Dracaenas make great houseplants in part because they are well adapted to the conditions inside a typical home. In most cases, you shouldn’t need to make any special changes to your home to keep a Dracaena growing happily. But one requirement to keep your Dracaenas looking their best is proper watering. So what kind of watering and humidity do Dracaenas require?
Dracaenas do best if their soil is allowed to dry out before the plant is watered again. To avoid overwatering Dracaenas, use a container with drainage holes, ensure that the soil is loose enough to drain freely, and water thoroughly each time. Average household humidity is fine for Dracaenas.
One of the greatest things about Dracaenas is that they can tolerate a certain amount of neglect. If you’re a person who forgets to water their plants from time to time, Dracaena species might be a good match for you. On the other hand, no one wants to stress their plants unnecessarily, so following the steps outlined in this article can help keep Dracaenas looking their best.
How Often to Water Your Dracaena
There’s no set frequency to determine how often you should water your Dracaena plants. That’s because many different factors can influence how quickly the soil dries out. For example, plants kept in a room that’s warm and dry will need to be watered more frequently than one that’s in a cool and humid room since the water will evaporate from the soil more quickly in dry conditions. Likewise, the size of the pot, the season, and the type of soil used can all make a difference in your watering schedule.
So rather than designate a weekly watering schedule, we always recommend waiting until the top two to four inches of soil have dried out completely before adding more water. Dracaenas are experts at storing up water for themselves and don’t need to be watered as often as other houseplants.
The Biggest Watering Issue: Overwatering Dracaenas
Want to understand how to water your Dracaena properly? First, make sure your plant actually needs to be watered. Overwatering is the most common reason houseplant owners accidentally kill off their Dracaenas, so it’s important to assess the moisture level before adding more water.
Always let the top 2-4 inches of your Dracaena’s soil dry out between waterings. To check, simply dig your finger down deep into the soil and feel for moisture. If the soil is still damp, wait a few days and check again. If you don’t like the thought of poking around in your plants, you can always use a moisture meter for an accurate reading.
Dracaenas are drought tolerant and do not need to be watered as often as other common houseplants like Maranthas and Calatheas. And unfortunately, watering them too often (or keeping them in a container without a drainage hole where the excess water can not escape the pot) will quickly kill the root system of this otherwise hardy plant.
Before we get into the specifics of how to water your plant, let’s review a few signs that your plant has actually been watered too frequently already.
Signs You’ve Overwatered Your Dracaena
Despite our best efforts, everyone overwaters their plants now and then. In the case of Dracaenas, they can soak up a lot of water in a short amount of time. This is an advantage to them in the wild, as they can store the water to use during dry periods. But it can be challenging for people trying to grow them indoors. Overwatering Dracaneas is, unfortunately, easy to do.
An overwatered Dracaena is likely to show one or more of these symptoms:
- Yellow leaves: Yellow leaves are the first and most common sign of overwatering. Usually, the lower leaves will turn yellow first, and then the problem works its way up to the top of the stem.
- Wilting leaves: Often, wilting leaves will also be discolored. The leaves will look limp and droopy.
- Sudden leaf drop: If you wake up one day to find many leaves have fallen off your Dracaena all at once, it may be a sign of overwatering.
- Soft, mushy stems or leaves: Excess moisture can lead to parts of the plant becoming soft and soggy. Those softened parts may also turn yellow or brown. If you notice this symptom, you need to take action immediately to keep the plant from being damaged further.
If you have overwatered your Dracaena, there’s still a chance to save it. If it is only slightly overwatered, try moving the plant to a warm and sunny location to help the soil dry out more quickly. If the plant is seriously saturated, remove it from its pot and set it on a baking rack to dry out.
If your plant has been overwatered habitually, you may have a more serious problem on your hands: Root rot. Root rot occurs when the roots have been too wet for too long and they become damaged. To learn more about root rot, how to identify it, and what to do about it, read: How to Save Your Overwatered Dracaena from Root Rot.
Signs Your Dracaena Needs More Water
But overwatering isn’t the only issue people run into with Draceaneas. Letting your Dracaena become bone dry can harm the plant as well. As with most things, balance is key. Water when the top two to four inches of soil are dry.
Unlike some other houseplants, Dracaenas don’t give many clear signs that they need to be watered. By the time you see the symptoms below, the Dracaena is already quite dehydrated, so try to be proactive in checking your plants’ soil regularly. Remember that overwatering can also cause some similar symptoms. You don’t want to compound the problem by watering an already wet plant so always check the soil before adding water.
- Dry Soil: As mentioned in the section above, the number one indicator that your Dracaena needs more to drink is that the soil is dry. Check every 5-7 days by inserting your finger or a
moisture meterdown into the soil. If the top 2-3 inches of soil are dry, it’s time to water again.
