Dracaena Pest Control – Learn About Bugs That Eat Dracaena Plants

Dracaena Pest Control – Learn About Bugs That Eat Dracaena Plants

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By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden

While pests of dracaena are not common, you may sometimes find that scale, mealybugs, and a few other piercing and sucking insects require dracaena pest control. Too much nitrogen sometimes encourages excessive new growth, which draws aphids and other bugs that eat dracaena and weakens the plant. As you may know, a healthy, adequately fertilized plant is less prone to insects and disease than a weak plant.

Managing Dracaena Pests

Check regularly for dracaena pest problems. Take a look underneath the sword-like leaves, on the trunk, and at the base. A white cottony or waxy mass can indicate mealybugs or soft scale. If you find just a few bugs that eat dracaena, you may blast them off with a strong spray of water. Mealybugs go through stages, with the juvenile stage of crawlers doing the most damage. These pests cause stunting and leaf drop.

Scale weakens plants and may lead to the stoppage of growth. A scale may be white, tan, or dark brown with several congregating in an area to pierce and suck the juices from the plant. Ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and other beneficial insects can sometimes control pests of dracaena grown outdoors. For large infestations, move on to insecticidal spray or the neem oil.

A swarming mass of tiny bugs around your dracaena plant may be aphids. A strong stream of water might take care of these as well but continue to check that pests of dracaena do not return. Sometimes this piercing and sucking makes the plant secrete a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew. This often attracts ants, who then defend the pests to keep their food source. You’ll want to get rid of aphids and other pests before reaching this point. Usually more effective for the long-run, use an insecticidal soap spray or neem oil.

Spider mites, not often visible to the naked eye, are a common pest of dracaena. Small brown or yellow specks or spots on leaves alert you to this problem. Follow the above treatment.

There are numerous recipes for homemade pest control sprays available. Some include the most basic soap, water, and oil types. Some soak garlic or hot peppers for use as pest control. Always test a small hidden part of the plant 24 hours before a full spray to make sure the homemade concoction doesn’t cause damage. Some are best used as a soil drench, avoiding the foliage.

Some sites advise 70% isopropyl alcohol for managing dracaena pests. Others use hydrogen peroxide and some even swear by cinnamon. For some problematic or heavy infestations, it is best to use systemic insect control containing Bifenthrin.

How to Avoid Dracaena Pest Problems

The best way to avoid dracaena pest problems is to be vigilant about keeping them away. Check for pests in the store before you purchase plants. Seclude new purchases for a few days to make sure no eggs will hatch or no pests are hiding in the soil. Keep an eye on your dracaena if you move it outside in spring.

Feed and water correctly as you provide proper lighting. Too much water sometimes attracts pests. A healthy dracaena is better able to ward off disease and bugs that eat dracaena.

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Read more about Dracaena Plants

How to Manage Pests

Dracaena, Corn plant, Dragon tree, Ti tree—Cordyline, Dracaena spp.* Family Agavaceae (Agave family)

Plant Identification

Dracaenas are evergreen palmlike trees and shrubs. Leaves are ribbonlike or swordshaped, sometimes with white or yellowish-green stripes. Flowers form in clusters on many varieties and may be white, lavender, or red.

*Some species are invasive weeds. Other types of plants may be better choices when planting.

Optimum conditions for growth

Dracaenas make good houseplants or are found near pools, on patios, or in landscapes. Indoors, plants prefer bright indirect light but can tolerate low light. Outdoor conditions vary, but most species do well with full sun or part shade. Provide moderate to regular amounts of water. Indoor plants rarely bloom.

Leaves of Cordyline australis


Environmental disorders



Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
All contents copyright © 2017 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

For noncommercial purposes only, any Web site may link directly to this page. FOR ALL OTHER USES or more information, read Legal Notices. Unfortunately, we cannot provide individual solutions to specific pest problems. See our Home page, or in the U.S., contact your local Cooperative Extension office for assistance.

Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

David Trinklein
University of Missouri
(573) 882-9631
[email protected]

Published: January 8, 2021

Tales of reptilian creatures able to breathe fire and wreak havoc on humanity are common in the folklore of many ancient civilizations. In certain cultures, dragons were symbolic of good luck in most cultures, however, they were considered malevolent monsters. Indeed, the legend of St. George slaying a dragon is symbolic of good triumphing over evil, as depicted in Durer's famous wood carving. Today, dragons still captivate the imagination of many individuals, because of the success of movies and TV series that romanticize them as they showcase their surreal powers. Suffice to say, if dragons ever existed, their importance today primarily is symbolic.

A grotesque-looking creature that is difficult to kill would appear to be an unlikely name for a plant, but such is the case with the dracaenas. The latter is a genus of plants that derives its name from the ancient Greek drakaina, or female dragon. Additionally, when the bark or leaves of certain members of this genus (e.g. Dracaena draco) are cut, a reddish resin is secreted. This resin is the source of "dragon's blood," a substance that has been used from ancient times as a medicine for intestinal and skin problems, a dye and in incense.

