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How to Care for Dracaena

Dracaena

Dracaena, often sold as corn plant or dragon tree, can vary in size from a tabletop plant up to a tree that grows 20 feet tall given enough space. Most species of dracaena have slender stems that take on a woody appearance with age.

While the foliage details may vary among species, all their leaves are elongated and narrow. As plants mature, the foliage is often concentrated at the ends of the stems, which gives them the appearance of a corn plant. These plants are among the toughest of all house plants so you can easily learn how to care for dracaena. They do well in bright, natural, or artificial light and with little or no direct sun on their leaves. Direct light bright enough to read by will keep them healthy. Dracaena like a temperature range of between 60 and 75 degrees during the winter heating period, and do well if the humidity remains at 30 percent or more.

Mist and wipe the leaves to keep them dust free, but do this early in the day so the foliage dries as quickly as possible. A good growing medium generally drains well, but it should have enough organic matter to remain moist between waterings.

Dracaena do well in a mixture of two parts sphagnum peat moss and one part each of all-purpose potting soil and perlite (or clean sharp sand) to promote aeration and drainage. Perlite is lighter than sand. But if the plant is large, a heavier soil mix may help stabilize it in the container. At potting time, incorporate two teaspoons of granular 5-10-5 fertilizer, two teaspoons of superphosphate and three teaspoons of ground limestone into each gallon of mixture to provide enough nutrients for six months of growth. After six months, use soluble fertilizer during the growth period.

Dracaena do well in soil that is kept uniformly moist. Slight drying of the surface between waterings is beneficial, but try to avoid extremes in moisture levels in the container. Extreme dryness can cause leaf tip dieback just as quickly as a soggy growing medium, which injures the root tips. If you follow the above watering procedures and still have foliage tip burn, the problem may be associated with the quality of your water.

Chlorine and fluorine added to water supplies cause foliage burn. This can be prevented by allowing the water to stay in an open container overnight before using so that the chemicals can pass into the air. Distilled or spring water might also reduce the problem.

Dracaena plants come in a variety of heights, and have foliage sizes that range from a broad oval to long and narrow. Some leaves have a center stripe, while others have stripes on the margin Leaves may be a solid color or mottled. As these plants age and develop, the lower stem almost always drops its foliage because of dry indoor air. Foliage retention might be improved if these plants are grouped with other plants to maintain higher levels of humidity.

Low-growing foliage plants around the base of these taller specimens will also help cover bare stems. If your dracaena becomes too leggy and devoid of lower stem foliage, a new plant can be established with an air layer. A damp ball of peat moss wrapped in plastic can be attached to the stem. Keep the moss ball damp but not soaked. After roots are formed in the moss, cut off the stem below the moss ball and pot the new shorter plant.

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