How To Care For Dracaena Marginata: Growing The Red Edged Madagascar Dragon Tree

The Dracaena marginata is a member of the Dracaena family (Asparagaceae), a family that provides some of the most durable indoor foliage plants used indoors in offices building, hotels, and malls but also as an everyday house plant.

Of all the Dracaenas, Dracaena marginata is probably the most versatile. Some confuse this Dracena houseplant with a palm which is why you’ll often see dracaena palm referenced.

dracaena marginata care with different forms - character, stump, staggered, tree, colorama and dracaena flower
Different forms of Dracaena marginata – character, stump, staggered, tree, colorama and dracaena flower

Although it may look palm-like as a larger specimen it is in the same family as the popular Yucca plant.

Dracaena Marginata plant goes by many different common names:

  • Dracaena marginata
  • Red edged dracaena
  • Madagascar dragon tree Dracaena marginata
  • Dragon blood tree
  • Tree Dracaena plant

Add to that the marginata also has a few different ‘cultivars’:

  • ‘Tarzan’
  • Magenta
  • Tricolor
  • Colorama

Throw in a few forms this versatile popular tropical Dracaena houseplant is grown in:

  • Bush
  • Straight cane
  • Staggered cane
  • Tree form
  • Character forms

… And it’s easy to see why the Dracaena is one popular plant for indoor use, but outdoors as well. In general, the Dracaena marginata is rugged and carefree as an indoor plant adding a tropical appearance to any room it graces.

dracaena-marginata-14-exotic

When planted outdoors in the south Florida landscape in direct sunlight a Dracena marginata can grow to heights of approximately 15 foot tall.

The leaves with red to purple stripes running along the edge find themselves sitting atop long slender “canes.” As new leaves emerge the oldest mature leaves yellow and fall off.

When marginata is grown for indoor use fields of “stock” plants are planted and the growing tips or long thin stems called “canes” are cut and rooted in well-drained soil.

The rooted plants of the Madagascar dragon tree are planted into a variety of forms and grown on for use as a houseplant or for use in commercial applications by interiorscapers or plantscapers.

The Dracaena (all types of Dragon plants) make a great focal point in a room and many designers use staggered forms or character forms to create interest.

A small footprint is one big advantage most Dracaenas provide for use as indoor plants.

You can get a tall upright 6′ foot character indoor plant or other different and unique looks, which uses very little floor space. Examples below:

dracaena-marginata-stump-acclimated
dracaena-marginata-cal-809

Using canes of various lengths either straight, with bends and curves or multiple heads and planting the canes together allows growers to produce fuller plants.

From the book “Tropical Foliage Plants Growers Guide“:

In Hawaii, Dracaena marginata has been called the “money tree” because the first marginatas planted there were placed around the Bank of Hawaii.

Today, most people refer to Pachira aquatica as the Money Tree plant.

Dracaena Marginata Care For All ‘Dragon Tree Plant’ Varieties

Like most Dracaenas, Dracaena marginata will give the best results indoors in bright yet indirect sunlight. Although bright indirect light is the preference, it will handle lower light situations, but the leaves will be thinner.

These potted plants sold as houseplants usually begin their start as tip cuttings or cane cuttings. Once rooted and growing they are acclimated to lower light conditions where the foliage color becomes a darker green. Beware if you place an acclimated marginata plant in direct sunlight for a period of time the leaves may get sunburned bleach spots or patches.

dracaena-tarzan-tree

Care Instructions For Watering Your “Red-Edged Dracaena”

hen growing indoors, I like to use sub-irrigation on Dracaena plants. Self-watering planters like ones from Lechuza deliver water evenly to the soil and allow Dracaenas to also dry out evenly between refilling the reservoir.

If you’re watering from the top allow the soil to dry out a little between waterings. When the soil surface is dry to the touch – water the plant thoroughly and allow the excess water to exit through the drainage holes.

What Temperatures Are Best For Marginata?

The Dracaena marginata much like you – enjoy comfortable room temperatures of 75° degrees Fahrenheit, 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 plant food in the potting mix to last a long time – in general, stay away from fertilizing indoor plants but if you must, use a weak liquid fertilizer at 1/4 to 1/3 strength will do.

Feed plants when they are actively putting on new growth during the spring and summer growing season.

If the plant’s stems become too long and bare, cut them off at the desired height, and new leaves will soon appear.

Dracaena marginata - Dragon Tree- used indoors in an Alabama  hotel lobby.
Dragon tree Dracaena marginata used indoors in Alabama hotel lobby.

Dracaena Marginata Pests Problems?

