The Dracena is one of the most popular, though little-known, indoor plants. Those who own one, consider it a species with high ornamental yield. We are talking about the dracena or dracaena, a medium-sized shrub that grows in hot-humid climates. For this characteristic, the plant is suitable for cultivation in domestic environments, indoors and in pots. By sure, the plant is to be placed in well illuminated areas, therefore not in the darkness or in the shade and far away from the air currents.
There are many varieties of dracene with green leaf or with different variegations, white, red or green, which render always the plant elegant and refined. Generally, the market offers specimens with more plants (2 or 3) in the same pot at various heights so as to create harmony in the composition of the plant.
The dragon belongs to the Liliaceae family. This shrub has dozens of different species, all with similar characteristics and with the same needs of cultivation. The plant, also called with the botanical name “dracaena”, is native to the hot-humid areas of Africa and Asia. Some varieties are native to the Canary Islands, Spanish archipelago north-east of the African coast.
It is one of the most common indoor plants, although not everyone knows its name; dragon comes from the Greek drakaina, or female dragon: it comes from the fact that from one of the species, dragon draco, a resin used as a dye has been extracted for millennia to obtain the blood colour of a dragon. Dragon, in addition to the bizarre name, also have beautiful foliage, decorative throughout the year, so beautiful that they have spread throughout much of the world.
The species of dracaena existing are many, most originating in tropical Africa, but also present in Asia, all plants in nature are large shrubs or small trees, smooth and erect stem, poorly branched, and have foliage gathered in large tufts, produced only at the apex of the branches. In the nursery are present only some species, D. massangeana, D. marginata, D. sanderiana and few others, which have more or less identical cultural needs.
Some species are sold under the name of “small trunk of happiness”; thin and twisted twigs, on the contrary, receive the name of “lucky bamboo”.
In nature, among the large elongated leaves, also small perfumed flowers bloom, gathered in thin spikes, sometimes hanging; these flowers are hardly produced by the plants cultivated in pots, even if sometimes it happens, in spring, spreading in the air of the apartment a very intense and pleasant perfume.
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How to cultivate them
These plants have the advantage of getting used to and adapting to even the most extreme conditions, so they are suitable to be placed in the corner between the sofas, on the stairs, in shops or offices. Even if they survive in unfavourable conduits, this does not mean that they always feel good; in fact if the climate and light are not suitable first of all they do not bloom, they also tend to have damaged foliage, they get sick easily, or lose their colour.
Since the leaves are the most decorative element of these plants, it is perhaps a good idea to learn how to grow them in the best possible way, so as to make the most of their characteristics.
Even if they can bear to live in a dark corner of the house, the dracaena do not disdain a good lighting, not direct, but diffused, like the one you can have near a window, or in a bright stairwell; if we have the possibility, let’s remember to move them to the open air in summer, in a semi-shaded, but well-lit, place.
They fear the cold weather, and should be grown in areas with minimum temperatures not lower than 10-12°C, however let’s avoid growing them in a hot place, especially if very dry.
The dracaena survives also to long periods of drought, recovering quickly when water is administered again; to get tufts of luxuriant leaves, however, it is good to water regularly, especially when the climate is hot, or we have the active heating system; in addition to watering the soil in the pot, as soon as it has dried well, remember to provide water through vaporization of the canopy: the foliage of dragon trees grown in dry climate tends to dry up at the tip, losing part of its beauty.
Every 12-15 days we add to the water some watering little fertilizer for green plants.
These plants often tend to develop quite rapidly; every 2-3 years we should change the soil in the pot, and if necessary we should increase the diameter of the container by a few centimetres, to leave space for the roots. If the foliage is damaged or dry, let’s remove all the dry leaves, in order to favour the development of new healthy foliage.
In the nursery we find in the pots cuttings of dracaena branches, of different sizes, cultivated in the same pot; during the years, these stems can grow, without ever branching, becoming tall up to 180-200 cm. In these cases it can happen to have a very tall thin stem, with at the apex a small head of leaves; to “resize” our plant we can simply cut the stem at the height desired by us, and bury the top, keeping the soil moist, so as to root it.
Also the lower part is to be watered, because often, from the cut we have made, the plant will produce shoots and new leaves. The big leaves of dragon tend, with the time, to accumulate, on the upper page, smog, dust, cooking oil; we remind, therefore, to clean them, at least once a year, using a cloth in humid microfibre.
