Dracaenas are popular houseplants, and it is easy to see why: they are low-maintenance, come in many varieties, and some types can grow to the size of a small tree. Everyone wants their houseplants to thrive and reach their maximum potential, and lots of plants benefit from spending the summer outside. But what about Dracaenas – can they survive outside? Is putting them outdoors a good idea?
Moving Dracaena houseplants outside can give them a boost by providing more light and humidity than they would receive indoors. Excessive sunlight and cold temperatures can damage Dracaenas, so it is important to carefully choose the location and time of year. A covered outdoor location where the temperature doesn’t drop below 65 degrees is ideal for Dracaenas.
If you have the right conditions, putting Dracaenas outside is a great idea. That could mean moving your houseplants outdoors to take advantage of mild summer conditions or even growing Dracaenas permanently in your garden if your climate allows.
Do Dracaena Plants Grow Outside?
Dracaenas do, of course, grow in the wild. Many species are native to Africa, but some types originated in South America and Southeast Asia. The common thread among all the places where Dracaenas grow in the wild is that they are tropical climates with consistently warm temperatures.
This adaptation to year-round stable temperatures is part of what makes Dracaena species suitable as houseplants. Like us, their preferred temperature range is between 65 and 95 Fahrenheit.
Some of the most popular Dracaena varieties grown indoors include Dracaena sanderiana (Lucky Bamboo), Dracaena fragrans (Corn Plant or Cornstalk), and Dracaena deremensis (Janet Craig.) These species are all native to tropical Africa, where they are typically found in partially shady conditions below tall trees.
Different types of Dracaena can be found in varying conditions, from full sun to partial shade. In general, the Dracaena species with colorful leaves and striping will have a higher light requirement than all-green varieties. Insufficient light causes them to lose their bright color and become pale.
Most species are adaptable to high or low light levels, but they should not be moved from the shade into the full sun immediately as this can cause sunburn. Moving a Dracaena into full sun should always be a gradual transition.
Should I Put My Dracaena Houseplant Outside?
Most people should be able to move their Dracaena houseplants outside for at least part of the year. Putting your Dracaenas outside in the summertime can invigorate them by providing more sunlight over a longer time period and increased humidity compared to most indoor environments. Air conditioning and heating systems tend to dry out indoor air, which is not ideal for tropical plants like Dracaenas.
The potential downside of moving your plants outside for the summer is that you risk exposing them to too much sunshine, which can give them the plant equivalent of a sunburn. Even a shady location outdoors is much brighter than an indoor location. To reduce the chances of damaging the plant, put it in a location out of direct sunlight. A covered porch is a good option.
Over a few weeks, you can gradually move your Dracaena into a sunnier location if that’s your ultimate goal. Keep an eye on the leaves and watch for any discoloration. Once it has adjusted to the higher light levels, you are likely to see much more rapid growth than usual while the plant is outside.
If you’ve moved too quickly and sunburned your Dracaena, move it back to the shady location and remove any leaves that have gotten burned. Sunburn causes leaves to turn pale or even white and will be concentrated in the uppermost leaves that receive the most direct light. Prune away any sunburned leaves since they cannot regain their original color and will likely die off anyway.
One other thing to keep in mind about moving your Dracaenas outdoors is that some types can be top-heavy. They tend to have a shallow root system and can usually be grown in a relatively small pot. But they can also get quite tall, and some varieties have all their foliage at the top. That means that they could be susceptible to blowing over when you place them outside. Keep this in mind when choosing the location, and keep them out of very windy places.
Wind can also damage Dracaena leaves. Some types have tough, thick leaves that can withstand a lot, but other species have more delicate foliage. All plants are more likely to get damaged outside, so if you value your plants having perfect leaves, you may not want to put them outdoors.
Be sure you remember to bring the plant back inside before the nights get too cold. You do not need to make a gradual move when moving from sun to shade.
When you are ready to move plants inside for autumn and winter, it is good to check them for pests. You don’t want to bring hitchhikers inside that can infest your other plants.
There are certainly pros and cons to moving your Dracaena houseplants outside during the summer. It requires some extra effort on your part, and there are some risks involved. But in general, Dracaenas will thrive in outdoor conditions in the summer.
Can a Dracaena Be Planted in the Ground?
Yes! For those who live in USDA zones 10-11, it’s possible to grow Dracaenas as part of your outdoor landscape. Note that, in addition to being cold intolerant, Dracaenas are also sensitive to high temperatures. They’ll only survive outdoors in a place where the temperature is mild all the time.
You can find some species being sold as outdoor annuals, especially Spike Dracaena (Dracaena indivisa), often as part of an arrangement in a flowering basket. But Dracaenas are actually evergreen plants. If you allow them to die off, they will not come back the following year; but, they can easily be taken inside over the winter and then planted outdoors again in spring.
Conditions for Growing a Dracaena Outdoors
Growing a Dracaena outdoors should be simple, if you have the right conditions. As noted above, they cannot take frost, so if you get an unusual cold snap, cover outdoor Dracaenas to avoid problems. Dracaena species are hardy and hard to kill, but cold temperatures can be deadly.
Be aware that Dracaena species are considered invasive. Left unchecked, they can crowd out native plants. Luckily, they are slow growers and do not spread via their root system, so you should be able to easily control the population. If your outdoor Dracaena happens to produce seeds, you should remove them to avoid the plant spreading.
When considering the location to plant your outdoor Dracaena, remember that they prefer indirect or dappled sun exposure. They make excellent hedge plants or borders next to a building. Dracaena root systems tend to be shallow but very dense, so they don’t need much space to grow.
In most places, rainfall should provide sufficient water for your outdoor Dracaena plants, as most species are drought-tolerant. But if they’re in a location that is sheltered from rain or are experiencing a particularly dry year, you’ll want to supplement with water accordingly.
Dracaenas are not picky about their soil, but it needs to drain well. These plants will rot if they are kept in consistently moist or marshy soil. If your soil is poor quality, amend it with compost so that your outdoor Dracaenas get enough nutrients.
Putting it All Together
It is an excellent idea to put your Dracaena houseplants outside when the weather is warm or to plant them outside if you live in the right climate. The two main factors to consider are temperature and light. If you can get those two conditions right, your Dracaena should reward you with vigorous, healthy growth!