The Madagascar Dragon Tree is a striking and easily-grown houseplant or outdoor tree in mild areas. It is very popular – and rightly so, because this is one of the easiest houseplants to grow, yet it is beautiful and dramatic in form. Single plants form a tall stem with leaves on top, which is not the most attractive way to grow it. At the Tree Center, we always want our customers to have the best, so we have sourced some superb specimens with not one, not two, but three trunks in the pot. Each one has been grown to a different height, making a much fuller and more attractive plant, showing off the foliage at three levels, and creating a much more dramatic tree.
Growing Madagascar Dragon Trees
The Madagascar Dragon Tree is a tropical plant coming from the islands of Madagascar, Mauritius, and other nearby islands in the Indian Ocean. There is can grow into a tall tree of 15 to 18 feet, with many stems and a large trunk. Outdoors in frost-free areas it will also grow large, but it is more usually grown as a houseplant. Indoors it will grow slowly to several feet tall, with a main stem and several smaller stems growing from the top.
Each stem is topped with a spiral of long leaves, rich green, 12 to 24 inches long, and 1 to 3 inches across, tapering to a long, thin point. These cover the upper part of the stem, arching up when young, and hanging down as they mature. Older leaves gradually yellow as the stem grows, so that only the upper section is leafy. This gives the plant a ‘tree-like’ look, even when young. The 3-trunk plants have three sturdy stems, each topped with a crown of long leaves.
Planting and Initial Care
Place your Madagascar Dragon Tree in a bright to medium-light location, out of direct sunlight. Direct sun can burn the foliage, and dark corners of rooms will reduce the growth and cause leaves to yellow and fall. Use a well-drained potting soil – a cactus mix is suitable for this plant. Always water well, so that water escapes through the drainage holes of the pot. Drainage holes are essential, so never plant this tree into a pot with no holes. If you use a larger, decorative outer pot that has no drainage, do not leave the plant standing in water. A few inches of gravel in the bottom of the decorative pot will usually keep your plant’s pot standing high and dry.
Drainage and Watering
If you do not allow drainage, salts from the water will build up in the soil, burning the tips of the leaves. Once you have watered well, leave your plant without water until the top half of the soil is completely dry, and even until all the soil is almost dry. Then water well again. Use half-strength foliage houseplant fertilizer in spring and summer once a month – do not over-fertilize, as this is a naturally slow-growing plant, and excess fertilizer will just accumulate in the soil and cause foliage burn.
If you live in zone 10, you can plant your 3-trunk Madagascar Dragon Tree outdoors in a sunny or partially shaded location in well-drained soil. It will grow into a tree 6 to 10 feet tall, with multiple upright branching stems developing over time. The main trunks will become thick and tree-like. This is a good choice too for planters and pots, as it is drought resistant and grows well outdoors with minimal care.
Care and Maintenance
This plant is usually called Dracaena marginata, but more correctly it is today considered a variety of Dracaena reflexa, the Song of India, a plant with much broader leaves. Plants with the long, narrow leaves of the Madagascar Dragon Tree are called ‘variety angustifolia’. Whatever the correct name, this is the ideal houseplant for carefree indoor gardening, since it always does better with a little neglect, rather than being constantly watered. Just place it in a bright spot, and water only when the soil is dry. If you go away for long periods, this is the perfect plant for you, which will always be there to greet you – healthy and well – when you come home. Dust the foliage, or spray with water till it runs off, from time to time. Keeping the foliage clean not only improves the look of the plant, it reduces the possibility of pests developing on your plants.