Dragon trees are gorgeous tropical trees that can be grown outdoors in suitable climates or grown as houseplants in areas where the weather is unsuitable. Like many such plants, they tend to grow to the size of the pot. Unlike many plants, they do not seem to be especially bothered by being root bound.
Starting a New Plant
The easiest way to grow a new dragon tree is by using cuttings. To do this, you cut off the crown of an existing tree, including a few inches of trunk. The original tree will then branch, creating two or more new crowns.
Dragon tree do not require root setting medium to get started, but it might help get the roots started. To start a new plant, place the cut end of the crown in moist earth or water. If the cutting is started in the winter months, you will need to add bottom heat below the pot to facilitate growth. During the summer months bottom heat probably won’t be necessary. Starting in earth means that the plant is already started in a pot. Starting the plant in water makes it easier to see when the roots set on.
For plants that are started in water, you will need to pot them after the roots are established. You will use the same method you would use for any potted plant. Any loose, well-drained potting mix will do. Place a few coarse rocks or gravel in the bottom of the pot to help insure good drainage, sprinkle in a layer of potting soil, then arrange the roots on the surface of the soil. Sift in added soil, making sure that it is close in around the roots so that there are not any air pockets. Continue until the pot is full. Water well, and then let the pot drain. You might want to set the pot on two or three small stones so that the drain hole is above the catch tray, allowing good circulation under the pot.
Maintaining Your New Dragon Tree
Dragon trees are highly susceptible to root rot. To prevent this, wait until the upper 1/3 of the pot is dry before watering the plant. Then water thoroughly. Your dragon tree will require less water during the winter months.
It will also require less fertilizer when the outdoor weather is cold. This is a time when plants naturally go dormant and grow less. Therefore they require fewer nutrients. In fact, dragon trees do not require a lot of fertilizer. A light application in the spring is usually sufficient.
Keep your dragon tree in an area that is normally frequented by people. This helps make it easier to observe the plant and to remember to check it. It also keeps it in human-normal temperature ranges. It does best in the 70 to 90 degree range, but it can survive temperatures as low as 55 degrees Fahrenheit for a short amount of time.
Dragon trees like moderate light levels, and they enjoy a moderately humid environment. Some people like to place their potted dragon trees in the bathroom or laundry room, areas in a home that will naturally have a little higher humidity.
If the environment becomes a little too dry, the tree can be misted with a sprayer. Grouping the tree with other plants that do need frequent watering can raise the humidity in that area.
Trouble-shooting Your Tree
Yellowish, dry bottom leaves are often a sign of overwatering. The best solution is to begin checking your tree by seeing how wet its soil might be. Try letting it dry out. If the stem becomes soft, overwatering is likely to be the problem.
These hardy trees are mostly resistant to insect pests, but there are a few that can give it trouble. Thrips, scale, mealybugs, and spider mites top the list of possible insect pests. There are many ways to get rid of the infestation, but perhaps one of the best is to invest in beneficial insects, such as the praying mantis. You can also use organic pest sprays.
Keeping You and Your Pets Safe
Dragon trees are one of several plants recommended by NASA for cleaning indoor air. A dragon tree will clear your indoor air of several common household pollutants, such as formaldehyde. That’s the good news.
The flip side is that dragon trees are toxic to dogs and cats. You will want to keep your potted dragon tree away from pets and young children who might be tempted to nibble on its leaves.
A dragon tree is easy to start from cuttings. It is recommended by NASA for cleaning indoor air, but should not be eaten by humans or pets. It doesn’t like “wet feet” so it needs only moderate watering. Best of all, it is a beautiful plant that comes in several different varieties – all of which are beautiful.