About 40 species of tropical trees and shrubs. Although they're hardy outdoors in the Tropical South, most people grow them indoors. Some species and selections display graceful, fountainlike forms with broad, curved, ribbonlike leaves that may be striped with chartreuse or white; others bear stiff, sword- like foliage.
D. australis. See Cordyline australis
D. deremensis. Native to tropical Africa. Most commonly sold selection is 'Warneckii': erect, slow growing to 15 ft. tall, 34 ft. wide, with 2-ft.-long, 2-in.-wide leaves in rich green striped white and gray. 'Bausei' has green leaves with a white center stripe; 'Longii' has a broader white center stripe; 'Janet Craig' has broad, dark green leaves. Compact forms of 'Janet Craig' and 'Warneckii' are also available.
D. draco. DRAGON TREE. Native to Canary Islands. Stout trunk with upward-reaching or spreading branches topped by clusters of heavy, sword-shaped, 2-ft.-long leaves. Grows slowly to 20 ft. high and wide. Makes odd but interesting silhouette. Clusters of greenish white owers form at branch ends. After blossoms drop, stemmy clusters remain; trim them off to keep plant neat.
D. fragrans. CORN PLANT. Native to West Africa. Upright and slow growing, eventually reaching 20 ft. high and 5 ft. wide. Heavy, ribbonlike, blue-green leaves grow to 3ft. long and 4 in. wide. (Typical plant in 8-in. container will bear leaves about 1 ft. long.) 'Massangeana' has broad yellow stripe in center of each leaf. Other selections with striped foliage are 'Lindenii' and 'Victoriae'.
D. marginata. MADAGASCAR DRAGON TREE. Very easy to grow and one of the most popular species. To 12 ft. tall and 56 ft. wide. Slender, erect, smooth gray stems are topped by crowns of narrow, leathery leaves to 2 ft. long, in. wide; stems carry chevron markings where old leaves have fallen. Leaves are deep glossy green with a narrow margin of purplish red. If plant grows too tall, cut off crown and reroot it. New crowns will appear on old stem. 'Tricolor' ('Candy Cane') adds a narrow gold stripe to the green and red of the species.
D. sanderiana. RIBBON PLANT. Native to West Africa. Neat and upright, to a possible 610 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide; somewhat resembles a young corn plant. Strap-shaped, 9-in.-long leaves striped with white. Unrooted trunk sections of a green-leafed selection are marketed in gift shops as lucky bamboo. If their bases are placed in several inches of water, they'll quickly root and sprout foliage. Add a small amount of half-strength general-purpose liquid houseplant fertilizer to the water every couple of months. Change water if it becomes cloudy.
Dracaenas are popular houseplants because they look good even if neglected or grown in low light. Let soil dry to a depth of in. between waterings; overwatering results in leaves that are yellowed or spotted with brown. In spring and summer, feed twice monthly with a general-purpose liquid houseplant fertilizer; don't feed at all in fall and winter. If stems get leggy, cut them back to just above a node; new shoots will sprout. Watch out for spider mites. Outdoors, all but D. draco need protection from sweeping winds. For other plants often called dracaena, see Cordyline.