Fortunately, indoors plant disease is a rare problem with the Dracaena family as a whole. The biggest problem normally comes from improper watering – too much or too little causes brown tips and yellow leaves – that’s why I like sub-irrigation. The next problem comes from pests like mealy bugs or spider mites.

dracaena-marg-mealy-small

Root rot usually finds its way into the Dracaena problem camp when the potting soil is overwatered on a frequent basis or the potting mix does not drain quickly enough.

For most new to houseplant care it’s the overwatering that hurts the plant.

When the humidity gets too low like during the winter months leaf tips can brown. This is where a humidifier can help with plant care.

If your Madagascar Dragon trees suffer 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)
  • Allowing the soil to dry too much
  • Heavy insect infestations

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Another reason to stay away from fertilizing is due to fertilizer burn. Just like a lawn can burn 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 or brown tips on the leaves.

Dracaena Marginata Cultivars

‘Tarzan’ USPP #15,065

Dracaena Tarzan New King Of Marginata

Dracaena tarzan in several forms

Dracaena marginata Tarzan looks like the new “King” in the Dracaena Marginata world. Dracaena ‘Tarzan’ holds U.S. Plant Patent #15,065 and was discovered in 1998 as a single plant by Sunshine Tropical Foliage in South Florida.

Dracaena Tarzan tips in a planter

‘Tarzan’ grows pretty much like a marginata, but its leaves are distinctively wider, longer with a dark purple colored margin.

In lower light levels ‘Tarzan’ will hold more leaves better (more lower leaves) and even grow setting itself apart from the regular marginata.

Here’s a few unique characteristics distinguishing ‘Tarzan’:

  • 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 with more lower leaves
  • Resistant to pests

The care for Dracaena ‘Tarzan’ is like most Dracaenas.

Dracaenas are woody plants and recognized by most “in the know” as great houseplants, perfect choices for indoor environments, and excellent landscaping plants. The popular dracaena species Marginata, has many cultivars loved because of their foliage, and Dracaena Tarzan is a new favorite.

Staggered tips of Dracaena Tarzan
dracaena-tarzan-flower

The upright growth habit of Tarzan is very similar to Marginata. But compared to Dracaena Marginata, it has longer and wider leaves.

These fleshy leaves are held much better than Marginata. Each glossy leaf is rich green in color with deep purple colored margins. Tarzan has slender stems that mature into woody trunks.

Dracaena Tarzan grows well in lower light but prefers bright indirect light. Its durability makes it capable for many growers to have Tarzan in many forms – shrub or tree. It is pest-resistant and drought tolerant. This plant thrives well indoors and/or outdoors especially in areas or landscapes with full sun or shade.

Dracaena Tarzan like Marginata

Any King deserves a royal treatment. Fussy and luxurious pampering is needed to satisfy his royal highness. But our King of Marginata proves to be a very easy to grow plant. Any owner of King of Marginata, or simply called, Dracaena Tarzan does not have to fuss very much over this plant.

Tarzan is a distinct cultivar of Dracaena that grows very similar to the Dracaena marginata. But unlike Marginata, Tarzan has upright growth habit with slender stems that give support to the plant’s linear and fleshy leaves. The glossy leaves of Tarzan are dark green in color with deep purple colored margins.

Tree form of Dracaena Tarzan

Tarzan just like Marginata can be grown in various forms. It can make a standout accent when used as a tree form.

As a bush, its leaves would look full and fall less thus making it an excellent centerpiece or as an accent plant to fill up a dull and empty corner.

Our King is very adaptable to normal or almost adverse conditions, requiring little care. For optimum growth make sure that it is put in an area with indirect light. Browning of leaves is less likely to occur if the plant is put in a high humidity environment.

When you see too many yellow leaves dropping from the plant, check your watering habits. It would also help your plant to grow well if it feels a little care from you. So, if possible, check the leaves of your Dracaena Tarzan and make sure that they’re dust-free.

Hail to the new ‘King of Dracaena Marginata’

Dracaena Magenta

dracaena-magenta-stump

The ‘Magenta’ cultivar gets its name from the almost burgundy or magenta foliage color down the leaf edge.

The variety is slowly seeing more production, but takes time to build a large enough stock to produce as many different forms as you see in marginata.

‘Magenta’ in my opinion has a ‘softer’ look than the regular marginata variety.

After ‘Tarzan’, ‘Magenta’ would be my second choice.

Marginata Tricolor

‘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. Also during the production phase I’ve noticed more leaf spot with Dracaena “tricolor.”

Dragon Tree Dracaena Marginata Colorama

‘Colorama’ similar in appearance and growth to `Tricolor’ except you’ll find red and ivory bands in the central section of the leaf.

dracaena-colorama-small

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’ dragon tree 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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oKv2d9s2ds

Other Dracaena Species Grown For Use Indoors:

Read our article on available Dracaena types.

NOTE: Dracaena Draco the ‘dragon’s blood’ is grown as a landscape plant.