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Home » Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata): Pruning and Repotting Guide – House Plants Expert

Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata): Pruning and Repotting Guide – House Plants Expert

by Elyssa Goins
This article was fact checked.
Helpful: 100%

The Madagascar dragon tree is a fantastic resilient species from the Dracaena genus (botanical name: Dracaena marginata). This is one of the easiest plants to grow and maintain…..

The dragon tree will need to be pruned and repotted at times. It’s usually best to prune when growth appears to be strong at the beginning of spring. This is when you’re likely to see the lower leaves on a stem begin to yellow.

When the lower leaves yellow or begin to look unhealthy remove them (this is normal for this plant – it’s just preparing for new growth). Pull the leaves downwards on the stem and they will just peel off.

Here’s One I Pruned And Repotted

This plant (see picture below) is very low in height for a dracaena marginata. I cut it (topped it) this way because of not wanting it to grow tall.

Topping: You will see in the image below that the dragon tree’s main stem in the center has been cut at the top. This is called topping which is done with many plants that can grow tall. This helps a plant to branch out and restricts its height (this plant can never grow any taller).

The Madagascar Dragon Tree below had a fair bit of neglect and needs leaves and canes removed. It is also become pot-bound and the soil needs renewing.

re-pot needed Madagascar Dragon Tree

Seriously Needed Repotting

root bound

After Repotting and Pruning: This is the same plant as above after pruning and repotting, looking pretty healthy now.

Madagascar Dragon Tree

Training growth: I’m really hoping I can train this one to grow its canes close to each other. The green tie is a soft plastic material that does not harm the bark, tied gently. After new growth has formed the plant will follow the direction I have trained it to grow. Tying to support a plant can be done at any time but to train a plant it must be done in spring or when new growth is appearing.

training Madagascar Dragon Tree

Repotting and Pruning Tips – Madagascar Dragon Tree

Pruning: As mentioned above, remove any lower leaves yellowing or looking unhealthy (just peel them off). For cutting a stem use a good cutting knife or secateurs….

You can remove a stem if it is growing out of form with the rest of the plant or remove a lower stem to encourage upper growth. I always cut it right back to the main stem/trunk but you can cut it to any length then this stem will produce a new branch.

The stem/cane cuttings can be used for propagating (you can propagate 2 -3 in stem cuttings or plant a whole stem with most of the lower leaves removed). More info on propagating can be found here. Look at the section for stem and cane cuttings.

As mentioned previously, you can top the Madagascar Dragon Tree by cutting the main stem/trunk with a good sharp knife to your desired height. Remember it will not grow taller than the cut though…but it will encourage new branches near the top of the new tip.

Don’t worry about over-pruning or harming a dracaena marginata it’s a tough cookie and easy to prune and care for.

Repotting: Repotting should be done about once every two years or so. If they become root-bound growth is likely to be very slow. You can check the bottom of the pot to see if roots are appearing through the drainage holes and if they are the plant is root bound.

To re-pot first get yourself a new pot that is 1 -3 inches bigger in width than the current pot. Lean the pot on its side holding the plant’s stem carefully and try to ease the plant out. You may need to tap the bottom or press and squeeze the sides of the pot to encourage the plant to come out (only plastic pots).

Loosen as much of the old soil from the roots as possible and check for any unhealthy roots (also remove them). Loosen all the roots so they are kind of hanging down rather than spiraling around (spiraling around is a sign the plant has become root bound).

Place enough potting mix in the pot so the plant is kind of sitting at the same level as it was previously. Cover the outer edges of the plant within the pot a couple of centimeters at least below the top of the pot. An all-purpose potting mix is fine to use for this plant.

You are now ready to go! Water the plant thoroughly and place it back in the same position it was before treating it.

Same Plant Nine Months Later (looking healthy)

Madagascar Dragon Tree perfection

This Video Clip is Useful About Repotting

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1 year ago

What can you do when you have just let the Madagascar plant grow and it’s got skinny
Stalks with leaves on top?Not very attractive. But I will not let my husband throw it away. Do I start over and cut it back to it’s base?

Elyssa Goins
Reply to  Donna
8 months ago

You can cut the stalk at a 45 with sharp shears and let it regrow fuller. Give it lots of indirect light!

8 months ago

So…not a gardener but let me get this straight…because I have several dragon trees outside that looked nice when I bought the house but now they are almost as tall as the house. I just cut the stem at a 45* angle? And it will eventually reflower?

Elyssa Goins
Reply to  Cat
8 months ago

Cut it where you would like the branches to split off. It will send out a couple new branches where you cut it. You can even train the branches if you choose. Cut those branches after they mature next year and you will get a couple more branches to make it fuller. They can be aggressively trimmed. If conditions are right it will flower.

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