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» Articles » Plants » Dracaena Marginata: Houseplant That Likes The Great Outdoors

Dracaena Marginata: Houseplant That Likes The Great Outdoors

by Douglas L. Bishop on 4/14/2013 10:18


Question--when is a houseplant not a houseplant? Answer--quite often, when it’s a dracaena!

Okay, here’s what we’re talking about. Dracaena marginata is commonly bought, sold, and promoted as an attractive houseplant (which it is) rather than as an addition to your outdoor garden.

Most suppliers of this plant recommend it for outdoor use in only the warmest plant zones (zones 10 and 11). However, experience has shown the Dracaena marginata to not only survive but to thrive in an outdoor setting from year to year in planting zone 6 and sometimes even cooler.

Possibly this is a result of the climate being generally warmer (because of global warming) now than in the past, or of the Dracaena gradually acclimating to cooler and more severe growing conditions.

My experiment is based on the fact that we received a nice little basket of mixed plants (indoor varieties) as a gift a few years ago. A small dracaena was among the contents.

After the plants grew larger over the course of a couple of years, we decided to divide them up and repot and relocate the individual plants into separate containers.

The dracaena was the last one removed from the original basket, and by then we had run out of replacement pots. I solved the problem by planting it into a small already established bed at the front of the house, knowing that the dracaena would do well through the temperate summer months, after which I could dig it up, repot it, and move it back into the house.

Procrastination reigns supreme, and I never got around to bringing the dracaena back indoors. Several years later, our former little indoor pint-sized plant now continues to be a healthy and attractive occupant (a couple of feet tall) of the outdoor garden. (see photo)

The dracaena provides year-round greenery in the garden, the slender sword-like thin leaves being a glossy green with reddish coloration on the outer edges.

The plant is very undemanding of soil, light, and water conditions.

A loose well-drained potting medium is best for maximum growth, but the dracaena will survive in poor soils also. Less water is better than too much water, as excess moisture can lead to rotting of the roots.

Low light for indoors or partial sun and shade in an outdoor setting satisfies the photosynthetic requirements for the dracaena. The less light the plant receives, the less reddish coloration will appear on the leaves.

Dracaena is little affected by pests or disease--occasionally being subject to spider mites or mealy bugs which can be controlled with mild insecticidal soap applications.

Sometimes called corn plant, corn tree, or dragon tree, the Dracaena marginata is a great houseplant that will also make a dramatic showing in the outdoor garden if winter conditions are not too severe.

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