« Back to all News

The Dracaena Spike – A Perennial?

Dracaena_Spike_Plant_in_GardenYes, my eyebrows arched as my eyes widened in surprise! Long considered an annual staple for container gardens to add height and architectural interest to both blooming and non-blooming arrangements, we are now hearing reports of the Spike Dracaena being taken out of the container and moved right into the garden, even surviving unscathed throughout the winter in places like Prince Edward Island, Canada, which is in zones 5a and 5b. Some gardeners put protection over or around them, like fall leaves or commercially made plant covers, but the gardener from Prince Edward Island said that hers had no protection, besides the insulation from the snow.

For a plant that looks particularly tropical in nature, in addition to being remarkably cold tolerant, Spike Dracaena are also relatively drought tolerant. Widely adaptable, once they are well-established, normal watering will usually suffice, especially if they are mulched or planted with foliage plants that help to retain moisture.

So, when you buy the Dracaena Spike plants, you are getting a two-fer! Use it first in your containers, either putting it in the back of your container if it is against a wall or in a corner, or in the center if your container can be viewed from all sides. Surround them with lower growing foliage or blooming plants, adding a cascading variety or two, and you have a beautiful, yet inexpensive artful arrangement. Here’s a suggestion for what to use:  Start with the Spike Dracaena in the middle or the back of the planter. Then add a mid-height flower or foliage plant, such as Coreopsis or Geraniums, all of which have the same moisture requirements of the Dracaena. Finally, add some MiniFamous Calibrachoa or Lobelia plants to cascade over the edges. You can also use something like Dichondra to fill in the spaces or English Ivy as a non-blooming, yet cascading accent. The possibilities are absolutely endless and much better than succumbing to the average garden retailer’s idea of a fashion statement, whose container gardens all feature the same plants, over and over and over again. Chances are that your neighbor next door or down the street will have one of these.

Dracaena SpikeDracaena PlantsDracaena Tricolor

Then, when your Dracaena Spike has outgrown the container, simply remove it from the container and put it in a place of honor in your garden. You will want to keep the height in mind, planting it behind lower growing perennials or annuals, though it is not too picky about sun. It will tolerate full sun when the weather is cool or in the northern climes, but prefers partial shade in hotter areas. The Spike Dracaena is widely adaptable to the type of soil. Keep in mind that it will grow somewhere between 18 and 24-inches tall and just as wide. They seem to do really well when planted along your foundation at the back of your flower beds; the warmth retained by brick or stone will help it to survive some of the coldest winter temperatures with ease.

As with all plants, proper nutrition will ensure healthy and prolific growth. We recommend using a soil amendment when transplanting and then feed on a regular basis. If you compost at home, additional fertilizer will not be necessary.

All in all, the Spike Dracaena is a versatile plant that is easy to care for and easy to decorate with. With its returning popularity, let’s keep our fingers crossed for even more colorful hybrids!

30 Responses to “The Dracaena Spike – A Perennial?”

  1. Susan says:

    Thank you, this article was so helpful and well written!

  2. jstutzman says:

    You are welcome Susan. Thanks for visiting!

  3. Alana says:

    This was very helpful! I am in Zone 5a and have been searching all over for information about wintering my Dracaena. I put it in my garden this summer and I am hoping it will survive this winter. 🙂

  4. jstutzman says:

    Thanks for the feedback Alana! Good luck with your plant.

  5. Adrienne says:

    Alana, I am also in 5a. did they last?

  6. Todd says:

    I know this is an older post but here it goes, I live in northern California and have a spiked Dracaena in my front yard I purchased it two years ago and it was a small house plant now in my front yard it has grown to 5 feet its gorgeous and gets many complements but I am wondering how much taller will it continue to grow any info would be great I am thinking I may need to move it to my back yard as it is against the front of my house now thanks for your help!

  7. Karen says:

    Depending on which variety of Dracaena you have, they can reach up to six feet or taller. They are pretty easy to prune down in size, and the cuttings can be rooted to create new plants for a more shrub-like appearance. If they have lost the leaves and are just a cane, you can still cut them and at the point where you have made the cut the plant will sprout new growth. I have one that was approaching five feet in a pot but only had leaves at the very ends, it was quite unbalanced. I cut it back to about a 2-3 foot range and stuck the cutting into the soil with the parent plant. Now it's a nice full leafy house plant. So if you don't want to move it, prune it. It will take it a few months to sprout new growth, so it will be a little alien looking for a while.

    Good luck,

  8. Dana B says:

    This post was awesome, just what I was looking for. I’m in zone 6b (but do dip to 5a temps sometimes). Thanks!

  9. Beverly says:

    Great information! I live in zone 7 and was just getting ready to throw mine out as it was getting too big. Will be moving to the side of our house……against the foundation….as a back drop for some new perennials I’ m putting in. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  10. Patrick says:

    Thanks! I planted a few in the ground (as I do with most new trials to see how they adhere to the native soil and light) a few weeks back and they’ve taken well. Hadn’t considered clustering them (decoratively on their own) in a large container pot on the sun-drenched back deck and then transplanting them as am never sure how they’d take…but since Canadians have seen success with them in zone 5a…will give it a

  11. jstutzman says:

    Patrick, you are welcome. Good luck with the plants! GHS

  12. Dick Mann says:

    We live in the interior of British Columbia and have one potted dracaena that is 15 years old. I have repotted it a few times over the years so it is now in a 30″ diameter pot and with the pot it stands more than 9 feet tall. It also grew several pups last year which are still flourishing beneath it. I bring it and several younger dracaenas into an unheated, insulated room for the winter and place them under fluorescent lights on a timer which gives them 16 hours of light each day. I cut back on the water and they do very well.

