Help identifying and caring for a Dracaena species

veegardens(8b)January 29, 2013

Hi. I decided to get a really nice house plant, that probably cost way too much. But I LOVE my new plant.

I was searching around for information on how to care for the plant, prune it, and start new plants from cuttings.

1) IDENTIFY: I'm unable to identify - I think it was mislabeled at the nursery. The tag (and receipt) call it a . That seems to be a mispelling of Steudereii. However, pictures of Steuderii don't look like my plant. It looks more like massagaena (corn plant). Please help so I can continue with my googling OCD over this plant.

2. PRUNING: Next, the nursery told me that when I prune it, I should just cut the tops off and new branches will grow (see , where it looks like a bud is sticking out of the stem). Seemed simple enough. Then I get home and I'm looking at these stems... I'd have to SAW them off.
A) Is it correct to just saw the tops off?
B) If so, do I have to treat the opening with anything?

3. CUTTINGS: And of course, I'd love to start new plants from cuttings. However... this plant does have cute little stem cuttings like other plants. Any advice is appreciated.

4. ANYTHING ELSE? Lastly... If anyone has info on this plant, like how it grows (it appears the green leafy stems turn into hard trunks?), or anything to feed my obsession about taking care of this plant, I'd appreciate it.

Thanks. I'm new to caring for house plants. I have growing tomatoes and herbs down, but not a plant like this!

This post was edited by veegardens on Tue, Jan 29, 13 at 18:29

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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)


Dracaena steudneri is listed as a valid epithet with no synonyms that match any other Dracaenas I've heard of, or seen pics of, so not one of the 20 or so that are much more common. Look forward to a more informed answer on the nomenclature if this is not the last (or latest) word on it.

"It's real, and it's spectacular! (Homage to Seinfeld)

Wow it's pretty, and very vigorous-looking. I think everyone will want to know, so may I ask, where did you get it?

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 5:44PM
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I got it at golden nursery in San Mateo CA. Funny thing is, I got a the most recent sunset magazine and they had a section on house plants (online article). It was good timing because I wanted a new one. I went in and they have all but 1 of the varieties shown in the article. They also had the one I ended up buying.

It was $230, which is really expensive for a plant. But many of the other varieties were also around $200. The only less expensive ones that I liked were the Ficus Lyrata (which I also bought). Now you can see why I really want to save the cuttings - at that price, I want to either grow more for myself, or grow some to share with friends).

Ps. Thanks for the links, I finally figured out how to do links on this site. I tried regular bbc code.. didn't think to try actual html ;)

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 6:27PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

You're welcome. Wow, sounds like a great store. I can never find the stuff I see in a magazine. Thanks for the article!

I tried just embedding your images but they are so big, it would have caused sideways scrolling to read the writing.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 7:46PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Well, this plant must be special if nobody else has one to talk about. The instructions you were given seem pretty standard for propagating any kind of large, woody Dracaena though. Yes, a saw, I sometimes have to use a saw on roots when repotting too. If you have a big old serrated knife you'd like to devote to plants, that can work on most but the hardest big woody trunks and roots.

Have you undertaken any plant surgery yet or still admiring it unmolested?

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 10:26AM
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That's the Hawaiian Corn Plant -- otherwise known as Dracaena Massangeana. I've taken one to a friend's house before to lay on the ground and take an ax to it to chop off the head of the tallest one (though mine was not quite as tall as yours). It was my friend's -- and I wanted the cutting; rooted really easily but grew slowly.

You just want a quick, clean cut (on the main plant more than the cutting).

You could also run to George at Golden Nursery for better advice. They are awesome about after-care for their customers. I love, love, love that place -- and someone really needs to keep me away from them for a couple of years.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 5:26PM
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1. I don't think that's a Massangeana - they have much thicker woodier stems.

It's hard to see in that picture, I did a web search for D. Sol (which we don't seem to have commercially in Europe) and got a link back to this website, lol.

2. Pruning - don't need to cut the main stems. Cut the stems that branch off the main stems back to about 4" long, they will resprout within weeks. I do this with normal secateurs if they are nice and sharp. As below you may need to strip a few leaves off to get a bare bit of stem. Doing this commercially, we tend to prune a stem, wait until its new growth is big enough, then do another, etc. These kinds of Dracaena can be very vigorous, so if you don't prune one stem off fairly (few months) regularly, it'll be hitting the roof before you know it.

3. Cuttings - the bits you cut off will be very viable cuttings, just plunge them in compost and watch them go. Strip a few leaves off first.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dracaena Sol thread

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 8:35AM
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Thank you for the responses everyone. It definitely looks like the Sol you posted, Stewarts.

I've never saved prunings, so this is very new to me. So I really can just stick a cutting in soil and it will grow? That's great! How long should I expect it to take to get roots? Is this a 2 week process, or more like 2 months?

Also, if I cut the woody stem, do I just plop that whole thing in soil? Or do I take the off-shoots (that parts with leaves) off that stem and put those in soil?

Thank you so much everyone. So far, the plant is doing really well. I haven't trimmed it yet and I'm watering it regularly. The leaves look a bit curled so I'll start using a mild fertilizer.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 2:04PM
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The Ficus Wrangler

It's kind of hard to see it well from the picture, but just judging from the pattern of growth , it looks to me more like a Dracaena massangeana v. Costa Ricana than anything else. I checked out the "sol cane" link, that looks like a warneckei of some type. Is yours variegated or solid color leaves? No matter what exact variety it is, all the massangeana (commonly called corn plant) are similar. When you buy them in stores, they consist of a number of 'canes' - the heavy, woody part - that have leaves - called the 'heads' - that grow from them on a stalk that sort of resembles a corn plant, hence the common name.

