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Publication #FPS186

Dracaena marginata 'Tricolor' Three-Color Madagascar Dragon Tree1

Edward F. Gilman2


This fine-textured, evergreen shrub is distinguished by its relatively thin and irregular stems that are topped by a rosette of ribbon-like leaves (Fig. 1). The stems of this plant can reach a height of 15 feet and are covered with distinctive foliar scars. The variegated, leathery leaves have a purple stripe along their margins. The white and red flowers occur in elongate panicles above the leaves and are not showy. The small, golden berries of this shrub are also insignificant and not commonly produced in Florida. Multiple thin, curving stalks with narrow, ribbon-like, green leaves edged in purplish-red and with a gold stripe along the leaf margin distinguish this dracaena from its multitude of relatives.

Figure 1. 

Three-color Madagascar dragon tree.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Dracaena marginata 'Tricolor'
Pronunciation: druh-SEE-nuh mar-jin-NAY-tuh
Common name(s): three-color Madagascar dragon tree
Family: Agavaceae
Plant type: shrub
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Fig. 2)
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round
Origin: not native to North America
Uses: container or above-ground planter; border; suitable for growing indoors; accent
Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range

Figure 2. 

Shaded area represents potential planting range.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Height: 8 to 15 feet
Spread: 3 to 8 feet
Plant habit: upright
Plant density: open
Growth rate: slow
Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: spiral
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: linear
Leaf venation: parallel
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: 18 to 36 inches
Leaf color: purple or red
Fall color: no fall color change
Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: white
Flower characteristic: summer flowering


Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit cover: fleshy
Fruit color: unknown
Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: showy; typically multi-trunked or clumping stems
Current year stem/twig color: reddish
Current year stem/twig thickness: very thick


Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; acidic; slightly alkaline; loam
Drought tolerance: high
Soil salt tolerances: poor
Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


Roots: usually not a problem
Winter interest: no special winter interest
Outstanding plant: not particularly outstanding
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

The upright, unbranched stems form a delicate, somewhat abstract silhouette, perfect for accent planting or for low-maintenance container culture. 'Tricolor' makes a wonderful houseplant or container specimen outdoors. It is a fine specimen to silhouette against a wall at night with uplighting. Red-edged dracaena is commonly used as an indoor or patio plant for its tropical effect. It also functions as a foundation and specimen shrub in warm climates and has symmetrical, espalier features that make it popular. Dracaena marginata 'Tricolor' has long been used as one of our more attractive indoor foliage plants. It will grow well in light conditions ranging from full sun to dense shade; fertile well-drained soils are preferred. This durable plant requires little maintenance and is quite drought resistant. Fluoride damage may cause necrotic areas to become apparent along the leaf margins.

Dracaena grows in shade or sun and is tolerant of drought and a wide variety of soil types, though preferring an organic soil with plenty of moisture. Two or more branches form after pruning a stem. This technique can be used to increase the density of the plant. This can be beneficial since lower leaves drop from the stems as the plant grows taller leaving the bottom of the plant bare. Cut one or two of the stems to a point where new foliage is needed. Several weeks later, new growth emerges from this point.

Propagation is usually by stem cuttings and air layers. It is also grown from 2 to 4-inch long stem sections laid horizontally on a well-drained medium.

Pests and Diseases

Spider mites are a problem for Dracaena marginata 'Tricolor' when it is grown indoors. Leaf spot is a troublesome pest in outdoor locations.



This document is FPS186, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at


Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.