With their low-maintenance qualities, dracaena (Dracaena spp., USDA zones 9 to 12) are perfect choices for novice gardeners, with common dracaena varieties readily available at most garden centers. They grow well as houseplants, and those living in consistently warm climates can grow them year-round outdoors. Branches can have a tendency to grow long and leggy over time but corrective pruning can create a lush and bushier plant, forming additional branches and foliage.
Commonly Found Dracaena Varieties
Of all the many different dracaena species, some dracaena varieties are more common than others. Their ease in care makes them perfect additions to pump up the green appeal indoors, to place outdoors in pots or to plant directly in the landscape in warmer locales. All types form into a tall dracaena tree when left to grow to their natural height and not pruned to keep smaller.
Some of the more commonly found dracaena varieties include what's commonly known as lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana, USDA zones 9 to 12). Plants grow 3 to 5 feet tall and grow well in water, provided there's a substrate for root growth. Corn plant (Dracaena fragrans, USDA zones 10 to 12) is another popular type commonly seen as a houseplant. It grows up to 50 feet tall but usually tops out at 6 feet when grown in containers.
Dragon tree (Dracaena marginata, USDA zones 10 to 12) is another popular dracaena variety commonly seen as a houseplant. It can grow up to 20 feet tall but when grown in pots usually obtains a mature height of 6 feet.
Pruning to Create Branching
Dracaena typically produce a couple of main branches with strap-like leaves growing at the ends. If allowed to grow, branches can become long and lanky, especially if the plant is reaching for the light. Besides creating new branches and a fuller effect, pruning also controls the plant's height, width, as well as removing brown sections due to underwatering. Like most plants, during winter, dracaena experiences slower growth and goes through a period of dormancy. Although pruning can be done year-round and plants respond well to pruning, pruning throughout the warmer growing season produces the quickest new growth from the cut branches.
Depending on the size of the dracaena branch, you can use loppers for thicker branches and pruning clippers for smaller ones to remove the desired section from the mother plant. Always use clean pruning tools when making your cuts so you don't accidentally transfer an unwanted pest or disease to the plant. Simply cut off the branch where you'd like the dracaena to branch out and produce a new crown of leaf growth. If you desire more dracaena plants, don't throw away the cuttings as you can easily root the cut branches.
Dracaena Basic Growing Requirements
Dracaena isn't plagued by any serious disease or pests, although spider mites, scale and thrips can sometimes be problematic to indoor plants. Quick diagnosis and treatment are always your best course when dealing with any pest. When populations are low, you can hand wipe the pests from the plant. Using an insecticidal soap will usually control the pest problem; always follow label instructions on its proper use and frequency of application.
Although some dracaena like Dracaena sanderiana can handle wetter conditions than a variety like Dracaena marginata, you can safely grow all types in fertile soil that drains well. When it comes to moisture, water regularly to keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy, and be sure to grow in pots with bottom drainage to prevent problems with rot. Situate in a location receiving partial shade or bright, indirect light if grown indoors. Full sun can scorch the foliage, eventually turning it brown.