There are about 120 species in the genus Dracaena, several of which make excellent interior (house) plants. Although there are a few tropical species native to Central America, most of the dracaenas are native Africa, central Asia and northern Australia. Tree-like members of the genus have woody stems and clusters of leathery leaves at the tops of the stem that give them somewhat of a palm-like appearance, as they develop into large plants. It is their durable leaves that make them a very useful interior plant.

The dracaenas are durable plants for several reasons. First, they are tolerant of poor light. Although they hold their leaves longer and lower on the stem in good light, certain species (e.g. Dracaena deremensis) can be used in areas with light as low as 50 foot-candles. Second, they are tolerant of somewhat erratic watering patterns, provided they are not allowed to become excessively dry. Excessive drying usually results in pronounced leaf drop as well as browning of leaf tips. Dracaena should be kept "slightly moist" at all times to maintain an attractive appearance and promote new growth. Third, their leathery leaves make them less susceptible to problems associated with the low humidity characteristic of most interior environments, especially during winter months.

One of the most popular and durable of all dracaenas is an old-fashioned interior plant know as corn plant dracaena (Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana'). It derives it common name from the fact its leaves are about the size of a corn leaf and they also arch in a downward direction, similarly to a corn leaf. However, unlike leaves of a corn plant which develop in a flat plane on each side of the stem, the leaves of corn plant dracaena radiate out from all sides of a central stem. With adequate light, leaves of this attractive plant have a wide yellow stripe down their center. Under low light conditions, leaves often revert to being entirely green, without variegation.

Corn plant dracaena develops into a small tree in its native tropical habitat. Given good conditions indoors, they hold the potential of becoming fairly large, although growth is slower indoors. Plants that become too tall can be cut back to develop new shoots from dormant buds located next to leaf scars in the main stem. The latter is often is referred to as a cane. Plants with a cane-type of growth normally drop bottom leaves as they add leaves to their top. The tendency is worsened under low light conditions.

Another very popular and attractive dracaena is called Madagascar dragon tree, or red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata). This species has shorter and much narrower leaves than corn plant dracaena. Its long, slim leaves have a margin with a red edge. The stems of this plant remain thinner than that of corn plant. Therefore, the plants often are placed several per pot for fullness, or grown with multiple branches. Red-edged dracaena drops its lower leaves quite easily if not given enough light or water. Cultivars are available (e.g. 'Colorama') with different and more vivid colors of variegation along with the red, for added ornamental appeal.

As mentioned earlier, Dracaena deremensis is valued for its ability to tolerate low light conditions. Two cultivars dominate sales of this species. 'Warneckii,' or striped dracaena, has sword-shaped, leathery leaves that are held densely along its stem. The center of each leaf has a strip of grey-green with bands of white, green or chartreuse along each side. Maturing indoors to a height of about 36 inches, it represents one of the most colorful choices for an interior plant able to tolerate low light conditions.

Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig' has been described as an interior plant "work horse" that has been used for decades to add plant mass to interior spaces. A mutation of 'Warneckii' that was discovered in 1930, 'Janet Craig' is one of the most durable and prized plants for offices and other settings where large plants are needed. It bears long, elegant leaves with a rich, green color and matures to a height of about 48 inches under indoor conditions. Because of its size, it most often is used in floor planters or tubs, planted in multiples for added mass effect. Few interior plants are as easy to grow as 'Janet Craig' dracaena.

Not all dracaenas are large. One of the best small members of this genus is Dracaena sanderiana, or ribbon plant. Its small leaves are only about six inches in length and striped with grey-green and white. Very tolerant of indoor conditions, it is useful in dish gardens. A green variant of ribbon plant is sold under the trade name of 'Lucky Bamboo,' whose stems often are braided for a novel appearance.

A few plants previously considered to be close relatives of the dracaenas have been reclassified into the genus Two of these are Malaysian dracaena (Dracaena reflexa) and lance dracaena (Dracaena thalioides). They are taller, thinner plants that tend to hold their short leaves longer than most other dracaenas. D. reflexa 'Variegata'is a very colorful form of Malaysian dracaena that is marketed as 'Song of India.' It bears short, vividly-striped leaves that are radially arranged around the stem of the plant. Lance dracaena is a small species known for its dark green, lanceolate leaves.

As mentioned above, the dracaenas are relatively care free. Spider mite, mealybug and scale are insect pests that can become problematic, if left undetected. It is best to quarantine new plants before moving them into the home to make sure they are pest free.

Unfortunately, dracaenas are very sensitive to fluorides. Typical symptoms include leaf tip and edge necrosis. Plants rarely succumb to this disorder, but their aesthetic value is reduced. Prevention is the only cure. Therefore, it is advisable to use a potting mix that does not contain perlite, since the latter contains fluorides. Additionally, since many water sources contain fluorides, the use of rain water or deionized water can help prevent symptoms from occurring.

Suggested Uses For Dracaena Pleomele

Reflexa is mainly used as an ornamental plant both indoors as a houseplant and outdoors for landscaping.

It’s frequently used as a specimen plant, as an accent plant or pruned to create garden hedge.

The leaves and bark of the plant are also mixed with other native plants to make herbal teas.

NASA used Dracaena plants in their Clean Air Study program, showing its capability to remove formaldehyde.

This is why it is known as one of the most effective air purifying plants.

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