A Dracaena Marginata Needs Pruning: How To Do It
Dracanea marginatas need pruning because their stems tend to grow very tall & leggy as they age. Here's how to prune a marginata to rejuvenate & shape it.
The alluring and popular Dracaena marginata loves to grow, and sometimes twist, every which way. I’ve seen plants with single stems which have reached at least 10′ tall with just a few spikes of foliage at the top. A Dr. Seuss plant indeed. This plant grows with a single head on a single trunk and there’s no branching unless you prune the trunks (canes or stems). It’s their habit to get rather long and leggy over time so today I’ll be pruning my Dracaena marginata.
I’ve been asked this quite a few times: “Can I prune a Dracaena marginata?” Oh yes you can! Dracaena marginatas respond very well to pruning.
Can we talk? Let me tell you about this Dracaena marginata “Tricolor” which I inherited. Never look a gift horse in the mouth is what my mother always told me so I’m happily keeping it. When I moved into my new house the previous owner left behind quite a few cactus pots and this Dracaena on the side patio. It was in the dining room when I initially looked at the house and had probably spent most of its life there. The shutters were closed most of the time so it was reaching for the light.
Here are 2 of the 3 canes (stems) which were growing horizontally out of the pot. You can see how the tips point upwards. Oddly curious growth habit!
Dracaena marginatas are often sold as low light plants but tend to get long & spindly in those conditions. They do much better in bright light.
When Dracaena marginatas are in low light the canes and the heads tend to loose their vigor. I’ve seen long, skinny, twisted canes with just a wisp of foliage at the top. Their natural growth habit is to shed the lower leaves as the tips grow skyward. If that’s the look you want, then fine, just leave them by. I needed to prune this one to strengthen the emerging new growth and to make it a more manageable form when I bring it inside for the winter.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when pruning a Dracaena marginata:
+It’s best to prune houseplants in spring & summer. From mid-fall through winter they’re going into rest mode.
+ Make sure your pruners are clean & sharp. You want to get as precise a cut as possible & you don’t want the plant or the cuttings to get any type of infection.
+ I always take my cuttings at an angle. That’s the way I was taught – it too lessens the chance of infection.
+ You want to get the cuttings in water as soon as possible. I propagate lots of succulents which you need to heal off 1st but this isn’t the case with houseplants.
+ Don’t be afraid to prune your marginata – they need it over time. Especially if they’re hitting the ceiling!
+ You can recut the canes on the mother plant that you pruned. You’ll see that I did that towards the end of the video.
+ If the pruning stimulates growth on the canes you pruned which is too dense, then thin it. You can easily cut the heads off.
+ The canes that you cut off root very easily in water. You can either replant them at the base of the mother plant or give them away. Your friends will love you!
This plant is commonly known as Madagascar Dragon Tree, Dragon Tree or Red Edge Dracaena.
My marginata before the pruning.
After the pruning. It’s looking a bit thin but will grow in beautifully. I’ll plant a couple of those cuttings at the base of the plant after they’ve substantially rooted.
The reason why I pruned my Dracaena marginata (besides the fact that it took up too much real estate without enough bang for the buck) is that I plan to transplant it. The plant is directly planted in that large, heavy ceramic and I can’t lift it. I’m going to put it in a grow pot and slip it inside a decorative container or plant it directly into a snazzy fiberglass pot. In it’ll come for winter and then back out for spring, summer and fall.
I wanted to do the pruning a couple of months before the transplanting. It’s easier on the plant that way.
I now have cuttings to plant in at the base and cuttings to give away. I’m tickled pink that a friend of mine is taking the rest after they root. So go ahead, get to pruning your Dracaena marginata and I think you’ll be pleased as can be with the results!
This is why my maginata is called “Tricolor” – those cream & pink stripes along the edges.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please check our policies here.