Dracaena Marginata Care: 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 foliage plants used indoors in offices building, hotels, and malls but also as an everyday house plant.

Of all the Dracaenas the marginata is probably the most versatile. Some confuse this houseplant with a palm.

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.

Marginata goes by many different common names:

  • Dracaena marginata
  • Red edge dracaena
  • Madagascar dragon tree Dracaena
  • Dragon blood tree
  • Tree Dracaena

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

  • Tarzan
  • Magenta
  • Tricolor
  • Colorama

Throw in a few forms this versatile popular tropical 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 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 Dracaena 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 a well-drained soil.

The rooted plants 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) make a great focal point in a room and many designers use staggered forms or character forms 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′ foot character plant or other different and unique looks, which uses very little floor space. Examples below:

dracaena-marginata-stump-acclimateddracaena-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.

Our Favorite "Tools" For Houseplant Care

Dracaena Care For All Marginata Varieties

Like most Dracaenas, marginatas will give you best results indoors in a bright yet indirect light. Although bright light is the preference, it will handle lower light levels, 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 levels where the foliage color becomes a darker green. Beware if you place an acclimated marginata in direct sunlight for a period of time the leaves may get sunburned bleach spots or patches.

dracaena-tarzan-tree

Watering Your Dracaena

When 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 plant 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 marginata much like you – enjoys 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, use a weak liquid fertilizer at 1/4 to 1/3 strength 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.

Dracaena 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 – that’s why I like sub-irrigation. The next problem comes from pests like mealy bugs or spider mites.

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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 soil 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 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 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 on the leaf tips.

Dracaena Marginata Cultivars

‘Tarzan’ USPP #15,065

Dracaena Tarzan New King Of Marginata

dracaena-tarzan-011014

Dracaena 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-planter-809

‘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 it’s leaves better 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
  • 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.

dracaena-tarzan-staggered

dracaena-tarzan-flower

The upright growth habit of Tarzan is very similar to Marginata. But compared to 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. 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 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.

dracaena-tarzan-tree-form-809

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 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.”

Dracaena 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’ 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.

Other Dracaena species grown for use indoors:

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