  13. jstutzman says:

    Dick, you have done a wonderful job raising this plant. Keep up the good work! GHS

  14. Manquel Abdusalaam says:

    I brought a spike one , says it’s an annual. I put it in a container on my deck. Wondering will by some chance it may grow n return next year !

  15. Jennifer says:

    I have one growing right now with no effort at all! I threw it off our deck last year when I cleaned out my planters. Now it’s growing on my lawn. I’m on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, definitely now warm climate.

  16. jstutzman says:

    Manquel, rather it grows again next year will depend on what hardiness zone you are in. Do you know yours? GHS

  17. diane duinker says:

    Hi i have had my spike /long grass of 3 years in doors during the winter, i just changed the soil to miracle grow and now its turning yellow and dying , i love this plant so help. thanks

  18. diane duinker says:

    I forgot to mention i live in Newfoundland Canada

  19. Karen says:

    Diane, I’m sorry your Dracaena is not doing well. Typically they are pretty hearty plants. They make great houseplants and love to be outside in the summer months. My experience with the Miracle-Gro soil is that it’s a very heavy peat mix and not a lot of organic material, so plants don’t get sufficient nutrition from the soil and the soil tends to dry out too quickly. I prefer the Pro-Mix brand or another similar higher quality brand. I would suggest repotting it into a different soil.

    Dracaena tend to like to be a little pot-bound, so don’t put it into too big of a pot. They also tend to drop leaves on a seasonal basis, so make sure the die-back you’re seeing is not seasonal. Just the lower leaves will drop; top growth will be fine. As they get taller and more leggy, you can actually just cut them off at the height you like and then put the cutting back into the soil. The cut stalk will sprout new growth. When you place them outside, don’t put them into full-sun areas; they prefer dappled light or shady locations. They also prefer to stay evenly moist, but err on the drier side. Don’t let their feet (roots) get too wet. If the tips of the leaves start to brown, that usually is a sign of irregular moisture levels.

    Good luck, and I hope your plant recovers.


  20. Estelle says:

    I’m in zone 8 in the Seattle, WA metropolitan area. I also thought they were annuals here, but mine has survived quite nicely in an outdoor annual pot for past 3 years. Have pulled it in close to sheltered foundation area each winter, but was planning to toss it this fall because it’s outgrown its pot. Well, changed my mind; going to plant it into the garden instead.

    Thanks for enlightening info. Really like the plants.

  21. Jeanna says:

    I have two purple ones in pots with other plants spilling over. They are in sun most of the day east side on deck. We had a hundred degree temperature here in Missourifield severaldays & they stopped thriving. One completely died. 🙁 Going to put them in a more protected area and see what happens.

  22. Jeanna says:

    I was unable to edit the above comment. We live in Missouri,NOT Missourifield. My purple dracaenas will be placed in less sun. My green spikes stay in the garage all winter in pots and always return bigger than ever in the middle of plants around them. They don’t mind full sun.:) Thanks for your help!

  23. jstutzman says:

    Estelle, that is wonderful. Enjoy your plant! Joe

  24. jstutzman says:

    Jeanna, let us know how it goes. Joe

  25. Grace says:

    We moved to Vancouver Island Canada 5 yrs ago this fall and started a garden from scratch (new build) Last year we transplanted one of our 3 year old(Costco purchased), overgrown, very root bound draeceana from an outdoor planter into the garden a couple of years ago as a tester and it is now at least doubled in size. First did not expect it to survive year to year in the pot, then in the garden, so we were pleasantly surprised. We had 2 even more overgrown ones that we tried in a different area this spring and they seem to be doing well also. We noticed earlier this year that directly in front of the first one the peony leaves started to turn red and lately seems to be very stressed and almost dying. We have an irrigation system and in warmer weather water extra by hand so wondering could the roots of this draceana be overpowering the peony. Another same age peony about 6 meters away did very well. Our question, how large could this plant get, and could it be detrimental to the surrounding garden.

  26. Joanna says:

    Great article! I rescued four of these beautiful babies and they were totally rootbound in small, small pots. I transplanted them into slightly larger pots, freeing up their roots as much as possible, which wasn’t much. Now winter is approaching (zone 5a) and I’d like to bring them inside to winter over, but will they be okay if they don’t have much light? I have almost none inside. Only a few types of plants can survive it. TIA for your reply!

  27. jstutzman says:

    Joanna, without a few hours of light per day, it might be hard to keep it going. However it certainly wont hurt to give it a tray versus just throwing them away. Good luck, Joe

  28. jstutzman says:

    Grace, its hard to say for sure without digging up some of the soil around the Peony. However I would think from your description that could certainly be a possibility. Good luck, Joe

  29. Sarah Shane says:

    I brought mine inside for the winter to bring some green in. They are getting brown dead top spikes on the new inner growth. Are they supposed to go dormant for a while? Or am I not giving it a nutrient it needs?

  30. jstutzman says:

    Sarah, can you tell me how much sun it is receiving while inside? Joe

Leave a Reply

Discount Coupons
Ask a Master Gardener