- Wrinkled leaves: As their cells dry out, the leaves of certain Dracaena species can start to wrinkle up. This will usually start at the tip of the leaf since it’s farthest from the source of moisture. The leaves should return to normal soon after you water the plant.
- Dry leaves: Leaves that turn dry, brown, or crispy can indicate a lack of water. Be careful not to confuse this with leaf tip burn, which I’ll describe later on that is concentrated at the very end of each leaf.
- Drooping leaves: Leaves can feel dry and fall or droop due to underwatering. The same leaves may be discolored and feel dry. If the leaves are drooping and feel heavy or soggy, this is more likely to be overwatering.
If your Dracaena displays any of the above, confirm that your Dracaena needs water by checking the soil first. Once you water the plant, it should recover soon. Some leaves may be damaged and not recover, in which case they can be pruned off to keep the plant looking its best.
What Type of Water is Best for Dracaenas?
Dracaenas are not too particular about the type of water they receive. In most parts of the US, regular water can be used without any adverse effects on Dracaenas. If your area has any particular water-quality issues, though, you should look for an alternative.
The best option from Dracaenas (and other houseplants) is rainwater. Rainwater is excellent for plants because it doesn’t contain the same salts, minerals, and chemicals in tap water. A lot goes into making water safe for us to drink straight out of the faucet, but those efforts can also worsen our plants’ health. (Read more on watering your plants with rainwater here.)
Tap water usually contains minerals along with chemicals like fluoride and chlorine. Dracaenas are more sensitive to fluoride than some other common houseplants. You may see some negative effects on your Dracaena if the fluoride levels are high in your tap water.
Avoid using tap water if your home has a water softening system. These systems use salts that build up in soil and plants. Distilled, filtered, or bottled water is fine for Dracaenas, but these options are both expensive and unnecessary in most cases. Unless your water is especially poor quality, just stick with tap water. Your Dracaenas should be just fine.
The most noticeable sign that your water isn’t suitable for your Dracaena house plant is the appearance of brown, dry leaf tips. This condition occurs when plants try to flush the excess salts out of their cells by pushing them away from the center of the plant. Those salts collect in the ends of the leaves, causing them to become dehydrated and crispy. Brown leaf tips can be trimmed off without harming the plant, but to prevent them in the future, you will need to revisit your water source.
How to Water a Dracaena
The critical thing to remember about watering Dracaenas is that they should be watered thoroughly and allowed to dry out between waterings. Some people think that giving plants a little water now and then is better for them than letting the soil get dry. However, Dracaenas do better with a dry period followed by a good soaking.
The best way to water a Dracaena is to water all the way around the stem, trying to water evenly around all of the soil. Provide enough water that about 20% of what you put in runs out through the drainage holes in the bottom of the container. You should make sure there’s a saucer or tray underneath to catch any drained water. Let the water stand in the saucer for about 30 minutes so the soil can continue to take up moisture, then throw out any water that is left behind.
It is important to remember the last step, as leaving your Dracaena sitting in water is a sure way to overwater and potentially develop root rot. If you won’t remember to empty the water later or aren’t going to be around in 30 minutes, just go ahead and throw out the water right away. That’s preferable to letting your soil get too wet.
Do Dracaenas Need Humidity?
Luckily, Dracaenas are not very picky about humidity. Most Dracaena species grow in higher humidity than the average home in their natural habitat, but these plants are remarkably tough and resilient. Normal household humidity levels should be acceptable, unless your home is in a particularly dry area.
To naturally increase humidity levels around your Dracaenas, try grouping them with other houseplants. The humidity from having several other plants nearby should be enough to give Dracaenas a nice boost. Of course, if you have a humidifier already, your Dracaenas will appreciate the extra humidity.
Should You Mist Your Dracaena?
It’s not a great idea to mist a Dracaena. First of all, in most cases, it isn’t necessary. Dracaenas don’t require a lot of extra moisture in the air. But more importantly, too much moisture on the leaves can cause leaf spot disease.
Many Dracaenas have broad, flat leaves that spread out horizontally. Mist can collect on the leaves and allow them to stay wet. Fungus can then grow in that wet area and develop brown, rotting spots in the leaves. Over time, the infected leaf can die entirely and fall off. It is best to keep your Dracaena’s foliage dry to avoid fungal infection.
Putting It All Together
Proper watering habits are essential for Dracaenas since they can suffer if given either too much or too little water. However, providing the proper amount of water shouldn’t be an overwhelming task.
Evaluate when to water your Dracaenas by using your finger for smaller plants or maybe invest in a moisture meter for bigger plants, and try not to let them get so dry that they’re showing symptoms of underwatering. Watering should be thorough and deep but not too frequent.
Always err on the side of underwatering instead of overwatering when it comes to Dracaenas. It’s easy to add more water if needed but much harder to dry out the soggy soil of an overwatered plant. Remember that balance is key. Only water your Dracaena when the top two to four inches of soil are dry.