How to Care for a Madagascar Dragon Tree – 8 Tips to Guide You

Madagascar dragon tree care means providing the ideal climate, watering, lighting, and maintenance. If you know the basics of dragon tree care, you’ll enjoy a dragon tree companion more successfully in your space.

In my early gardening days, I had the assumption that all plants needed the same basic care to survive. But there are varying factors that will affect a plant’s specific needs. I’ve worked to establish how to care for a Madagascar dragon tree. So follow these tips to enjoy a happy, thriving dragon plant. 

madagascar dragon tree care

Table of Contents

What Are the Most Important Madagascar Dragon Tree Care Tips?

Although the Madagascar Dragon tree is native to humid, tropical climates, it can adapt to drier room-temperature conditions as a houseplant. And best of all, you won’t have to give your plant any special treatment. 

Bright Light but Not Direct 

Madagascar Dragon trees will have the best growth with medium to bright indirect light exposure. But they’ll also tolerate partial shade, which will cause slower growth and smaller leaves. Give your plants a quarter turn once a week to ensure that all sides of the plant get various light exposures.

However, never give your Madagascar plants exposure to full sun, which will cause leaf burn. And on the other hand, you can’t put your tree in an area with no sunlight. The best placement is a north-facing window or near an east or west-facing direction. Avoid southern-oriented windows.

Your plant will tell you it’s not getting enough sunlight by experiencing dulled, less vivid-colored leaves. Relocating your plant should cause the colors to become more vibrant. But if the tips turn brown and dry out, you give your plants too much sunlight.

Dragon Trees Like the Temperature of Your Home 

madagascar dragon tree in copper pot on chair

Dracaena marginata care is simple, responding well to your normal home conditions. You won’t need to adjust your thermostat from comfortable room temperatures, as they prefer 65 to 80 degrees F (18 to 27 Celcius). 

You can lower the inside temperature a few degrees once the outside temperature drops to form a rest period for the plants. But don’t let them experience exposure to cooler temperatures below 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celcius). 

If left to grow in cold temperatures for too long, your plants may develop yellow or white spots. And due to their sensitivity to temperature changes, avoid keeping these plants where they’ll catch cool drafts, like cold glass, chilly windowsills, air vents, or exterior doors. 

They Need More Water in Summer and Less in Winter  

Dragon Trees are durable and versatile plants that can adjust to many conditions, including dry soil. But they prefer to receive regular watering. 

In the summer, they’ll likely need weekly waterings. But before watering, check the dampness of the soil. If the dirt feels wet, you can delay watering for up to another week. It’s less important to water on a schedule and more on when it’s needed. During the winter, you can reduce watering to once a month or spaced out as far as every six to eight weeks. Reduce the watering frequently and gradually with seasonal changes. 

The season and the light exposure will play a large part in when your Dragon tree will need water. You should keep the soil slightly moist while giving the top few inches of soil time to dry. Your tree will also appreciate regular leaf mistings. 

It’s more important to ensure that the growing container you choose for your Dragon tree is able to drain properly. Too much water will cause the leaves to develop brown tips and turn yellow.

Adding a layer of pebbles in the bottom of the pot can help encourage drainage. However, the soil can also affect drainage, so avoid a general houseplant potting mix. Instead, choose a succulent potting medium or create a blend of sand, silt, and clay.

Most people can get away with using regular tap water. But a high fluoride content – typically in all tap water – can cause the leaves to scorch. Using recycled rainwater is the best choice, but you can also use distilled, non-fluoridated or filtered water.

Signs that you’re overwatering your plants are if the leaves start to turn yellow at the tips. Leaves that begin to follow off and turn yellow entirely, it’s a sign of underwatering.

madagascar dragon tree on white brick background

They Love Humidity but Can Go Without It 

Suppose you can increase the humidity in your home for your Madagascar dragon tree. In that case, your greenery will be thankful and show their appreciation with more luscious growth and the potential for flower production.

Dragon Trees do best with humidity levels between 40 and 55 percent. However, you can easily increase the humidity of your plants in several ways. 