Name and address
Common name: Dracena; Botanical name: Dracaena
Shrubby-arboreal, perennial plant
Light but not direct sunlight
Rich in peat and well drained
green leaves streaked with white and yellow in the middle or on the sides, white or yellow flowers
Spring-summer, rare in apartment
1.5-2 metres depending on the variety; the dragon reaches considerable heights
The drachena is a medium-sized shrub with a smooth, erect stem, little branching, and with smooth, pointed leaves, gathered in tufts, which develop only in the apical part of the branches. From these leaves, of a bright green colour or streaked of white at the sides and at the centre, depending on the variety, do develop small white-cream or yellowish flowers which are difficult to see in the dragon in pot.
When in open field, on the contrary, the plant produces flowers pleasantly perfumed and able to spread in the habitat a pleasant fragrance. The dragon, usually, has a small stem which does not exceed the two metres of height. The potted plant does not grow more than one metre twenty. Some varieties can, however, reach considerable heights, similar to those of secular trees, but these species are difficult to find in nurseries and even more rarely are grown at home.
Pests and diseases
Excessive watering, poorly draining soil, an excessively dry climate, can favour the development of diseases.
At the base of the leaves, where the rosette joins the stem, often do nest aphids and cochineals, which are to be quickly eradicated, as soon as we notice them; fungal diseases of the foliage and the roots, on the contrary, usually occur with various kinds of spotting on the foliage, which renders it decidedly not much decorative.
The treatments are to be done, preferably, at the end of winter, when we have the possibility to move the dragon on the terrace, and spray it with suitable insecticides or fungicides. The dragon can be attacked by insects and fungal diseases. The insects that most frequently affect the plant are cochineals and aphids. These suck the sap of the leaves causing stains and drying them out. Dragon leaves and roots can also be affected by fungal diseases.
One of these is caused by the fungus fusarium, which causes necrotic spots on the leaves with yellowish edges. Diseases and attacks by insect pests can also be caused by cultivation errors and too hot and humid climates. Cochineals and aphids, for example, attack in case of lack of water spray on the leaves, while fungal diseases develop in case of poor drainage of the pot or too moist soil. Dragon diseases are combated using specific insecticides and fungicides.
Treatments should preferably be carried out in winter by moving the plant to the terrace.
The Dracena plant includes about forty species of evergreen shrubs that can be grown both indoors and outdoors: in the summer period you can bring the pots outdoors.
The luminosity must always be very good, especially for species with variegated leaves. However, it is important that the plant is not exposed directly to the sun, but is placed in a well sheltered area, also considering the fact that this type of plant does not tolerate air currents and to develop and withstand optimally, even in the coldest months, it is essential that the minimum winter temperature is not below 10-12 ° C.
The dragon, being a plant native to warm climates, does not like cold temperatures, but lives and develops in hot and humid environments.
In nature there are different varieties of dragon. Among the best known are the margined drachena, native to Madagascar, with tuft-shaped leaves developing in the basal part and with notches in the apical one with a pleasant decorative effect, and the dracanea fragrans, also called “happy trunk”, with a tuft of leaves streaked with yellow. Of this species, there is also a sub-variety called also Lucky Bamboo, so defined due to the particularly tangled and showy stem.
Among the other varieties of dracena, we recall also the Sanderian dracena, native to Congo and with leaves streaked with white on the sides; the dracena godseffiana, the most original of all the species, due to its very short stem and its green leaves with bushes and white spots; the dragon dracena, very tall shrub native to the Canary Islands, very long-lived and with green leaves tending to blue, and the dracena deremensis, small stem plant with tapered leaves and streaked with white.
bright green with yellow streaks
dark green tending towards blue
green with white spots
green with cream-coloured streaks
green with white streaks
green with central or lateral bands
Type of soil and repotting
The dragon needs a fertile soil, well drained, but not too humid. For the cultivation in pot, we suggest to use peaty soil mixed with sand. On the bottom, it is better to put some earthenware which helps the drainage of the excess water. Furthermore, the plant must be repotted every two years. The operation should preferably be carried out in spring.
If the dragon should show a rapid growth, the repotting can also take place annually, the important thing is to use a container that allows the full expansion of the roots.
