Dragon Trees, also often known by their Latin name Dracaena, are a really easy plant to propagate! You don’t really need a mature plant to propagate it as it’s all done with either top or stem cuttings. They grow fairly quickly in spring and summer so you won’t be waiting around for new growth for long. They are also a great plant for propagation beginners as there aren’t many steps and the success rate is quite high.
In this post we’ll guide you through the whole propagation process; the various ways you can propagate, top tips and things to avoid, what tools you’ll need and things to look out for to ensure a successful propagation.
Why propagate a Dragon Tree?
Firstly, they don’t always grow how we want them to – they can sometimes grow sideways, too leggy and can also become very tall. Propagating can help to keep your plant the right size for the space.
Another reason you may choose to propagate your Dragon Tree is if you notice any problems developing on part of the plant. Overwatering, sunburn etc can impact the health of your plant. If your efforts to revive your plant have been unsuccessful then you may choose to propagate the part of the plant that’s still healthy. It’s a great way to keep at least some of the plant alive.
And lastly, our favourite reason is to get free plants! Propagating is a great way to multiply the amount of greenery in your home without actually having to spend any more money on plants. Cuttings also make great gifts for friends and family if you already have too many houseplants so the reasons you might want to propagate one are almost endless…
What tools you will need?
Healthy and mature Dragon Tree
Fresh soil and water
Newspaper or plastic sheet
What methods can I use to propagate my Dragon Tree?
There are only two ways you can propagate a Dragon Tree: through top cuttings or stem cuttings. It may seem quite daunting to cut the top of your plant off but this is the only real way you can propagate your plant.
The main difference between the two methods is how many cuttings you produce. Tip cuttings will give you only one new plant, whereas larger stem cuttings can give you multiple new plants. Below you will find a step by step guide to each method.
How to propagate a Dragon Tree through top plant cuttings
Locate the various offshoots
Dragon Trees have various stems coming off one central stem. Each of these offshoots can be cut off to produce top cuttings. You want to choose a mature stem offshoot that is healthy and not displaying any signs of illness or unhappiness (yellow leaves near the top of the stem, brown leaves or dots on the leaves). Propagating a part of the plant which shows signs of illness will harm your chances of a successful propagation.
Make the cut
This is the scary part! Now that you have located the section of the stem, you need to cut it off! You want to cut off a section of the stem that has about 5-8 leaves on it. This will ensure the cutting is mature enough to grow roots but too many leaves will mean it needs a lot of energy to keep it alive which increases the chance of issues occurring.
Use clean scissors/ shears or a knife to make the cut to avoid passing on dirt or any infection to the plant. Use your tools to make a clean cut across your plant in a diagonal way. This increases the surface area of the cutting and will increase root growth.
Take off a few lower leaves
As you will be placing your cutting in water for several weeks you want to carefully remove a couple of the lower leaves that may end up sitting in the water. They will rot if they are sat in water for a long period of time so best to cut them off now. If your cutting only has a few leaves then skip this step and make sure the water level isn’t super high.
Fill up your container with water
Next, you want to fill up a glass with fresh temperate water to place your cutting into. Make sure the water isn’t super cold or hot as this will shock or burn the cutting which will often cause it to wilt and die. It is best to use purified water so the levels of chlorine and fluoride aren’t as high as in the water straight out of the tap.
Dragon Trees aren’t always super sensitive to this compared to other houseplants but if you can use filtered water or rainwater then it’ll help prevent the yellowing of leaves.
Place your cutting in water
Place your glass in bright but indirect sunlight. Intense light can damage your cutting and might mean your propagation isn’t successful.
Change out the water regularly
Switching the water every few days will prevent it from stagnating and will keep it free from bacteria that can harm your cutting. Stagnant water will also start to smell pretty bad so definitely something you want to avoid.
This is the point where the propagation process can get a little boring. There is nothing left to do other than change out the water and wait for roots to grow from the bottom of your cutting. Don’t worry if this process takes several weeks or months as that is totally normal!
During this time you should start to see new growth from your mother plant. A new bud will form out of the stem where you made the cut and normal growth should resume fairly quickly.
Plant your cutting into potting mix
Once the roots on your Dragon Tree cutting have matured well and are several centimetres in length then it’s time to pot into fresh soil. You want to always use a high-quality potting mix to help with drainage and aeration and make sure that your plant gets all the right nutrients. Carefully place your cutting into the mix making sure not to damage the delicate newly formed roots and continue regular care.
