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Houseplants to discover - Madagascar Dragon Tree

Dracaena marginata

What an attractive indoor tree! Its upright gray trunk imprinted with a curious checkered pattern, topped with a dense tuft of linear leaves, always creates a beautiful effect! The grasslike leaves are dark green with a purple-red margin.

This plant is often offered with several stems sharing a pot for a fuller appearance. Normally, the stem is fairly straight, but nurseries often give it special treatments before sale and it can therefore come in some very original forms, such as with a braided stem or even stems arching outward like a swan's neck.

This plant can easily reach 4 m (12 feet) in height over time and will eventually require serious pruning to keep it under control. Cutting back the stems severely will leave the plant temporarily bare of leaves, but the plant will soon produce one or more buds that will open into new leaf clumps and the tree will then resume its growth.

There are several varieties of this popular plant, notably with dark purple leaves or tricolor leaves: white, green and pink.


The Madagascar dragon tree is highly adaptable to varying light conditions, from intense sun to medium light. The plant also tolerates shade, but that leads to thin, weak stems that require staking and may lose many of their leaves.


Let the soil dry out slightly between waterings. Plants grown in low light will need less frequent watering. This plant prefers soft water (rainwater, for example): water that is overly hard can cause the leaf tips to dry out and turn brown.


Fertilize with an all-purpose or foliage plant fertilizer in spring and summer.


This dragon tree prefers fairly warm temperatures at all times. Avoid temperatures below 10 ºC (50 ºF). It will grow best if placed outdoors during the summer months.


Although it tolerates dry air relatively well, it will remain denser and more attractive if the atmosphere remains humid at all times.


Repot every three or four years into regular houseplant potting mix. Since large specimens are hard to repot, you simply can give them an annual topdressing: just remove the 3 cm (1 inch) of potting soil and replace it with fresh soil.


Air layering is best, but you can also take stem cuttings.


The leaves contain saponins and are slightly toxic to humans and pets. Cats like to chew on its leaves and are therefore more at risk of poisoning than dogs: keep this plant out of their reach.

Further Information

To maintain a straight trunk, give the pot a quarter turn each week, always in the same direction, otherwise it will end up leaning towards the light source.