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What is a Dragon Tree?

By Misty Amber Brighton
Updated May 16, 2024
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Any of the approximately 40 species of trees in the Dracaena family can be referred to as a dragon tree. These plants originated in Greece, but can also be found in Central America, Asia, the United States, or Africa. They may be grown as houseplants, shrubs, or shade trees.

The size and appearance of a dragon tree can vary widely depending on the variety. Specimens that are grown as houseplants may grow in small containers, reaching a height of two to three feet (.6 to .9 m). These types often have leaves that are very long, slender, and dark green in color. The trunks of these varieties may be very light brown with a texture like that of a waffle.

Other succulent shrubs of the Dracaena family can be four to eight feet (1.2 to 2.4 m) in height. These bushes can sometimes have white, cream, tan, or light green blossoms on them. These flowers often attract bees, birds, and butterflies to a backyard garden. They can spread around two feet (.6 m) wide. They are usually propagated, or bred, by dividing the root ball of the plant into smaller units then planting each divided section.

Full-sized varieties can be anywhere from 12 to 15 feet (3.6 to 4.5 m) tall. These trees can have trunks that appear to have several sections to them. The leaves are often found at the top of the tree, in a round, bushy pattern. The Dracaena draco is one variety of dragon tree with these types of leaves. When viewed from a distance, it may somewhat resemble a very large stalk of broccoli.

Most varieties of dragon tree do best when planted in full sunlight, although they can sometimes withstand being placed in partial shade. Generally, they can thrive in many types of soil, but usually prefer the pH balance to be slightly acidic. They typically need only a moderate amount of watering and should not be over-saturated.

Although most types of dragon tree plants are grown as ornamentals, this tree has sometimes been using in making medicines. Many varieties produce a bright red resin, which is sometimes referred to as dragon's blood. This has occasionally been used to treat intestinal disorders and to help stop bleeding.

A person looking for a unique plant that is easy to grow may want to consider getting a dragon tree. These small plants generally require very little maintenance in order to thrive. If kept from freezing, they will often produce deep green foliage for a number of years.

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Discussion Comments

By Mor — On Jan 15, 2012

@bythewell - Actually the term "Dragon's blood" is such a good marketing tool that it pretty much gets applied to any red pigment, even though it's only supposed to apply to pigments made from the sap of a dragon tree.

It was apparently quite dangerous to use it back when it was a herbal remedy, because they would call everything dragon's blood and some of those substances were poisonous, so you wouldn't want to mix them in the wrong way.

People do still use it today, but I would be extremely cautious and make sure you get the botanical name from anything you are thinking about using, to make sure it's the right kind of dragon's blood first. And even then make sure you know what its properties are.

By bythewell — On Jan 14, 2012

@umbra21 - I'm surprised they don't market it as "dragon bamboo" or something like that. It seems like a more obvious marketing ploy that "lucky bamboo". And I know they market the resign under the name "dragon's blood" which seems very dramatic for what it is.

But I guess that plant gets used in Feng Shui a lot, since it's supposed to be a good balance between earth and water or something like that. People often grow it in water, but I've heard that it will only live for a few months if you don't put it into soil eventually.

By umbra21 — On Jan 13, 2012

I found it quite surprising but the plant known as "lucky bamboo" is actually a kind of dragon tree. It's not related to bamboo at all, even though to look at it you would automatically think it was bamboo, or at least related to bamboo.

Usually the spirals that you see in stores are created using artificial light sources. The plant doesn't grow like that naturally.

If you look online you can see pictures of what it looks like when it isn't kept as an indoor plant and it looks quite different.

I don't think it's the kind of plant you buy as long term decor, but more as something for a few months.

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