Dracena Marginata (Marginata, Madagascar Dragon Tree)

Where Do Marginatas Live in the Wild?

Marginatas originate in hot and tropical Madagascar, where they tolerate a range of temperatures, usually from 65 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

It has to survive the occasional intermittent drought, usually lasting 3-4 weeks long. Despite having relatively short droughts, Madagascar remains quite humid, usually above 80% year-round.

Its natural habitat’s soil is loose and drains quickly. After a drought, it’s not uncommon for the Madagascar Dragon Tree to be fully drenched all at once by the rains.

Typically, these plants are shaded from the sun by larger foliage and tend to burn or die out if they’re exposed to too much direct sunshine.

Exactly Where in My Home Should I Keep the Madagascar Dragon Tree?

Keep the Marginata’s native home in mind when searching for a place to keep it in your home.

Any room in your home is probably fine temperature-wise, so long as you don’t have drafty doors and windows. If you live in an area that dips below 60 degrees, don’t keep this plant in your drafty mudroom or any on windowsills during the colder months.

If you know you’re not the type to mist your plants and you live in a dry home, the bathroom or kitchen could be a nice place for your new plant. The steam from your shower or the steam from a boiling cook pot or dishwasher should do the trick.

Do not keep this plant in an area where it will get direct beams of sunshine, that can burn the leaves, a sunroom is not going to be ideal unless this little guy can hide under a table or behind some sheer curtains. Medium-light is best, but low light is tolerated too.

How Much Light Does a Dracena Need?

Avoid bright and direct sunshine. Medium-light is the preferred choice, but low-light works too. Keep in mind that lower light means slower growing.

How Often Should I Water a Dracena Marginata?

In a low light situation, you should need to water once every three weeks or so to start. If you keep your plant near a heater, or if you have an exceptionally dry home, you may need to water once a week.

It can be nice to replicate the natural habitat for these guys. Let it dry out, and then fully saturate the soil with warm (not hot, and absolutely never cold) water. Don’t let this plant sit in water for more than a half-hour to an hour at a time. Set it in the sink, drench it, and let it drain -OR- fill the sink with 2 inches of water, set the plant in the sink, and let it bottom water (soak up water from the bottom of the pot via the drainage hole) for about a half-hour.

On your moisture meter, let it drop down to about a 2 before watering again. After watering deeply, check the soil with the meter a few hours later. It should read somewhere near 7.

If you don’t have a moisture meter, wait until the top half of the soil is completely dry before watering.

Are Marginatas Pet Safe?

Though these plants are safe for humans, they are highly poisonous to cats and dogs. Marginatas contain toxic alkyds. Cats, for some reason, have a tendency to gravitate towards these plants (even if they typically don’t chew on your other plants) so keep it out of reach, or at least keep a close eye on your pets. Signs of ingestion include vomiting and intense salivation.

How Much Will My Dracena Marginata Grow?

In a warm and untamed setting, it grows to about 20 feet tall. However, indoors it will grow slower and is typically pruned around 6 feet tall. It has a full-grown spread of 3-6 feet wide.

When to Repot?

Madagascar Dragon Trees love to be rootbound (thick roots that take up the entire pot) and they grow roots very quickly to fill the space. Though you can certainly repot every six months, you can also wait and do it approximately every two or three years.

Dracena Marginata Fast Facts

  • Great air-cleansing qualities, known for filtering out xylene and trichloroethylene. NASA has it listed as an air-purifying plant.
  • The Dracena Marginata gets its common name ‘Madagascar Dragon Tree’ because of an old legend. Apparently, there was once a 100-headed dragon that was killed, and where its blood spread on the ground, this plant sprouted up. When certain variations of this plant are cut or broken, they bleed out a red resin that resembles blood.

Trouble Shooting

Brown Tips

Brown-tipped leaves indicate one of three issues:

  1. (Most Common) Too Much Water.
  2. Too Much Salt in the Water.
  3. Too Much Fluoride in the Water.

If you have a water softener or overly ‘chemically’ water, you should switch to a distilled water, or collect rainwater.

Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves typically mean it hasn’t had enough water.

Only the Bottom Leaves are Turning Yellow

Dracena Marginatas are stalk plants, meaning that they shed their bottom leaves as they grow taller. If you’re seeing only the bottom leaves changing color, it means you’re doing well!

Bonus Care Tips

  • If you live in a dry home, mist this plant every time you think about it. It loves humidity! The more humidity it has, the faster it will grow.
  • Poke holes in the soil occasionally to keep it from compacting, Marginatas love loose aerated soil.