Dracaena – What Type of Plant is Dracaena?


is a common species of plants commonly used as houseplants and in landscaping. They offer an assortment of health benefits. However, with extreme popularity comes concern. The question you might be asking at this time is this; what type of plant is Dracaena? The short answer is a genus of about 40 species of succulent shrubs and trees. But there is more to these plants.

Dracaena is relative to the agave; the succulent plants with rosettes of narrow spiny leaves and tall flower spikes that are native to south US and tropical America. This is a large genus that includes the poplar house plants and some striking xeric and massive trees used mostly in outdoor landscaping. There are more than 100 accepted species. Some of them are virtually unknown in cultivation and are continually being reclassified.


It is not easy to pinpoint the characteristics of the Dracaena. However, there are various similarities that seem to distinguish these plants from the rest. The main similarities or generalities are that they are solitary plants with a single stem/ trunk/ cane. They can be branched or not. They tend to branch as they age but they start as palm-like plants. They are hence commonly mistaken for palms. Some can be quite tall and massive; for example the Dracaena dracos in the Canary Islands. Some are very drought tolerant and can survive without water for months. Some are tropical and can grow with their stems immersed in water. A good example is the ‘Lucky Bamboo’. Other than that, most of these plants are listed under the toxic plant list though none of them are very toxic.

The main characteristic is that the Dracaena grows like typical monocots with leaves erupting from a meristem and then forming circular rosette of leaves that hang along the stem and fall off with time. This is a characteristic that makes it easy to prune or remove. Pruning creates a neat, tidy look.

Common Names

  • Dragon Tree

The most common name given to the Dracaena is the Dragon Tree. However, most of these plants do not develop into trees; they are smaller, shrubby plants. The plants also produce a reddish sap when cut hence the name. Myths have it that after killing the dragon, Hercules shed blood which led to the growth of the dragon trees. In ancient Greek, the name Dracaena means ‘female dragon’.

  • Corn Plant

This is yet another common name given to one of the most common houseplant; Dracaena fragrans. The plant has a vague similarity to the corn plant.


The dragon trees are mostly grown in desert and Mediterranean climates because they are very tolerant to heat, drought and wind. They are very slow growing. It can take several lifetimes for a Dracaena plant to achieve the landscaping tree size. However, when grown in well-draining soil and given plenty of water during summer, their growth rate can be maximized. When grown from seed, the plants can achieve several feet within 10 years.