How to Grow and Propagate Dracaena, aka Spike Plant

Plants with long, narrow leaves that are mostly pink with hints of green
The Dracaena genus includes several species, including this Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata tricolor). Elizabeth Fernandez / Getty Images

Dracaena, or spike plant, was traditionally considered a houseplant for years. Now it's a favorite in annual container gardens. With its spiky, upright leaves, the dracaena plant adds height and textural contrast, enhancing the beauty of bushy and cascading annual flowers.


Growing Dracaena: Proper Light and Water

While growing dracaena, it's essential to consider their lighting needs. Although they can adapt to low light conditions, providing them with bright indirect light ensures optimal growth and leaf coloration.

However, when exposed to direct sun, especially in hotter climates, the leaf tips of some dracaena species may turn brown — a sign of stress. This goes for dracaena plants grown outdoors and indoors.


Proper watering is equally crucial. Dracaena plants are prone to root rot if left in soggy soil, so ensuring good drainage holes in your pots is a must.

Use a potting mix that allows air to exchange freely around the roots, and water with distilled water or tap water that's been left out to allow chlorine and other chemicals to dissipate.


Long-term Dracaena Care

Regular maintenance of dracaena includes watching for signs of scale insects or spider mites, particularly in indoor plants. An occasional misting can help increase humidity around the plant, mimicking its natural environment.

In terms of nutrition, feeding your dracaena during the growing season with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer supports robust plant growth.


Remember, while dracaenas are excellent houseplants due to their air-purifying qualities, they are equally impressive outdoors. Whether it's the tall, elegant Madagascar dragon tree (Dracaena marginata tricolor) or the smaller, colorful Dracaena deremensis, these plants can adapt to a variety of light levels and room temperatures, making them great houseplants for beginners and experienced gardeners alike.

How to Propagate Dracaena

Propagating dracaena plants is a straightforward process that can be rewarding for both novice and experienced gardeners. It allows you to multiply your favorite varieties, such as the tropically spiky Dracaena marginata or the verdant and variegated Dracaena reflexa.

Using Stem Cuttings

The most common method of propagation for dracaenas is through stem cuttings. This technique is best performed during the growing season, typically in spring or early summer, when the plant is actively growing.


  1. Selecting the cutting: Choose a healthy stem with robust foliage. Make sure the stem is free from any signs of plant diseases or pests.
  2. Making the cut: With a clean, sharp knife or pruning shears, cut a segment of the stem, ideally about 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) long. Ensure the cutting has at least two to three leaf nodes, as roots will develop from these points.
  3. Preparing for rooting: Remove the leaves from the lower part of the cutting, leaving only a few at the top. This prevents moisture loss and focuses the plant's energy on root development.
  4. Rooting the cutting: Plant the cutting in a pot filled with well-draining potting mix. Water it to settle the soil around the cutting and place the pot in a warm location with bright indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight as it can scorch the young cutting.
  5. Caring for the cutting: Keep the soil consistently moist (but not soggy, to prevent root rot). In a few weeks, the cutting should start developing roots.

Water Propagation

For some dracaena varieties, especially the lucky bamboo, water propagation is a viable option.

  1. Preparing the cutting: Follow the same steps as you would for soil propagation to prepare your cutting.
  2. Rooting in water: Place the cutting in a jar of distilled water or tap water that has been left out to allow chlorine to evaporate. Only the bottom part of the cutting should be submerged.
  3. Water care: Change the water every week to prevent the buildup of salts and to provide fresh nutrients for the cutting.
  4. Transplanting: Once the roots have grown a few inches, you can transplant the cutting into soil.


Once your dracaena cutting has established roots, whether in soil or water, regular dracaena care applies.

  • Ensure it receives enough light but is protected from direct sun.
  • Maintain room temperatures suitable for tropical plants and water when the soil surface feels dry.

With patience and proper care, your new dracaena plants will grow into healthy, mature specimens.


What Makes Dracaena Special?

Dracaena plants, with their sharp, lance-shaped leaves, sometimes display colorful margins of white or pink. These strap-like leaves add an architectural element to gardens and bring a tropical flair to indoor spaces.

The Wide Variety in Dracaena Species

Dracaena species are incredibly diverse, extending beyond the common Dracaena marginata.


For instance, the Dracaena fragrans, also known as the corn plant, is a popular indoor variety known for its tree-like appearance. Its cousin, the Dracaena reflexa, often called the Song of India, features variegated leaves and a more bushy growth habit, ideal for adding a splash of color to indoor environments.

Green plants with long, pointed leaves and light green stripes
Dracaena deremensis (lemon lime) displays variegated leaves with its stripes and can tolerate low light.
Elizabeth Fernandez / Getty Images

In outdoor gardens, varieties such as Dracaena deremensis — nicknamed "lemon lime" — offer vibrant contrast with their strikingly colored foliage. When grouped with other dracaena varieties, these plants create a lush, tropical landscape, even in temperate climates.


Designing with Dracaena

In mixed container gardens, taller dracaenas like the dragon tree work best at the back or center, depending on the viewing angle. Surround them with mound-shaped and cascading annuals for a dynamic display.

For those preferring low-maintenance plants, dracaenas like the mass cane are a great choice.


With species like the Dracaena marginata, or the dragon tree, you can create a striking vertical element in your garden. This tall, elegant plant, with its slender leaves and woody stems, pairs beautifully with softer, bushier plants, offering a contrast in textures and forms.

Planning an Indoor Garden

For an indoor garden, the compact Dracaena fragrans, or corn plant, brings a touch of the tropics without needing much room. Its broad, dark green leaves work well in tight corners or alongside furniture, making it an ideal indoor plant.

Remember that dracaena houseplants are excellent at filtering indoor air pollutants, meaning they're not just decorative but functional as well. For those interested in a more colorful palette, the Dracaena reflexa "Song of India" offers variegated leaves with bright stripes.

This article was updated in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.