The canes have been cut from mother plants, mostly in Central and South America, and shipped to the growers here in big bundles, then the growers stick them into pots and let them grow until they sprout leaves. A small plant might consist of a 1' cane and a 2' cane in an 8" or 10" pot, with just a starting of 3 or 4 heads on each cane. Larger plant are in larger pots, maybe 5', 4', and 3', or 7', 6', 5' and 3' for a really big one.

Yours started off pretty tall, then it has been developing at the grower's for 2 or 3 years; you can tell this by the length of the heads. That's why it was so expensive.

If you want to take cuttings, yes, just cut the head basically anywhere along its length, it will start to grow a new head just below where you cut, and the cutting will root very easily in any soil or rooting medium. (Removing leaves under the soil, of course, if you've not started from cuttings before I recommend some research.) You would not want to cut the cane; I guess you could, theoretically, but no reason to.

The culture for massangeanas is quite simple. Soil should be only very slightly damp before you water again, and you should use a probe or soil tester to determine the moisture near the bottom of the pot, not just in the top couple of inches. If you start to see brown tips on the leaves, the soil is not aerating sufficiently between waterings. Costa Ricanas (if that's what you have) like more light than their cousins, but any massangeana will be happy with bright indirect light to moderate light.

I just went back to read your post, and here's a couple more things. You said you were watering regularly. It's much more important to check the soil moisture, and let it get down to "very slightly damp" before watering again, then when you water, water enough that you get a run off from the drainage holes. Most corn plants are done in by overwatering, so the testing of the soil is crucial. You can use a long wooden dowel to push into the pot, then pull it up and feel it.

Also, they really don't like a lot of fertilizing - generally, don't fertilize for 3-6 months after you buy it, then a couple times a year max. I'm an interior horticulturist, and for mass canes in low light conditions, we didn't put fertilizer on them at all, just put in fresh soil and a shot of iron and dolomite...

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 11:57PM
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Theficuswrangler, thanks so much for all of that information.

I google costa rican draceana and came up with a lot of different plants. But this image I found looks just like mine. Here's a of my leaves.

Thanks for the watering info. I should have been more clear... my version of watering regularly means I'm checking on it every day to see if it needs water (I neglected my only other houseplant in the past, a spider plant). I actually have one of those plant sensors that let's me stick it in the dirt and check the water levels. The top 3 inches tend to dry out fast. But I haven't been watering until the sensor says it's dry about 4+ inches down.

The nursery told me they just sit it in a bucket of water and let it soak for 30 min. It doesn't seem to soak up much water. Would you water it from the top, or sitting in a bucket?

I return the plant to it's saucer after watering, which is filled with a 1 inch layer of pebbles to collect the extra water. I read online that collecting the extra water that way is good for the plants since it keeps the humidity up.

I have a 5-5-5 liquid house plant fertilizer I used this week. I won't use it often after reading your advice, so thank you.

Also, thank you for the info about the cuttings. I'm excited to try it!!! I'm excited to grow more plants like this over the next few years. Keep some, and gift the rest.

You said to put it in fresh soil once a year? Haha, that will be a tricky project with a plant this big ;)

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 1:53AM
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The Ficus Wrangler

Hey Vee,
Cool stuff, right? When I looked at your first pic of your plant today, I could see it has variegated leaves, but I still think it's a variegated form of the Costa Ricana. Your link is a picture of a massangeana fragrans, and a fairly young one - notice how short the heads are? I'd have to look at the grower's catalogue to find the actual name of your cultivar.

Re watering, I can't stress enough that you need to ascertain the moisture level in the bottom of the pot, not just a few inches down. When the soil reaches the very slightly damp level, and you water, pouring the water in from the top, moving the water spout all around the surface, is the best way, and watering till you get a runoff of at least 1/4" should be good for at least a week. Setting the plant into a bucket is a lot of extra work, and I would fear the plant would get too wet, even letting the extra water drain off. BTW, I can't see a plant store, unless it is a very tiny one, or one that has lot of extra help standing around with nothing to do, watering plants by setting them in buckets of water. Would just take too much time.

On moisture meters, they can be useful if you understand their shortcomings - they are made of inexpensive electronics, and so can cease working quickly; and if the soluble salt level in the soil is high, they will read moist even if the soil is dry. You can compensate somewhat by always running the probe between your fingers when you pull it out of the soil. That way, if the probe is saying dry but feeling moist, then you know you've got a problem.

Also, I said 'put some fresh soil ON the plant,' not put the plant INTO fresh soil. Big difference. On means dumping several inches of soil onto the surface and working it in with a trowel. Into means repotting into fresh soil, a bit more difficult with a big plant than a small one, but not so hard, and which I'll be showing soon on the Ficus Wrangler YouTube station.

The fertilizer you've got is adequate, not the best probably, but it will do. Next time get a 3-1-2 ratio such as Foliage Pro. I wouldn't fertilize again for 6 months, and I would use only 1/2 the strength shown on the directions.

Go ahead and learn as much about plants as you can, you won't regret it. Investigate especially about potting mediums, you'll find some of the best info in the world right here at GW. Any questions you have, throw 'em at us, there's nothing better than helping people who really want to learn.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 1:41AM
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