The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, July 16, 2000
Garden Life

Much-in-demand dracaenas
By Satish Narula

LOVING one’s plants is not enough; one should also have adequate knowledge of the various kinds of plants. Even within a species there are so many varieties that one wonders why such varied plants were clubbed together under one name. Sometimes, even two different plants are confused for one another. A relevant example is dracaena and cordyline.

The plants of these two very different varieties are so similar that these are confused for one another. To differentiate between similar plants one needs an indepth knowledge of botanical features like inflorescence and fruit. However, some simple hints can make you familiar with different kinds of plants.

Dracaenas are different from cordylines in that these do not have red leaves whereas in the case of cordylines some or all the leaves may be red. The leaves of cordyline are less firm and more soft and smooth than those of dracaena.

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Dracaenas are easy to propagateThe much-sought-after dracaena which has become famous the world over is also called Song of India, the Pleomele. Unlike other dracaena species in which basal leaves are shed, coloured and banded leaves of this indoor beauty remain attached to the plant right from the base of the plant to the top for many years. The banded green leaves have a golden edge. This plant should be cut when five to six inches tall. Then more

than one head sprout at varied heights and make a spectacular display. Even when

it is allowed to grow tall, say four to five feet high, it still retains its basal leaves.

Another very interesting specimen of dracaena that do no look like dracaenas are the dracaena surculosa friedmanni popularly called the Milky Way and dracaena surculosa, the Florida Beauty. The former is so called because of an ivory white band in the centre of its leaves which shines on cleaning (at front right in the picture). The rest of the green leaf is dotted with white spots. This plant grows slowly. All the leaves of Florida Beauty are dotted (at the background in the picture).

Dracaena sanderiana (front left) has white and green leaves. The stems form a clump at the base. These plants do well in semi-shade and need plenty of water as do the other dracaena species. But the plants are so sturdy that they can even withstand drought for some time.

Dracaena is very easy to propagate. Take small cuttings of three to four inches height and bury them vertically or horizontally in sand. After a few days they will sprout. Do not be in a hurry to shift them to other pots as they take a little longer to strike roots.