Temperature and exposure
The dragon is a typical plant of the warm-humid climates, it follows, therefore, that it does not stand the cold and the frosts. The ideal temperature for this plant is around twenty-five degrees. In winter, the dragon must be placed in rooms with a minimum temperature that must not fall below twelve degrees, even better if this is maintained at a minimum temperature of fifteen degrees. Moreover, the plant loves well-lit expositions, but not the direct sun.
Exposure to direct sunlight must not exceed two hours a day. Some varieties, such as the godseffiana drachena, love even the expositions in the shade.
Flowering and care of the leaves
The drachena blooms between spring and summer. Its flowers are white-pan or yellow, almost never present in the plant grown in pots. Even if very perfumed, these parts of the plant do not have a high ornamental yield, which concentrates mainly on the leaves, of an intense or bright green colour, with speckled parts in the centre or on the sides (it depends on the variety). These parts of the plant tend, however, to accumulate, with the time, traces of dust, oil and smog.
Every year, therefore, it is better to clean them delicately with a damp cloth.
The dragon is a plant that loves regular irrigation, but not excess water. Usually, it is watered when the soil appears dry. In summer and spring, in particularly dry conditions and with a torrid climate, it is better to water often. Moreover, during the summer, the plant needs to receive, every day, water sprayed on the leaves. These, in fact, due to the heat, tend to yellow and dry up on the tips.
In spring and summer the dragon should be fertilized every week with a liquid fertilizer added to the irrigation water. The ideal dose of fertilizer for this plant is equal to half or even a third of the actual dose reported in the packaging of the purchase of the product. Dragonfruit fertiliser should be suitable for green plants. As an alternative to liquid fertiliser, a slow-release fertiliser can also be used, with an effect of up to four months.
Dragonfruit fertiliser must contain nitrogen and potassium, elements which favour the growth of the plant, phosphorus (in less quantity than nitrogen and potassium) and microelements such as iron, zinc, manganese, copper and molybdenum, all essential for the correct and healthy development of this species.
The dragon is not a plant that needs pruning. In some cases, however, when the stem grows too much and creates an unsightly distance with the tufts of the leaves, it is better to shorten it to the desired height. The cut part can be buried in a pot to make it root. Another operation to be carried out on the plant is the elimination of dry leaves. These must be promptly removed in order to avoid that they become a vehicle for the transmission of parasites and diseases.
The dragon multiplies by burying the cuttings taken from the mother plant. These, at least ten centimetres long, are to be taken in spring from the apical part of the stem. Before burying them, the same cuttings take off the leaves and treat them with a rooting hormone. At the end, they bury themselves in a small pot, not bigger than seven centimetres, and wrap them in a plastic film. The pot is to be placed in a humid place.
Every day you have to lift the plastic to remove the condensation and moisten the soil. As soon as the new leaves appear, it means that the cuttings have completed rooting. At this point, the new dragon seedlings can be transplanted into a larger pot and grown as adult plants.
The drachena comes from the Greek name “drakaina”, which means “dragon female”. The term refers to the most representative species of this plant, the dragon dragon native to the Canary Islands. The ancient inhabitants of these islands, the Guanches, believed that the dragon tree was a dragon. From the shrub, then, was extracted also a resin (actually shrunken sap) of red color that was mistaken for the blood of the dragon.
To this resin, used in recent times as a dye, were also attributed magical properties. Dragon resin was also known and used as a dye by the ancient Romans. In the Middle Ages, however, alchemists used it for its alleged thaumaturgical properties.
Dragon – Dragon: Meaning of the Dragon
“I will steal your heart.” This is the fascinating meaning attributed to the dragon plants, in particular the leaves, which symbolize the indissoluble union of two inseparable beings. No meaning is attributed to the flowers of the plant, not very decorative and almost never present in the specimens grown in pots. For this reason, it is an apartment plant that can be given away at any time: the opening of shops and offices or the purchase of a new home where you can live happily as a couple.
The drachma also expresses a meaning linked to love: giving a potted specimen to your loved one is therefore a declaration of love in full swing. A particular variety of dragon, the fragrans, which is also called the “trunk of happiness”, can be given as a gift to wish happiness to a loved one. Due to its clear positive meanings, the dragon can also be given on the occasion of an engagement or a wedding. This species also means “longevity”.
By donating it, in fact, she wishes a long life or the long duration of a sentimental union.
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