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The Great Indoors--Dracaenas

Woody members of the lily family, the genus dracaena (from the Greek word for dragon) provides us with many easy care houseplants.  Most species are native to Tropical Africa, growing as large understory shrubs in the rainforests.  A few species are adapted to semi-arid deserts, including Dracaena arborea.  Along with their close relatives Cordylines and Pleomeles, they are popular as office and mall plants because of their ability to adapt to poorer growing conditions.  They also make low maintenance, attractive additions to your home.

The most recognizable dracaena is the Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans and D. fragrans ‘Massangeana’), with long strap leaves from “tips” growing up on thick woody canes.  The ‘Massangeana’, commonly sold as Mass Cane, has an attractive yellow stripe down the middle of the leaf.  Then there is the Lucky Bamboo, Dracaena sanderiana, sold as rooted stem cuttings to grow in water.  My first houseplant was a Dracaena marginata having long narrow leaves with burgundy margins and that managed to survive two years in a dorm room.

Most dracaenas look their best in bright filtered light or dappled or direct morning sun.  Dracaena marginata ‘Colorama’ with hot pink and green variegated leaves, for instance, needs bright light to maintain its color.  Brighter light also helps slender-stemmed dracaenas like the marginata maintain a more robust appearance. 

But the most serviceable dracaenas are the D. deremensis cultivars, including ‘Janet Craig’ and ‘Warneckii’, as well as some newer varieties such as ‘Jade Jewel’, ‘Dorado’, and ‘Lemon Surprise’.  These do well in bright indirect light, but tolerate lower light, making them useful in spots away from windows or under fluorescent office lights.

Allow the soil to dry slightly between thorough waterings (drier in very low light), and do not allow the roots to stand in water.   Using fluoridated water over a long period of time may result in damage to the foliage.  Collecting water a day or two ahead of time allows the fluoride to gas off.  Dracaenas are tolerant of average house humidity, so misting is seldom required.  Apply a general purpose houseplant fertilizer monthly from March through September.

Prune plants to control size or shape or to remove any damaged stems or foliage.  The heavy trunks of Mass Cane are not prunable, but the growing tips can be cut back as needed.  Pot up gradually to the next sized container, using a well-draining potting mix.  Mature plants may produce a flower stalk that smells powerfully sweet at night and drips nectar all over the plant and floor.  I recommend removing this flower stalk before it blooms to protect the plant’s appearance.
Posted: 7/16/2015 by Margot | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: Dracaenas, Great, Indoors, Margot
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