptical leaves.
(1) Vermeulen, N. “Encyclopedia of House Plants”. 1999. Taylor & Francis. P. 40
(2) Quattrocchi, U. “CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology”. 2016. CRC Press. P. 1466