GARDENING WITH INDOOR DRACAENAS

And Other Related Foliage Plants

by Joelle Steele

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Dracaenas are usually considered to be members of the Liliaceae family, which includes cordylines, pleomeles, yuccas, beaucarneas, and aspidistras, to name just a few of these indoor foliage plants that come in so many shapes, sizes, and colors. They originate from such exotic locates as the Congo, Nigeria, Madagascar, the Canary Islands, and the Cameroons. The cordylines come from India and Malaysia, New Zealand, and Australia.

These plants requires warmth and an evenly moist, not wet, root system. Dracaenas are tolerant plants and can survive in low light from 20 to 35 footcandles depending on the individual species. The following are some of the dracaenas with which we are most familiar in the interiorscape: D. fragrans massangeana (Cornstalk plant, Corn plant), D. deremensis ('Warneckii' and 'Janet Craigii'), D. marginata (also available in the less hardy tricolor variety), D. massefiana (a cross between a massangeana and a godseffiana), D. cordyline terminalis (Red dracaena), and D. pleomele reflexa (also variegated 'Song of India').

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WATERING

Dracaenas should be kept evenly moist and not be allowed to dry out or sit in water. When overwatered their tips may become yellow or, in advanced instances, entire leaves may become mottled. If allowed to go dry, you may find that the lower foliage displays brown tips and some leaves may turn yellow.

PESTS and DISEASES

Mites love dracaenas, especially marginatas. The best way to prevent insect infestation in your interiorscape is to be extremely selective when purchasing plants for installation. Maintaining a careful watering schedule or utilizing a controlled irrigation device or container, will help prevent water stress which weakens the plant and allows it to become destroyed by any pests to which it has been exposed.

Dracaenas are subject to a wide variety of diseases which manifest themselves as leaf spots. It can be difficult to diagnose, and often impossible to successfully treat, these diseases. Your best defense is to know your grower and be very selective when you buy your plants.

SELECTING and TRANSPORTING DRACAENAS

1. Examine the growing point for damage such as broken leaves. Look for leaf spots that signal problems.

2. Examine, with a good hand lens, the undersides of several leaves throughout the plant for signs of pests.

3. Examine the canes and stems for lesions or thin, weak areas which may eventually fail to support the heads.

4. Examine the soil. Be sure no extensive root systems are bursting from the sides or drainage holes. Move the stalks slightly to be sure they are firmly established.

5. Examine the plant's overall appearance and look carefully for a uniformity of color and variegation.

When you transport dracaenas be sure to exercise care in handling. Do not pick the plant up by the stalks, and secure it so that a sudden stop won't shift its weight so much that it tips over or rolls. If you have stops to make along the way, make them very short and don't leave dracaenas or any other plants sitting in a vehicle, regardless of the weather conditions. This is particularly important if you have a small van that is not cooled.

This article last updated: 04/28/2004.