If you don’t have a green thumb, try your hand at growing dracaenas. The Clemson Cooperative Extension reports that they’re prized as houseplants because they require little care and have few, if any, problems with plant diseases or insects. If you wish to raise them outdoors, the most commonly used varieties of dracaenas thrive throughout U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11, including Dracaena fragrans, Dracaena marginata, Dracaena deremensis and Dracaena reflexa. Whether you go the indoor or outdoor route, providing the right soil conditions is one of the few critical requirements needed by this hardy, low-maintenance plant.
Outdoor Soil Requirements
If you choose to grow your dracaenas outdoors, add compost to the planting site, suggests the National Gardening Association. Compost improves soil moisture levels, which this plant enjoys. And while dracaenas can tolerate all types of soil, most of the commonly used varieties thrive best when given soil that’s rich in organic matter. For the best results, the Cornell University Extension recommends that you spread a couple inches of compost over the planting site and mix it into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil. If you’re buying commercially prepared compost in bulk from a garden store or nursery, this amounts to approximately 16 cubic feet of compost for every 100 square feet of garden space.
Indoor Soil Requirements
Most dracaenas are grown as houseplants. Avoid using straight garden loam in your dracaena’s pot, as such soil is often too heavy and dense for a container garden and can lead to root rot. Instead, use any commercially prepared potting mix labeled for use with houseplants, warns the Clemson Cooperative Extension. If you don’t have houseplant potting mix on hand, the Purdue Department of Horticulture suggests that you combine one part peat moss with one part garden soil and one part coarse sand. While some homemade potting mix recipes may call for perlite instead of sand, avoid such recipes and any commercially prepared mix that contains perlite. This ingredient may leach fluoride into the soil, and dracaenas are sensitive to fluoride, which can kill the plant.
Mulch serves several purposes in terms of creating the best soil conditions for your dracaenas. It helps block out weed growth while also adding nutrients to the underlying soil. Mulch also conserves soil moisture, which dracaenas love. In fact, in the test published in the Junior Master Gardener curriculum by the Texas Cooperative Extension, mulch added to Dracaena marginata plants reduced the dracaenas’ watering needs by 25 percent. For the best results, spread 2 to 3 inches of mulch onto the soil surface of both your indoor and outdoor dracaenas. Example mulch material includes shredded leaves, shredded bark and wood chips. Replenish the mulch layer as needed to maintain its thickness.
Fertilizer and Water
Once you’ve set up the best soil for your dracaenas, regular maintenance is necessary. Water your draceanas whenever the top couple inches of soil has dried out. Always use room temperature or warm water; cold water may shock this heat-loving plant. When watering, apply enough irrigation to moisten the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches — if you’re growing your dracaenas outdoors — or until moisture appears out of the planting pot’s bottom drainage holes. Meanwhile, bolster the soil’s fertility levels by using any liquid plant fertilizer — labeled for use on foliage houseplants — once a month during the spring and summer. Apply the liquid fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s product-specific guidelines, as nutrient potency varies widely by product.
1. Clemson Cooperative Extension: Dracaena
2. University of Florida Extension: Dracaena Fragrans
3. University of Florida Extension: Dracaena Marginata
4. University of Florida Extension: Dracaena Deremensis
5. University of Florida Extension: Dracaena Reflexa
6. National Gardening Association: Dracaena
7. Cornell University Extension: Using Organic Matter in the Garden
8. Purdue Department of Horticulture: Indoor Plant Care
9. Texas A&M University Extension: How Much Water Does Mulch Save?
10. University of Connecticut College of Agriculture and Natural Resources: Mulch Basics