You could say that houseplants are a millennial thing – and you might be right. It might also be down to the fact that we want to bring the beauty of outdoors into our homes! But, have you ever stopped to wonder just how that handsome, potted plant started it’s life?

Yes, it’s true that social media has fuelled our houseplant obsession, and demand is stronger than ever. There are more than 3 MILLION posts under the hashtag #houseplants on Instagram. It’s so popular that niche hashtags have stemmed off and added to the houseplant mania: for example, #houseplantsofinstagram, #houseplantclub and #indoorgarden,

Although the Instagram obsession started with cacti and then moved to succulents, this movement has made it far easier to get hold of rarer and more exotic plants, like Alocasia, Calladium and Spotted Begonias, again with relevant hashtags.

One houseplant that deserves a bit more love, however, is the Dracaena… I’ll unlock the history of this durable houseplant, and look at its journey from nursery plantation to living room…

Dracaena – the Dragon Tree

Dracaena is actually a genus of over 120 species of trees and shrubs, the biggest of which is the Dracaena draco, which can grow to around 25ft tall and equally as wide. Eeek, that wouldn’t fit in your lounge, even with a Victorian ceiling! However, the smaller species make excellent houseplants.  D. fragrans, D. surculosa, D. marginata, and D. sanderiana are all popular houseplant varieties, and ones i used to grow as a kid!

The majority of varieties in the Dracaena genus are native to Africa; however, some have also been found in southern Asia and northern Australia. Because of the climate in these native habitats, Dracaena have developed the ability to be drought tolerant, making them excellent houseplants for the busy or forgetful (hands up if that’s you!)..

The name ‘Dracaena’ comes from the romanized form of the Ancient Greek δράκαινα – drakaina, meaning “female dragon”, and you can even find a substance in some of the larger varieties called ‘dragon blood’. This refers to the red sap produced by the trees, which was highly prized in ancient times a wound healing substance, a cure for diarrhoea and for alleviating fevers. It’s effectiveness as a ‘cure-all’ means that it is still used today.. (although I wouldn’t recommend it without some strong medical research and input!)

In the Mediterranean, the sap is also used as a dye, medicine, glue, breath freshener, and even a lipstick! In some sub-regions, the association with dragons encourages its use in ritual magic and alchemy!

The journey of Dracaena marginata – from farm to home

One of the popular houseplant varieties that I mentioned is Dracaena marginata. This plant goes through a special journey from the farm on which its grown, all the way to your home, because its growers make use of the fascinating ‘air layering’ technique! This is a method of propagation for new trees and shrubs, and involves creating a new tree from the parent tree. It’s used because conventional cuttings are incredibly likely to root, so they need to make their roots BEFORE they are severed from the parent plant…!

These Dracaena marginata are grown on a farm in Central America. When a parent plant is ready to be propagated, part of its bark is carved away and rooting powder is brushed onto the exposed area. The area is then coated with a layer of sphagnum moss and the entire area is sealed in plastic to keep the moisture in.

It can anything from a few months up to a year for the roots to grow, at which point the new plant is removed from the parent and packed, sometimes piled high in secure crates. At this stage, the all-important broker gets involved, completing lots of complex paperwork and assisting its journey through international air travel. Brokers are also the conduit between the grower and the finished plant nursery, and may need an understanding of many languages including, of course, Latin!

After all the nitty-gritty is sorted, plants are shipped, and eventually arrive with the grower, whom could be located anywhere in the world!

The grower then pots up the plants, before distributing them to garden centres, where you, the lovely customer, purchase them for your lounge, dining room or hallway!

 

Your Dracaena images

Here are some photos of your Dracaena marginatas on Instagram!

 

 

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A post shared by Siebeke Asselbergs (@planthoarder_) on

 

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A post shared by A clean home is a happy home🤗 (@cleaningmakesmehappy) on

 

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A post shared by @ukhouseplants on

 

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A post shared by Natalie Mitchell (@nat.salila) on

 

Have you ever cared for a Dracaena? Tell me your experience in the comment box below!

 

This ‘story of your houseplant’ content is supported by Fleurizon, a brokerage company based in California who ensure houseplant material reaches its final grower destination. You can find out more about them here.

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Comments
  • Geoff air

    Great article. We’ve got one that’s about 15 years old its survived 2 house moves , one from southern Spain.

    March 24, 2020

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