How to propagate a Dragon Tree through stem cuttings
The stem cutting method uses all the same steps as in the top cutting method so we won’t repeat them all again but it’s worth noting the one difference. In the stem cutting method, you take a much larger cutting and then cut it into several sections. You want each section to have several leaves and be about 5-10 centimetres in length.
It’s up to you how many sections you cut off, it depends on the maturity and size of the mother plant as well as how many new plants you want to have.
Apart from this, propagating through stem cuttings will follow all of the same steps and top tips as just using top cuttings.
Dragon Tree Propagation FAQs
Here’s a few of the most common questions we find people have when looking to propagate their plants.
We always recommend propagating any houseplant in spring/ summer. It gives you the best chance of a successful propagation! Make sure that any wintery cold weather is behind you so that your cuttings are growing in warmer brighter months.
Propagating in autumn or winter will mean that your cuttings will be trying to grow at a time where the plant is usually dormant. So you won’t really see much happening at all and the risk of leaf and root rot is a lot higher due to the cold temperatures. Propagating in spring also means the mother plant has the ideal conditions to recover and resume growth as sometimes propagation can be a little stressful for plants.
Whilst it’s not essential, you can definitely use rooting gel or powder to speed up the propagation process a little. Rooting hormone stimulates root growth and produces stronger roots which is really important for Dragon Trees as they grow vertically and need strong roots to support their growth.
You can buy rooting hormone in 3 types: powder, liquid or gel. When using a powder you dip the end of your cutting into water and then into the powder before planting directly into fresh potting mix.
The powder method is great for when you’re propagating straight into potting mix. Gel and liquid forms work in a similar way but work best when propagating in water so we would recommend using these more for this plant.
Grow lights are great when propagating without much natural sunlight. It will help create an ideal environment for roots to grow and will help speed up the process. Grow lights are also great to use more generally on your houseplants if they don’t get enough light so are a great investment for any plant parent.
Heat mats are also a great buy for propagation lovers as they create a nice warm environment that helps speed up root growth. Cool temperatures are damaging to less mature plants so you want to avoid the cuttings getting too cold.
Unfortunately, there needs to be part of the stem as this is where roots and new growth will come from.
We always recommend staying away from fertiliser until your cutting is around 1 year old and is well-rooted in potting soil. Fertilising too early can have the opposite effect as it provides nutrients straight to the plant which discourages root growth. Fertilising young plants can also shock them and cause various issues such as yellow leaves and small growth so hold off the feed for a while.
It can be a little daunting to cut off the top of your plant to propagate it but we can assure you that normal growth will resume soon. A new bud will form from where you took the cutting and it will be growing new leaves very soon. Unfortunately, there is no other way so taking a top cutting is your only option.
Propagating a Dragon Tree through stem cuttings
Common problems when propagating a Dragon Tree
As with any houseplant, you won’t always have a 100% success rate as there are some things that can go wrong. The wrong environment or care will heavily impact your cutting as they are much more sensitive without a strong root system. We recommend checking in on your cuttings daily as this will help to spot any problems early which will give you the best chance to fix it!
It can take several weeks and sometimes even months for cuttings to develop roots. So don’t be alarmed if nothing happens for a while – this is totally normal! Make sure you are changing out the water regularly and keeping the plant in a nice warm environment and you should start to see new roots growing eventually.
If you want to try and speed up the process you can use rooting hormone (either a gel, powder or liquid) which encourages faster root growth but it’s not always a guarantee and comes with risks of its own.
If you are trying to propagate when the temperatures aren’t super high in your home then this may be the cause of the lack of growth. You can help to speed up root growth by using a heat pad that you place underneath your cutting. This warms up the area and provides an ideal environment for new growth. Great investments for every plant parent!
If your cutting is turning brown and mushy then unfortunately this isn’t a good sign. This is usually due to the cutting rotting in stagnant water. You want to make sure you are regularly refreshing the water every few days so that it doesn’t encourage the growth of bacteria.
If the problem hasn’t spread to the whole cutting then just slice the mushy part off and you may still be able to save part of the cutting.
If your cutting is starting to grow new leaves but they are much smaller than the leaves on the mother plant don’t worry at all. This is completely natural and simply due to the root system being less mature than that of the larger plant.
You will have to be a little patient as you wait for the new roots and leaves to grow but as long as the environment is bright and warm and the water is being switched out regularly, you shouldn’t run into many issues.
Check out our full Dragon Tree care guide to find out more about caring for your cuttings once they have matured.