The first option is to create a natural humidity tray by placing a plastic container underneath your flower pot and filling it with pebbles. As your plants drain after watering, the liquid collects in the tray. And over time, the rocks turn to vapor, which increases the humidity. 

Another method is to buy a plant humidifier. You can find these relatively inexpensively online and at most greenhouses and home improvement stores. Check out our favorite models here! 

You can also give your plants regular mistings of water from a spray bottle to keep the leaves moist between waterings. But if you don’t change the humidity and fail to mist your plants, nothing drastic will happen! They can also tolerate low to no moisture.

Never Over-Fertilize Your Dragon Tree 

It’s important to use care when feeding your dragon plants with fertilizer. Using a dose that’s too strong could cause your plants to experience burning. And never apply feed to dry soil. Instead, the dirt should be very moist when fertilizing. 

You can apply a slow-release or balanced diluted liquid fertilizer feed as a boost two to three times during the spring and summer growing seasons. Fermented weed tea is a suitable natural plant food if you don’t want to use commercial fertilizers. Never feed your dragon tree in winter.

Repot Your Dragon Tree Every Once in a While 

You will need to report your Dragon Tree plants every two to three years. These trees prefer to stay rootbound, so repotting them too often can result in stalled growth. 

If you’re going to report your Madagascar to a new plant, wait until the early season, shortly before the plant enters its growing season. And once you’ve transplanted your tree into a new home, mist the trunk and the leaves. 

Repotting provides extra room for new root growth – but don’t go too large as these plants grow slowly and can develop root rot if left with too much space. And it gives your plants a healthy dose of fresh potting mix and nutrients. 

dracaena marginata ariel view

Prune Your Dragon Tree for Maintenance or Creativity

The main reason that you would need to prune Madagascar dragon plants is to remove leaves that have become damaged. For example, you can trim up leaves that have brown tips. Or you can remove leaves that have yellowed or developed heavily browned edges.

Pruning may also be necessary for droopy heads, a symptom of inconsistent watering or poor light exposure. Cutting poorly forming heads can allow new healthy heads to develop. But be sure to adjust the growing conditions to prevent repeat problems for the new growth.

You can also use pruning to control the vertical growth of plants while encouraging the branches to spread out horizontally for a wider appearance. 

Besides pruning dragon plants to get new growths or to keep the plant’s growth in check, there is also the ability to make this plant grow as a bonsai tree. For example, you can create braided stems by twisting the stalks together. 

Or when stems grow too close together, they fuse into a thick, single trunk like bonsai trees. And another option is that you can use wires to force branches together to create unique shapes and spirals. 

close up madagascar tree with many branches

If the idea of turning your Dragon plant into a bonsai plant is appealing, start by putting your tree into bright sunlight. The more light your tree gets, the more spread out the growth will go. Then relocate the tree to an area with low light once you’re satisfied with the tree size. 

Then use a sharp pair of sterile shears to top your plant to encourage new shoot growth. Form a straight cut of the single (or multiple) stalks at the height you want the new branches to emerge. Your plant will need to rest in a warm area with indirect light and regular watering. 

It takes a few weeks for new shoots to come out. If you want to get even more branches, repeat the cutting process. Or you can go ahead and form your tree into your desired shape. You can turn, braid, or twist the trunks to create a unique look.

Madagascar Dragon Trees Have Great Immune Systems 

Dragon trees make great houseplants for being easy to care for, promoting healthy air, and being resilient against diseases. The two conditions most likely to infect Madagascar trees are foliage fungal and root rot. 

These conditions occur as a result of the plant staying too wet. As a result, root rot is more prevalent during winter, so it’s best to use extreme caution when watering during colder seasons.

Although hardy against most illnesses, these plants risk developing several types of pest infestations. You must treat pest inhabitants on your trees immediately to prevent long-term or permanent damage.

You can experience potential pest problems with these trees: spider mites, mealybugs, and scales. Picking the insects off is the most effective – albeit time-consuming – way to rid your plants of bugs without pesticides. Scales, which cause brown spots, have to be hand-removed – if the infestation hasn’t developed too badly.

madagascar dragon tree ariel view

But several commercial and organic insecticide products can also be used on your plants to eliminate insect infestations. Neem oil is one of the safest natural pest control products. 

