Dracaena owners know that these striking plants make a fabulous addition to a houseplant collection because there are a variety of different shapes and sizes, plus they are undemanding and adaptable. But many people don’t know that you can change the shape of a Dracaena by influencing the way it grows.
The best ways to make your Dracaena look fuller and bushier is to plant more than one Dracaena in the same pot or to encourage the canes to branch. You can encourage branching by pruning the cane since this prompts the plant to produce new stems at the node directly below where you cut it.
Some Dracaenas may branch out naturally, while others need an intervention to do anything other than grow straight up. This depends on the species of Dracaena, but there are also differences among individual specimens. However, most types of Dracaena can be shaped using the methods listed below.
How Do Dracaenas Grow Naturally?
Most varieties of Dracaena grow from a central cane or trunk, like a tree. That means there are two ways to get a bushier-looking plant: put more Dracaena plants together in one pot or force the cane to branch and grow more stems.
Some Dracaena species are naturally compact and bushy, while others tend toward tall and spindly shapes. You can alter the shape of your Dracaena somewhat by pruning, but you might also want to look into alternate varieties to find the shapes you like. It is often easier to work with a plant’s natural tendencies than to force it too much.
If your Dracaena is very tall and stretched out or leaning over to one side, it might be due to a lack of light. When your plant cannot access sufficient sunlight, it will start to direct its growth toward the light source – essentially chasing the sun. If you are looking to get a bushier Dracaena, the first step is to make sure it is getting enough bright indirect sunlight. Brightly colored varieties need more sun than green ones to keep their ideal color and shape.
How Can I Make My Dracaena Bushy and Full?
There are a couple of ways to make your Dracaena look fuller. You can either plant more stems together in the same pot, or you can try to get your existing Dracaena stem to branch off into two or more additional stems. You could also combine these methods! I will go through the methods for both in more detail in the following sections.
Also, note that you can shape your Dracaena by ensuring it gets equal sunlight on all sides of the plant. One reason that this plant can sometimes get elongated or grow lopsided is that it is growing toward the light source. By rotating the plant periodically, it should be more symmetrical and compact in the center of the container.
To retrain a Dracaena that is already growing in a direction you don’t want it to, you can use stakes and twine to redirect the growth. Because of their sturdy, strong stems, Dracaenas are not easily damaged by these interventions, so don’t be shy about reshaping them to suit your preferences.
Planting Several Dracaenas In The Same Pot
Many houseplants are sold this way; multiple plants are grouped together into the same container in order to create a fuller look. Dracaenas are a good candidate for grouping into a pot together because they have compact root systems and don’t need a lot of potting medium or space for their roots.
Look for Dracaenas sold this way, or do it yourself. You could buy several Dracaenas and plant them together, or if you have a mature plant, you can take a cutting and propagate it in the same pot with the parent plant. You can find more information about propagating Dracaena cuttings in the section below.
Encouraging Your Dracaena to Branch by Pruning
If your Dracaena is a single, straight cane tree, you might want to encourage it to grow several branches from that central cane. It is not difficult to do this, but it can be a little scary because it involves some pruning. But don’t worry! Dracaenas are hardy and can recover from pruning quickly.
Yes, you are going to cut the head off your plant. Depending on your individual Dracaena, this might leave behind a stalk with no leaves on it. Although it might look slightly unsightly, this is the most common way to get a Dracaena cane to branch. After you cut the cane, the branches should emerge from the top remaining node. Usually, two or three stems will emerge.
To encourage a single stalk Dracaena to branch:
- Determine where to cut the cane. Remember: the main stem will not grow any taller, but the branches will. Dracaenas tend to have many nodes, so don’t worry about finding one, but try to cut through a narrower part of the stem between nodes.
- Using a sharp, sterilized knife, cut through the cane. Dracaenas can be very thick and woody, so be sure your cutting tool is the right size. A clean-cut is best; avoid sawing through the stem.
- Care for your plant as usual.
You will usually see new growth emerge from the top of your Dracaena cane a few weeks after pruning. Remember that Dracaenas are slow-growing plants overall, and that goes for new branches as well.
When To Prune a Dracaena
Late spring or early summer is the best time to prune a Dracaena. Pruning at this time allows the plant a full growing season to generate new leaves and stems before going dormant in the winter. Avoid pruning in colder months because your Dracaena will not have as much energy available to recover from pruning.
Propagating Dracaena Cuttings
Dracaena cuttings are easy to propagate in water or directly in soil. Each method works well, so it’s just a matter of preference which one you choose. Personally, I prefer water propagation for Dracaenas because it takes so long for their roots to develop. In water, I can monitor their progress and know whether or not the propagation was successful.
For water propagation, simply insert the stem of the Dracaena cutting into a container of water, making sure a few nodes are underwater, but no leaves are submerged. Change the water out every few days or at least once a week. Roots will usually emerge from the submerged nodes in 10 days to 2 weeks, although it may take as long as a month.
When the roots are at least 2-3 inches long, you can move the cutting to a pot. You can also wait, as Dracaena cuttings can happily live in water for months at a time without any problem. Just be sure to change the water regularly.
For soil propagation, remove lower leaves from the cutting, so you have a bare stem that is at least a third of the overall length of the cutting. The intention is to be sure that there is a long enough portion of the cutting under the soil to keep the plant from being top-heavy.
Plant the cutting into fresh, well-draining potting medium and water thoroughly. After that, it is just a matter of caring for the cutting as usual while it establishes roots. This will likely take a month or more. It can be difficult to know when roots have developed with soil propagation, but new growth on the cutting is a sure sign that some have grown.
Can You Notch a Dracaena?
Notching is a method of getting plants to branch by cutting a notch in the stem where you want new growth to emerge. Unlike the method above, the plant doesn’t lose any of its vertical height or existing leaves with notching.
Notching works best on woody houseplants like ficus species. In my experience, it does not work well on Dracaenas as the notched cut just calloused over and healed, but it did not force any new growth.
Putting it All Together
There are several options to shape a Dracaena into a bushier form with branches. Regardless of which method you choose, keep in mind that it can take time for Dracaenas to adjust to their new shape since they grow so slowly. But they can also tolerate shaping better than some more sensitive houseplants, so don’t hesitate to prune or shape your Dracaena to get the look you want!