Dracaena- A Tropical Houseplant or Greenhouse Plant

Dracaena, pronounced (Dracae’na), are tropical plants that are grown indoors and in greenhouses for the sake of their ornamental leaves. Dracaena plants are planted outdoors in California and other warm climates. These plants belong to the Lily family, Liliaceae. The name Dracaena is from drakaina, a female dragon, and alludes to the juice of the stems of D. Draco, which supposedly, resembles dragon’s blood.

"Dracaena fragrans massangeana"

Dracaena massangeana-the Corn Plant

A dracaena plant and a plant, Cordyline, are often confused in gardens, but botanically the flowers and fruits are distinct. There are between thirty and forty species and a number of varieties.

Dracaena thrive in a compost of equal parts of fibrous loam, leaf mold, peat and coarse sand. Repotting is best done in February or March, although young plants may require another move into a larger pots in August.

*Potting benches are a great asset if you enjoy potting and working with your plants. Potting benches are economical and very handy to have around, as you can store all of your potting supplies in one handy place. I have a potting bench and I absolutely could not live without it.

Your old plants can remain for a number of years undisturbed in large pots or tubs if given a top-dressing of rich soil annually in spring, and weak liquid fertilizer during the summer.

Summer and Winter Care of Dracaenas

If you are growing Dracaena in a greenhouse or indoors, a size of from 9-18 inches high in 3 1/2”, 5”, and 6” pots are the best sizes to produce useful and attractive plants. They are great for table decorations too.

"Lucky Bamboo"

D. sanderiana- "Lucky Bamboo"

During the summer, Dracaenas need warm, moist conditions. A minimum winter temperature of 55-60 degrees is suitable. To develop the full beauty of the leaves the plants need exposure to light, and should be shaded only during the hottest part of the day. They are good house plants and may be kept in a light window. D. Fragrans and its varieties Lindenii and Massangeana thrive in subdued light.

"Dracaena sanderiana"

Dracaena sanderiana

Propagation Techniques

Pieces of the old stems are laid in sand in a greenhouse propagating frame. If kept moist and warm young shoots will develop from the dormant buds. The shoots are cut off when about 3” long and inserted as cuttings in a propagating case, or they may be left until roots develop. This will be when the stems van be cut up into small pieces each with a rooted shoot attached. Then, each piece is potted separately in a small pot.

The tops of plants which have become bare-stemmed can be cut off and inserted as cuttings in a propagating case in spring. Some Dracaenas have thick underground stems. The bottoms of these, known as “toes,” if cut off in pieces 1-2 inches long, will soon produce shoots if placed in sandy soil in a propagating case.

"Dracaena deremensis bausei"

Dracaena deremensis bausei

Best Known Dracaenas

One of the best known kinds is Dracaena fragrans, from tropical Africa, so named because of its clusters of small scented flowers in spring. More useful as decorative plants are the varieties Lindenii, with broad green leaves marked with bands of cream-white and yellow, and Massangeana, which has attractive broad recurved leaves, dark green, striped and banded with cream-white and yellow. This is commonly known as “Corn Plant” by many houseplant growers. A splendid variety can be found in Victoria. It has broad golden-yellow bands outlining the margins of its leaves. This variety is a little harder to grow than the other Dracaenas.

Dracaena Goldienana, is from western tropical Africa. It has large ornamental leaves, marbled and banded with dark green and silvery gray on a light green ground. D. Deremensis and its varieties Warneckii and Bausei are a couple of the more decorative kinds. Quite distinct from these is D. Godseffiana, a many stemmed plant with smallish, light green leaves that is spotted with cream. D. Sanderiana is a great houseplant or a plant for the greenhouse. It has slender stems, with leaves up to 9” long with broad white margins.

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