You can also treat spider mites with a soapy spray and mealy bugs with an alcoholic homemade spray. Horticultural oil sprays can be an alternate solution.

Rinsing your plants in the sink, the shower, or outside during a rain storm can also help flush pests free. But ensure that the undersides of the leaves get rinsed, too, as that’s where pests hide to live and breed.

How to Propagate a Dragon Tree?

There are a few options for propagating Dragon Trees. You can grow these plants from seed, by semi-ripe cuttings, or by harvesting cuttings from hardwood. 

Propagation by cutting is the easiest and most used method, largely because it requires a lot of time and attention to propagate dragon trees from seeds.

To propagate Madagascar Dragon trees by cuttings, you’ll need to use a sterile, sharp pair of garden scissors or shears that’s large enough to accommodate the thickness of Dragon Tree branches. 

Propagating Hardwood Dragon Tree Cuttings

Make hardwood cuttings at 4 to 6 inches (70 to 90 centimeters) in length, with a single clean cut. Then remove some of the leaves to make room for new leaf growth. You don’t want more than ten leaves per cutting. 

Dipping the cut end into rooting hormone can increase the probability that the cuttings establish healthy roots. Then transplant the cutting into a growing medium made of sand and compost. Finally, put the hardwood as far down as you can get it without it being on the bottom. 

Add a stake that’s ¾ the size of your plant, place it at a slight angle and then tie your plant to it for stability. Set these babies in a partially shady spot to grow undisturbed for at least six months. And then you can report them in a new home or take them outdoors. 

Propagating a Semi-Ripe Dragon Tree Cutting 

Propagation of Dragon trees through semi-ripe cuttings is a different process. Your cuttings should have a few nodes attached. 

Transfer these cuttings and nodes into a container of water, keeping the nodes well immersed. Leave the cuttings in a well-lit area in the water for several weeks. They’re ready to transplant once they’ve developed 2 to 3-cm-long roots.

Are Dragon Trees Meant for Indoors?

group of madagascar dragon trees outside

Although Madagascar Dragon trees are popular indoor houseplants, you can also grow them outdoors in USDA zones 10 to 11 (tip of Southern Florida to the Southern California coast). 

You’ll need to choose a planting location with rich soil and excellent drainage to get a strong, tall, healthy tree. When growing outside, regular pruning is crucial to keep your plant’s size managed if you don’t want it to reach its full height. But the slow growth means it’s not a difficult task and it’s most important before rainy seasons to encourage new shoot growth.

Madagascar trees you’re transplanting from indoors to outside should get acclimated before planting. So, allow your plant to spend a few weeks in the area where you’ll grow it while it’s still in the pot. 

What Is a Madagascar Dragon Tree?

The appearance of the dragon tree plant leads many people to think that this tree is a relative of the Palm tree due to its thick trunk and long leaves. However, there’s zero familial connection. 

The Dracaena Marginata – sometimes called a Dragon plant – is an exotic evergreen species related to lily flowers. Dragon Tree falls into the Dracaena family – a classification consisting of over 120 succulent trees and shrubs. However, it’s also part of the Asparagaceae family in the Nolinoideae subfamily. 

madagascar dragon tree in pot with soil and white background

Dracaena marginata is a native flower to Madagascar and Mauritius. There are several varieties used indoors – Dracaena Marginata Tricolor, Dracaena Marginata Colorama, and Dracaena Marginata Bicolor.

The Dragon Tree’s preference for warm, tropical conditions and hardy resilience has made the dragon plant one of the easiest plants to adapt to indoor growing.

An added benefit of using this tropical beauty indoors is its air-purifying abilities. It can eliminate indoor pollution and filters harmful allergens like lead, cigarette smoke, benzene, carbon dioxide, and some VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

What Does It Look Like?

The Dragon plant has a tropical look, making it an excellent decor plant for any indoor room. If you care for them properly indoors, your Madagascar tree can get 6 to 8 feet (2 to 5 meters) tall with a 1 to 2 meters thick trunk. But outdoors, these trees can get 15 to 20 feet tall.

