The Dracaena marginata is a member of the Dracaena family (Liliaceae), a family that provides some of the most durable plants used indoors in offices building, hotels and malls but also as an everyday house plant.
The marginata is probably the most versatile of all the Dracaenas. Some confuse this houseplant with a palm.
Although it may look palm-like as a larger specimen it is in the same family as the popular Yucca plant.
Marginata goes by many different names:
- Dracaena marginata
- Red edge dracaena
- Madagascar dragon tree
- Tree Dracaena
Add to that the marginata also has a few different ‘cultivars’:
Throw in a few forms this versatile tropical is grown in:
- Straight cane
- Staggered cane
- Tree form
- Character forms
… And it’s easy to see why the Dracaena is one popular plant for indoor use. In general the marginata is rugged and carefree as an indoor plant adding a tropical appearance to any room it graces.
When planted in the landscape outdoors in south Florida a marginata can grow to heights of approximately 15 feet.
The leaves with red to purple stripes running along the edge find themselves sit atop long slender "canes". As new leaves emerge the oldest mature leaves yellow and fall off.
When marginata is grown for indoor use “stock” plants are planted the growing tips or long thin stems called “canes” are cut and rooted.
The rooted plants are planted into a variety of forms and grown on for use as a houseplant or in commercial applications by interiorscapers or plantscapers.
The Dracaena (all types) make for a great focal point in a room and many designers use staggered forms or character form to create interest.
One big advantage most all the Dracaenas provide for use as a house plant is the small footprint. You can get a tall upright 6′ character plant or other different and unique looks, which uses very little floor space.
Using canes of various lengths either straight, with bends and curves or multiple heads and planting the canes together lets growers produce fuller plants.
Dracaena Marginata Care
Like most Dracaenas marginatas will give you best results in bright yet indirect light. Although bright light is the preference it will handle lower light levels and the leaves will be thinner.
Plants sold as house plants have been acclimated to lower light, beware if you place an acclimated marginata in direct light of a period of time the leaves may get bleach spots or patches.
I like to use sub-irrigation on my plants indoors and self watering planters allow Dracaenas to evenly water the soil and also dry out evenly between refilling the reservoir.
If you’re watering from the top let the plant dry out a little between waterings. When the soil is dry to the tough – water the plant thoroughly and drain off the excess water.
What temperatures are best?
The marginata is much like you enjoying a comfortable 75 degrees, allowing for this top notch “plant air cleaner” to remove pollutants like Formaldehyde from the air.
The leaves of any Dracaena over time will grab their share of dust. Clean these house plants regularly and remove the dust by wiping the leaves with a damp cloth.
Most plants you buy for the home will have enough fertilizer to last a long time – in general stay away from fertilizing indoor plants but if you must a weak liquid food will do.
If the plant’s stems become too long and bare, cut them off at the desired height and new leaves will soon appear.
Fortunately, indoors plant disease is a rare problem on the Dracaena family as a whole. The biggest problem come normally from improper watering – too much or too little – that’s why I like sub-irrigation and the next problem would come from pests like mealybugs or spider mites.
Root rot usually finds its way into the Dracaena problem camp when the potting soil is overwatered on a frequent basis or the soil mix does not drain quickly enough.
For most new to house plant care it’s the overwatering that hurts the plant.
When the humidity gets to low like during the winter months leaf tips can brown.
If your marginata suffers from a sudden loss of leaves look for a number of possible causes:
- Exposure to temperature changes
- Cool drafts
- Overwatering or too much water
- Poor drainage (e.g. sitting in a saucer full of water)
- Heavy insect infestations
Another reason to stay away from fertilizing is because of fertilizer burn. Just like a lawn can be burned with fertilizer so can a Dracaena. The leaf tips and margins can become yellow or burn from over fertilizing.
Dracaenas are also very fluoride sensitive. This often shows up in yellowing on the leaf tips.
‘Tarzan’ USPP #15,065
Dracaena ‘Tarzan’ looks to be the new "King of the Marginata" world. Dracaena ‘Tarzan’ holds U.S. Plant Patent #15,065 and was discovered in 1998 as a single plant by Sunshine Tropical in South Florida.
While ‘Tarzan’ grows much like a marginata its leaves are distinctively wider, longer with a dark purple colored margin highlighted against the green glossy foliage.
In lower light levels ‘Tarzan’ will hold more it’s leaves better and even grow setting itself apart from the regular marginata.
Here’s a few unique characteristics distinguishing ‘Tarzan’ as a new distinct cultivar:
- Growth habit – Upright
- Slender stems mature to a woody trunk
- Fleshy leaves, glossy dark green in color with dark purple-colored margins
- Durable with excellent keeping quality
- Resistant to pests
The care for Dracaena ‘Tarzan’ is like most Dracaenas.
‘Tarzan’ when used as a stand alone specimen makes a statement and can fill up and bring to life an otherwise barren corner.
Hail to the new ‘King of Marginata’
The ‘Magenta’ cultivar gets it’s name from the almost burgundy or magenta color down the leaf edge.
The variety is slowly see more production, but takes time to build a large enough stock to produce as many different forms you see in marginata.
‘Magenta’ in my opinion has a ‘softer’ look than the regular marginata variety.
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After ‘Tarzan’, ‘Magenta’ would be my second choice.
‘Tricolor’ with its red leaf margins and white band or stripe running down the green leaf has been around for years but never quite caught on in popularity.
Most likely the white band in the leaves requires more light indoors to maintain a healthy plant. This variety will require more light than regular marginata.
‘Colorama’ similar in appearance and growth to `Tricolor’ except you’ll find red and ivory bands in the central section of the leaf.
Both ‘Tricolor’ and ‘Colorama’ have less chlorophyll than the common green species. They DO NOT grow as fast and require much more light to live indoors.
If you do not have a very bright area for ‘Tricolor’ or ‘Colorama’ varieties do not even attempt them indoors.
This versatile, easy care and unique looking plant available in so many forms fits into most any indoor area making it easy to see why the Dracaena marginata is a popular and important plant for use indoors. You can find the Dracaena marginata is almost any nursery or garden center.