You’ll notice gray stems sporting sword or lanced arching green leaves edged with red. The linear leaves can grow to 30 to 90 cm in length with a 7 cm width.

If Dragon Trees get the right humid conditions – indoors is rarely sticky enough – they produce white fragrant flowers that turn into round yellow berries. Flowers appear in the spring with the berries forming by summer. 

How Many Different Types Are There?

There are a few unique types of Madagascar Dragon trees that give you a variety of appearances. The original Madagascar Dragon Tree – the source of all the additional cultivars and hybrids – is the Dracaena marginata. You can identify this tree from the narrow purple-red band around the green leaves edges.

The dracaena marginata Tricolor has leaves with three colors – green, red, and yellow – with a yellowish gold white band running between the green leaf and the red edge. 

Another popular houseplant is the Dracaena marginata Colorama. This unique plant has a more vibrant reddish-pink coloring and a slower growth rate. The band that circles the leaves is prominent and appears red or pink.

The Dracaena marginata dragon tree variety Tarzan features spiky, wide, and long leaves with dark purple margins. It shares a similar color pattern as the OG marginata. The wider, tougher leaf patterns form in grouped dense sphere shapes. 

And finally, the Madagascar Dragon Tree Dracaena marginata Magenta has magenta or burgundy leaves with a slightly softer appearance. 

Is a Madagascar Dragon Tree Toxic?

Dragon trees are completely safe for humans, serving medicinal purposes in some cultures. However, this greenery is toxic to your pets, so you’ll want to use care in homes with pets that like to nibble on the houseplants. 

Symptoms of poisoning by a Madagascar Dragon Tree include:

  • Vomiting
  • Excessive saliva production
  • Lack of appetite
  • Dilated pupils
  • Drooling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Poor coordination
  • Weakness

If you notice any of these signs from your house pet, it’s best to consult Poison Control or visit your veterinarian or an emergency animal hospital.

FAQ About Madagascar Dragon Tree Care

Does the Madagascar dragon tree need sunlight?

Madagascar Dragon Trees require bright, medium indirect lighting but cannot tolerate direct sunlight exposure.

Should I mist my Madagascar dragon tree?

The tropical to subtropical nature of Dragon trees means that they love humidity. Therefore, an occasional misting of the plants with water can keep them healthy and hydrated and clean the plants free of dust and dirt.

How often should you water a Madagascar dragon tree?

Water Madagascar dragon trees once a week, biweekly, or every three weeks during the active growing season. During the winter, you can space it out to once a month or every six to eight weeks.

Why does my dragon tree have brown tips?

The most common cause of brown tips on a Dragon Tree is a lack of hydration due to not receiving enough water.

Can I put my Madagascar dragon tree outside?

Indoor potted Dragon Trees can do well with sheltered outdoor time in the summer when temperatures warm up in USDA zones 7 through 11. However, be sure that you acclimate the plant to the different environment slowly. 

Feeling “Fired Up”? Grow Your Dragon Tree Today! 

Madagascar Dragon Trees are an excellent choice of carefree, indoor tropical plants with low care requirements. The attractive appearance, vibrant colors, long lifespan, minimal watering, lighting, and fertilizing needs make this plant perfect for beginner gardeners. And NASA’s claim that this plant can help purify your air makes it excellent for people with allergies or breathing issues.

Like What You Read and Want to Discuss More?

Do you grow one of these plants in your office? Or do you have success with a plant we didn’t include? Let us know your thoughts and feedback – here. We love to talk about plants! Ready to take on a more challenging houseplant?

Check out all of our houseplant care guides plus all the necessary tools you need to start and maintain a lovely indoor garden. 

Photo of author
Sara Trimble
Sara Trimble was the lady who could kill a cactus. Today, she’s the fun and fabulous expert plant mom who rocks at growing the coolest, trickiest plants. Her favorites to grow are orchids, roses, succulents, and luscious vines. Sara has grown – and killed – hundreds of plants and she shares her green-thumb successes and failures to help other plant murderers discover correct plant care. In her spare time, she raises four kids, two dogs, and a husband.

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